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TV REVIEW: Arrow “This is Your Sword”

By on May 7, 2015

Image © CW Network

By Justin Carter

Right now in comic books, Marvel is going through a big “Secret Wars” event. In broad terms, the main universe and one of their alternate universes are going to huge, dimension and galaxy-hopping war. The endgame is that the Marvel Universe will have a fresh slate and wipe away, or at least try to, the convoluted back story that’s been around for decades. It just started, as in the first issue touched down this week, and while it’s too soon to see how things will shake out at the end, I sincerely hope it all works out. With Arrow’s third season wrapping up next week, I sort of wish that some big thing would happen that calls do-over on the entire season.

When the preview for next week’s episode said that it was the finale, it felt like a sucker punch. It doesn’t entirely feel like the season has ended or even really reached its halfway point, and part of the problem is that things lack momentum. Arrow’s season two had a slow burn and a rising escalation of stakes, capped off by a finale that just went all out. It all stemmed from a deceptively simple storyline involving Slade Wilson’s revenge against Oliver, but it ended up being much more layered than that. He didn’t fulfill all of his plan, but he at least made some progress and felt like a genuine threat. Season three has had a slow burn as well, but it seems to have forgotten the rising escalation. Sure, there have been big moments, like Laurel taking up the mantle of Black Canary, but they feel like they were written before the story was fleshed out instead of the other way around. There has been a season lone feeling that the writers came in with a vague understanding of what they wanted the characters to go through by the season’s end and just filled in the nitty gritty at the eleventh hour.

Case in point, Oliver getting brainwashed into being Al Sah-him. Once it’s revealed in the opening moments that a grief stricken Maseo came to Ra’s with the Alpha/Omega virus and the camera switches to Al’s shocked face, it’s clear that last week’s events were all a ruse. The idea of Sah-him resigning himself to this fate and betraying his friends, then having a change of heart as they do what they can to get him back is fairly solid stuff, but now I just feel a bit cheated. That the ending attempts to dupe me into thinking that he would actually leave his friends to die at the hands of the virus while getting hitched to Nyssa (when he was discussing a way to stop the virus from being sent to Starling 20 minutes prior) feels like a sad last ditch attempt to raise the stakes at best, and insulting at worst. It doesn’t feel remotely earned.

On the subject of earned, it was nice to see Ray and Laurel kicking ass at Nanda Parbat. Part of my rooting for these two is because of how the show and fandom has been decidedly not on their side for quite some time now. But over the weeks, these two have really come into their own; Laurel’s beating down Leaguers, which is something I never would have predicted in the start of the season, and Ray has gotten over Felicity and now focused on using his ATOM suit to help people. Maseo’s arc also feels earned. It’s somewhat fitting (and depressing as hell) that he dies in his wife’s arms like his son did five years ago.

The death of Akio ties in nicely to the present day, and is actually more moving than I might have expected. Despite how massive this issue is for the people of Hong Kong, the stakes are pretty low while also being engaging. Oliver’s bond with Maseo may not hold a candle to his previous one with Slade, but there were brief moments in the flashbacks where it felt like these two would’ve been great friends if the circumstances were better. Maseo’s desperation, combined with Tatsu singing tearfully to their dying son, make for an effective round for flashbacks. If only it was like this the entire season.

As I said at the start of this review, I wouldn’t mind if this season of Arrow called “time out” and wiped the slate clean for season four. While it isn’t a complete train wreck and has moments of greatness, there’s no denying that there have been struggles. With the team now “dead” and the League ready to unleash the virus on Starling, I’m hoping things come together for a satisfying end.

Additional Notes

  • Felicity using her broken tablet to frisbee a Leaguer to death and her reaction at it actually being Malcolm was pretty hilarious.
  • Roy shows up, but that hardly feels worth mentioning. All he does is sleep with Thea, as he does, then leaves town and gives her his Arsenal hoodie. That’s literally it.
  • Felicity has come so close to crying in the past handful of episodes, it’s like someone waved onions around her face ten seconds before shooting starts. Incidentally, Felicity: I know it sucks that Oliver’s getting married to Nyssa, but maybe worry about that when you aren’t being held in a prison surrounded by deadly assassins?
  • Gen. Shrieve: “The Chinese own enough of our national debt to decimate our economy.” That…that doesn’t sound right. Like, at all.
  • Malcolm: “No offense, but you all aren’t good actors.” Diggle: “I’m out.” Not sure if that response was scripted or not, but either way, it’s pretty funny.
  • Next week: the finale! Also next week: Oliver Sah-Him taking the busy time out of his schedule to help Barry with his speedster problem. Ah, scheduling conflicts.

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