C (for the entire season)
Arrow season 3 recently ended with "My Name Is Oliver Queen" episode 23 of the season. After giving myself some time to digest it and, unfortunately, a re-watching of it. I have decided that I am going to review this episode, and in part, the entire season that was potentially the beginning of the downfall of a once great show.
First a re-cap of the episode itself.
We find Oliver Al Sah Him Queen on a quick little trip with his new besties Ras Al Ghul and a few other League Of Assassins on one of the, I believe, 20 flights a day that seem to leave Nanda Parbat for Starling City since theres always someone going to or coming from there it seems. The purpose of the flight, to help Oliver ascend to Ras Al Ghul by wiping out Starling City with the bioweapon... or so we are lead to believe.
Speaking of bioweapon infection... it seems our team of heroes were magically inocculated from the bioweapon by Malcolm Merlyn thru means of which were never properly explained...at all. Guess he merely has to think the antidote into them? in any case, the team slowly starts to awaken from the effects of this toxic concoction all about the same time with the 120 lbs of Felicity Smoak of course waking up first... not the man who originally HAD the antidote before the others and is clearly more physically capable of enduring it. Nope, definitely the 120 lb techie with muscles of cooked spaghetti.
After Malcolm unexplains how they are alive, they tell him they are still stuck. Somehow Malcolm must have known the fastest man alive was coming. Moments later, after Malcolm tells them to wait that their escape is coming The Flash shows up. After Felicity foolishly outs his identity to a "super-villain" Barry breaking them out.
The team catches the next of the 20 flights out of Nanda Parbat and headed back to Starling City to start their fight against the LOA. Tatsu tells the team shes not coming with them. She is going to head back to her life of solitude.
In flashbacks Oliver, Maseo and Tatsu fight off some of Shreeves men. Oliver shoots an arrow into Shreeve after he takes down the team.
Back in modern fay, Air LOA is having engine problems. Ras suspects Nyssa, but finds out quickly that Al Sah Him isnt as fond of his new name as he believed. Oliver and Nyssa fight a group of LOA assasins on the flight. Ending with The LOA members getting slaughtered by Oliver and Nyssa, but not before Ras leaves with the only parachute (Air LOA is a budget airline I guess. Hate to think what a checked bag costs). Oliver then flies the plane, with Nyssa as his co-pilot, lands it relatively safely in a field.
Back in Hong Kong. Tatsu is given Akio's ashes, and she gives Maseo some of them and Oliver some of them. Oliver didnt want to take them but does after Tatsu tells him he was his friend. This sets Oliver off and he goes back to Shreeve to interrogate him some more.
Back in Starling City, Team 2nd Plan starts their work on helping to prevent the terrorism attack in the case that Oliver doesnt succeed. After hesitance from the team when Malcolm plays leader, and the arrival of Oliver and Nyssa they start to get to work... after a few heated words and a Diggle punch to Olivers face. Oliver explains his plan was to destroy the weapon in flight and that he was to not live thru it. Felicity of course, did not like this answer becaise she would rather Oliver be alive than potentially thousands of other people. After an all too long talk between Oliver, Diggle and Felicity, the team starts to enact their plan.
Flashbacks, Oliver brutalizes Shreeve to within inches of his death and uses his "he failed this city" line. Maseo shoots Shreeve in the head to put him out of his misery.
After Felicity fails to track Ras down new school, the team looks thru oddities in the city, and figure out that Damian Darhk is in town. The team figures their best play is to capture Damien and trade him for the virus. Oliver breaks into Mr. Darhk's room and is confronted by a man who is calm, cool and older. He tells Oliver he isnt Damian and that his employer has already left town. Shortly after, Ras has the man killed, but not till after the man answers the phone and it conveniently goes to speaker phone so Oliver can hear Ras tell him the plan to destroy Starling has already begun... clearly with LOA members that came in on that 3rd or 4th or 11th flight of the day from Nanda Parbat... since the others were killed on the flight with Oliver on it.
At the SCPD Laurel barges into her dads office to tell him the city is about to be attacked. Captain Lance replies with "it must be May". Laurel guesses hes back to drinking, he tells her he has it under control and they go back & forth. Laurel makes a valiant speech to help motivate him to get involved.
Back at Palmer HQ. Felicity asks Oliver how did it go. Oliver explains the man there wasnt Darhk and that Ras has already put his plan into motion and it contains 4 points in the city. Ray tells him hes got a plan for a containment system. Oliver tells him they need a way to spread it across the city if needed. Ray & Felicity start on trying to figure out a way to track down where they might be.
Back in Hong Kong Tatsu asks Maseo where he is going. He is without a soul in his mind. He tells her he can see their sons eyes when he looks at her. Tatsu tells him she loves him, he tells her he isnt worthy of it, and leaves. Oliver comes in and asks her where hes going, she tells him "somewhere we can not follow".
Back at Palmer HQ. Felicity brings Oliver coffee. Oliver and Felicity have an exhaustingly long talk about Olivers plan/dreams. Its the set up for the final scene. He tells her they are alone driving. Felicity tells Oliver that Oliver & the Arrow cant beat Ras. She tells him he'll have to be "someone else, something else". Thankfully a text comes in about the locations & this painful scene is ended.
Back at SCPD the Captain is on the phone talking to Felicity, he then goes into the squad room and tells everyone theres a potential bioweapons attack.
The team starts to track down the locations. Oliver in 1, Nyssa and Laurel in 1, Diggle in 1, and of course Malcolm in 1. Diggle asks what hes supposed to be looking for. An LOA member tells Oliver that Ras wants him to meet him at the dam. Diggle spots a guy with a breifcase and pursues him. Diggle is blindsided by the guy and after the man draws a gun on John, the LOA member is struck in the back by 3 arrows. The man falls to the ground, and standing behind him is Thea, in Roys old Arsenal outfit, re-designed for her. This is the 1st real sign of Speedy. Speedy tells the man to not move as Diggle comments on her outfit. Diggle looks in the breifcase & finds no bioweapon. Soon he learns that the man himself IS the bioweapon. the man slits his own throat and releases the virus.
Up at the dam, Ras Al Ghul awaits Oliver Queen arriving. Ras tells Oliver that he wins 1 way or the other. Either Oliver kills him and he becomes Ras, or he dies and the city dies with him.
Back at ground zero, Diggle tells people to flee the area. Speedy, not inocculated stays with him. Felicity tells the team how the virus is spread. Laurel asks what to do with them if they find 1. Felicity tells them get them off the street and dont let them cut themselves. Laurel tells Nyssa that Nyssa should sit this out since shes not incculated, Nyssa tells her she will not back down.
On the dam, Oliver and Ras begin their sword fight. While they fight, the team keeps tracking down henchmen. First Malcolm takes 1 out by snapping his neck. In Palmer HQ Ray is working on a way to spread the antidote when Felicity gives him an idea. While that is happening, Laurel encounters 1 of the henchmen and takes him down while Nyssa stands by. Back on the dam, the sword fight continues. For reasons never entirely explained Captain Lance shows up to the dam and finds a bunch of SCPD members are lined up across from the dam with a sniper rifle and squad car lights flashing on the Chiefs orders to kill the men fighting on the dam... but, they dont shoot. Captain Lance calls Felicity to tell her of the danger awaiting Oliver. Felicity then tells Ray he needs to fly to the dam to save Oliver. Ray tells her cant leave because hes doing more important work. Felicity whines "but its Oliver" & Ray explains to her logic. One life vs many lives.
Back at the dam. Ras has Oliver on his knees seemingly at his mercy. While Ras is making a speech, Oliver gets up, grabs Ras sword with ease, stabs Ras twice, and Ras Al Ghul slowly dies infront of Oliver...all while the SCPD still stand around watching. Ras then hands Oliver the ring of Ras Al Ghul. THEN the SCPD decides to shoot Oliver, sending him over the ledge of the dam and clearly to his death..... until The ATOM suit flies up the side of the water and saves Oliver and safely flies him far away from the area. When they land we find out it is Felicity in the apparently 1 size fits all ATOM suit that anyone can fly now.
A news report tells us that the outbreak was minimized after a Palmer tech antidote was spread. Nyssa says to Oliver she wanted to kill her father. She then explains how Oliver survived the gunshots, League armour.
Oliver then gives his big pep talk speech/good bye speech to the team that includes Diggle, Felicity, Laurel, Nyssa, Malcolm, Ray and Thea. He tells them he wanted to keep them far away from this as possible when he started. He tells them he felt he had to go it alone, but realized tonight that they won because he wasnt alone. Oliver calls them all heroes. Then tells them hes quitting the biz. Oliver then goes over to Felicity to tell her he wants to leave with her. Diggle, as disgusted as we all were at that speech, grabs his jacket and leaves. Oliver goes after John as Ray and Felicity speak. Ray asks if he needs to find a new Vice-President (aka- owner... since he was gonna sign it over to her without her knowledge) and she says yes and tells him she hopes he finds someone to make him happy. Diggle and Oliver talk, Dig says hes no superhero, Oliver tells him hes a hero, and that hes been important to him for 3 years. Then as the conversation ends, Diggle says he will consider coming back, and Oliver tells him if he does he should look into a way to conceal his identity.
Back in the flashbacks. Oliver and Tatsu say their good byes to each other. Tatsu says she is going to go to a monastery that she was hoping to show Akio someday. Oliver tells her he wont be going back to Starling City just yet. He doesnt want to bring the darkness around him to his family & friends. Tatsu asks him about his fathers hope for him. Oliver tells her he doesnt think hes that guy. Oliver says he needs to be alone, and the pair hug & go their seperate ways with Oliver boarding a ship.
Back in modern day. Thea lets Malcolm into the loft where she tells him that Oliver is upstairs packing. Malcolm tells Thea he is leaving too. She tells him she isnt terribly disappointed to hear that. He tells her that he loves her and that he will be there for her whenever she needs him. Thea tells him not to wait by the phone and she that despite everything hes done, he did fulfill the promise to make her strong. Oliver enters with packed bags. Thea tries to talk him out of doing it. He declines, tells her to be safe out there. She tells him she was thinking of calling herself "Red Arrow" and Oliver tells her he already told everyone to call her "Speedy". After hugging her bye, he goes over to talk to Malcolm. Oliver hands Malcolm an item, the ring of Ras Al Ghul. Malcolm tells Oliver hes glad they got to work together. Oliver then tells him he'll never forgive him for what he did to Sara or Thea. Malcolm asks if that means they are enemies again. Oliver tells him that depends on what he does with his part of their bargain.
Back at Palmer HQ. Ray is tinkering still with his ATOM suit. He tries to make some new adjustments to it, and presses a button and in turn blows up the building. In Nanda Parbat, we see that Malcolm Merlyn has become the new Ras Al Ghul, much to the chagrin of Nyssa, who tells him she will still try to get vengeance for Saras death. Malcolm tells Nyssa she is welcome to try. The new Ras has everyone kneel, including Nyssa. Oliver and Felicity are driving together as a voice over tells a new story for Oliver Queen.
The. Merciful. End.
Well... it is complicated to grab a lot of positives out of it. But there were some.
A new Ras Al Ghul in Malcolm Merlyn. Love this twist. While some said they saw this coming, I was pleasantly surprised. Ideally, I'd like to see Ras now working WITH Team Arrow(less), but we all know that probably wont happen much if ever. How the writers will implement putting Malcolm into story arcs will be interesting because of him running Evil Incorporated... although luckily hes only a quick flight away, and theres apparently 20 of these flights daily.
Speedy. Again, we all knew this would come someday. I like how they made the progression to getting there. it has been 1 of the most natural fits yet. While fans rolled their eyes & moaned at Roy being a top end archer and Laurel becoming an expert fighter in almost no time, Thea is more believable because we know she has a back history in archery. She also didnt just grab a bow after a nap and start being a vigilante marksmen. Her rise to super hero also wasnt seemingly over night either. it started at the end of last season when she got in Malcolms car. We saw her be vulnerable and not a super hero throughout the season with Roy having to save her once, and the Lazarus Pit saving her once. She paid her dues getting where she did much more naturally than others did. Willa Holland really feels right for this role. Some people didnt like her in S1 and 2 (I wasnt 1 of them) but I think seeing the material she put out there this year, those fans are on board with her now.
John Diggle. Diggle coming around at the end, I'm sure we all expected it... but it was good to see still. The season couldnt end with Diggle and Oliver having this chasm sized rift between them. A lack of seeing eye to eye, sure, but the way things were going into the final few minutes... they needed to fix that a bit at least, and they did... also, lets all be honest, you are DYING to know what wardrobe Diggle will have next season. Happy for David Ramsey for next season. I feel a lot of the time hes ignored in talks about the show because of his lack of a superhero ID. Perhaps now fans will see how strong his work has been on the show and he'll get more recognition of it.
Oliver Queen. He belongs on the good and the bad side of it. so I will talk about the good here. His ability to keep his plan close to the chest is what I actually would expect from Oliver. Like he said in his speech, his instnct is to protect people close to him. He didnt want them possibly in the line of danger to save him. His acceptance of Thea as a vigilante. We all remember how much he opposed to Ray, Laurel and Roy becoming heroes, hes taken to his sister being one much better. Thats a sign Oliver is starting to mature. His willingness to trade 1 mans life (darhk) for man, I liked that. it was more season 1 Oliver than we have seen in quite some time.
Ray Palmer. Its terribly unfair of a certain fandom to have villified a character who was pretty great all year. One of the few solid bright points this year has been watching Ray grow into what we know hes going to be. On a personal note, him completely shutting down Felicitys whining to go save Oliver was a joyous moment for me. He was logical about it, and at the same time, giving all the fans of the show a moment to cheer as someone finally told the whiny Felicity to get her priorities in order. I wonder if we will see Ray back on Arrow in the future, or will his new show Legends Of Tomorrow actually take off. he is always welcome back on Arrow in my opinion.
Laurel Lance. weird for me to call her a positive. In season 1 I called her character unwatchable. In season 2, I was slowly starting to warm up to her in the back half of the season. But this year the character development of Laurel was some of the strongest of the main cast. Not to mention Katie Cassidy herself I think has really committed to the character. In S2 I actually for awhile was concerned about her health because she was unsettlingly thin. I sincerely was concerned the actress herself had some type of health issue going on. But, by the start of season 3 she had gained some weight back, and on top of it, quite a bit of muscle. She really has worked hard to get fit enough to at least fill the role of Black Canary. While she may never get to the level of fitness Caity Lotz has, she certainly is now believable in the role... something I refused to believe 2 yrs or even a year ago.
Barry Allen. Although limited in his screen time. The guest star appearance of Grant Gustin as The Flash really helped the writers set up the next couple scenes. Without him, they would have had to pull off a far more absurd miracle to get out of there. Also, his light feel and well timed comments fit well. Although Arrow is a darker show, it does need the occasional light moment and he delivered them perfectly.
The fights. Since the real fans of this show really only watch for the action, lets talk about the fight scenes in it. I've seen better from Arrow. But even without their A+ game (solid B+ or A-), they gave strong performances all around and were a breath of fresh air from the tired mopey/angsty/whiny scenes this episode badgered us with relentlessly. Each fight sequence felt authentic, and more or less exciting to watch. It was 1 of the few points the writers got right in the episode. Strong fight scenes. If anything, the ONLY flaw in their planning IMO was a biggie, the Ras death scene. really, Oliver just gets up and takes Ras sword with literally zero effort or resistence? That aside. Strong work.
What am I on the fence about.
Nyssa Al Ghul. While I often find Katrina Law an exceptional actress in this role. The character felt "unneeded" for the mostpart here. She was a plot device on the plane. A bystander during Laurels fight with the henchman, and never really felt like a notable part of an episode. Perhaps that was because she wasnt part of the "mopey/whiny/grumpy because our friend keeps secrets" club? I dont know. But it was hard to grade her good or bad on so little impactful material. Her fight on the plane aside, which was of course dominated by the ras/Oliver fight, what did she really bring to the episode to remember? This isnt a knock on Katrina. Its a knock on the writers for leaving her as a background piece.
Captain Lance. Remember Quentin? Hes slowly becoming a character we see and go "oh yeah, I forgot he was on the show:". Like Nyssa, he felt underused, and poorly used when he was. The scene with him & Laurel was at best mediocre. The writing for it was absurd. This was unfortunately 80% of his screen time, so its hard to rate him for this episode. Hopefully in season 4 the writers find a useful storyline for Paul Blackthorne, because this season he was mostly wasted except for when he was hunting Team Arrow in the back half.
Maseo and Tatsu. They had some good screen time, and even some scenes worth mentioning. My problem was, it didnt feel like the finale was the right place to put any of that. It didnt fit the dynamic of the episode like the flashbacks used to. Their performances were good, the storyline was good...it just didnt fit. So I am on the fence about them for that reason.
Ras Al Ghul. Since the big moment where he was dressed as the Arrow, I havent felt like Ras was nearly the menacing figure we were told he would be. Did anyone else feel Deathstroke was a bigger threat? I did. I LIKED the Ras Al Ghul character, but mostly because I felt Matt Nable put in a solid performance. But in the finale Ras didnt figure out the plane couldnt be sabbotaged by the captive prisoner and must have been someone on the inside, he had his sword taken away from him with no effort, and basically LET Oliver stab him to death. It was an abysmally weak end to a character that everyone expected more from. the only positive Ras Al Ghul brought this episode was advancing the storyline to intro Damien Darhk.
Sigh, Felicity Smoak. If you follow me on twitter, you have come to the realization I am REALLY over this character. I actually LOVED the Felicity character in season 1, and a bit in season 2. But this year, the writers made a massive mistake with the character and planning.... they gave an inexperienced actress who was GREAT in a limited quirky comic relief role, a larger script and dramatic scenes. Shes now working outside her comfort zone and it isnt working. To make matters worse for the character, she (the writing of her) is what is wrong with the show more than anything else right now. A show about vigilante fighters should NOT have the tech girl of the team taking up the 2nd most screen time of anyone (which she had this season, only behind Stephen, and a full hour more than 3rd). Not even close. But this episode specifically.... well, it started with Felicity being the first to wake up from the virus outbreak. Really? REALLY writers? You picked undeniably the weakest person in the room to wake up from it first? Not really a Felicity fault so much as writing, but it was WITH Felicity, so sorta her too. Then she outs Barrys ID to the next Ras Al Ghul. She then whines her way thru a temper tantrum speech to Oliver that ends with her being all 'awww, I want you" look. make up your mind woman. She then nags Ray to let thousands of people die so she can be Olivers summer fling. The parts she excelled at was the parts we expect her to excel at. Standing at a computer telling things to people in the field. She shouldnt be used for much more than that on screen. Then, to end the season... a girl who has worked her way thru MIT, managed to work her way up the ladder to an executive position at a prestigious company doing a job she seemed to like decides to leave it all for a guy shes had sex with once and has as recently as hours earlier, not trusted? Seriously? That actually happened. This character is a wreck. THAT scene was the epitome of the entirety of the wreck that has become the Felicity Smoak character.
Oliver Queen. I said he belonged on both... well, are we to believe has trusting Malcolm Merlyn with the LOA without some reservations more than "I dont want to see you doing bad things with this power" chat? Seemed...odd. His decision to drop everything and leave with a girl that just hours earlier thought he was scum? How fucked up is that? I mean I have heard of being desperate for a lay...but that is a pretty wild standard to set. It made no sense to anyone. I even saw Olicity fans on several chat boards call that "absurd", "ridiculous" and no joke word for word "the worst moment on television this year". These werent comments from haters, these were fans of Olicity. The haters had much harsher things to say..... including myself.
The writing. Well, there was SOME positives with writing this season. The Thea and Laurel characters got a bit stronger. The majority of it, especially in the back half of the season was atrocious. This episode was the climax of how atrocious it was. You pretty much had Malcolm magically cure everyone with an antidote. Didnt really sell us on Captain Lance drinking again, just had Laurel predict it. While it is believable a daughter would "know" by his actions, the viewers did not get how that was, and it was YOUR JOB to explain it, or lead up to it better in previous episodes. Thea is immediately near the virus, not inocculated (as far as we know) and doesnt fall over dead? Ras Al Ghul, experienced fighter with cunning and skill coming out of every pore of his body has his word taken away in a slow and unintimidating way by Oliver. Really? The demons head just "lost" his sword the same way a 6 yr old loses candy to his older brother, just by taking it? How about Felicity leaving with a guy she didnt trust hours earlier, or Oliver leaving with a woman who didnt trust him hours earlier? Their little "passionate" speeches did NOTHING to convince the viewers that either one of them were ready, or wanting of that get away. Also, how many flights a day ARE there from nanda Parbat to Starling City. I mean I am guessing at 20...but really... is it that easy to get in & out of Nanda Parbat AND Starling City airports? What about the cops on the dam, given orders to shoot to kill, and instead watch a fight for 5 mins..THEN shoot 1 of them. There is surely a plethora more failed moments I am already forgetting. It was painful to watch a great show that was on many "best of" lists for TV in 2013 & 14 turn into this pile of fecal matter. I'm exhausted by the show now. I will still watch it for a while because compared to other television out there, its still better than most. Plus, I feel some level of commitment to it since the cast is so nice. But where it was an A & A+ in seasons 1 & 2, it was a C this year, maybe a C+. The finale was a struggling C-. Hopefully someone at The CW grabs the writers by their hair and yells at them in the off season and reminds them the show is supposed to be targeted at a male dominant audience, NOT tween girls who havent experienced real love yet. It is exhausting, just physically and mentally exhausting to see this show going down this road.
In closing. This was not the WORST finale I have ever seen to a season. If it werent for the fact that I quite like the "concept" of the show, I surely would give up on it right now....despite it filming in my town and having met all the cast and having them more or less be great with me. The show still, even after this fiasco that could only be comparable to the Titanic after it hit the iceberg, has potential to be great. They just need to stop writing for the wrong people. I am saying it. Yes, it IS possible to watch a show for the wrong reasons.... and clearly some do. Sadly, they are also the type of people who use twitter & tumblr a lot, so, sadly the showrunners like Marc Guggenheim or Greg Berlanti see what they say far too much. There is a time & a place for romantic love triangle drama, and it IS NOT in the middle of a vigilante superhero show. I didnt watch Dawson's Creek (and yes, I watched it) to see Pacey & Dawson sword fighting with ninjas, I dont watch Arrow (and neither does the vast majority) to watch Oliver, Ray and Felicity work out their sex lives. Specific shows WORK with romantic drama, specific shows WORK with canned humour, specific shows WORK with heavily articulate dialogue, specific shows WORK with lots of violent fights and action. None of those dynamics particularily work well with 2 or more of those elements mixed euqally together though, especially in a 3rd season after 2 seasons more or less of 1 dynamic being dominant. I hope the Arrow writers actually see this, read it, and feel as bad as they should feel. They abandoned their fanbase because they are SCARED to alienate a few thousand tween girls who are actually watching the show for the wrong reasons. Arrow finished with 2.82 Million viewers for the finale. I speculate they could have had 3M if fans, the ACTUAL fans of the show, had not started tuning it out because of all the failed romantic drama the twitter/tumblr girls whined to have on it. For each tween girl you would lose by cutting it back 95%, you likely would gain 3-5 ACTUAL fans, who actually watch the show for what it is supposed to be. A virgilante action show..... like Daredevil. A show that didnt develop any complex love triangles, still managed to give every main character a relationship or a fling in a 13 episode season, managed to fit it all into about 2-3% of the entire screen time, and still had the show stay on point. I think part of the reason I am down on Arrow this year is because Daredevil exposed the flaws Arrow has right now, mainly, the writing.
Cut back the romantic drama by at least 80-90%. Cut back the screen time of Felicity to where she is NEEDED. She is a likable character... IN SMALL DOSES. Plan better (Wildcat anyone?) with your direction of the show. Stop listening to twitter & tumblr, and go back to seeing what actual fans from seasons 1 & 2 and of your source material like. Start writing a show targeted at men again, and not people who think it has to be like every other CW show. I dont think thats why the network originally wanted the show. Stop being SCARED to alienate a few fans. EVERYTHING you do will alienate someone. You CAN NOT make a show that will appeal to the super hero fans and the Sappy romantic drivvel fans all at once. Either change the title to "Starling City's Sex Life" or, go back to writing a show that your fans used to watch. I believe it was called "Arrow".