Oliver chases after Thea, Diggle chases after an A.R.G.U.S. agent, and Laurel chases her rage in an episode that could have largely been resolved with heartfelt phone calls.
The third episode of season three, "Corto Maltese", promises a lot of tension for Arrow. Oliver's sister, Thea, has been under the tutelage of Malcolm Merlyn, the dark archer whose Undertaking made him the main villain of season one. For the last six months, she has been training with him on the South American island of Corto Maltese, a fictional country from the DC Comics universe with parallels to Cuba. With the trail of Sara's killer gone cold, Oliver decides it's time to bring Thea home. Oliver says he's ready to tell Thea everything in order to convince her, including the truth about his time on the island and his new life as a vigilante, but while "Corto Maltese" sets up a big emotional moment, it doesn't deliver it. Instead, Oliver's efforts and Thea's experiences over the last six months are muddied with two other subplots.
Diggle's subplot sends him to find Mark Shaw, an A.R.G.U.S. agent in Corto Maltese who hasn't checked in. Lila asks him to do it, and it's asking us to question Lila's motivations and loyalties between Diggle and Amanda Waller. Diggle's subplot has the most action associated with it, so it gets a lot of the screen time because it can deliver the fights we've come to expect from Arrow, giving Oliver and Roy a chance to bring arrows to a gunfight. (Not to mention the cover they're using is so flimsy even the kindest Dungeon Master would be hesitant to give bonuses.) The subplot feels contrived because ostensibly the reason they are in Corto Maltese is for Thea, but with all the focus on Shaw her story begins to feel like the B-plot. Oliver's efforts to persuade Thea to return could have as easily been delivered by a telephone call. This imbalance in the importance of the storylines is worsened by the developments back in Starling City, where Laurel decides to take justice into her own hands again, apparently undeterred by her near-murder of an innocent man last week.
A young woman, a regular at Laurel's Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, is in an abusive relationship and her boyfriend's physical attacks on her have been escalating. Laurel decides to take on the boyfriend and dish out some vigilante justice, a fight that ends with her bruised and bloody on the ground and one that could have been solved by an anonymous tip to the police. Laurel's obviously not handling her rage well, and it has twisted her away from being able to see the rational solutions to problems, something that Oliver seems to recognize when he refuses Laurel's requests to train her. Laurel is headed towards a very dark place, drawing away from or being refused by her support systems and continuing to seek a way to change the world by punching it. It's the same path Oliver has chosen, but until he realizes that, he's keeping Laurel at arm's length and letting her sink further into darkness.
Arrow airs Wednesday nights at 8/7c on The CW. You can also watch the latest episodes on The CW's website and Hulu. Lots of spoilers from the episode, the comic books, and some speculation about Laurel's future and Oliver's secrets follow.