This review contains spoilers.
3.23 My Name Is Oliver Queen
We did it everyone – we made it to the end of Arrow’s third season. It was touch and go there for a while, the Ra’s al Ghul storyline and question of Oliver’s true identity dragging on for half a season longer than many people really cared for, but the important thing now is that it’s done, and we can look back on a complete story from beginning to end, rather than judging it by its parts.
The season as a whole appeared to be about Oliver redefining the “something else” of his opening monologue. The first season was all about him coming to terms with The Hood as vigilante and killer, the second exploring his life as The Arrow. Season three stripped him of that hero moniker and left him with a big old question mark where certainty used to be.
That unknown quantity led to this, a season-long character assassination that all feels a little pointless in retrospect.
It takes exactly 8 minutes for the episode to reveal Oliver’s true intentions to Ra’s, as he speaks the episode’s title before the opening credits roll. When this happens in a finale, when the opening minutes do away with the season arc just so we can get to the big action-packed showdown, it’s usually a bad sign.
After this, are we really asked again to care that Oliver gave up his entire identity as part of an ill-defined plan to bring down the League? No, and the ramifications are slight at best. Since it’s been increasingly difficult to care for Oliver since the mid-season point, most of the audience are rooting for Team Arrow at this point and, while they get plenty to do, they’ve not really moved past the point they were when Oliver returned.
That’s with the exception of Diggle, who may have actually benefited from this whole mess of an arc. Laurel, Roy and Felicity have stayed pretty constant through the season in terms of their stance against Oliver and in favour of general superheroics, but Diggle has always – since day one – been the guy who’s had Oliver’s back. That’s gone, and I’m very interested in where that leaves him as a character.
There’s a hint that he may be suiting up next season, and he’s not the only one. One of the most delightful moments of the episode was Thea’s surprise appearance as Speedy way before anyone expected her to arrive fully-formed and ready for action. Into this box we could also put Felicity donning Ray’s Atom suit to save the day, a move that produced to first genuinely fun Olicity moment all year.
This is the Arrow we’re all in love with, when it takes even a tiny bit of joy in its own premise, rather than stripping away the recognisable comic book elements in favour of relentless angst and themes of betrayal.
Malcolm gets away with this sort of stuff largely because he’s played by John Barrowman, and there’s always a spark of fun behind whatever awful thing he’s up to from week to week. Here, it’s revealed that he manipulated the situation in order to become the next leader of the League of Assassins, and we’re left with the notion that Merlyn now has an entire army at his disposal.
We know by now that Oliver can be a bit of an idiot, so it’s not beyond belief that he’d allow this to happen, and if it means we get Malcolm versus Nyssa for season four, I’m on board. That certainly sounds more fun than Oliver versus Ra’s.
Also, Ray blew himself up which, if we didn’t all know a spin-off was coming, would be faintly alarming. He quite understandably didn’t have a huge role in this episode but, despite nothing ever working first time, he’s definitely getting closer to classic Atom powers.
Even with my serious misgivings about this season as a whole, then, the most effectively tied bow in this finale was definitely the notion that Team Arrow can now survive without Oliver in Starling City. It makes perfect sense given the rapidly expanding universe that The Arrow would be rendered more and more redundant, but his influence on other heroes (including Barry Allen, who made a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-appearance) doesn’t take away from his journey.
Oliver and Arrow started all of this – the renaissance of comic book TV of which we’re now reaping the benefits (including Marvel shows), and so we really can’t fault it for having a bit of a transitional year. It looks worse when compared to its various spin-offs and spiritual sequels, but that’s not entirely fair. Take a step back and look at what this show has wrought, and everything looks a whole lot sunnier.
And so the premise of the season, especially for its main character, was summed up by Felicity during another one of her pep talks – “don’t fight to die, fight to live.”
This could really have been a series finale, with the promise that Laurel, Diggle, Thea et al would continue fighting the good fight while Oliver and Felicity drive off into the literal sunset. Oliver has been fighting against himself ever since the first moment we met him and, after complaining all year that he just needs to lighten up, watching him be so happy was so refreshing.
Where does that leave us for season four and beyond? It’s an absolute blank slate and, after a year as mixed and muddled as this, that’s the absolute best thing the episode could have done.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, This Is Your Sword, here.
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