With “Legacies,” Arrow tried, for the first time in my mind, to keep as many of its main characters as possible involved with a plot of some sort, also do an action story, and have all of those elements complement one another in some way. While I don’t think the episode was as just plain entertaining or as good as last week’s, it’s the sort of episode I want to see Arrow attempt more often as we head around the bend on the show's initial 13-episode order.
Despite obviously being about legacies (another thing Arrow shares with Revenge: heavy-handed episode titles that tell us the theme), this episode was really about families and their complicated dynamics. Oliver is obviously at the forefront, as he’s blowing off his living family to carry out his dead father’s wishes, but he’s also doing this in a very limited way, as Diggle pointed out to him.
I never expected Arrow to be overly attached to that list—and it shouldn’t be—but the way in which Diggle got Oliver to break out from those confines was not only clever but organic to the story. I like that Oliver is really resistant to fighting “street crimes” because it’s not what his father intended, and that Diggle is attempting to expand those horizons. Diggle’s right to do this, of course, because even if you eliminate all the “CEOs and crooked entrepreneurs” of Starling City, crime’s still going to be there, and it’ll need to be dealt with.
It’s that's same singular focus that’s hurting Oliver's living relations, too. Moira’s frustration with the lack of cohesion in the household, especially after Walter’s departure last week, is palpable. She’s all by herself now, mirroring, in some ways, Thea’s position in the family after the yacht sank, and she’s looking for her children to help fill that gap. Couple that with her dismay over Oliver’s distance, and it’s no wonder she’s throwing passive-aggressive brunches with the other members of Starling City’s elite.
Even though it was only done in a few scenes, I felt like the progression through Moira’s arc in this episode really worked. A lot of this is due to Susanna Thompson and Stephen Amell really nailing the push and pull between their characters, the frustrated delivery and heavy silences, so that when they arrived at Big Belly Burger at the end of the episode, the moment was earned as a first step toward the two of them beginning work on reestablishing their relationship.
These family tensions were nicely paralleled with the bank-robbing Restons (inspired by the Royal Flush Gang from the comics). Not only did the episode provide a link through Derek (played by TV character actor extraordinaire Currie Graham) and Queen Consolidated to give that plot just the right amount of emotional heft, but it also allowed us to see another father frustrated with the choices he’s made and how those choices are affecting his family.
I cannot stress how much I like that Arrow crafted the episode in this way. It was by no means a complicated structure, but the way individual plots echoed each other made them richer and more interesting, and that's exactly the sort of thing that the episode (and the show) needed. I’m not suggesting that every episode must be set up this way, but it’ll help the show balance its action and melodrama beats more effectively.
However, some things didn’t work quite as well. Thea thinking that Tommy was into her felt really bizarre. While his vagueness early in the episode—when he said he's into a girl who doesn’t care about money, and that he’s known her a long time—laid the groundwork, it’s not very believable that she’d respond that way, considering that Thea’s the one who told Oliver about Tommy and Laurel sleeping together. So it made her breakdown at the gala sort of unearned (and not all that well acted by Willa Holland, who showcased all the worst "acting drunk" clichés). If there had been some previous hint that she was crushing on Tommy, then yes, it might’ve worked better, but as an isolated incident to drive home her sense of loneliness, it wasn’t all that compelling.
Thea aside, the subplot involving Tommy throwing an incredibly quickly planned gala for CNRI after it lost its biggest sponsor, in hopes of showing Laurel that he’s ready to stop being the one-night-stand guy, was fine. Katie Cassidy performs far better with lighter, more comedic fare, so her scenes with Colin Donnell didn't feel quite as lost in the tall grass as her scenes with Amell have the past couple of weeks.
Sadly, after I praised the island flashbacks last week, this week’s flashbacks didn’t work very well. I feel like present-day Oliver covered similar-ish ground with his father’s gravestone back in “Honor Thy Father,” making island Oliver’s struggle, as it were, sort of dull. It offered a little bit of character work for that island arc, but beyond that it really just existed for Oliver to find the flame-activated names in the notebook. At least we know where the names came from now.
What’d you all think of the episode?
– “Why would he want you to be a wizard?” and “Snap!” were continuations of the Oliver-is-behind-on-his-pop-culture-references bit, but the Dr. Oz one was a bit of a stretch since he was a thing before Oliver ended up on the island, even if he wasn't as well-known as he is now.
– Despite the fact that it was mostly there as an exposition dump regarding Walter’s whereabouts, seeing Oliver and Thea talk and behave like brother and sister was such a relief. Their comedy duo rendition of Moira’s praise of Carter Bowen was not only funny, but natural.
– “The first annual attempt to get back into my pants gala.”
– “I should add ‘Personal internet researcher for Oliver Queen’ to my job title... happily, I mean.”
– DC Comics Fun Facts: Stagg Industries, which pulled its funding for CNRI, is owned by Simon Stagg, the villainous businessman most associated with the superhero Metamorpho; Keystone City, where the Royal Flush Gang started, is home to the Flash, while Coast City, where Tommy wanted to take Laurel, is the home base of Green Lantern Hal Jordan. (Thanks to @Gislef for his sharp eye; I originally had Central City, Keystone's sister city, and the typo Coastal City.)
– I normally don’t harp on these sorts of things, but this is kind of driving me nuts in an irrational way: In the background of Oliver’s Arrow Cave/lair/whatever, there’s water cascading past the windows. I can’t tell if it’s raining (there haven't been any establishing shots of rain) or if there’s just a drainage pipe nearby, but it appears in every scene that takes place in that location and I have no idea why it’s there beyond atmosphere. I get that all the Arrow Cave stuff was most likely filmed over the course of a day, and so no one turned off the water machine, but still.
– Here’s the fanboy gripe (I’ve done really well with not engaging in these!): As a fan of the Royal Flush Gang in animation and comics, the painted hockey masks and assault rifles didn't really work for me. Folks dressed up like playing cards with energy weapons and an android (Ace is often an android) wouldn’t exactly fit in with Arrow, and the show’s solution to featuring those characters (albeit without the 10) was about as satisfying as any I could come up with, so I sort of wish that Arrow hadn’t bothered, but I also liked the storyline around them. I’m curious to see what folks who don’t know the Royal Flush Gang from other media thought of them.