After Arrow’s fantastic second season, expectations were understandably high for its return in the Fall with its third season, which promised to address the fallout of Slade Wilson’s failed war on Starling City as well as show how Oliver and his team had been changed by it. And these first two episodes, entitled The Calm and Sara respectively, did not disappoint in the least, and reminded us all why we fell in love with the show in the first place while also throwing some major curve balls at us that will change the course of the entire season.
The first episode started out in a truly triumphant way, with Oliver and Roy now acting together as the city’s costumed heroes, and yeah, it was amazing. Finally seeing Roy in costume was a treat in and of itself, and actor Colton Haynes nailed every stunt and line of dialogue he was given. It was great to see his character receive some much needed attention in these first few scenes, and while I still feel like he needs a more concrete position on the team in order to keep him in action, this first episode definitely showed an improvement over last season.
At first, the plot seemed to be pretty basic, as it initially followed Oliver and the team as they tried to track down a crazed criminal who has adopted the title of a past villain known as Vertigo. While the previous incarnation of Vertigo was a mostly silly opponent who only got one or two stand-out moments, this new version of him, played by the always menacing Peter Stormare, was a far better antagonist for our heroes and nearly stole every scene he was in. Even though the episode saw his inevitable defeat and capture, I do hope to see more of him later in the season, especially since he seemed to be channeling some classic Scarecrow vibes with the way he played off of Oliver’s own personal fears.
Which, in a really surprising way, turned into what was arguably the episode’s stand out moment, as Vertigo injected the Arrow with a concentrated dose of this powerful drug, forcing Oliver to fight a version himself. This was both an incredibly well choreographed action sequence and powerful character moment, as we literally got to see Oliver’s two personas, the millionaire business man and the hooded vigilante, battle each other for dominance over his mind. It was a crazy scene to be sure, but I loved seeing just how much it affected Oliver, as it showed just how torn he really is over the man he wants to be.
Outside of that though, the episode spent a lot of time simply reintroducing us to the cast and showing us how they’ve changed since last season. Diggle is now a father-to-be, as his child with ex-wife/girlfriend Lyla was due any day, Roy is adjusting to his new role as a hero, and Felicity and Oliver are slowly but surely starting to address their growing affection for each other. While I’ve always been very skeptical over a possible romantic relationship between Oliver and Felicity, it was handled incredibly well here, and I actually found myself hoping they would finally get together, which is a testament to just how well-written, and acted, their individual characters are.
However, as you can imagine, their romance, which began as an awkward, yet undeniably adorable, first date, was short-lived, as Oliver withdrew immediately after realizing that any relationship between them would only put Felicity in more danger than she’s already in. This was an expected, but no less frustrating, twist that I was hoping to see avoided here, simply because it’s overdone in literally every superhero story on the market. While the two of them will no doubt end up together at some point, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with how things were left in these first two episodes.
The final moments of the episode provided the biggest shocker though, as it saw the return of Sara to Starling City and showed us some a heartwarming reunion between her and sister Laurel. But, as Arrow has proven in the past, things can never stay happy for long, as just moments after her surprise reveal Sara was attacked by a mysterious archer who shot three arrows straight into her chest, sending her toppling over the side of a building and crashing at the bottom right beside her sister. Now, I’m not going to lie to you, this broke my heart. I’ve loved Sara’s character ever since her first appearance, and seeing die so suddenly like this literally knocked the breath out of me.
Part of me wants to be upset that such a promising character, who still had so much potential, was killed of like this, but the other part of me wants to applaud the show for this bold and shocking twist that is going to undeniably change the lives of every character in the show. We got to see part of the aftermath of her death in the second episode, appropriately titled Sara, as we got to watch every main character deal with her loss in their own unique ways.
While the second episode wasn’t quite as successful as the first, primarily because it showed a little too much restraint with some of its characters, there’s no denying just how heartbreaking it was to see Laurel, Oliver, and the rest of the cast mourn the loss of one of their own. Laurel was especially great, and actress Katie Cassidy showed some impressive acting skills in how she balanced Laurel’s personal anguish with the straight-faced persona she put on in order to keep her dad unaware of her youngest daughter’s death.
Now, I’m not entirely sure if keeping Quentin out of the loop like this was the best decision Laurel could make. Yes, Lance is still recovering from his heart-attack scare at the end of last season, but keeping him out of the loop like this seems almost harsh. Lance has always been a strong and capable character, and now that he’s been promoted to captain of the police force, I’m looking forward to seeing more of him this season, but can’t shake the feeling that Laurel made a mistake lying to him about Sara’s murder.
Oliver also had a strong episode, as he dealt with his friend’s death in his own somber, melancholy way. While I would’ve preferred to see him show a little more vulnerability, actor Stephen Amell gave a great performance nonetheless, and was able to convey Oliver’s heartache without ever explicitly showing it.
And finally, I want to address a new character one the show, the ambitious, charismatic businessman Ray Palmer, who has taken control of Queen Consolidated and has set his sights on making Felicity his second-in-command. Played by Brandon Routh, who might recognize as Superman from Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, Palmer is a character you want to love, but also hate, as he seems intent on taking Oliver’s business and one of his closest friends right out from under him. But Routh’s inherent likability makes it hard to root against him, and I look forward to seeing him grow as the show continues.
If you can’t tell, Arrow has gotten off to a very good start, and I am beyond excited to see where the show will go from here. While I’m still torn over Sara’s death, and feel like Roy still needs a more prominent position on the team, the show has demonstrated a tremendous amount of potential with these first two episodes, and I am very anxious to see where it goes from here.