*Season Spoilers Ahead*
Coming off an incredible first season that was followed by an explosive second season, expectations were high for Arrow Season 3. Episodes one to nine felt up to standard, concluding with the best mid-season finale the show has produced yet. But the episodes that came in the second half of the season fell very short of the standard in my opinion.
Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) returned with other surviving cast members from Season 2 and some exciting new editions. Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer (a.k.a. the Atom) brought some excellent comic relief, and Matt Nable was an exceptionally terrifying presence as the legendary Ra’s al Ghul. Rila Fukushima as Tatsu Yamashiro (a.k.a. Katana) was the highlight for flashbacks this season. A special mention must go to Colton Haynes (Roy Harper), who really came into his own this season (just before leaving). Watching Arsenal and Arrow fight side by side was highly entertaining and the constant flashes of red and green hoods felt like something taken directly out of the comics. Two seasons worth of build-up was definitely worth the wait and it is unfortunate that the actor has left the show for the foreseeable future.
As much as the writers nailed Roy’s character this year, they ruined one of their most popular characters in my opinion. I am, of course, referring to Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards). Felicity’s role has been increasing every season. In the first season, she was an assistant to the team, in the second she became a full member of the team. In this season she also became a love interest for Oliver, and perhaps his most annoying one yet. She literally became super hero bait. If it wasn’t the Flash, the Arrow, or the Atom whose arm she was hanging off, then she was being irrational and kind of whiney. Very rarely did the bright, quip-full, morally-driven character surface. The writers took one of the strongest female characters of the show and unnecessarily turned her into a complete mess. By all means, make her the love interest, but keep the qualities about her character that people liked. From a show that usually does an excellent job of writing female characters, this is exceptionally disappointing. Her reaction to Oliver working with Malcolm or deciding to become Ra’s Al Ghul to protect Thea bordered on hysterical.
From being a standalone TV show, the CW has expanded the Arrow universe and has launched a shared DC TV universe. From Arrow, the popular and successful The Flash has been launched, and CW has shown no intention of stopping there. With Legends of Tomorrow coming in 2016, we are set to have even more crossovers between The Flash and Arrow. No doubt this is in part due to the well-received crossovers between the two this season. Certainly one of the highlights of the season, the crossover episode really fleshed out the opposing ideologies of the two characters. The interaction between Grant Gustin (The Flash) and Stephen Amell (The Arrow) were comical, heated at times, but did an excellent job emphasising the contrast between the tones of the two different shows. Arrow is far darker and more grounded, whereas The Flash has a far more fantastical and light hearted tone. This relationship certainly resembles that of Batman and Superman, and the Arrow’s relationship with Ra’s Al Ghul has effectively made him the Batman of the DC TV universe.
Despite the strengths, the writers really dropped the ball this season when it came to death. Oliver Queen ‘dies’ in the midseason finale, then Roy ‘dies’, then Thea ‘dies’, then Team Arrow ‘dies’, then Ra’s ‘dies’. There seems little chance that he will remain this way for long. What makes shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead so popular is that death has weight. When a character dies, they stay dead, meaning that there is actual danger and stakes when a character is put in peril. Arrow season 1 and 2 understood this, giving us surprise character deaths with the likes of Tommy and Moira. In Arrow season 3, almost every main character ‘dies’, only to be brought back the next episode.
Following fake out after fake out, death has lost all meaning in Arrow.
The mid-season finale, ‘The Climb’ was an episode of key character moments, climaxing in an epic one on one dual between Ra’s and Oliver, resulting in the death of the title character. Of course, Oliver does not stay dead as you would expect (despite being stabbed twice and thrown off a mountain), but by taking so many liberties, the show has lost much of the drama that once made it so thrilling to watch.
One of the most surprising deaths of the season, and indeed the death that is a driving force for the season is that of Sara Lance. But even she is not dead, having recently been revealed in the Legends of Tomorrow trailer disclosing that Sara Lance (a.k.a the true Black Canary) was brought back using the Lazarus pit. This was always going to be the danger of bringing in the Lazarus pit. But using it on two of the characters that died this season, without consequence, has ruined any tension, so much so that the big season finale concluding with Ra’s being killed by Oliver had no emotional weight at all. Not only was it one of the show’s poorest choreographed fight scenes (a guy in a black hood is fighting another guy in a black hood – good luck telling them apart) but it lacked any real tension. By this point, following fake out after fake out, death has lost all meaning in Arrow. In a similar way, the big twist towards the end that Oliver had turned ‘evil’ became boring very quickly as it was obvious that all would be resolved by the end of the season. Yes, maybe it would have been obvious regardless, but the show did a poor job of creating a sense of drama.
Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) has perhaps been the biggest talking point for fans this season and rightfully so. From the very first episode, Laurel starts on the path of becoming Black Canary. Her sister dies (again), driving Laurel down a determined path of vengeance and justice ‘that can’t be run from’. Eventually she emerges as quite an effective member of the team (despite having had maybe nine months of training), going from knowing a few self-defence moves to being able to take on multiple members of the League of Assassins, supposedly some of the best fighters on the show. This is a huge liberty to take, given the show is somewhat grounded in reality. However, it will be quite interesting to see how she evolves in Season 4.
Which leads to another question: What is Season 4 going to look like? Ray Palmer has apparently blown himself up at Palmer Tech, Malcolm is the new Ra’s and Oliver has apparently stopped being the Arrow. So Season 4 of Arrow won’t have The Arrow? The very shakey three episodes at the start of the second season showed that Stephen Amell holds this TV show up, and to be honest, I watch Arrow primarily for some Green Arrow action. Does this mean that when Malcolm causes trouble (which he un-doubtfully will) Oliver will just leave the team to it? Hopefully the trailer is coming soon and we can get a better look. Until then, re-watch Season 1 and Season 2 for your Arrow fix and hope that the Flash opening up a black hole causes the events of Season 3 to be erased.