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S02.E03: Broken Dolls

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Synopsis: Quentin learns a criminal named Barton Mathis, whom he put away years ago, broke out of prison during the quake and is back to torturing and murdering women. Felicity offers herself as bait so Arrow, John and Quentin can catch Barton, but the plan goes awry. Furious, Mathis kidnaps Laurel in retaliation and plans to murder her while Quentin watches. Meanwhile, Thea and Oliver are stunned when District Attorney Adam Donner seeks the death penalty for Moira. Arrow asks Roy to help him find The Canary.  (from http://arrow.wikia.com/wiki/Broken_Dolls)

I'm rewatching this episode now, and there were a few things that stood out to me that I thought I'd put down for reference.

First, there were a lot of orbit tracking shots, especially around Quentin when he's on the phone at the Dollmaker's Apartment.  PB rocks the emotional scenes.

Second, this was where Shado and Felicity were paralleled - "Her/My life, her/my choice."

Third, the main plot of this strongly resembles a story arc of Psycho Pass, a semi-dystopian / cyberpunk anime about a thought-policed society. The anime story played out much more horrifically, though.

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This was a great introduction to Sara's Canary.  I wish she still used the sonic cry.  


Felicity on Laurel going after the Arrow:  Because going after actual bad guys is so last year.

Felicity as a decoy:  You're going to reimburse me, right?  I saved my receipts.


Oliver:  I thought I could make her understand that I'm doing things differently this time, that I'm not the bad guy. I was wrong.  (yet another anvil that Oliver and Laurel are wrong for each other.


Laurel was kidnapped again; ironically it was not because she was associated with Oliver but because she was Quentin's daughter.


I really like Quentin this episode. He admired Felicity, he let his guard down with the Arrow because they both lost someone.  Going after The Dollmaker was a personal crusade; he killed 8 girls Sara's age before Lance caught him. He was also really sweet with Laurel at the end scene, and smart about her angst "A guy with a bow and arrow can't save a guy a building's fallen on."


Another escapee from Iron Heights; no wonder Oliver is only trusting the ARGUS prison these days.


I always look in my car before I get in it, especially if it's parked in a deserted alleyway at night and there is a serial killer on the loose.


And now for something completely different ....  Laurel tells Adam Donner that she knows the Arrow better than other people do.  (Anvil #2)


Slade:  I was wrong about you, you're definitely an idiot. (How I miss pre-mirakuru Slade.)


Sin called Roy "Abercrombie". Nice nod to his Abercrombie and Fitch ad.


Sara killed the assassin as well as the Dollmaker in this episode. How does she dispose of the bodies?


Anvil #3 - Quentin to Oliver about Felicity "She must really believe in you."

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@statsgirl May I ask what an anvil is in tv speak?


I wonder why they did the my life, my choice thing with Felicity and what Slade said about Shado. That was back when the flashbacks were almost reflective of what was happening in the present.

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Someone else can probably explain it better, but like a heavy anvil or safe being dropped from the sky in cartoons, it's something that is so significant that the writers feel they need to hit you over the head with it so that you get the point.


It makes me laugh when a show has a person who did pre-med doing medical school stuff as if that explains it.  I also did pre-med, what I remember was calculus (hated it), bunsen burners and physics problems where two space ships are travelling towards each other and when will they collide. Nobody was let near an actual body, dead or alive.


I wonder why they did the my life, my choice thing with Felicity and what Slade said about Shado. That was back when the flashbacks were almost reflective of what was happening in the present.

I liked it more when the flashbacks paralleled the present.


There are a number of parallels with Shado and Felicity:  they're both very intelligent, they look fragile but aren't inside, Oliver thought they both needed to be protected from danger. they're more than just being (potential) pillow friends.


I wish they hadn't had Oliver sleeping with Shado.  It cheapens his future relationships, especially in terms of Felicity, that who he sleeps with doesn't seem to matter much to him and he doesn't notice who it could hurt.  (Maybe doing it better in the present can be part of his growth arc.)

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You did pretty well @statsgirl, I found the entry from the old TWoP Lexicon:

Anvil/anvilicious: Used to indicate obvious or heavy-handed writing that has no regard for the viewer's intelligence, thus bludgeoning them over the head with parallels et al. in the manner of Wile E. Coyote and his Acme Brand anvils
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I'm not statsgirl, but...

In cartoons, after Jerry the Mouse or The Roadrunner had all sorts of death-traps laid and sprung on Tom or Wile E. Coyote- and they survived all of them- there was usually one thing left: an anvil. It usually fell "slow" (to prolong the laughs, no doubt) and the "defense" was a teeny, teeny tiny umbrella.


I believe that is the root of the usage of anvil in tv-speak: where the writers want to make sure the audience, presumably made up of unthinking morons, understands a point that the writers really want you to get. For this show, all the in-show shipping of Oliver and Laurel, as well as Laurel's insistence that she knows not only Oliver, but the Hood, better than anyone.  Also, Moira's hint that there were secrets she didn't want her kids to know, even if she was up against the death penalty.


As to Broken Dolls:


Loved that Quentin was in DC52 (my take was detective car, but then I remembered, as the show kept telling me, Quentin wasn't a detective at that point.) There was another throw-away 52 reference, but I'm blanking on it.


I understand Roy paying for info with some booze, but are we supposed to think that all of Thea's  shortages in season 2 were due to Roy? Why couldn't we see Roy doing it, if so? Otherwise, he looks like a douche and/or a cheap crook. If it was the distributors, was it because of the Queen name? It could've been something explored in last season or the upcoming one, but no. Thea apparently is only interesting as a drug-addled teen or a a damsel to these writers, imo. Wasting Willa in the process. (To be honest, it looks like Thea is getting a nice meaty story next season, but a focus on the ex-party girl heiress-turned- serious businesswoman could have legs for a bit while exploring how the business world, not just Slade hand his puppet companies, felt about Queen Consolidated.)


Something that I think I didn't really pay attention to the first go 'round: after Ollie and Sara save the Lances, Laurel is yammering on with her epiphany. Shouldn't she be getting treatment for the polymer that did get into her system? Granted, not a bunch, but I would be busy drinking anything or trying to get that shit out of my body! my epiphany could wait.  Also? Sara's entrance for The Dollmaker: she un-raveled like  Nyssa! The cool silk spin to tell off a dude who obviously had problems with women. I could watch Nyssa and Sara do that silk thing on a loop; it's cool!


I liked that with the life/choice duality, that Felicity actually articulated the sentiment. Shado wasn't really given the chance, when the scene could've conveyed that instead of the more passive-voice of 'I'll be fine' and Slade, essentially, speaking for her. Which is weird in itself as Slade was as surprised as Oliver to see Shado in Season 1. Speaking for someone in that authoritative a way implies knowledge of a person, which we weren't shown if there was. I may be forgetting exposition after Shado joined the band, though.


A minor dislike was when Roy came to in the clock tower ( capital C is reserved for Barbara Gordon), and Sara was interrogating him. She abruptly stops and leaves, tersely saying that Roy could be freed. Why the 180? The called about Laurel being kidnapped. Again with the implied closeness between characters that wasn't earned. All so Sara could show up to help free her family. (Not a bad thing.)  As opposed to Sin getting a news alert from her Channel 52 app or something?


Another tiny nit: why didn't Quentin take Laurel to his apartment? His has yet to get broken into, even by League of Assassins assassins.


Man, poor Roy was just badly treated by everybody this season!  Ollie, Slade, and in tonight's episode, Sara. To be fair, she has a right to be paranoid and distrustful of  1) a male,2) chasing pellmell after Sin , 3) even into the clock tower.  Roy just wasn't really given a chance to speak until after his clock had been tolled a couple of times!


It doesn't sound like I enjoyed the episode, but I did. No show is perfect, but this has the potential of mixing superheroes, family drama, espionage, police procedural, and mysteries into a delicious dish, for everyone!

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I didn't remember Broken Dolls being so good but it was a well balanced episode with Sara and Sin's introduction, Felicity stepping out and Quentin getting a chance to really shine.  And I didn't even hate Laurel in the episode! I felt sorry for her in the end and loved that it was her dad that really got through her with a couple causal comments.  Yep, bow and arrow can't stop a building from falling on a guy. 


I was ok with Sara letting Roy go the moment she read his text.  While she was "questioning" him, she thought he was with the LoA and his connection to Thea (and obviously in turn the Arrow) cleared him of being some covert (ha!) assassin.  Yes, it was very contrived that this was how Sara just happened to know about her dad and sister's kidnapping and unnecessary since she could have seen it on TV like Oliver and company.  Still, it just a shrug of the shoulders. 


Something I couldn't shrug away was the illogical way the Starling City police were treating Quentin and his connection to the case.  It's one thing to say, nope, not your case anymore, but the second that they found out that the Dollmaker was targeting Quentin Larry Lance, they should have used that knowledge, not just charge him with obstructing justice.  Lance doing his own off the book investigation perhaps stepped on someone's toes but the evidence in the hotel room proved that Lance needed to be either brought into the investigation or at least given some protection from the crazed mad man. 


Pause again to express how horrid it was that the public didn't even know about all the prisoners that were running loose in the city.  Quentin's disillusionment with the organized police presence was well earned. 


So Lance is the one that named him Arrow?  Awww, how sweet. 


So Felicity volunteered to be bait and Oliver, Lance and Diggle all were tailing her for her protection.  What does Quentin know about Diggle?  There were a couple times where it seemed like he should have been very aware of Diggle's presense and yet how can he know of him because that would be a direct link back to Oliver (who even in this episode it seems dead clear that Quentin knows it's him).


On another topic, I didn't actually mind Laurel saying she knew the Arrow better than most.  She actually was in a position to say that compared with the rest of law enforcement.  That statement doesn't though at all IMO translate that she knows him better than those actually closest to him or that she knows Oliver at all. 


Had a moment of sadness with Moira in jail.  It's ironic that

had she been convicted and even perhaps sentenced to death, she would still have been alive.

  Sad Irony.


Still, a really good, solid episode.  I really enjoyed how the episode unfolded with the case being stumbled on and gradually we learned more about it as it was investigated. I can't quite put my finger on it, but in the later part of the season's episodes, something was lost when it came to the way the episodes were framed.  I hope they can recapture it. 

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Still, a really good, solid episode.  I really enjoyed how the episode unfolded with the case being stumbled on and gradually we learned more about it as it was investigated. I can't quite put my finger on it, but in the later part of the season's episodes, something was lost when it came to the way the episodes were framed.  I hope they can recapture it. 


Up to that point each episode had a point to make whereby the characters made strides in becoming better. The flashbacks were reflections of similar situations in the present, which I really liked, and every episode was important to the storyline. In and of itself, and to the overall build up of the season. The latter half of the season focused so intensely on the finale (finales) that the individual episodes building up to it became filler that didn't further the storyline and rather went against what we came to understand our characters to stand for. I'm pretty sure there were around 5 episodes I could've missed because they contributed didly-squat to Slade and his crusade.

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After Donner states his intent to go for the death penalty, Oliver leans into Moira: "Mom, we are going to fight this. Don't worry, no one is going to take you from us. We won't let it happen." Ugh, gut-punch.


This isn't one of the strongest episodes this season, but I don't think it's terrible either. I don't even mind Laurel getting kidnapped, because on shows like this, all the characters are going to be the DiD sometimes, and it makes more sense for her to be targeted in this case than most--and I do like that it's because of Lance, not Oliver. This episode does feature more see-sawing with her though--she's in denial about her own guilt re: Tommy and blaming the Hood, and then experiences some self-awareness at the end. Great, but none of her realizations ever seem to stick for long. It's like they want her to go through her whole season arc in every episode, so it just resets as convenient for the writers.


One stupid little nitpick is that Felicity claims that Ethylparaben and Sodium Laureth Sulfate are the patented formula of Mermaiden, when those are just basic building blocks of soap/cosmetic products. I know nothing about chemistry or cosmetics but I've read enough backs of shampoo bottles to know that much. It's like saying a cookie company patented Flour and Baking soda as their proprietary formula. 


But on a shippy note, that dumb formula leads to one of my favorite tiny moments, when Felicity quickly identifies it as Mermaiden, and Lance says, "How the hell does she do that?" And Oliver just gets this secret smile on his face. Their mutual pride and admiration for each other is my favorite thing.

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This was better upon rewatch and I totally forgot that the guy from Fringe and Supernatural was the Dollmaker. That guy has such a trippy amazing presence.


It was genuinely horrific what he did to the victims. 

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This was definitely a Lance family episode!

• I thought the return of the doll maker created a strong link between Quentyn’s guilt over Sera’s death and Laurel’s guilt over Tommy’s. 

• Kudos to Cassidy. I thought she played Laurel’s breakdown towards the end of the episode perfectly! I don’t blame her for Tommy’s death, but I can definitely see why she feels culpable. 

• Im really excited to find out the identity of the masked blond. I originally thought it was Laurel because 


I’ve been spoiled she becomes the black canary or something like that? 

But apparently it isn’t. Maybe it’s Sera considering the previous tease that she’s still alive?

• I also enjoyed Moira this episode. Shes definitely handling the whole thing with grace. 

Edited by Wayward Son
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203 (Broken Dolls) – Oliver Queen’s voiceover intro:
Oliver (voiceover): "My name is Oliver Queen. After five years on a hellish island, I have come home with only one goal-- to save my city. But to do so, I can't be the killer I once was. To honor my friend's memory, I must be someone else. I must be something else."

203 (Broken Dolls) – Original Team Arrow discuss the mysterious woman who helped Oliver escape police capture:
Felicity: "Oh, thank God."
Diggle: "Police scanner's been blowing up for the past hour. Laurel called in half the force with that silent alarm."
Felicity: "Yeah, because going after actual bad guys is so last year." 
Oliver: "To her, I am the bad guy." 
Felicity: "Since when?" 
Oliver: "Since I didn't make it to Tommy in time." 
Felicity: "How did you get out of there?"
Oliver: "I had help from a masked blonde woman in black."
Diggle: "Another copycat vigilante?" 
Oliver: "No. She was different. Trained, and she used a sonic thing." 
Felicity: "Wait, sonic thing? Could you be a bit more specific?"
Oliver: "She turned it on and the glass shattered." 
Diggle: "Okay, well, who was she and why would she help you?" 
Felicity: "And how did she know to help you?"
Oliver: "All good questions. I don't like the idea of another player in town."
Felicity: "I'll see what I can find."
Diggle: "Oliver, what I would like to know is what you're doing at Laurel's office in the first place. She makes you public enemy number one and you figure this is a good time to chat?"
Oliver: "Because I thought that I could talk to her and make her understand that I'm doing things differently this time. That I'm not the bad guy. I was wrong."
*  *  *
(Shirtless Oliver and Diggle are wrestling on the floor.)
Felicity: "I found a number of police reports from the last few months that may involve our mystery girl. They describe a masked woman in black attacking attackers. She put five would-be rapists in the hospital so far."
(They stop wrestling and come over to Felicity.)
Oliver: "Are you sure it's her?"
Felicity: "Broken limbs, ruptured ear drums, your sonic thing."
Oliver: "That's her. She's targeting criminals." 
Felicity: "Misogynist criminals." 
Diggle: "First the hoods, now her. Looks like you started a movement."
Oliver: "I don't want to start a movement, so we catch her. I'm not letting the city get overrun with vigilantes."

203 (Broken Dolls) – In response to a request from Quentin, Original Team Arrow investigates Barton Mathis, a/k/a The Dollmaker:
Oliver: "Lance's file give you anything?"
Diggle: "Last time the Dollmaker was active in Starling City, he ramped up to one kill every three days." 
Oliver: "That gives us two to catch him. Can we connect the victims?"
Diggle: "Young. Pretty. According to Lance's file, he couldn't figure out how he chose them."
Felicity: "As if porcelain dolls weren't creepy enough all on their own."
Diggle: "Barton Mathis doesn't have any family or known acquaintances. Lone wolves are harder to catch."
Oliver: "But they do have the right to an attorney. Call Lance. Tell him to set up a meeting for tonight."
Felicity: "Where?"
Oliver: "At the office of whoever represented Barton Mathis."
Felicity: "So I'm assuming this takes priority over finding out the identity of your secret admirer?"
Oliver: "I got that covered."

203 (Broken Dolls) – Quentin marveling over Felicity's computer expertise makes Oliver smile:
Felicity: "Police found her body an hour ago."
Oliver: "Does the new victim give us any forensics we can use?"
Diggle: "CSI did a complete forensics work-up, but they sent everything out to a private lab."
Oliver: "Can you get in?"
Felicity: "No. They took their system offline. It seems like someone hacked into a lot of police-related systems last year."
Oliver: "Then we do it like we did the Merlyn job."
*  *  *
Quentin: "So glad you invited me to tag along." 
Oliver: "Tranq dart. He'll be out for 36 minutes." 
Quentin: "Yeah, I remember."
Oliver (over comms): "You're up, Felicity."
Quentin: "So, this is what a typical night's like for you, huh? Just a little breaking and entering." 
Felicity (over comms): "All right, I got toxicology first." 
Quentin: "What are all these?" 
Felicity (over comms): "Chemical ingredients of all the makeup found on the victims - skin cream, nail polish, lipstick." 
Quentin: "Wait, wait, wait, stop. Scroll back. Scroll back. This one. Ethyl paraben. Sodium laureth sulphate. I've seen this before."
Felicity: "It's skin cream. Forensics found traces of it on her fingers. Probably something she used before he grabbed her." 
Quentin: "Skin cream. Mermaid something. One of the victims from his last run, she had this in her purse and I had the lab analyze it, and it's the same - you know, it's the same formula."
Oliver: "Felicity."
Felicity (over comms): "Already on it." 
(Picture of Mermaide Skin Cream comes up on the computer screen.)
Quentin: "How the hell could she do that?"
(Oliver smiles.)
Felicity (over comms): "Ethyl paraben and sodium laureth sulphate is Mermaiden's proprietary formula."
Oliver: "Two victims with the same taste in skin cream. That can't be a coincidence."
Quentin: "I could never figure out how he chose his victims."
Oliver: "I think you just did."

203 (Broken Dolls) – Felicity volunteers to act as bait for Mathis (her second time going out in the field):
Diggle: "So this is it. Skin cream, that's our lead?" 
Oliver: "It's something. What do we know about the product?"
Felicity: "It's made from crushed mother of pearl and it's super high-end. Only carried in a handful of boutiques and it's marketed for women with extremely delicate complexions."
Oliver: "He picks his victims for their skin. The cream is how he finds them."
Felicity: "Only four stores in the city carry it and three have surveillance systems. I've ran facial recognition through all of them looking for Mathis, but come up empty. He must be staking out the stores from the outside."
Diggle: "Fine. So we'll do the same."
Oliver: "That could take days we don't have. He's probably out there right now looking for another girl." 
Felicity: "So that's what we give him. I'll go to the stores that carry Mermaiden, and buy it in each one to cover our bases."
Diggle: "It's too dangerous."
Felicity: "More dangerous than going undercover in a mob casino or jumping out of a plane? It's my life. It's my choice."

203 (Broken Dolls) – Felicity acts as bait to try to trap Mathis:
Felicity: "Left the last store. You're going to reimburse me for these, right? I saved my receipts."
Oliver (over comms): "Go to the rendezvous point. Stay in public."
Quentin: "Just for the record, I'm not a huge fan of dangling helpless girls in front of psychopaths like meat." 
Oliver: "She volunteered."
Quentin: "Well, she must really believe in you."
Oliver: "So did your daughter."
Quentin: "She suffered a loss. Grief's got a way of shifting a person's beliefs. But then you know all about that. You've lost people, too, right?" 
Oliver: "Why would you say that?"
Quentin: "Why else would you be doing this? My youngest, she died."
Oliver: "I'm sorry."
Quentin: "Less than a month after it happened, I - I ended up catching the Dollmaker case. Threw myself into it. I think on some level, with each girl, I was trying to save Sara. And just like with Sara, I couldn't. He killed eight girls Sara's age before I caught him."
Felicity: "Someone's coming."
Oliver: "I got him." 
Felicity: "Okay, I'm going to admit to being seriously wigged out right now... False alarm, but next time I offer to be bait for your serial killer, please turn me down." (Gasps as Mathis grabs her.)
Quentin: "Delta Charlie 52 to Central. Code 99, possible 207 in progress, immediate backup required!"
(Felicity struggles with Mathis, Oliver shoots arrow at Mathis, Mathis throws Felicity and she falls against the garbage bin, Oliver stops by her.)
Oliver: "You all right? Don't move. (Diggle runs up) She hit her head." 
Diggle: "Go, go, go!"
(Oliver chases after Mathis.)

203 (Broken Dolls) – After Quentin and Laurel are abducted by Mathis, Original Team Arrow figures out where Mathis is making his ‘dolls’: 
Oliver: "How did he get them?"
Felicity: "I don't know about Laurel. Detective Lance was abducted from the precinct parking lot. Mathis shot a guard on the way out, which sounded the alarm. I pulled up the department's security camera footage, and a van from Metamorpho Chemical caught my eye."
Diggle: "Metamorpho was condemned after the quake. Perfect place to make some dolls."
Oliver: "Not tonight."
Diggle: "Cops will use tracers, Oliver, same as we did." 
Oliver: "They won't make it in time."

203 (Broken Dolls) – Original Team Arrow further discuss the mysterious masked woman in black:
Diggle: "Something's going on with this woman. She keeps following you around, helping you out."
Oliver: "We've got to find her."
Felicity: "To stop her, or to send her a thank-you note?" 
Oliver: "That depends."
Felicity: "On what?" 
Oliver: "What side she's on."

Edited by tv echo
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On 2/11/2020 at 8:52 AM, tv echo said:

203 (Broken Dolls) – Felicity volunteers to act as bait for Mathis (her second time going out in the field):

Isn't this the third time?  She went undercover in the Merlyn Caper in ep 1x22.

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2 hours ago, statsgirl said:

Isn't this the third time?  She went undercover in the Merlyn Caper in ep 1x22.

115 to catch the Dodger, 121 in the underground casino to get Walter's location, 122 for the Merlyn caper. So catching Mathis would be her 4th time in the field. 

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Once you count it up she started going out into the field almost from the get go without a mask. She was never "just" sitting behind her computers. And she continues to do it several other times in S2.

Broken Dolls is such a creepy but good episode. And an interesting dive into Quentin's psyche when he lost Sara (and as Laurel is about to be fridged in front of him), just as she's returned to Starling and associating the serial killer herself. 

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