Recap / Arrow S 1 E 21 The Undertaking

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In flashbacks, Malcolm tells the group of high-profile men that they should switch strategies to fix the Glades. Robert doesn’t approve of Malcolm wanting to destroy the Glades, so he suggests to Frank Chen that they stop him by buying the areas that Malcolm doesn’t own yet. To travel to China separately from Frank, Robert takes the Queen’s Gambit. Oliver accompanies his father and brings Sarah to avoid taking the next step that Laurel wants for their relationship. Frank assures Malcolm that the Gambit will go down.

The Hood steals a computer from an accountant with a knack for extortion. Trying to return the money to its proper owners, Felicity finds a $2 million transfer the day Walter disappeared. She traces the money to Dominic Alonzo, the leader of an underground casino. After failing to persuade Diggle to come back, Felicity, undercover, gets caught counting cards as they planned. The Hood tears through the casino to find Alonzo, who says that Walter was killed.

While Thea and Moira shop online, Oliver delivers the bad news. Malcolm shows an angry Moira that Walter is alive. Oliver overhears. From Malcolm’s phone records, Felicity finds that Walter is in Bludhaven. The Hood rescues Walter. At the hospital, Laurel tells Oliver what Tommy said about her belonging with him (Oliver). Oliver admits he still loves her. After apologizing to Diggle, Oliver asks for help stopping his mom and Malcolm.

Tropes applying to this Episode:

  • A God Am I: Robert calls Malcolm out on having a God complex for his plan.
  • The Atoner: Robert only joined Malcolm's group to atone for accidentally killing a corrupt city councilman. Moira eventually convinced him that stopping Malcolm from leveling the Glades is a true path to redemption.
    • And of course, because she convinced him of that, she blames herself for his death.
  • Fixing the Game: Felicity gets caught counting cards at a casino. Subverted in that getting caught was the plan.
  • I Let Rebecca Die: Rebecca called Malcolm on his phone at least twice the night of her murder. He was busy working so he just let the phone ring the first time. She called a second time and this annoyed him so much that he shut down the phone. Past midnight, the police call to tell him she had been shot. So he finally decides to check his phone and it turns out she had been calling him for help while bleeding to death. She died while leaving her last message. Malcolm implies that, had he answered his phone that night, she wouldn't have died.
  • It Is Beyond Saving: Another similarity to Batman Begins that the first season shares, in that Malcolm intends to destroy the Glades because of this trope.
  • Karmic Death: It turns out Frank Chen ratted out on Robert Queen, setting off a chain of events that would lead to the former's own demise.
  • Kill the Poor: Zigzagged with the Undertaking itself; Tempest believes that the only way they can fix what's wrong with the Glades is if they level them and kill or drive out everyone who lives there. However, it's not out of disgust at their low income level as it is at the repeated failure of conventional philanthropy to seemingly make a dent in the Glades' population of criminals and Apathetic Citizens.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Malcolm's plan is revealed to involve a device that will create a natural disaster in the Glades called the "Markov Device". Brion Markov (Geo-Force from Batman and the Outsiders) and Tara Markov (the first Terra from Teen Titans) are both super heroes with geological powers, specifically relating to terrakinesis.
    • There’s a reference to Ted Kord’s fundraiser. Ted Kord is the superheroic adventurer known as Blue Beetle in the comics.
    • “Ray and Jean” is a reference to Ray Palmer (The Atom) and Jean Loring.
  • No-Sell: When Oliver storms the casino a mook breaks a pool cue over his arm. Ollie doesn't even flinch.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Invoked In-Universe. When Tempest began its plans for the Undertaking, it started with several of the members reminding the group of tragedies they had experienced at the hands of Glade residents, such as one member's daughter being raped on her way back from a nightclub until she was left catatonic from the trauma, or the death of Malcom Merlyn's wife; stabbed to death whilst coming home from the free clinic she operated there. This is obviously done to convince themselves that the Glades deserve what the Undertaking will do.
  • Shout-Out: The whole scene where Ollie kicks every Mook's ass in Bludhaven is a Shout-Out to Oldboy.
  • There Was a Door: Subverted in that, while invading the casino, Oliver opens the door. Before he walks through, he throws a mook through the closed half of the double door.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Malcolm feels that the crime in the Glades is corrupting the city as a whole, and so intends to level the whole area in order to start fresh. He views the resulting deaths of thousands as an acceptable loss.
  • Wham Episode: We see what the Undertaking really is about, the events that led up to the sinking of the Queen's Gambit, Oliver learns that Malcolm Merlyn is the Big Bad and that his mother is involved, Oliver rescues Walter from his kidnappers, Oliver admits he still has feelings for Laurel, and Oliver and Digg reconcile.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: It's confirmed that the death of Malcolm's wife was his Start of Darkness.