OK, season three of Arrow is in the books. We got to see Roy Harper become a full fledged sidekick, Laurel take over as Black Canary after her sister Sarah got killed, the full time return of Malcolm Merlyn, Thea developing some fighting skills, Diggle getting remarried, the first live action appearance of Ray Palmer (the Atom), some cameos from DC comic characters Ted Grant (Wildcat), Katana, and villain of the week appearances from Kimodo, Cupid, Deathbolt, and Captain Boomerang. And of course, the big crossover episode with the Flash and the arc that culminated with Oliver taking on Ra’s al Ghul. So yeah, there’s a lot that went down. What did I like, and what didn’t I like? And what do I think about the coming season four? Glad you asked.
What worked for me:
- Character development – Boy was there a lot of that this season. We got to see Diggle and Lyla figure out a way to get back together and make it work, and Diggle find it in him to forgive Deadshot for killing his brother. We learned how Malcolm Merlyn became the evil bastard that he is, and just how much of a schemer he truly is. Laurel and Thea got off my annoying characters list (more on that later) and grew into strong, independent characters that weren’t just there to get in trouble and need saving. And of course we got the usual flashback scenes with Oliver. So there was a lot of growth among most of the regular cast over the course of the season, with almost everyone becoming a different, better person by the end (except for Malcolm of course).
- The crossover episodes – About seven or eight weeks in we got the much hyped Flash/Arrow crossover, and it delivered. We got this scene right here, and that’s all you need, but the two episodes were good in their own right.
- Roy Harper, not a liability – Too many times the sidekick is as much an obstacle to the hero as the villain, but not here. Roy got it in from day one of this season and didn’t get his butt kicked every week. And that was refreshing. With Laurel taking her lumps adjusting to the crime fighting life the last thing we needed was to have Roy needing Oliver’s constant help as well.
- The Lazarus Pit – With Ra’s as a villain, the question loomed as to how far they would go with the whole mythos. Before this season Arrow was more of a Nolan-verse kind of show steeped in reality and science, which would have kept them from doing something using the Lazarus Pit to bring someone back to life. In fact, when I heard Ra’s was going to be the main villain this season I was a bit underwhelmed because I figured we’d get another Nolan-verse take on the character (which I happened to like but felt we didn’t need again) So when they went full bore with it I was pleasantly surprised.
What didn’t work
- Starling City in Danger (again) – for the third straight season the finale centered around literally saving the city itself from imminent doom. I get that you have to introduce some major stakes at the end of the season but this was one time too many. We all knew the city wasn’t going to get taken out by the virus Ra’s had concocted so enough already with that. Next season we can stick with taking down the Big Bad as the goal.
- The Big Bad Letdown – Last season we got Slade Wilson in a Hall of Fame superhero villain performance. Pretty much anything was going to be a letdown, and this was. It wasn’t bad in my opinion but it wasn’t what we got in season 2. Matt Nable didn’t work for me as Ra’s until the last month or so of the season whereas Manu Bennett was crushing it from day one as Slade. And it didn’t help that they were basically rehashing an old Batman plotline with Ra’s wanting Oliver to succeed him as the Demon’s Head as opposed to Slade wanting revenge.
- The competition – This is no fault of the show, but it had more competition this year in it’s genre. The Flash debuted and hit home run after home run, Agents of SHIELD got better, and Daredevil blew almost everyone away. Arrow is the oldest of the bunch and was bound to look a little like that regardless. And again through no fault of their own the crew in charge is going to need to step their game up next season or risk looking played out as Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow are coming to join the party.
Elephants in the Room
There were some big issues that seemed to cut different ways across the audience this season. Last season we were all pretty united in loving the show, but this time around there were some pretty divisive developments. Laurel becoming the new Black Canary was probably number one on that list. A lot of people were just not feeling it. Sarah was kickass in the role and seeing Laurel struggle to fight the bad guys was one strike, and the other was that Laurel had been an annoying character prior to last few weeks of Season Two and a lot of folks haven’t let that go. Personally, once Laurel stopped being annoying I was on board. And having her go through the paces of struggling to pick up basic fighting skills and getting her butt kicked, then learning just enough to get herself hurt some more, then finally settling in with a proper trainer in Nyssa and getting a lot better a lot faster made sense from where I was sitting.
There was also Ray Palmer, and the love triangle of sorts between he, Oliver, and Felicity. Ray was derided as a fake, nice guy version of Tony Stark for most of the season and even though I liked the character I do agree with that assessment. But after seeing the Legends of Tomorrow trailer and that he will be playing the role of the Atom as God intended, I think we can chalk up what we saw this season as establishing the character and providing the proper lead up to him creating the shrinking tech needed to be the Atom we all know.
The Oliver and Felicity relationship was often frustrating. In Season Two it was still very much in the mode of Felicity being all puppy doggish towards Oliver and it not being reciprocated. Them getting together just didn’t seem all that realistic to me because I didn’t buy Oliver’s end of the deal. That part got better to me this season. Felicity’s side of it got on my nerves at times, but a lot of that was her asserting herself and making decisions as she went along and not in some grand planned out fashion. Oliver pissed her off a lot with his secrecy and decision to work with a villain like Merlyn, and she went back and forth between being done with him and trying to move on and putting up with his crap and worrying about him. It was hard to get through at points and I can see why some people didn’t like it, but it was messy and human.
Oliver is supposed to be happy now and no longing doing the vigilante thing; we know that isn’t going to stick and he’ll be back. Diggle is still pissed off at Ollie but hasn’t given up the crime fighting business, Laurel is the full fledged Black Canary now, Thea has taken Roy’s place in the red suit, Roy is on the run and presumed dead by the Starling City PD, and Merlyn is now the new Ra’s al Ghul. And the last time we saw Ray was in his lab right before a big explosion (which he of course survives). So a whole lot has changed. Next season is supposed to feature the HIVE and Damian Dahrk as primary villains so we’ll see where that goes. All in all I’d call this a pretty good but not great season. It wasn’t Season Two but I think it was better than Season One largely because we got more Superhero-ing by more people. When Season Four kicks off I’ll be there.