Last night's episode of Arrow was a sweet outing, all about family, promises, and coming to terms with past misdeeds. It was also a field guide to the Grand High WASP tradition. From passive aggressiveness, to saving face with the careful use of euphemisms, to a steadfast commitment to prioritizing booze over food, you'll find the core principles of aristocratic WASPiness right here.
We all know that America has cultivated many different subcultures of WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) — but this episode is so steeped in rich, aristocratic WASP cultural mores that it's the television equivalent of high tea with the Queen. The fact that these mores shape the life of the Queen family is, I think, not coincidental. Therefore, we are going to examine the rituals and practices of the High WASP, and see what we can learn from them.
This episode, Legacies, starts off with a bank robbery. Three people in hockey masks with playing cards printed on them — a nod to DC's Royal Flush Gang — stick up a bank. When the bank manager protests, one of the robbers deals him a punch that looks like a gentle breeze blowing the fluff off a dandelion. I don't like to criticize fight scenes, because my go-to move in a conflict is trying to pretend it's not happening, but that was sad. While two other robbers raid the vault, a hostage, who looks about fourteen years old, hikes up his pants to reveal a gun in an ankle holster. A woman sees him doing this and, being able to do math at a sophomore level, adds the three robbers with the three assault rifles together and comes up with a whole lot of dead. She begs him not to do anything. The guy says he's a cop. The woman doesn't care. Her pleading gets the attention of one of the robbers, who shoots the cop in the back. Just then the rest of the cops show up, only to see all the people inside the bank pour out, all wearing playing card masks.
Meanwhile, Dig and Ollie are sparring, with Ollie hitting Dig in the face with sticks whenever possible for some reason. Ollie wants to go after Scott Morgan, an unscrupulous power company owner. Dig wants to go after the bank robbers. Ollie says, "I don't fight street crime," giving Comic Book Ollie a stroke, but illustrating High WASP principle number one: If a rich man cannot fix something with a nice clean check written to another rich man, it should be left to the ladies' aid organization or the Catholics. Dig says that Ollie has a "narrow definition of being a hero." Ollie says he's not a hero.
We get a flashback to Island Ollie, who is still trapped in the cave. He's starving, freezing, and feeding the blank pages of his little book into a fire. Suddenly he has his arm gripped and turns to see his father's ghost. High WASP principle number two: Always base your parenting style on Hamlet.
The episode trots over to Laurel, who is in a pissy mood, just for a change. CNRI, the legal aid office she works for, has lost a big donor. They may have to close. Tommy comes in and offers to sweep her away for the night to Coast City. He's confused when she reacts with open hostility, and so am I. In their last interaction, Tommy and Laurel both decided that they would give their relationship another chance. Seriously, the show runners have to get it together with this character. She acts like one of those amnesiacs who lose their memory and default to their pre-injury condition every time they fall asleep. Apparently Laurel's pre-injury condition is, "I hate everything." She flounces away.
Back at the Queen mansion, Thea tells Ollie that Moira has been sad since Walter left on his "business trip." High WASP principle number three: If you can think of a euphemism for it, it's not really happening. The only reason the Titanic sank was someone finally admitted that their scones were getting damp instead of just remarking on how refreshing the ocean air was. A cheery Moira comes in and says that Janice Bowen and her son, Carter, are coming over for brunch (breakfast and lunch are for the working classes). Thea and Ollie riff on how Moira thinks Carter is the perfect son. High WASP principle number four: Loving your own family best is for those who don't have the strength of mind to admit that other families are better. To keep Moira happy, they both promise that they'll be there for brunch.
Tommy comes in, hoping to spend some time with Ollie. Ollie gets a call from Dig and ditches him. Thea, with a gleam in her eye that makes me hopeful for the future, says that Tommy can hang out with her. Tommy talks about how he's having girl trouble, and he doesn't understand how to make this girl interested in him. No one can, Tommy. She resets like a clock radio after a black-out in every episode. Thea, her eyes bright with blind infatuation, tells Tommy to find out what the girl thinks is a "big deal," and make it a big deal to him, as well. Tommy calls Thea amazing, sowing the seeds of trouble for himself, and heads out to do just that.
Dig, in his call to Ollie, had said that Scott Morgan tried to kill himself. Ollie rushes to the hospital and finds out that Dig lied to him. Dig only wanted him down there so he could meet the wife of the cop who got shot. The guy's in a coma. Ollie agrees to find the bank robbers. To my shock, the affectionate caress that the bank robber dealt the bank manager left the impression of the bank robber's ring on the bank manager's cheek. The ring, Ollie finds out, is the insignia of a local high school. Filled with indignation that a public high school could issue the kind of jewelry that belongs only on the finger of a Princeton man, Ollie tracks down the culprit. A high school student named Kyle Reston went missing, along with his father, younger brother, and mother. By analyzing the security footage of the robbery, they realize that the woman who begged the cop not to do anything was the mother, and she was signaling the other robbers. Dig wants to turn them in, but Ollie feels a sudden attack of noblesse oblige coming on.
Tommy shows up at Laurel's work again and offers to plan a benefit for the law office. She accepts with the maximum possible amount of bad grace.
To brunch! Although no food has been served, everyone has a drink in their hand when Ollie makes his late appearance. Carter talks a little about how he has a TV agent, even though he's a neurosurgeon, and how his book went, and how the privileged have a responsibility to help the less fortunate. They all sip their drinks and agree and talk of sending a shipment of Bibles and swaddling clothes to Africa, or perhaps Paraguay — somewhere sunny. Janice asks what Ollie is up to. Ollie states flatly that he's opening a nightclub. Moira keeps it together admirably, but Thea gives an audible scoff. Oh Thea. And the brat came back the very next day.
Ollie gets a call from Dig, and cuts brunch short to foil another bank robbery, to Moira's disappointment. He can't catch the gang, but does manage to launch some kind of net arrow that secures the duffel bag full of money to the floor as the gang runs.
Away from Ollie, the gang regroups, wondering who that was. The father says maybe they should give up their life of crime. After hitting multiple banks in multiple cities for years, they would be able to "get by" in Mexico. Kyle, the shooter of the cop, adamantly refuses. He wants to do one last job that would leave them set for life. Having never seen any heist movie ever, the lot of them agree.
Ollie heads over to Felicity Smoake — who this week is sporting glasses frames so cool, I wish I had the complexion for them — to find out all she can about his "old friend" Kyle Reston. Felicity's suspicion grows, as it seems that Ollie had no idea that his old friend's father was laid off, without pension or benefits, when Ollie's father closed the steel mill. Dig again pushes to report the family, but Ollie polishes his monocle and says, "No, no. We must help these poor wretches." He heads to a bar where Derek Reston, the father, used to go. Derek happens to be there, and Ollie offers him a job, while bugging his jacket. Derek doesn't seem too happy that the son of the man who betrayed him is offering him a pity job, but clearly doesn't want to keep robbing banks.
Ollie listens to the mother and father debating whether or not the father should take the job. It's actually a good conversation, because it's clear that, while both parents want to stop, Kyle will just keep at it. They can't leave him to get caught, so they'll all do one last job. Ollie seems to find none of this emotionally affecting, and finally says that now, "We take them down." High WASP principle number five: There is a difference between the deserving poor and poachers. The former, we will be happy to allow our dollars to trickle down to. The latter, we hunt for sport.
Laurel arrives at Tommy's fundraiser, snarks at him for calling her "lovely," and heads off with Carter Bowen, who is also there. I adore Thea, who is spoiled and erratic. I like Moira, who is downright villainous. But Laurel is just intolerable at this point.
Thea arrives, in a risque lace dress, and is distressed that somehow when Tommy talked to her about a "special girl" he meant Laurel, not her. This will end well.
Ollie makes a brief appearance, learns that Moira is upset, and upsets her more, by immediately leaving for the next bank robbery. There he steps over an unconscious guard and shoots Kyle in the shoulder. Remember that he used a net arrow to keep the money — which can be freely printed by the treasury — immobilized, but he shot a twenty-something in the shoulder, with a real arrow. When I said that the High WASPs will hunt poachers for sport, I was not kidding. Ollie seems to be not up to par in his fighting skills this week, because the battle goes on long enough for the guard to wake up. The guard turns his gun on the gang. Kyle charges, and the guard is about to shoot him when Derek jumps in front of the bullet. Ollie knocks Kyle out, and cradles Derek. As Derek dies, without his family, in the arms of an armed man covered in green eye shadow, he grits out, "It wasn't his fault. I turned my son into this."
Ollie flashes back to the island, where Ollie explains to his father that he's starving to death, and he just wants his death to be quick. Resignedly, his father gives him a gun, which Ollie uses, except it doesn't work, because the whole thing is a hallucination. Ollie's father is pissed anyway, saying that Ollie's decision to kill himself "made my sacrifice empty," and Ollie has to be strong enough to "right my wrongs." He then says that he loves Ollie. In other words, "I love you. Do this for me. And you're a huge disappointment." Can you get WASPier than that? When Ollie wakes up, he holds the next page close to the fire. As it heats, names appear on the white paper. And thus Oliver found The List.
Back at the party, Thea has gotten well and truly drunk, and decides it's time to hit on Tommy. Tommy, unsurprisingly, is not at all pleased with this and lets Thea know that as kindly as he can. I didn't expect Thea to take this well, but I'm thrilled when she comes back with the best of all possible lines, saying, "She doesn't understand you! I do!" Oh, it's beautiful. But somehow Tommy is unmoved. All of the brat comes out at once, with Thea screaming about how she has been rejected by "everyone in my entire life!" She then turns and accidentally upsets a tray of champagne that a waiter is carrying. Tommy hustles her out.
This, I think, is the WASPiest part of the entire show. Upsetting a tray of drinks at a crowded party is a mistake that anyone could make, drunk or sober, upset or calm. But it's that event that provides the turning point of the scene. Why? WASPs, that's why. Showing up in a lace cocktail dress? That's a sense of style which is admirable in one so young. Underage drinking? That's nothing. Draping herself like Christmas lights over a man ten years older? Youthful high spirits. Raised voices? Covered easily by the loud music. But now the child is spilling the liquor? Remove her!
Laurel, having sensed a disturbance in the room, comes outside to find Tommy tending to Thea, who is throwing up behind a dumpster. He covers for Thea, saying that she had some bad crab cakes. Laurel is not fooled, but is touched that Tommy is taking care of Thea, and more touched when Tommy says he's taking Thea home. She kisses him on the cheek and says that she "owes him a dance."
Ollie heads home, brooding about the plight of the unfortunates, and finds a tired Moira filling up a liquor glass. She doesn't seem all that happy to see him, saying that he used to talk to her a lot more. She misses him. Ollie says he misses her too, and then asks her if she's hungry. Moira looks at her glass of booze, clearly thinking that she was going to drink alone on an empty stomach, before tossing back a handful of pills and going to bed, but admits that she could eat. They end up at Big Belly Burger, and the fact that Moira actually attempts to eat her burger with a knife and fork puts the final, glorious WASPy touch on this.
I hope you enjoyed this recap. For more Arrow recaps, come back next week. For more information on the noble WASP, read Agatha Christie, Oscar Wilde, or a biography of Winston Churchill.