Since it premiered back in 2012, Arrow has not been a show to ignore the dark corners of the superhero psyche. Again and again we have seen some really horrible things happen on the show, whether it is torture or mutilation or what have you and betrayal of the self and betrayal of the family is something that has been a running theme on the show. Season 3 itself got off to a really grim tone last year, and recent episodes have shown that this theme isn’t going anywhere and that the times are indeed wholly dark for Team Arrow.
Episodes 18-20 of the show have been very interesting from a story perspective. Oliver’s secret is once again out in the open as Ra’s al Ghul intensifies his… pressure on Oliver to become the next Demon’s Head, and with this come some true heroics from the team. And not only that but we also get to see Ray Palmer become a hero himself, as he begins to embrace the difference he can make alongside Team Arrow and even perhaps as a part of it. But that is all overshadowed by what is happening in the flashbacks, where Oliver and the Yamashiros’ freedom has become anything but.
There is an incredible amount of things that have happened on the show of late, and little of it has been of any kind of benefit to Team Arrow. With Ra’s al Ghul going all-out in an effort to force Oliver to become the next Demon’s Head, Starling City has gotten caught in the crossfire, especially once Ra’s revealed Oliver’s secret to Captain Lance. And since Captain Lance bears a lot of ill-will towards the Arrow, primarily because the Arrow didn’t let him know that Sara died months ago, he has become a man on a mission. He has thrown himself on the hunt for the Arrow and now that he knows the big secret, he has connected all the different dots and knows that Oliver has been lying to him ever since he came back from Lian Yu.
Not a good thing. Captain lance isn’t someone who lets go of a grudge easily and given all that his family suffered through eight years ago, and what it has been suffering since Sara’s death, he wants a target to take out all his frustration on.
And so, we get yet more insight into how the family dynamics on Arrow work. In the flashbacks we have the Yamashiros as they go on the run from what appear to be ARGUS soldiers. In the present we have the dysfunctionality in the Queen, Lance and Merlyn families. It is all a really complicated web, and while the writers sometimes kind of lose their way and the episodes kind of feel as if the story is just being put through the beats rather than being really interesting, I still remain positive about the whole thing. And that’s because I feel the writers and the executive producers often do their best to really push the boundaries of what they can do. You just look at everything that has happened in this season and it will be apparent how that is unfolding.
Most of all though, I think that the show has definitely found its internal beat best in the last three episodes. Sure, I kind of lament how the Arrow is being turned into a pseudo-Batman, but looking beyond that, there is so much going on and the way that the writers have set everything up, I can’t help but feel impressed by all of it. How best to turn Oliver Queen into the next Ra’s al Ghul? Terrorize his city, kill off some of its leaders, go after his friends and family. After all, have to remember that in a previous episode, when Maseo killed the mayor, he had his sights on Felicity too, and that certainly was a big moment for everyone involved. Sure, he chose to go after Ray, but that moment really defines the “new” Maseo, when compared to Maseo in the flashbacks.
And speaking of the flashbacks, some really funky stuff is going on there. We find out that it isn’t Amanda Waller who is not happy letting Oliver and the Yamashiros leave, but General Shrieve himself. What a double-faced jerk! It seems that he intends to make a pretty pointed statement to the entire world by releasing the Alpha/Omega viruses in Hong Kong and that Waller was on Oliver’s side the whole time. Major, major turning point in the meta-story I think, given how her relationship with Oliver is in the present. That speaks a lot to and explains some points about their relationship as we’ve seen before on the show, especially when Oliver convinced Waller to help during Slade’s rebellion, as much as she did at any rate.
I actually like the whole juxtaposition that is happening with regards to the relationship between Maseo and Oliver, how it has evolved over the last five years. We get confirmation also of what it really was that made Maseo turn to the League, leaving his life and family behind. It is a sad story and the way he tells it, you really feel for the man. The world of Arrow is not a kind place for the characters and what happened with Maseo and Tatsu is another highlight in that long list of things.
But then, it also provides some incentive and context for what happens to the characters, especially in the last 2 episodes (19 and 20). These are all conflicted characters, even Ra’s al Ghul himself and I loved that bit most of all. He isn’t just this uncaring bastard of a man intent only on the goals of his “family”. He is something else, totally something else and the conversation that happens between him and Felicity last week in “The Fallen” really emphasized that. Ra’s al Ghul didn’t suddenly become a killer one day. He didn’t spring out as a villain out of nowhere. He too hard an arc, perhaps an arc that was similar to how he intends to turn Oliver into the next Demon’s Head, and those couple of minutes of talk between Ra’s and Felicity showed that beneath that cold, hard, rough exterior, there once was a person who cared for and loved his family, a family now denied him.
It was odd, a little bit, but also quite awesome.
From this coming Wednesday, we are going to move into the final three episodes of this season. With everything that has happened till now, the conclusion of this big storyline is definitely going to be something very different from what we can all expect, and I also like that the build-up is a bit slower than last season with Slade, where the villain completely outmaneuvered Team Arrow until right at the end. This time, there is so much more character development going on and much less action.
Long live Al Sah-him, the Heir to the Demon!
And one really cool thing? We got to see why the arrow symbol for this season is as stylized as it is and what connection it has with the League. Super cool.
More Arrow (Season 2): Link.