This review contains spoilers for previous episodes of Arrow.
After last week’s episode kicked this season off with a bang (or a twang… too soon?), episode 2, Sara, starts to flesh out more of what we can expect for the rest of the season. There are many high points, but an unfortunate weakness—that has been mostly tolerable to this point—is now being drawn to the forefront of the show.
This season is establishing a much more mature Oliver Queen than the previous seasons. Season 1 and 2 focused more on Oliver becoming the Arrow, but now he’s responsible for a whole team, not just himself. In this episode, Oliver feels the weight of leadership on his shoulders. He’s learning that he has to stay strong in the face of Sara’s death, because other people now look to him for strength.
Significant characters have died before, but this is the first character that is so central to the team. Everyone is now facing the permanence of their decisions, after having to face the fact that—in time—vigilantiasm only has one possible outcome.
Overall, the season is still strong. The big picture story is headed in a fresh direction and season 3 has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, Oliver’s backstory in Hong Kong is starting to run into the prequel syndrome. In order to make Oliver’s backstory exciting, it needs to take him to new and exciting places. The problem with that, is that it is all happening in the past.
It’s starting to get to the point where parts of season 1 are becoming suspect because of the additional backstory established in season 2 and season 3. Every season can’t have a mirrored storyline that happened in the past. This season will have to walk a fine line between providing new revelations about Olivers past, and avoiding any challenges to continuity.
The show continues to provide stellar looking combat. This episode provided what might have been some of the most complicated choreography we’ve seen the entire show. If there’s one part about Arrow that is lacking weakness, it’s in the action. This episode definitely pushed towards what is likely the limit of what it can do without looking funny, but it was still all solid.
The acting and characters are unfortunately a little suspect. This story arc so far seems to be pushing Laurel into center focus, but she’s unfortunately one of the show’s biggest flaws. Katie Cassidy’s performance isn’t necessarily the problem. The character is just written very poorly. Laurel is too irrational, too inconsistent, and seems like she would fit better in a horror movie.
Fortunately, this season may be the opportunity to correct for the flawed character. Although she goes by Laurel, her full name is Dinah Laurel Lance, and Dinah Lance has always been Black Canary in DC comics. If the show wishes to bring its continuity closer in line with the comics, then Laurel’s character has a ways to go if we’re to take her seriously.
Stephen Amell has always gotten criticism for somewhat wooden acting, but the show is smart about writing a character where that makes sense. Oliver Queen can’t afford to express all his emotions. Acting and character writing has definitely come a long way from the first season, though, so I have faith in that trend to continue through this season.
Meanwhile, Brandon Routh’s Roy Palmer continues to be a scene stealer. It’s very refreshing to have such a dynamic actor on the show. His character is fun to watch, and plays very well off of Emily Bett Rickards’s Felicity Smoak. His presence is one of many bright spots emerging this season.
Overall, the show is headed in a positive direction. I definitely have my fears, but if there’s one thing Arrow has proven it can do in the past, it’s assuage those fears. This season is poised to go to some amazing places and really extend the bounds of the shared DC TV Universe.
Watch the next episode of Arrow on The CW next wednesday night at 8/7c.