[MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD] “Oh, So That’s What’s Happening… Wait, What?!” — Arrow Season 3 Review

Okay, first things first. I’m going to break the boundaries of faux-professional writing here and tell you that HOLY CRAP, SEASON 3 IS FREAKING AWESOME.

I’ve been a fan of Arrow since the pilot episode first came out in 2012. Even at first glance, the show promised so much more to come. Yes, I was a bit skeptical at first by the relatively dark tone the show offered instead of the considerably more light-hearted air of the Green Arrow in the comic books, but as the first season progressed, my doubts were quickly erased.

Arrow_season_3_promotional_poster

Arrow landed its third season by October 2014 to a 2.83 US viewers, an increase from the previous season premiere’s 2.74. The season was off to a great start concerning plotlines, with the characters speeding through the episode as if the five-month season break hadn’t existed.

One of the first—and still one of the most shocking—surprises of the season happens by the end of the first episode: Sara Lance, aka the Canary, is killed by an unknown assailant with three arrows to the chest. Thus begins the first major story arc of the season: Who killed the Canary?

Sara

Season three offers some very interesting stuff, and while I was at first somewhat doubting the writers’ capability to take the plotlines and revelations to a higher level, I was proven sorely wrong. The season is off to a soaring start with the first episode alone, and through the next eight episodes of the fall run, the pace is kept nicely. They keep me at the edge of my seat trying to figure out who Sara’s murderer is, but at the same time, they still make the time to explore the characters’ pasts in delightful details. Thea, Malcolm, and Felicity each have an episode focusing on their experiences, and, loving each of those characters, I’m really satisfied at how the episodes turned out.

While the old characters earn their spotlights, new characters are introduced. New major supporting characters include Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh), Ra’s Al Ghul (Mark Nable), Ted Grant aka Wildcat (J.R. Ramirez) and Maseo and Tatsu Yamashiro (Karl Yune and Rila Fukushima).

This season, Olicity shippers (including me) are taken into a rollercoaster ride. Things seem good between Oliver and Felicity at the first episode, where Oliver finally takes Felicity on a date, but the relationship is rebuked by the end of the episode when Oliver states that he can’t be with Felicity for fear of her safety, in a more discreet, more cryptic Oliver Queen way. Felicity proceeds on weaving a romantic relationship with Ray Palmer, a new character in the season portrayed by Brandon Routh (Superman Returns, Scott Pilgrim vs the World). Ray Palmer, later known as the Atom in the comics, is the new owner of Queen Consolidated who intends on rebuilding Starling City into a new city entirely: Star City.

Ray Palmer Star City

I know. I squealed, too.

Almost as loud as I did when I learn that this season, Thea has become nothing short of a badass. Lying to Oliver about her whereabouts for five months, she stays in Corto Maltese with Malcolm Merlyn, who, as disclosed in season 2, is Thea’s biological father. During a swordfighting scene and a couple flashbacks surrounding Thea and Malcolm, it is also shown that Thea has been rigorously, and rather ruthlessly, trained by Malcolm into a warrior.

In addition to new characters, this season also offers something new: a crossover event. After the release of the first season of The Flash, it was quickly announced that the two series would hold a two-night event spanning from each series’ eighth episode. The Brave and the Bold is a hilarious and epic episode with characters from The Flash, i.e. Caitlin Snow and Cisco Ramon on a visit to Starling City. Per coincidental fictional rules, a crisis involving Captain Boomerang attacking A.R.G.U.S. requires Cisco and Caitlin to call on the Flash himself, Barry Allen, to assist the Arrow and Arsenal. The episode’s main spectacle, aside from a jam-packed plotline, is the bombardment of never-before-seen dynamics when the characters from two different cities collide in one environment. I mean, who doesn’t crack a smile on Cisco’s constant fanboying over Team Arrow’s array of coolness?

The humor brought by The Flash’s lighter row of cast isn’t the only thing savorable from the crossover episodes that begins with The Flash. I really love how they dig into the relationship between Barry and Oliver and how the two couldn’t be further apart in terms of mannerisms and courses of actions, and yet they remain inexorably alike.

Barry, since introduced in Arrow’s season 2 episode The Scientist, has always seen Oliver as some sort of a role model, and now that they’re in the same line of business of saving their respective cities, the relationship between them is subject to a change. Stephen Amell (Oliver Queen) said in an interview that because of the way Barry sees Oliver, Oliver becomes stricter in the way he carries himself around Barry. Their relationship has been explored first in The Flash episode Flash vs. Arrow, while Barry is under the influence of the Rainbow Raider, but we are taken to delve even further into their dynamics in this episode. Oliver shifts from being a mentor to Barry into more of an equal, and it’s a joy to watch them converse, spar, and assist each other in their crusade.

Amid all the excitement going on, the investigation for Sara Lance’s killer still continues. At the ninth episode, a trace of Oliver’s DNA is pulled from the arrows that killed Sara. Wait, what? Oliver couldn’t possibly have killed Sara, right?

Right. So it turns out that the whole thing is a ploy devised by Malcolm Merlyn, an “incentive”, as he says, to save Thea, whom he drugged with Votura before telling her to kill Sara.

Thea kills Sara

Ra’s Al Ghul weaves his way through the plotline as the leader of the League of Assassins who takes interest in Starling City’s Team Arrow after the murder of Sara Lance. At least, that’s the initial pitch. It soon evolves into something more. The midseason finale sees Oliver giving himself up to the League to keep Thea out of harm’s way, engaging in a trial by combat with Ra’s Al Ghul himself. Now, the logic would be to have Oliver winning the combat, since getting out of the fictional mindset for a bit, he is the show’s main character.

But guess what.

Oliver and Ra's

Oliver lost.

And then the audience was left with a month-long hiatus following the end of the fall run. What a cliffhanger.

When the season starts again with its tenth episode in January 2015, the city is left in turmoil without the Arrow. Without certainty of Oliver’s status, Felicity, Diggle, Roy, and Laurel struggles to keep the chaos in the city at bay while Danny “Brick” Brickwell (Vinnie Jones) initiates his plans to take over the Glades. Members of Team Arrow also struggle to come into terms with Oliver’s apparent death when Malcolm Merlyn comes bearing the sword that supposedly killed Oliver.

But is Oliver really dead?

His body may have fallen into a gorge, but a face from the past made the save.

The flashbacks of the season carry us to Hong Kong, where Oliver is coerced into being an asset for A.R.G.U.S. under Amanda Waller’s command. Maseo Yamashiro is forced to be Oliver’s handler of sorts, and to ensure the two’s loyalty to Waller’s orders (and to keep Oliver from leaving back to Starling city, as he tries to do at first), she threatens the lives of Maseo’s wife and son, Tatsu and Akio. Thus begins the life of Oliver Queen in Hong Kong, where he learns most of his torture/interrogation skills the under pressure of Amanda Waller’s needs.

It’s Maseo Yamashiro who picks up Oliver’s body from the gorge, or rather, a transformed version of Maseo named Sarab. It is later revealed that after a bioweapon fiasco in Hong Kong that ends with the death of Akio, Maseo leaves Tatsu behind to join the League of Assassins. But some of that old part of Sarab is disturbed and, enlisting the help of his estranged wife, they nurse Oliver back to health—at least, until Oliver gets impatient enough to decide to go back to Starling.

The triumphant return of the Arrow to Starling was interrupted when the second mind-blowing major story arc begins. Beginning with Thea’s revelation that Malcolm forced her to kill Sara, she reports the fact to the League of Assassins who, led by Nyssa, returns to Starling to retrieve Malcolm for justice. Oliver’s brotherly protectiveness kicks in, and, not wanting Thea to lose her soul, goes on a rescue mission accompanied by Diggle to Nanda Parbat. They were caught, of course, but strangely enough, Ra’s Al Ghul chooses to let them go with a humongous offer for Oliver: to take his place as the new Ra’s Al Ghul.

Oliver refuses, and the three are free to return home. Or are they?

Through the course of four episodes, literally everything is wrecked by Ra’s Al Ghul to coerce Oliver into accepting the offer. Beginning by framing the Arrow of going rogue and killing the city officials left and right, to straight out telling Quentin Lance—who is now vengeful of the Arrow for keeping the death of Sara a secret from him for so long—about the Arrow’s true identity. Oliver Queen becomes public enemy in an instant after his identity is out all over the media, and he chooses to turn himself in rather than keeping his allies in danger. During his trip to Iron Heights, however, Roy decides to bail Oliver out by taking the blame on him. Falsely confessed as the real Arrow, he is then sent to Iron Heights, where, not long after, he is seemingly killed by a knife to the stomach.

Prior to this, I already knew that Colton Haynes’ contract was ending, but they couldn’t possibly have decided to kill off Roy? Holy crap.

Roy farewell

Thankfully, they didn’t. It’s proven to be a ploy to get Roy out of prison and out of the city, and he rides off alone to start a new life.

The end of episode 19 is the turning point of the second arc, where Ra’s decides to take matters into his own hands and stabs Thea Queen, leaving her to die. Oliver gets her rushed to the hospital before she dies for good, but he is convinced the only way to save her is to use the Lazarus Pit in Nanda Parbat, thus accepting the position of the next Ra’s Al Ghul. The team, namely Oliver, Felicity, Diggle, and Malcolm take Ray Palmer’s jet to Nanda Parbat, where Thea is rejuvenated back into life with a consequence—the notorious Pit madness.

Thea - pit madness

We’ve got to circle back to Olicity here. Episode 20 is pretty much the culmination of all the tension the two had shared ever since season 1. After a slightly unhealthy nudge from Ra’s Al Ghul, added by the pressure of the situation with Oliver not coming back to Starling City ever again, Felicity finally declares her love for Oliver and the two engages in a passionate lovemaking. In a last toast, Felicity drugs Oliver and tries to get him out of Nanda Parbat to no avail; Oliver still ends up staying behind, seemingly fulfilling the bargain he’s struck with Ra’s Al Ghul prior.

Oliver’s transformation begins while the allies he left behind deal with the aftermath of Nanda Parbat. I love how they take a phrase and decide to mirror it for the two situations. The phrase that keeps getting repeated in Oliver’s side of the story is, “Oliver Queen is alive only in the past. He is forgotten.” Meanwhile, at home, Team Arrow have a toast on Oliver’s memory with a saying, “Gone, but never forgotten.”

The team is soon set on turmoil when Oliver returns—taking on the name Al Sah-Him (The Arrow), he is ordered to retrieve Nyssa back to Nanda Parbat, even if it means going against his past friends. Oliver’s transformation into a ruthless pawn of the League comes as a heavy blow to the team, with Thea prepared to kill Oliver after he nearly kills Diggle.

AR321A_0160b

In the penultimate episode, it is revealed that Oliver is only faking the whole brainwashed-assassin façade in order to destroy the League from within, with the unlikely assistance from Malcolm Merlyn. When Ra’s orders Oliver to unleash a deadly bioweapon on Starling City—the very same weapon used in Hong Kong during the flashback scenes—Oliver is forced to fast-forward his plans, asking Tatsu Yamashiro to help convince the angry members of Team Arrow that there has always been a higher goal at work, and not only complete and utter betrayal on Oliver’s side.

Once again, Team Arrow—consisting of Felicity, Diggle, Tatsu (who dons the complete Katana costume, finally), Laurel, Ray Palmer, and Malcolm—attacks Nanda Parbat, but the attempt ends with them locked in the dungeon as Ra’s releases the bioweapon on them. Things are not looking good for Team Arrow at this point.

Arrow --

The final episode begins as the team regains consciousness, with Malcolm revealing that he has inoculated them all without them knowing. A familiar face appears to free the team from the dungeon—the Flash, aka Barry Allen, surfaces from his own issues with Dr. Harrison Wells to assist Team Arrow before he leaves again. Brief as it is, the appearance is still a pleasant treat.

As Team Arrow hurries back to Starling City, Oliver breaks his cover and tries to bring down the plane that carries him, Ra’s, Nyssa, and the League members before it reaches Starling. The plan gets botched—Ra’s manages to escape with the virus, and Oliver is left to team up with Nyssa to survive the crash. Team Arrow rallies to save the city, and even as they group in Palmer Tech, Oliver arrives with Nyssa. After a well-deserved, pent-up tension between the members of team Arrow, they are able to put aside their differences to stop Ra’s from wreaking havoc in the city.

team

It turns out that Ra’s doesn’t only want to test Oliver’s fealty; an old enemy of the League, Damien Darhk, head of H.I.V.E. (though the organization’s name hasn’t been directly addressed in the show, save for Diggle’s search entry in season 2 episode 6, Keep Your Enemies Closer), is in town and Ra’s intends to take him out. Turns out that Damien has ditched the place once he finds out of Ra’s plan, but the threat of the bioweapon still looms darkly over Starling City.

As Laurel and Nyssa, Malcolm, Diggle and Thea (as Speedy; I screamed) take care of the virus-carrying League members, Oliver charges into a death match with Ra’s Al Ghul. The tables are turned when Oliver beats Ra’s, stabbing him in the chest, but before the celebration horns can resound, Oliver receives two bullet in the chest from a police member. He falls seemingly into his death, but Felicity in the A.T.O.M. suit makes the save.

olicity

The aftermath deals with the team as Oliver acknowledges each of them for their capability to keep the city safe and renounces his position as the city’s primary protector. For once, he can choose to be free, and he chooses to go with Felicity in search of happiness. A problem remains unsolved between Oliver and Diggle, however, since the latter hasn’t forgotten how Oliver has put Lyla’s life on the line during his run as Al Sah-Him. They end up securing a truce, but Diggle still elects to be off the city-saving business for now.

The closing scenes are one of the most packed end-season scenes of Arrow; Oliver handing the position of Ra’s Al Ghul to Malcolm Merlyn with Nyssa forced to kneel before him, Ray Palmer caught in a blast that engulfs the entire top floor of Palmer Tech as he tampers with the A.T.O.M. suit, and Oliver and Felicity driving off to the sunset. Oliver states that he’s happy, and the episode ends.

What a way to close off, and what a season.

The writers are on fire, and I’m a contented, happy fan for what they’ve achieved in season 3. Things are built, laid to a complete waste, and all are topsy-turvy. The ending leaves me highly satisfied, since the ship I’ve been shipping all the way from season 1 is finally canon, but it’s not just about ships. The ways things have changed by the end of season 3 leaves so much room for exploration in season 4. With Ray Palmer’s apparent failure with the A.T.O.M. suit (which I’m sure is just a bombastic way of saying that he finally receives the ability to shrink like in the comics), Malcolm Merlyn as the new Ra’s Al Ghul, a more domesticated version of Oliver and Felicity and how their relationship will progress later on, Thea joining the crusade as the crimson-clad Speedy, the hype for season 4 is extremely real. I personally can’t wait until October 7 comes around and the first episode airs.

amell

With that statement from Stephen Amell, speculations are already going on about how season 4 will kick-off. Here are the facts we already know.

  • Damien Darhk will be the big baddie of the season. H.I.V.E. guaranteed an appearance.
  • The theme of the show will go considerably lighter than the darkness galore of season 3.
  • We will have a take on Mr. Terrific in the show, portrayed by Echo Kellum.
  • Alexander Calvert and Jimmy Akingbola have been cast as Anarky and Baron Blitzkrieg, respectively.
  • Word is we’re going to see Oliver meet his son, Connor Hawke, in the new season. The appearance has already been teased when Oliver meets his mother in The Flash’s crossover episode, Flash vs. Arrow.
  • The video below says everything. Green Arrow, Star City, new costume, you name it.

So, are you hyped for season 4 yet? Feel free to discuss this with our admins @subheroism or with me @devinasalmania!

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