Arrow: The Complete Third Season
Poor Arrow. I enjoyed watching it more when it was the only superhero TV show. Now there are a lot more choices, with more variety in tone, and I’m finding a few things not so enjoyable any more.
Like the requirement that there be some kind of flashback plotline throughout the episodes. Now in season three, those have moved to Hong Kong, where five years ago, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) was ordered around by a skinny Amanda Waller as some kind of spy assassin in training. I’m not a fan of espionage thrillers, and I found myself considering these segments as something to fast-forward through.
I also didn’t care for the way the producers kept breaking up the team. I don’t have a problem with a hero character having lots of backup and friends who help, but this season is where they got rid of, in different ways, Canary (Caity Lotz) and a traumatized Roy (Colton Haynes) and Thea (Willa Holland), who’s sent off to Corto Maltese to learn how to be a bad-ass.
The reliance on the outdated idea that “I can’t have a close relationship with anyone because I must sacrifice everything in order to be heroic” makes me grind my teeth, so I was quite pleased, after all the exaggerated drama of this season, to see Oliver get a (temporary) happy ending. I know it’s all going to be blown up again for the next season, because that’s how serial entertainment works, but for a bit, I could be more optimistic. Took a long while to get there, though.
Arrow‘s got it tough. The most commercially successful DC Entertainment media project of the last decade is a grim-and-gritty Batman, so Arrow aspired to that pattern, with a tortured hero who needed a good psychiatrist. (Trying to be Batman is in keeping with the character’s original Golden Age comic book history, too, since for a while there was an Arrow-Car and an Arrow-Cave and such.) Only now there’s Gotham to give those fans something closer to the real thing, and The Flash for more traditional heroics, and Arrow has to navigate between the two.
Introducing Ra’s al Ghul (Matthew Nable) and the League of Assassins doesn’t help, particularly once Oliver is enlisted to become his heir. I want to see heroes and friends trust each other, not double-cross each other for “their own good”, so this plotline wasn’t my favorite. This season also introduces one of the comics’ biggest “get out of jail” card, the Lazarus Pit.
My favorite part of the season was the introduction of the Atom, Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh). I liked that he was a smart inventor with a sense of humor, and I enjoyed seeing the byplay with him and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards). His heroing is more traditionally light-hearted, so that’s more to my taste as well. I’ll follow him to whichever other show he ends up being part of.
I admire the way the creators have blended CW-style personal drama and angst with superheroes, particularly the way they’ve broadened their universe this season, but the choices they’re using, such as the Suicide Squad, just don’t appeal to me. That’s why it’s such a good thing that there’s now a variety of superhero show tones. More for everyone!
Key episodes this season include the following:
- “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak”, episode 5, introduces Felicity’s mother (Charlotte Ross) and has a lot of flashbacks about her computer background.
- “The Brave and the Bold”, episode 8, concludes a crossover with The Flash.
- “My Name Is Oliver Queen”, episode 23, packs lots of hero action into the season finale.
The set has 23 episodes on four discs. In addition to the usual smattering of Deleted Scenes, there are two commentaries. Executive Producers Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle talk about “The Calm”, the season opener, and “The Climb”, episode 9, the mid-season cliffhanger (literally), featuring Oliver’s first face-off with Ra’s. There’s also a four-minute gag reel and an Arrow panel from Comic-Con 2014 (29 minutes). Because of the timing, it’s looking back at the second season and hinting at this season.
“The Man Beneath the Suit: The Atom’s First Fight” is seven minutes about the introduction of the character of Ray Palmer and the super-suit he builds and operates. “Nanda Parbat: Constructing the Villain’s Lair” is significantly longer, at 23 minutes about the setting important to the second half of the season. “Second Skin: Creating the Uniforms of Arrow” (17 minutes) was more interesting to me. The show is typically set at night, so it’s neat to see the details of the costumes in more standard light. They also talk about making choices that reflect both the symbolism and the practicality of needing to do stunts.
Season 4 has just started on The CW. It airs Wednesdays at 8 PM Eastern/7 PM Central and promises a more active Speedy and a guest appearance by Constantine (Matt Ryan). (The studio provided a review copy.)
I like Arrow but it has an odd ranking on my favorite comics shows. Flash is my favorite of the comic shows, it isn’t afraid to be a superhero show and has fun and action. Supergirl (I saw first episode as part of a marketing/survey group) is my second favorite as it shares a lot of same aspects. Arrow is third, gets to grim at times but I love Felicity character and the first episode of new season promised a brighter outlook. (though last scene may wreck that) Plus there are a lot of easter eggs involving a certain fearless test pilot.
I would have ranked Agent of SHIELD higher in its first season, but I got bored by the Inhumans stuff and still haven’t finished the second half of season 2. I just started IZombie, theres potential, but I’m not quite hooked yet and wish they didn’t show the actual feeding on the brain. (makes me go eww) And I still haven’t had the chance to try Agent Carter.
Oh, you’re missing out on my two favorites! I like Agent Carter and iZombie the best, with the Flash following, and I have high hopes for Supergirl. As you say, there are bits of Arrow that are very appealing, but the overall package winds up kind of dark for me, and Agents of SHIELD has become unfortunately boring.
I hope to get to try both fully soon. I also forgot completely about Gotham, likely because it’s such a forgettable show. I like the Batman mythos but there are so many adaptions of it and this series pales in comparison to the best of those.