CW’s Arrow returned last week and fan expectation was pretty high since the writers had seemingly killed off the hero in the mid-season finale. While the hero’s return was a bit too quick, and perhaps even too soon, the tempo was still right I think and I certainly appreciate that the writers have found a way for the hero to be busy while his allies take charge in his absence. And the new season villain Danny Brickwell, played so brilliantly by actor Vinnie Jones, oozes a lot of rough charm and brutal authority, so I’m excited to see what’s going to happen next.
Last week Danny Brickwell gained himself an army by stealing entire stacks of case evidences from the SCPD and thus freeing a lot of criminals from their court cases. Now this week, we begin to see a hint of his larger plans, and he wants nothing less than full control of the Glades district, absent any police or governmental authority. Team Oliver gets to flex its muscles again, and comes off the worst in a way that was natural and interesting while we learned yet more about Oliver’s time in Hong Kong and what caused Maseo to turn into Sarab. Excellence all around.
In episode 11 of Arrow‘s season 3, we see some of the best writing of the season, from veteran Arrow writers Wendy Mericle and Ben Sokolowski, who have scripted many televised adventures of the green-hooded arrow-loving vigilante before. Several things happen in this episode and everything flows neatly from one moment into another, creating a really tight and focused story that touches on almost all aspects of the show’s current main plots while also hinting at possible future plots.
The big thing in this episode is the fact that without Oliver Team Arrow is really shorthanded. Felicity called it quits last episode and told Diggle and Roy to do the same since without Arrow they are not really a team anymore and lack an important component of what makes them who they are. This then inspires Laurel to take up Sara’s tights and mask and go out to fight crime. All of this means that the team makes a lot of mistakes. Felicity is all caught up in the emotional side of things while Diggle is in the background doing almost nothing. The only proactive people are Laurel and Roy, the latter of whom decides to investigate who is posing as the Canary, only to run into Laurel herself and bail her out of a real tight spot.
What I love about the whole thing is that where the others have had some training in close-combat, even Felicity who got a few off-the-mark lessons from Sara last season, Laurel hasn’t done much. Sure, she knows a bit about boxing from Ted Grant, but that doesn’t really make her capable of taking on street thugs, gangbangers and gun-toting lowlifes. She may have taken up Sara’s bo lance even, but that still doesn’t qualify her. And that’s great, because she has to grow into that kind of a person. Someone who can wade into a fight, be brutal about taking down the bad guys, and then come out the winner, like Diggle or Roy or Oliver can. Or like Sara could.
The third season has improved Laurel’s characterisation immensely, and this episode marks another notch in her belt in that regard.
However, the fight against Danny Brickwell aka Brick always comes off the top end for the good guys. First he kidnaps the three aldermen of the city and then kills one of them when Team Arrow tries to rescue them. Then he gives an ultimatum to the mayor and to Chief Lance that they have to vacate the Glades district completely or risk another body turning up. The show is building him up really nicely and I thought that Wendy and Ben infused the character with the right amount of villainy charm and brutal authority to make him come across as a major, major threat to law and order in Starling.
And it is fun to see how the team is coping against him in this episode. Some small victories here and there, but largely all Pyrrhic victories, as they were. Clearly, organized crime isn’t something that they can break up without the help of someone like Oliver, someone who can plot out all the angles and coordinate the team in the field and who has made combat skills to make up for everything else. Fun stuff.
There’s also two separate plots of equal importance in this episode. The first is the flashbacks in Hong Kong, which dovetails nicely into the present day scenes somewhere near Nanda Parbat where Ra’s al Ghul killed Oliver. Oliver is well-and-truly alive, but he isn’t fit to travel as yet. Whatever magic elixir that Tatsu gave him to bring him back from death (and death it was since he took a sword thrust through his chest and then fell a couple hundred feet or more into a snowed-out ravine) is unexplained. This is the only major flaw of this episode in particular, and thankfully, the rest makes up for it.
Whatever is happening right now with Maseo, Tatsu and Oliver clearly has some kind of precedent in the flashbacks, especially since Chien Na Wei knows where Maseo and Tatsu live with their son, and the latter is clearly missing in the present. And there are hints that something terrible happened in Hong Kong, possibly the death of the son at the hands of Chien Na Wei, which is probably what then led to Maseo becoming a member of the League of Assassins and taking on the name Sarab (Sahrab maybe?).
And then the second thing is all the light-stepping that Malcolm is doing with Thea. He wants her to leave Starling with him since the League knows he is there and will be coming after him now that Oliver is dead. The cool thing was that Thea acted like a grown-up and asked why they had to leave. The danger anywhere else would be the same so it doesn’t really make all that much sense to just up and leave. Fantastic question really, and it opens up a whole can of worms too, which Malcolm barely manages to avoid, but it is clear that he is on really thin ground here and that eventually he’ll have to come clean.
I can’t wait for that to happen!
Ultimately, much of this episode is about setting the scene for Oliver’s return and to give all the characters something worthwhile to do in his absence so that when they all get together (soon hopefully!), they are all the better for his absence, and are able to do some really great things together as well.
More Arrow (Season 2): Link.