This Arrow review contains spoilers.
Even though some rather spoiler-y images from future episodes of Arrow and The Flash have trickled out in recent weeks, showing Oliver in what was clearly League of Assassins gear, I still didn’t see “The Fallen” coming. I mean, I knew that ending was coming, but I had no idea it was going to play out like this. I’m glad it did, because holy moley this was a terrific episode.
For as uneven and weird as Arrow season three has been, there’s one thing that’s been totally consistent: it’s been doing its best work with no costumes involved. Considering how hard they pushed the superhero angle in season two (perhaps in an extra effort to let fans know that there had been a change in direction after season one), this year, it’s been all about letting these characters actually breathe a little bit and do what they do best.
But I may as well get this out of the way right now, because I get the feeling it’s all anybody wants to talk about: this week, the person who did what she does best better than absolutely anyone was Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak. What a tremendous character Felicity has grown into. From virtually nobody to quirky fan-favorite to the undisputed soul of the show in three seasons. That’s no joke for a character created specifically for a series that has a lot of pre-packaged intellectual property to juggle.
There have been plenty of times this year when Felicity has been the adult in the room, telling people the truth, cutting through the bullshit, and generally being more reasonable and three-dimensional than you would normally expect on a show like Arrow. But in the history of general Felicity coolness, I think her marching right up to Ra’s al Ghul and telling him “no, I’m not letting you do this,” has to rank pretty high. But you know what the highest is? Actually trying (and nearly succeeding) to deliver on that audacious promise.
While Oliver’s little pre-coital speech about how “everything…has led to this moment” was a nice romantic segue, it felt more like a statement about the show itself. Even the awkward first season (bad boy Oliver, bad girl Thea, non-entity Felicity, etc) now makes perfect sense in context. Whatever my problems with those early days were aside, it all makes episodes like this feel much more powerful, and that much more rewarding.
Like some of the other best episodes of this season, I feel like all the best stuff happened one on one between characters. Diggle and Maseo’s “bonding” moment (I really do hope Maseo gets to stick around) was one. Ray and Felicity’s breakup was another (Brandon Routh is really terrific…no wonder he’s getting his own show). Ra’s telling Maseo that he won’t kill him was good stuff, and once again, Matt Nable’s stature as Ra’s al Ghul grows with each passing episode.
Do I still feel like Arrow would benefit from a shorter season? Absolutely. Episodes like “The Fallen” (and other season three high points like “The Offer,” “Nanda Parbat,” or “The Climb”) feel like a completely different show from some of the low points.
But y’know what? Tonight, I don’t care. “The Fallen” was tremendous. If the final three episodes are going to be this good, then I’m almost not sure I can handle it.
Nah. I can totally handle it.
Meanwhile…On an Island…
Alright, so I always complain about the flashback sequences, often wondering what purpose they serve. This week, they don’t just get a pass, they got a full-blown pop from me.
Arrow saved all its big action sequences for the flashbacks this week, and that chase and fight in the truck might be the very best one of the season so far. Plus, that was a hell of a cliffhanger, which was expertly paired up with Oliver’s initiation into the League.
DC Universe Watchtower
– Well, if you were disappointed in the lack of totally explicit Lazarus Pit stuff in previous episodes of Arrow (or in the Christopher Nolan Batman films), then this episode more than made up for it. That might have been the most detailed Lazarus Pit resurrection I’ve ever seen in any medium.
– It’s worth pointing out for the umpty-umpth time that Ra’s al Ghul’s fixation on turning Green Arrow into his heir is ported over directly from the comics. The thing is, it’s from the Batman comics. Here, he uses Thea’s death (and life) as leverage. In the comics he used other methods, notably the daughter we have yet to meet on this show, Talia, and the child she eventually bore Bruce Wayne. And really, young Damian Wayne is the “Heir to the Demon” when you get down to it.
The thing is, Bats never took the bait, while Oliver did. To be certain, I’m not sure Batman ever would have submitted to what Oliver did tonight, regardless of who was put in danger, so it’s not like this is some kind of cop-out anymore. Arrow has really done a wonderful job of making this whole angle its own.
If I missed anything, please let me know.