It isn’t a secret that CW’s Arrow has had an amazingly good season 3 as far as I’m concerned. I’ve loved pretty much all that we’ve seen on the show so far in the 2014-2015 season, and the greatest thing definitely has to be the fact that Starling City has gone bring the Vigilante’s city to a City of Heroes. Season 2 actually had that whole latter theme going on, but it was more a transitionary thing, and it is season 3 is where it all starts to really come together. And along the way, characters like Thea Queen and Laurel Lance have improved immeasurably since their earliest appearances on the show, while the others like Felicity Smoak and Oliver Queen among others have continued to grow.
Two weeks back the villain Brick, who has set himself up as the new power in the Glades, set the stage for a hostile takeover for all of the Glades, pushing out both policemen and city officials. We’ve already seen before that Team Arrow minus Oliver has really struggled against Brick before, so them going up against the big bad once again is perhaps not the best idea, but then, the way it is all handled in episode 12 shows how Team Arrow has grown into being more than just Oliver’s allies of need and circumstance. And this theme carries on over in episode 13 from this week when we see how the team functions when it is whole once again.
Things right now are pretty complicated in Arrow, and we are talking about the good type of complicated rather than the bad one. For one, there’s the whole flashback sequence in Hong Kong where ARGUS is after Chien Na Wei and where the villain has gained the upper hand over Oliver and Maseo by kidnapping Tatsu and Akio. Then there’s the whole thing going on with Felicity and Ray where they are working on building his exosuit and which seems to run into all sorts of problems that only the two of them can handle. Then we have the whole angst thing going on between Tatsu and Maseo in the present, something that likely involves the death of their son, and this in turn has an effect on how the present timeline with these two and Oliver moves forwards. Then there’s Team Arrow trying to keep Starling safe in Oliver’s absence and Laurel rising up to really take on Sara’s vigilante identity and proving herself worthy of the same. And more. A hell of a lot more.
And the thing here is that in Vinnie Jones’ Brick and Peter Stormare’s Werner Zytle, episodes 12 and 13 have some really good supervillain bank, with the two of them getting in some really great scenes that once again do a lot to further who they are and cement their… reputation on the show. While Brick really hit the ground running in the recent episodes and then continued on a high, Werner Zytle aka (the new) Count Vertigo has had a more troublesome history on the show and it is only under Peter Stormare’s inspired and creepy performance that the best of the character has really come to the fore.
Anyway, back to the stories for these two episodes.
The majority of episode 12, “Uprising“, deals with Team Arrow combating Brick’s growing influence in the Glades. With the police and city officials completely out of the district, the villain and his minions have full free reign in the area, and are using their new-found power to cause as much mayhem as they can. And so Team Arrow hits upon an ingenious idea to take them down, even as on the other side of the world Oliver is fighting to get back to Starling (some great emotional scenes with Tatsu ensue) and has to make some tough decisions in the end.
In this week’s episode, “Canaries“, we have Oliver back in Starling now. I’ll admit that I think this was rushed through and that we could have had a couple more episodes easy with Oliver still stuck somewhere in Nanda Parbat or wherever it is that he fought his duel with Ra’s al Ghul. The rushed nature kind of devalues the whole thing with his death in the mid-season finale and that’s really the only bit of the recent episodes that I don’t like so much. But at the same time, as I said before, the rush nature allows the writers to address some other things, and that’s indeed what this episode is about: Oliver discovering that Team Arrow is more a team of individuals rather than minions, and that they all deserve far more than an autocratic attitude from him where their shared mission is concerned.
And among all of this, the best part is how writers Beth Schwartz & Brian Ford Sullivan and Jake Coburn & Emilio Ortega Aldrich deal with the concept of Laurel truly taking up her dead sister’s mantle and becoming the new Canary. All of the setup in the previous episodes comes to a head in these two episodes and we finally have the big moment between Laurel and her father that we’ve been waiting for all season since Sara died in the season premiere. And it proves to be just as emotional as I expected, with lots of subtle things dropped along the way to make it that much of a better experience.
One thing you always have to keep an eye out for here is that things are being set in place for a really big showdown between the good guys and the bad guys towards the end of the season, the same has happened in the last two seasons, first against the Dark Archer and then against Deathstroke. Now we are preparing to face down the Demon’s Head, Ra’s al Ghul. And something here tells me that it is a neat coincidence that the three major season villains all have monikers starting with the letter “D”. Really interesting, that little tidbit.
Either way, the way the writers progress through these two episodes, you really feel as if it is all going to come together really well. There are some neat revelations in both, especially in this week’s episode when Oliver has to make a big decision with regards to Thea, and I think it is things like this more than anything else that make the show as good as it is, ultimately. Because there’s always some clear drama and tension going on, about all of the characters.
And I forgot, there’s one other thing that bothered me about episode 13. Thea has had kind of a fling with someone of late, though it has been pretty much non-serious so far. But, given a revelation at the end of episode 11, we see a sort of resolution to the whole arc towards the end of this week’s episode, and the interlude of what Thea and said person do, especially in the context of a conversation Thea had just had with Oliver, things kind of look… gratuitous and even… derogatory. The show has made great strides to develop Willa Holland’s character over the last two and a half seasons, so watching her make that, well, silly decision really rubbed me the wrong way, and I sincerely hope that this is not how the writers take things forward. Especially in context of how the writers on Gotham have been treating Dr. Leigh.
All said and done though, both these episodes were fantastic and I certainly recommend both of them, especially if you want to know just what the hell is going on with the flashbacks in Hong Kong, and what Malcolm’s own flashbacks from episode 12 depict, a man very, very different to the one we’ve known so far.
More Arrow (Season 2): Link.