This review contains spoilers.
2.9 Three Ghosts
As much as I enjoy John Barrowman being on my television, what the first season of Arrow really lacked was a strong season-long villain. Now, after half a season of mystery surrounding Sebastian Gold and what his ultimate plan was, we discover that the second run of the show is going to rectify that problem. I had assumed that, while it was always clear that Slade Wilson would a) return to Oliver in the present day and, b) be some kind of nemesis, the show would save him for last. We’re only in the second season, and this feels like a major card they’re playing.
Oliver’s near-death experience at the end of last week served as an excuse for some informative hallucinations which, according to Diggle, happens to everyone who’s been through some trauma. Attributed to survivor’s guilt, through these apparitions we’re led to believe that Shado and Slade have already met their makers back on the island and, about five minutes later, we see that Shado was indeed killed. Oliver blames himself for her death simply because he didn’t choose between her and Sara fast enough and, judging by the size of Slade’s grudge at the end, he blames Oliver too.
Slade’s presence in present-day Starling City will at least render the flashback portions of each episode a lot more interesting, as we’ll see his rivalry with Oliver form at the same time as seeing him mess up his post-island life. It’s the same thing I hoped for Sara’s presence in both timelines but, as she is currently missing from present day stories, I guess we’re only dealing with one of Oliver’s ghosts at a time. I never really expected Shado to die this fast – quite unceremoniously right in the middle of the episode – but more emotional turmoil witnessed from Oliver’s past is very welcome.
The hallucinations were a nice insight into his damaged psyche which, with Oliver being a closed book often even to the audience, gave the episode a bit of weight. It might be a tried and tested trope to have the hero of the story air his insecurities through imagined old friends and enemies, but I don’t think there’s any viewer who didn’t enjoy seeing Tommy pick him back up and throw him back in the ring. That relationship was sadly left on quite a sour note – which has spurred Oliver on to becoming a better man this year – and it seems as though he’s finally forgiven himself for his part in his friend’s death.
But we can’t forget Barry Allen who, after being introduced as the main event in last week’s episode, took a bit more of a back seat this week. That worked well for me given that he presumably has to function as both a sidekick to Oliver in Arrow and as a central protagonist in Flash next year. My feelings on his relationship with Felicity are a bit mixed only because I worry that he’s going to take her with him to the spin-off should it get picked up, and I really want her to stay at Oliver’s side. That threesome dynamic is working really well and, while I wouldn’t mind Barry coming over a joining Team Arrow for a spell, I don’t want them split up.
What came with him to the show, of course, were full-blown superpowers for the formerly real(ish) world of Arrow to integrate into both the narrative and the general tone. We’re not just going to be dealing with a couple of supercharged bad guys when the show returns in January – Roy, Slade and Barry all have some kind of ability that will finally bring the ‘super’ into a show that has so far only questioned the nature of costumed heroes in relation to the very normal Oliver. We can assume that Roy will now either be a more effective helper to Oliver, or another antagonist after the hasty shot through the calf last week.
We’ll see how this new development is handled when Arrow comes back to us on January 15th, but for now let’s just wallow in the stellar first half of season two we’ve been able to enjoy. Things certainly won’t be the same when we return.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, The Scientist, here.
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