We're way into the third season ofArrow and honestly, it has been a pretty mixed ride. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy the show and I look forward to watching it every Wednesday night, but it seems like this season has been a polarizing one for fans and it's easy to understand why. So, let's take some time to get brutally honest and discuss Arrow's latest journey.
This article is assuming you're current with the show. So yeah, there's obviously spoilers in here.
First up, let's talk about Thea's arc. But before we move forward, I just have to point out a personal gripe with her story: it bothers me they masked her voice in the season's first episode. During Sara's death, you can hear the killer is using a voice modifier. Obviously, that's in place just to help keep us guessing about who killed Sara. However, when it's revealed Thea's the murderer, there's no logical reason behind her using a voice modifier and it seems like that element was just dropped. Anyway, that's an incredibly small point but it's one that I had to get off my chest. Despite that nitpick, Thea's been one of the highlights this season.
Watching Thea grow from an immature spoiled kid to a professional person and then to a professional and mature badass has been quite a ride. She's surrounded by people who lie and often blow up whenever there's bad news, yet she's been pretty rational about all of the craziness that's going on around her. Yes, her leap forward in skill may seem a little swift to us, but it's important to remember she spent a good chunk of time being harshly trained by her father, Malcolm Merlyn. Besides, it's not like she's suddenly Lady Shiva. She has what it takes to hold her own, but the season made it crystal clear she'd stand no chance against Oliver. (Also, she hit Deathstroke in the back with a log, so let's not jump to conclusions and imply she beat him in a fair fight, okay?) Sure, it's a little surprising she changed her opinion of Malcolm faster than someone can say "Can we please start calling him Green Arrow now?" but it's still an understandable direction for her. Think about all of the revelations she's had and all that she's been through. To then find out this dude who she's been bonding with -- her father -- used her to murder someone must be heartbreaking. I'd be pretty pissed, too. Wouldn't you be?
Overall, Thea's been one of the season's best characters. Well, except for her subplot with the DJ character -- you know, the one who can win over an entire club in just a few seconds by simply playing a song everyone apparently goes crazy for. They made it blatantly obvious he was going to be either some guy who's just there to make Roy jealous or have a connection to a villain. It turns out he was a bit of both and I doubt many viewers were surprised. But hey, I can't blame her for that one.
When Ra's al Ghul impaled Oliver Queen, my jaw dropped. Many of you probably saw his defeat coming -- deep down, I did as well -- but I had no idea just how shocking it would be. Many of us assumed the Emerald Archer would require the Lazarus Pit or something similar to come back from his vicious defeat. How could he not? He was stabbed right below the chest (the wound magically moved to his abdomen later on), stabbed in the side, and fell a staggering distance before smashing against a hard surface. He then remained there for quite some time. If Sara died from three arrows to the stomach and then falling what appeared to be two or three stories, there was no way Oliver would make a quick recovery from this. Except that's exactly what happened and it didn't even require the Lazarus Pit -- something which we know exists in this world, or at least there's something very similar to it.
After some stitches and what seemed to be herbal remedies, Oliver was back in Starling City just three episodes later. After that, he's running around the rooftops like nothing happened. This is baffling to you as well, right? I'm sure some of you want to scream "it's a comic book show" at me and I get that -- I really do -- but this whole element was glossed over way too quickly. The Ra's al Ghul fight was huge (even though Oliver seemed to forget he's skilled and chose to flail instead of focus), so to have Oliver recover so quickly takes away from the weight of what happened. We all knew he'd come back and I'm glad they didn't drag it out, but this felt rushed and like a missed opportunity. No proper explanation was given for how he recovered from such devastating injuries aside from he had some time to rest and there was basic medical attention. Maybe -- just maybe -- there will be some elaboration about how he was able to recover so quickly (could it tie into this Omega and Alpha stuff going on in the past?), but at this point, it seems like we just have to accept he's back now and totally fine. Anyhow, who else really wants Arrow to beat Ra's by using some trick arrows? It was implied Ra's has decades of experience, so it'll be tough to swallow Ollie beating this guy in melee combat just because he may not be afraid like he once was. After seeing just how dangerous this man is, I think it's okay to use the advantages you have, don't you? I guess we'll just have to wait and see how that's handled.
When fans think of Ra's al Ghul, there's probably three things that could immediately come to mind for them: the animated version, Liam Neeson's version, and the version in the comics. All of them are tough acts to follow, but Matt Nable is offering a worthy version of the iconic villain. Okay, it's blatantly obvious when a stunt double needs to step in and the villain hasn't been used all that much just yet, but he's captured the presence of the character exceptionally well. He's not a villain who's driven by rage or greed -- not that there's anything wrong with that -- he's wise and collected yet still strikes fear into everyone around him. I wasn't sure how I felt about Nable in the role when they first teased the character in a cliffhanger, but I'd say he's done an excellent job. Let's just hope he gets plenty of attention now that the story is racing forward.
Another great villain this season has to offer is John Barrowman's Malcolm Merlyn. Thanks to a consistently strong performance and the desire to protect himself at any cost, the writers have done a solid job organically throwing this villain into the mix and justifying why he's still a key character. While it has brought about some not-so-awesome drama among team Arrow, he's a character that continues to grab my attention and this season has me legitimately guessing what the future has in store for him. If I had to guess, I'd say a death which attempts to somewhat redeem his evil and selfish actions -- you know, saving Thea or Ollie from Ra's. Nothing could ever make us view him as a good guy, but they may try to do something that'll make us say, "See, he's not that bad!" I'd prefer if they didn't go that route, but that's my guess!
Having the past scenes take place in Hong Kong was a cool change of pace, but these scenes haven't felt as compelling as the ones on the Island and they haven't benefited the modern scenes all that much. It feels like they're slowly building up to a death (it was strongly implied Tatsu and Maseo's child will die) and a way to justify how Amanda Waller and the Alpha/Omega will be used in the modern era. Obviously, there's been some great scenes in the past, but many of them just haven't benefited the episodes' themes nearly as much as they could have. Maybe this will all payoff soon enough, but up until this point, the trips to the past unfortunately haven't been all that memorable.
John Diggle and Roy Harper are kind of just there, rolling with the story's punches. They haven't had any significant development (Diggle's a dad but that isn't playing a big role; Roy thought he killed Sara), but at least they've had some good scenes. Diggle still had the opportunity to be the voice of reason to Oliver after the archer returned, and Roy standing up to Oliver was a moment that made me want to applaud. I noticed some of you thought his outburst wasn't justified, but seeing as the team was used to working together and Ollie was barking orders at Roy's ex, I think his decision to call Ollie out was appropriate and worked well. Someone had to put the guy in his place and let him know team Arrow isn't an Olltatorship. It's a shame these two aren't getting heavier material, but it's not like they've been absent, either. Plus, they've calmed down with Roy doing unnecessary flips, so that's greatly appreciated. I love when they show how agile he is and they've done some neat shots of that, but those two epic flips felt like they came out of nowhere! Yeah, you know the ones I'm talking about.
The villain-of-the-week characters aren't memorable (I'm still bummed Komodo was basically a throwaway mercenary and Deathstroke's return was disappointing, but I'll get over it), but thankfully, they gave Brick a proper amount of attention. Okay, so maybe his plan wasn't the best around -- he just wanted turf control in the comics, too -- and the city's response to it wasn't all that fitting, but it was a role that Vinnie Jones was perfect for. It was basically a less comedic version of his character from Snatch (which is a great movie, by the way) and he pulled off a frightening crime boss who showed hints of more depth. He brought some major personality to their world.
It's just too bad they never explained his durability like, at all. We know his gun didn't have weaker rounds, so how is it that every time he was shot, the bullets did minimal damage? Did every bullet just graze him and he has exceptional pain tolerance? I could have sworn Diggle landed a headshot? This was all pretty unclear and it's tough to just accept him having enhanced durability because the only people with powers are on Mirakuru or they're from Central City. Still, Jones' presence was definitely felt on the show and I hope they have more plans for the character. Man, imagine him on the Suicide Squad. He wouldn't fit in at all and the character dynamics would be so amusing. Oh, and speaking of villains, Peter Stormare's a good actor, but if they're going to bring back Count Vertigo again, they really need to make him do his own thing. Look to the source material to make some much-needed modifications to who he is because, as of right now, he's just coming off like a Scarecrow ripoff. His appearance serves the themes well for others but it leaves him feeling like a plot device instead of a rich character. Give that dude some development!
Arrow has gone pretty heavy on the drama and characters keeping secrets, so to have characters finally open up and tell the truth is so refreshing. Now that Thea's aware of what's going on, watching her talk openly with these characters is so interesting because these people can finally lift a huge weight off their shoulders. It sure beats Oliver and everyone else needing to come up with excuses, doesn't it? I get some secrets need to be kept, but sometimes they feel unnecessary and it's great to see those are being addressed instead of dragged out and avoided. Show of hands: who else is relieved they didn't drag out Thea being unaware of the fact she's the one who killed Sara? I'm going to assume most of you have your hands raised. I could picture them saving that for the big conflict, but thankfully, they didn't!
One lie has left fans mixed: hiding Sara's death from Paul Blackthorne's Quentin Lance. I understood why they called him, pretending to be Sara (he thinks his daughter has been back and he's very concerned that she hasn't contacted him at all), but approaching him in person was an unnecessary step, especially when the conversation is filled with awkward and forced lies. Thankfully, they didn't drag this plot point out, either. Making Quentin aware that it's Laurel in the costume -- don't worry, we'll talk about her in a bit -- was great since he's, you know, a detective, and this arc really allowed Blackthorne to deliver some powerful scenes. In a show that's filled with so much drama, he's the one that has been able to impact me the most. Things like him saying he doesn't know what he'd do without his daughter were devastating and so heartfelt. This development (Quentin knows his daughter is dead and that his other one is wearing a mask and fighting crime) has some major potential for the character's upcoming story, so let's hope they capitalize on it.
Season three delivered an Anti-Monitor-sized amount of fan service by having a crossover episode with the lovable characters from The Flash. It was a hugely satisfying way to bring a little more fun and humor into the series. This was such an enjoyable way to take a little break from the main narrative and it's without question an episode that has a ton of replay value. This really brought out the best in the characters, too. There's so much gloom and doom going on, so to have a little intermission that's full of moments that'll make you smile was terrific. I'm not saying the show should change its tone (although, I'd love Ollie to lighten up a bit), but it was a nice break from the status quo.
Felicity and Ray Palmer have been a huge part of this season. The latter because he's a new character and he's working his way towards becoming one of the city's newest heroes; the former because her emotions have been all over the place and understandably so. I've seen a lot of fans grow very frustrated with Felicity over the last several episodes, but we're talking about someone who thought the man she loves died, saw he returned only to side with the man who is ultimately responsible for his "death" (and the death of hundreds others), and she obviously has amazing chemistry with Ray, a guy who can actually discuss his emotions with her and not remain 250% guarded at all times. You must know how much relationship drama can get to your head, right? Now imagine how much it's impacting her. She's had quite an emotional journey, so yeah, it's understandable she isn't always going to be the one we can turn to for comedic banter.
You can't help but feel bad for Felicity. Her and Barry Allen agree they aren't compatible because their hearts belong to other people, and we know she still loves Oliver and the feeling is mutual. So what does this mean for her and Ray -- a relationship that is obviously growing? Is that destined to just not work and it's basically settling because she can't be with the one she truly loves? Kind of depressing, yeah? It sure seems like it since they've made it so very clear Oliver loves Felicity, not Laurel. After all that she's been through, it would be awesome if the show just had Felicity say, "I'm okay not being in a relationship right now" and she focused on doing what she can to help the city. Whether it's giving team Arrow technical help or helping Ray become a hero, it would be a nice change of pace if they removed relationship drama from her life. That's not going to happen, but she's a strong character and it's clear she needs time to herself before she's thrown into even more drama with these guys. Give her a bit of breathing room and time to really think about her situation, you know? I can't help but shake the feeling that "Raylicity" will only come about to make Oliver jealous and then finally give Felicity the kind of emotional connection she deserves from him. Once again, I guess we'll just have to wait and see how that's handled. At least for now the scenes between Felicity and Ray are often enjoyable. They're able to nail the comedy and the more emotional beats equally well.
If I asked you who your favorite character was back in season two, it's safe to assume a very small number of you would say Laurel. I get she's had a rough road, but the writing made her such a frustrating character. It's tough to root for someone and to want to see them improve when it feels like they're constantly lashing out, deflecting and making things worse. So, when it was announced she'd become the new Black Canary, a number of us were skeptical -- and that's putting it politely. It's not that Katie Cassidy is a bad actress -- I think she's been very impressive at times -- it's that the script has been so cruel to her character. But here we are, deep into season three, and she's suddenly a pretty awesome person.
I think some of the action scenes with her character are a little silly and they're not up to par with the other stunts, but her character has undergone some major progress this season. She's likable now and I want to root for her. Again, deciding to fool her father in person was a terrible choice, but that's outweighed by the steps they've taken to repair her character. I breathed a sigh of relief when she decided to spill the alcohol instead of slipping backwards for the gazillionth time. It tugged at my heartstrings when she finally realized she needs to tell her father the truth. I can't believe I'm saying it, but she's one of the best characters in season three. She may be out of her element when it comes to fighting crime, but we understand why she's so driven and seeing her use all of that energy in a positive way has been excellent. Now it's just a matter of seeing how the situation with Thea unfolds. How will she react to the discovery that Ollie's sister killed her sister? When this is finally revealed to her, let's hope it doesn't force the character to take a major step backwards. It's understandable this news would be a huge blow to her, but in due time, I imagine she'd understand the lengths Oliver has gone to protect his own sister because, this whole time, she's been fighting to avenger her own sister. If there's a reason to lie, that's one reason she'd be able to understand. Well, once she can collect her thoughts, that is. She has every right to be upset about this news when it does drop, but it would be a shame if her response ruined all of the development she's had this season.
All in all, season three has left me feeling down the middle. We have some great performances from a few characters and Laurel and Thea have become totally unexpected standouts, but the flashbacks haven't been all that rewarding, some characters feel pushed to the side, and -- aside from Brick and Ra's brief roles -- the villains haven't been all that interesting. It doesn't help that the handling of Arrow's recovery felt incredibly rushed and his return to full health doesn't feel justified. Still, there's more episodes to come and the fact more characters are finally being honest with each other (well, more honest than usual) has created the potential for a whole lot of compelling conversations. Now it's a matter of seeing how they decide to wrap up Ra's al Ghul's arc and where they'll go with Ray's story. Even if it all goes downhill from here, at least they've done an awesome job redeeming two characters.
What do you think about Arrow's third season?