Catching up with Arrow Season 3…

DOCTOR WHO Christmas InvasionWith the second half of Arrow set to drop on the UK I thought I would take a moment to think back over season 3. I’m going to keep the start of this non-spoilery, then I’ll sign post the spoilers so I don’t ruin it for you.

So, season 3 of the show that helped me get past my superhero prejudice–although in fairness, it seems I do like superhero shows, they just need to have a little less god-like throw downs and a bit more character and depth than the usual offerings. I enjoyed it, but I want to get a big criticism out of the way before I get onto the the appreciating part… We are off the f***ing island. Hoorah. I feel like I have lived those ‘Hellish years’, but through boredom and frustration more than anything. Ok, I know the island did dovetail nicely into the present with Death Stroke in season 2 but, ugh, this show is held back by the flashbacks so much. Free of the island I thought we might get a bit more meat on the Starling City plots. Nope. Now we have Hong Kong, and I’m missing the island already. It’s setting A.R.G.U.S and Waller up as a more developed presence and personal threat, but I still find I can’t commit to these scenes, and sometimes they seem to offer zero to the plot and it just feels like padding. One episode I’m pretty sure it just gave us a candle, which gets used in the present. This show does not need padding. It has a great cast of characters and a city that should be able to offer enough story to fill a 45 minute show. The sooner Arrow ditches the flashbacks I’ll be happier.

That out of the way, Arrow has a strong start in it’s first episode, but it’s a start that feels like it’s shaking up the order of things after the tying together of so many characters to work together for the finale of season 2. This is not a show that wants us to get comfy. It gives us a member backing down, a death, and makes sure that the end of season 2 didn’t leave Oliver back with a company or financial security, with Ray Palmer introduced and installed as the head of Queen consolidated.

That death in the first episode. Wow. Way to start out. That really threw me. It’s one of those shows where you never quite know if someone is actually dead, you know, that amazing heart surgery that Merlyn had and Wilson’s escape from the Amazo off the island, but it was a nice rug pull moment. The whole who’s-the-killer plot that ran through this first half was nice, as it sat quite uncomfortably with a couple of series regulars, although knowing what I know now… Well, I’ll get to that in the spoilery bit. There did seem to be a few killer archers in this first half to give us the runaround, but I can let that go.

The weakest part of this season has been the villain of the week, especially the set-up for the new Vertigo, which kind of went nowhere. Also, one of the things I enjoyed so much about season 2 was the building of a lose superhero team but we’ve had that death and I feel that Red Arrow has kind of been pushed to the side. We’ve only had half a series, but aside from him being a suspect in the murder he seems to have been sidelined a little. Hopefully he’ll get his own story line, something with Thea could be good the way she’s shaping up. Although if he loses his shirt, or trousers (not fussy) I’ll be happy if his character doesn’t even get any lines… See, I can be easy to please at times.

The strongest parts for me has been with the girls. Not like that. Definitely not that. I’m team Roy. I enjoyed Felicity getting a life outside of being the tech support and being saddled with the whole forbidden love role, I like how she’s being appreciated by Palmer and there is something there between them, and I really enjoyed ‘The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak’. The episode pitched her into family drama and showed that she may be the most innocent of the crew, but her skills give her the potential to just as much as a threat–and more powerful without needing to work out or don a miraculous identity concealing eye mask. It could have also been a really dark episode with the way this show offs people and that in itself had me unsure how this episode was going to be resolved. Thea is getting a decent plot too, rather than being there to react to what’s going on around her, she’s become her a character that can hold a story–even if she is on a short leash and Merlyn has his claws in her. I’m also liking that Laurel is finally coming into her own. She’s had a rough two years and reflecting back on it, it was actually quite measured of the show to have her become an emotional wreck and turn to drink and drugs before turning towards becoming a superhero, and not have that as the default cause and effect of character creation.

The best episode for me, and the highlight of all of Arrow was in the ‘The Brave and the Bold’. The crossover story with The Flash. The Flash brings a blast of fresh air into the series. I’m not saying it’s stale in anyway, but The Flash brings with him some much needed fun. Barry and Oliver work well together, both teaching the other and role-modelling sides they each need to develop–Barry maturity, edge, and responsibility, and Oliver to be more measured, feel some immodest pride and try and have some fun amid the brooding. It was this episode that really highlighted the sidelining of Red Arrow though, and this relationship should be more what Green and Red Arrows have going on. It highlights that a team superhero show could work. Please make that happen.

The other side of this season that I’ve enjoyed so far is the development of the League of Assassins plot. It’s contributed a lot to building this world, what with Sara, Nyssa, and Merlyn all being members. Ra’s al Gul has been built up as a worthy threat–and proves himself as such in the mid-season finale. In what should have been the biggest cliffhanger of the series. It even has an actual cliff in it. I just didn’t buy what I was meant to have just watched.

The Spoilery Bit!

I was not a fan of Sara. I think it was the whole improbable breast-support in fighting thing, and I think it was her coming between the order of things–Olive and Felicity. That being said though, I really didn’t want her to die. I enjoyed Arrow having other superhero pals for him to team up with, so if she truly is dead it’s quite a loss to the team. I’ve already mentioned that Roy has been sidelined, and I am worried that we are working up to Roy leaving. I know enough about other Red Arrow/Arsenal story paths in the DC universe to know that he might not be a side-kick forever or be be the best fit with the Green Arrow team of goodguys, but I don’t want it to happen just yet. Although, with Thea going the way she is going, could she become a villain with her own identity as Cheshire Cat? I think Red Arrow needs more story time for any breakaway to have the emotional impact it should have. Speaking of characters developing–I’m so pleased that Roy Palmer is shaping up to possibly being another superhero with the A.T.O.M exo suit. DC may be behind with their superhero films, but they are building their TV universe nicely, and if they broaden Arrow or The Flash with the inclusion of more supporting characters for team ups and even establish another series or two it would make all the shows all the more richer for it. The only potential problem being that it could make it tough for new viewers. I’ve had to binge-watch two seasons of Arrow to get the most from this latest season due to being late to the game.

Watching the who-killed-Sara story line to its apparent resolution was enjoyable–but reading up on the episodes I’ve just watched as a refresher for this post I’ve just realised how batty Merlyn’s plan was. Train Thea up, put her in drug-fuelled control mode, send her to kill Sara and frame Oliver so that Oliver will be forced to fight Ra’s al Gul and kill him, removing him as a threat to Merlyn. Woah. What?! Merlyn is clearly taking tactical advice from the Master off Doctor Who–which no one should ever do. It’s pretty crazy when you think about it. Whilst on the who-killed-Sara plot, Diggle turning on Red Arrow seemed a bit off. If anything, from how the characters have developed it should have been Green Arrow turning on Red Arrow with black and white justice, and Diggle trying to think the best and how to deal positively with him. Even if Red Arrow had been the killer, surely being doped up with mirakuru would have redeemed him in some way in their eyes? Diggle’s response just seemed off.

As for the finale. I’m pretty sure I didn’t just watch Green Arrow get killed and pitched off a cliff. The title of the show really tells me that didn’t just happen. Maybe if this was the Justice League show, then I’d be worried, but surely we know that Green Arrow is physically and mortally untouchable? Sure, the writers can put him and us through the ringer by making all those about him suffer, but not him. In spite of my denial it was still good stuff. I have managed to avoid reading any spoilers so far, but I’m guessing the Hong Kong storyline is going to have some tangible connection to the present here with Maseo revealed as being in the League. I wonder if Arrow has his own game plan here?

Looking forward to finding out. What have been your highs and lows so far, and what are your hopes and fears for the remainder of season 3? No spoilers please!

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