This Arrow review contains spoilers.
Arrow returns with “Left Behind” and immediately does exactly what it does very best. That’s right, you guessed it, an absolutely killer stunt driving and ass-kicking sequence that would be right at home at your local multiplex. Seriously, I bet if you go back and look at all of my Arrow reviews over the last year and count how many times I say the equivalent of “holy moley that opening was insane” you’d…ummmm… you would count to a high number, that’s for sure.
But for real, it was great. Did anybody else get a little bit of an original RoboCop homage with that opening? The overmatched and outgunned cops chasing a panel van with a dude blasting at them out the back. Vinnie Jones being the foul-mouthed mastermind (alright, you can’t swear on network TV, Brick is no Clarence Boddicker, and Jones is certainly no Kurtwood Smith), and just the general gun-happiness of it all in general? Hell, even one guy gets thrown (or yanked) out the back!
Aside from looking amazing (holy moley, those exploding arrows!), that sequence did a nice job of showing how easily the cops in Starling City can get outmatched when they don’t have a vigilante helping them out. Actually, that’s not a good thing. You know what I talk about almost as often as the killer opening stunts in Arrow episodes? It’s the fact that, at least until Gotham came on the air, the Starling City justice system is, top to bottom, the most cartoonishly corrupt and hilariously inept in all of fiction.
Seriously, guys. The real Green Arrow has only been gone for three days, and you’re already crapping the bed? Take some lessons from Central City. Those folks have it together.
Sorry. I keep going on tangents.
The fact that Oliver has only been missing for three days is an interesting little diversion in itself. It’s the first time in memory that Arrow hasn’t been taking place in “real time.” I just naturally assumed at the end of the midseason finale that we’d pick up with Oliver having been gone a month or so, and the matter of his resurrection (or rescue) would be handled via flashbacks. I was wrong, and I’m sure the show will catch up after this three episode arc finishes up.
For an episode with virtually no present-day and conscious Oliver Queen, though, “Left Behind” was quite good. The “death” of Oliver Queen could have turned out to be a really cheap gimmick. There’s still time for them to drop that particular ball, but so far, it’s being used as a good way to move a few characters forward, particularly Felicity.
Actually, I should say, especially Felicity. She runs the show this week. Felicity and Malcolm Merlyn are the two supporting characters with the most meat on their bones in this episode, but for Emily Bett Rickards to (literally) go toe to toe with John Barrowman and have her character come off looking like the superior badass, well…that’s something. Again, this character just continues to impress, and every time I think they’ve written her into a corner, something like this comes along. That’s right, Roy and Diggle. You answer to Felicity Smoak now.
I do like how they’re still keeping us guessing with Malcolm’s true intentions. He’s such an accomplished bastard that I honestly can’t tell how much of his concern is genuine (if secondhand via Thea) or if he’s still just moving everyone around like chess pieces. I suspect it’s a little of both.
On another, seemingly random note, that scene where they’re all sitting around after Merlyn leaves: it never dawned on me how rarely absolute silence is used on this show. I guess when you only have 44 minutes to tell a story, silence isn’t a luxury you have, but even though it was probably only about ten seconds of dead silence while they waited for the result, it was just enough to make you notice. Nice touch.
In terms of action/story balance, “Left Behind” is exactly the kind of Arrow episode I want to see more of. There were no needless soap opera digressions and little, if any wasted time. The only bit that felt off was the Roy/Thea chat, partially because it still feels like a little bit of a cheat having her back at the club with Roy working for her. Brick isn’t much of a villain, and his big plan seems a little lazy, but I can forgive that, because this is only part one of a three episode arc.
Arrow just delivered on an episode without its main hero, did it after one of the biggest episodes in the series’ history, and arguably did it in an even tighter fashion than the midseason finale. Season three has been a little uneven so far, but I think we’re on the right track, now.
Also: what do you folks think? Was this the loudest, most gunfire heavy episode of Arrow we’ve ever seen? Seriously. I don’t believe we’ve ever seen so many firearms discharged in the course of an episode. Action movie style.
Meanwhile…On an Island…
– I was prepared to dismiss this week’s flashback sequences as fluff again, but the payoff was worth it. We already knew Maseo was alive in the present, and now we know that Tatsu is, too. This complicates things a little, but we’ll get to that in a second. But yeah, it was a nice setup for Ollie’s necessary resurrection.
– I’m still curious about the whole Omega thing, but it’s still not enough to make these sequences sing, y’know? I could have dealt with more time with Ray Palmer this week, for example.
DC Universe Watchtower
(this section may also spoil future episodes, so beware)
– Ray is getting closer to becoming the Atom. I have a bunch of little details about that and his upcoming guest appearance on The Flash (with Felicity!) in another article. Check it out here.
– Seriously, for all the names in this episode (and there were a TON of names), I don’t think a single one checked out in the databanks as any kind of DC Comic reference. Yes, I included names on the screens, too.
– Annnnd…Laurel is now Black Canary. I’m not going to harp about this anymore. I’m going to accept it. This is ground zero for the character as far as I’m concerned, and I’m willing to let go of the fact that a year ago she was still washing pills down with Jack Daniels or whatever contrived “drugs are bad, m’kay” storyline they had for her. I think Katie Cassidy can pull it off. And I dig the “sonic scream” tech, too.
– In the comics, Brick is a dude with impenetrable skin. So is his gun schtick a trick in this episode, or are those bullets really glancing off him? I think it would be okay for Arrow to explore more low key metahuman abilities like this. They don’t all have to be partitioned in Central City.
– So, Maseo is alive. So is Tatsu. This is…complicated. In the comics, Maseo’s death is one of the things that spurs Tatsu to become Katana. I naturally assumed this would all happen in the flashback sequences. Clearly, I was wrong. So we might see Katana’s origin this season? She isn’t fond of Oliver now…imagine how little she’s going to like him after Maseo croaks!
– (sigh) No Lazarus Pit. Damn it. Ra’s probably keeps those for himself.
– This isn’t really a DCU thing, but I couldn’t let it go by without mentioning it: there was one crazy Arsenal stunt in the warehouse. Just nuts. I need to get to the gym.
Seriously, Mike Cecchini needs to get his ass to the gym. Motivate him on Twitter.