This review of the Arrow season three premiere contains serious spoilers.
Like all good Arrow episodes should, the Arrow season three premiere, “The Calm” kicks off with a killer stunt sequence. Tell me again why that team wasn’t nominated for an Emmy? Anyway, it’s exactly what we needed to see after a long summer without the show. Ollie has new toys, a new sidekick, and an old catchphrase.
That’s right, “you have failed this city” is back. I’m not sure how often we’ll end up hearing that this year, as the show long ago moved beyond it, but it’s amazing how in just the first three minutes or so, Arrow nods to both its first two seasons and points the way towards what’s ahead. Well, at least that’s what we think is ahead, because (of course) everything goes to hell at the end.
For starters, everyone is too happy. There’s more smiling in “The Calm” than we’ve seen in the entire run of the series thus far. It’s nice, but we know that there’s no way this will be allowed to stand, so you may as well brace yourselves.
However, after two full seasons, where we watched this show mature from an awkward hybrid of a CW drama and the Nolan Batman films into what became unquestionably the standard for superheroes on television, well, it’s just nice to see everyone. It’s amazing how far this cast and these characters have come. Remember how irritating Quentin Lance used to be? It’s hard not to be happy for him as he flat out tells the entire city that the cops are laying off the Arrow, now.
Even Laurel is a new woman, and we get that right off the bat. Keep in mind, I never bought her arc last season. It was all too forced and compressed, and her sudden rise to the position of DA was, well…convenient is too mild a word. If you read my season two reviews, I complained early and often, and felt that Katie Cassidy deserved better. Well, it looks like she’s getting it this year.
Of course, the biggest buzz has surrounded Oliver and Felicity’s romantic relationship. I have to be the fly in the ointment, here. I have never been behind the idea of tthese two getting together. Not because they don’t have legit chemistry. Not because I haven’t grown to love these characters. And yes, they earned it by the end of season two. But it bugs me that Oliver has pretty much slept with every woman on this show who isn’t a blood relative, and I always liked the idea that he could have a non-romantic relationship with an intellectual badass like Felicity.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, it’s really hard to not be charmed by their date and everything leading up to it. And y’know what else? The callback to their first meeting way the hell back in season one, something which felt relatively inconsequential at the time, was really put in perspective by Ollie’s little speech at the dinner table. I found myself changing my mind…so of course by the end of the episode it has to be all over before it even begins.
While we’re on the subject, I’d like to make a few observations about Felicity this week. Her fairly meta cracks about seeing Oliver shirtless so many times? Bullseye. The fact that she says “oh frack” later in the episode? Amazing. Also, she heals really, really fast. Not a mark on her the day after the restaurant explosion. I, ummm…kinda have to call bullshit on that one. The fact that it’s actually Felicity who ends it between her and Ollie is brilliant, though, and it frees her up to get some closure (maybe?) with Barry over on The Flash and to thoroughly annoy Ray Palmer for the rest of the season. I can’t wait.
Now, of course, the big news here is the introduction of Ray Palmer, known to Justice League fans as the Atom. Brandon Routh is really terrific, here. While his Ray Palmer couldn’t possibly be any more different than his Superman, it’s still tough to not see Superman when I look at him. The dude just has the look. Ray’s character feels like he’d be a little more at home over on The Flash and it sounds like, when it’s time for him to turn to superheroics, that’s where it will be. Nevertheless, it’s a great intro, and he fits right in.
Okay, it’s not all great. Peter Stormare is a far superior Count Vertigo to the ridiculous cartoon character they saddled us with early on, but even here, he’s overplaying it a bit. Maybe Vertigo just isn’t that great a character. That being said, they’ve ditched the “drugs are bad, m’kay” angle in favor of something mildly more interesting, and adding psilocybin to the recipe of his drugs makes for one genuine jump scare, as well as a genuinely comic book-y moment where Oliver is hallucinating that he’s fighting himself. Surely, a metaphor for his arc this season, and none too subtle, but here, it works.
And then…that ending. See? We knew it was all going too well. And we knew that Sara was a dead bird pretty much since the end of last year. I didn’t expect them to do it so soon, though. BUT, take heart. Members of the League of Assassins have a habit of not staying dead. Shall we take some bets? Was it Ra’s al Ghul himself who did the deed?
Overall, “The Calm” tends to feel a little lightweight in terms of actual story. But I’ve developed such an affection for these characters that I can’t really fault it. They know what they’re doing. This is an above average “reintroduce everyone you love” episode with some above average fan service. But it’s so well-paced, and it dances through the potential minefield of the Oliver/Felicity romance so well (and stays true to everything they already established) that it deserves a little more attention.
Meanwhile…On an Island
Wait, what the heck am I gonna call these Hong Kong flashback sequences? Last year’s title no longer applies. You may make suggestions down in the comments. Please. I’m not thinking clearly tonight.
Anyway, after two seasons on an island, Hong Kong is a refreshing new setting. It’s too early to tell where all this is going, but I like the way that Ollie is now a very different kind of prisoner, and a very different kind of castaway. The fact that they’re going to build up Katana (and give us more of Amanda Waller) through here doesn’t hurt, either.
DC Universe Watchtower
– We get to meet Katana this week…albeit in a pre-Katana form.
– I really hope Ray Palmer succeeds in rebranding Starling as “Star City.”
– Speaking of Ray Palmer, if you’re an Atom fan, the fact that he’s already in the habit of keeping all his super tech on his belt should make you very happy.
– Steelgrave. I know that name. I’m too tired to look it up.
– Gotta love the Wildcat logos on the corner team at the fights!
– Oh, and those fights are sponsored by Ferris Air! If you caught The Flash this week (you did, right?), that’s the second Ferris Air shoutout in two days. Could one of these shows end up rescuing the live-action Green Lantern brand some day?
– Oh, so many more trick arrows. I wouldn’t hold my breath for the boxing glove arrow, though.