*Yeah, there's obviously spoilers in here*
Season 3 of Arrow began with something nobody expected: the death of Sara Lance. All was going well in the Season 3 premiere as Oliver Queen defeated his latest villain-of-the-week (a new Count Vertigo who felt more like Count Scarecrow, but we'll get to that later) and it focused on a potential relationship between the hero and Felicity. Then -- seemingly out of nowhere -- Sara was struck by multiple arrows and fell off a rooftop. Hell of a way to end the Season 3 premiere, isn't it?
Since Sara plummeted to her death, the show has kept us guessing about the identity of her killer. Upon seeing Komodo would be featured in the next episode, many of us comic book fans were immediately like, "Yeah! It was totally him!" Nope. Is it Malcolm Merlyn? He swears on his daughter's life it wasn't him. Could it have been his daughter, Thea? Could she have done something so dark? Was it a final test by Malcolm? The handling of this mystery has us thinking it could be possible. To keep things even more gripping, they threw a twist our way last night: Roy's having nightmares in which he's the one who killed Sara. Could it be there's still traces of the Mirakuru flowing through him and it occasionally takes control? In his dream, he does know what Sara said in her final moments. However, in the actual scene of Sara's death, you can hear the sound of arrows being equipped and fired from a bow -- not thrown by hand. What's equally important is Sara's reaction to her killer seems to imply she's shocked to see the person in the city, not just on the rooftop. If it was one of her allies (e.g. Roy), she wouldn't seem as stunned and concerned about their appearance. Even though we're fairly certain it's not Roy, this was still one heck of a cliffhanger and got us all thinking about the mystery.
Who killed Sara and why would it benefit them? Don't rule out Ra's al Ghul just yet. In the comics, he has high standards for his daughter, so if he discovered Nyssa was in love with Sara and if he believes Sara's not worthy of his daughter's affection, it's possible he ordered someone from the League of Assassins to go to Starling City and take her out. That could explain why Sara seemed surprised to see the individual on the rooftop. Or is Malcolm fooling us all and knew Sara's death would lead to a conflict between Team Arrow and the League of Assassins, two organizations he's not exactly on good terms with? We'll just have to wait and see what really happened, but as of right now, the handling of the mystery has kept us guessing and most definitely interested.
Before Season 3 began, it was announced Ra's al Ghul, the Demon's Head, would be the big bad. Prior to this season, the character has been name-dropped and heavily teased as we saw his daughter in action, as well as other characters from the League of Assassins. Ra's al Ghul finally showed his face in "The Magician," but it was of course saved for the cliffhanger and we've yet to see him appear again. And you know what? That's okay. A slowburn approach with this foe makes sense. They should be building the anticipation for his actions against Oliver Queen and, when they do drop, they need to be epic. This is a wise, focused and calculating man. They should be teasing his role and holding it off for as long as possible. Then, just when we're wondering what'll happen, he does something to drop our jaws. So, while it is a bit disappointing he's been in the background so far, it is an understandable decision.
It's cool they're building the suspense with Ra's al Ghul, but the villain-of-the-week formula hasn't been that strong this season. Komodo and Mark Shaw felt like they were there just for some neat stunts, Count Vertigo -- albeit having a good performance by Peter Stormare -- now feels like Scarecrow since the drug makes you see what you're afraid of, and Brother Eye was without question the weakest part of this week's new episode. Another weak point this season is the flashbacks; they've felt unfocused compared to the previous seasons. There's so much potential in this new setting (and not to mention fan service), but we've yet to see them really capitalize on it or use it to greatly enhance the narrative. Hopefully that'll improve as we move forward.
Aside from Roy (who's going to get some much-deserved focus next week) and John Diggle, Season 3 is giving each lead a pretty strong arc. The journey that's drawing the most attention is Laurel's and understandably so. She's taken a pretty rough path in this show and it has produced some frustrating moments -- moments which made it very difficult to root for her. We all know she'll eventually replace her sister as Black Canary, but the execution of this has been a little heavy-handed at times and her progression was feeling a little rushed. Thankfully, the recent episode did a terrific job with the character's story. The "should I tell my dad about Sara or shouldn't I?" dilemma felt like it was being drawn-out, so it was excellent to see her finally put that to rest -- until they can tell him the truth, that is. Show of hands: Who else thinks he'll somehow find out before they want to tell him?
Even though Laurel's a passionate and driven character, she hasn't felt mature enough to take the Black Canary mantle. Relying on her for some quick and important decisions in the field could be dangerous. Yes, she can become a gifted fighter, but that's meaningless if she doesn't have an equally sharp mind. Last night's episode finally showed her turning her rage into something positive. No longer is she just wildly lashing out. The younger Ted Grant is stepping up and teaching her how to channel that passion and use it wisely. That's what this character has desperately needed and it was satisfying to see that happen. Yeah, there's still some blunt easter eggs (focusing on the jacket, having her choose a black outfit instead of a red one, etc.), but assuming they show her grow mentally and physically, I think it's safe to say many of us could eventually accept her stepping into a costume. It should by no means be a rushed process, though. Hopefully their objective isn't she needs to be Black Canary by the end of Season 3 and they're instead focusing on organic growth for the character.
Felicity is usually the character the show turns to for humor, so the charismatic Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) is a very welcome addition to the cast. Finally, there's someone just as quick-witted and charming as Felicity, so watching the two interact has been really uplifting and enjoyable. Plus, having Palmer means there's so much potential as the season moves forward. How connected will be become to the greater narrative or will he stay purely on the business/Felicity side of things? Only time shall tell, but he's a thoroughly likable character and helps lighten the mood. With so much sadness going on, that's definitely needed in order to maintain balance.
Speaking of Felicity, "Olicity" didn't really give us anything new, did it? They finally put their feelings out there, but it once again went back to the "I'm a hero... I can't risk it!" card. Seeing as their date was interrupted by an explosion, we can understand why Ollie believes that now more than ever. Still, it does seem like they aren't exactly certain whether or not they want this relationship to be a thing. The tension is certainly still there and Felicity's appearance in The Flash (click here for our thoughts on that show) makes it abundantly clear her heart is still set on Oliver, even though he still has his guard up. Maybe Ray's pursuit of Felicity will eventually make Oliver realize he's being dumb about this and he'll finally take a chance on "Olicity"? Or, maybe they're just holding this off so Ollie and Laurel can get back together when she becomes Black Canary? Look, whether you like it or not, the romantic element is going to play a big role in this show (it is the CW, after all). Seeing as it's been implied that Oliver loves Felicity and cares for her more than anyone else (and she feels the same way about him), it would be a shame to see them never turn that into a legitimate thing. Or, you know, at least try to. Like they said over in The Flash, sometimes opposites attract.
Thea's arc has been especially entertaining. She spent a lot of time training with Malcolm Meryln -- and we haven't even seen much of it. Aside from being more confident and being an awesome with a blade, just how much has Thea changed? It's great to see she's finally grown close with her brother again, but how long will that last? How long can Ollie hide his biggest secret from Thea, especially when Malcolm is looking over her? If Thea finds out, she could blame Oliver for her mother's death, because Deathstroke did that just to hurt Ollie. This is one storyline we all have our eyes on and, even though her return to the city felt a little rushed, it's clear there's still so much more potential with this character.
What's also exciting is Vinnie Jones has been cast as Brick and we know he isn't going to be just another villain-of-the-week. It's confirmed he'll appear in at least 3 episodes, so his role will hopefully spice things up. A common complaint from viewers is the show borrows too many elements from Batman (there have been quite a few nods to the hero's franchise in conversations), so it's nice to see one of Star City's former crime lords stepping into the picture. We won't see how significant his role is until episode 10, but it is cool knowing he's becoming part of the universe.
Season 3's flashbacks and villains haven't been that memorable, but it is doing a good job with slowly expanding the overall narrative and developing some of the key characters. Even though many of us have narrowed it down to just a few suspects, the murder mystery successfully keeps us guessing and has become one of the most interesting parts of this season. Only time will tell if this puzzle was worth this much buildup and we're crossing our fingers that the eventual reveal lives up to all of the hype.
What do you think Season 3 of Arrow is doing right and where do you think it can make improvements?