Let’s face it, it would have been nigh-on impossible to top Arrow’s glorious mid-season finale, which, in case you needed reminding, left Oliver Queen run through with a sword and kicked off a cliff by Ra’s al Ghul. After that jaw-dropping cliff-hanger (or rather, cliff-faller-off-er), the show understandably shifts pace for its returning episode, but this is still an extremely promising start for the back half of Season 3.
Okay, so Oliver isn’t really dead. It turns out that the cliff wasn’t even that high up, or at least Oliver falls onto a convenient ledge some distance below. To the show’s credit, it doesn’t bother attempting to drag out the suspense in that regard – after all, this is the lead character we’re talking about. With that in mind, they don’t even wait until the end of the episode before showing us somebody scooping up Oliver’s miraculously still alive body and dragging it off somewhere. No doubt there are a few disappointed comics fans hoping for an appearance from The Lazarus Pits (a convenient resurrection device) and the show isn’t exactly ruling them out, given the hints at Ra’s al-Ghul’s age, but they also went out of their way to defuse that speculation (Amell definitively ruled out that possibility in interviews).
In fact, the show doesn’t even draw out the suspense of who Oliver’s saviour is, though it’s not exactly hard to guess. Sure enough, it’s Maseo and this week’s trip to Flashback City explains exactly why Oliver’s former friend might go against Ra’s al Ghul in order to save him, with Ollie risking his life to help Maseo rescue kidnapped Tatsu in Hong Kong. And, speaking of Tatsu, it turns out she’s still alive too, as Maseo drags Oliver to a snow-covered hut in the middle of nowhere and hands him over so she can cover him in Resurrection Potion or something (her actual healing methods are left frustratingly vague). That said, Maseo and Tatsu are no longer together and there’s no sign of their adorable son, which suggests we’re still due for some grand tragedy in Flashback City at some point.
Meanwhile, back in Starling City, the fact that Oliver might not be coming back is gradually sinking in for the rest of Team Arrow and they’ve even taking to fighting crime without him, with Diggle donning the Arrow costume (“This suit is too tight”) and kicking street criminal ass alongside Red Arrow / Roy. Felicity, bless her, is still hoping against hope, but then Malcolm Merlyn takes a lightning-fast trip to the mountain and returns with a sword covered in Ollie’s blood just to rub everyone’s noses in it.
The obvious benefit of Oliver’s absence is that all the supporting cast get more to do this week. Roy is the chief beneficiary here – he’s finally showing some character and speaking up for once, making him a lot more interesting. He also gets some nifty action moments, including a great scene in a pipe that finally allows him to use his parkour moves properly. Similarly, Diggle gets some nicely handled emotional stuff, most notably with his quiet admission that he still feels like Oliver’s bodyguard. It’s a shame we don’t get a bit more of him in the suit, but you can’t have everything.
Felicity is understandably hit hard by the apparent loss of Oliver and Emily Bett Rickards dials down the wise-cracking elements of her performance accordingly. This also gives her an excuse to confront Ray Palmer about his plans for the A.T.O.M. suit (“You make it sound like using an advanced exoskeleton to fight crime and save the city is a Looney Tune idea”), spurred on by the entirely reasonable feeling that she doesn’t want to lose all the men in her life to costumed vigilantism. However, instead, we get Ray’s justification for his actions and an insight into the driving force of his own grief. It’s still unclear where the show plans to go with him, but recently released photos of Ray in costume suggest he’ll be suiting up sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, we finally get a new supervillain in the shape of Vinnie Jones’ seemingly bullet-proof (or at least bullet-resistant) Brick, who plans to take over the Glades with an army of assorted thugs. Jones’ performance is as amped-up as you’d expect, but it works well enough, even if the writers can’t help falling back on that hoary old kills-his-own-henchmen cliché as a means of showing just how EVIL he is. Still, at least he’s more than a Villain Of The Week, although it remains to be seen just how much of a Big Bad he’ll be in the rest of the season. Also, it’s a shame they didn’t paint him orange, like his comic-book counterpart.
As for Laurel, Left Behind finally made good on the promise of her character arc for this season and had her donning the Black Canary suit and kicking ass in the episode’s closing moments. To Katie Cassidy’s credit, she acquits herself quite nicely (all that training with Ted ‘Wildcat’ Grant obviously paid off), although it’s maybe a little too early for her to be coming out with lines such as “I’m the justice you can’t run from!” No doubt she’ll be a fully fledged member of Team Arrow by this time next week. It took a while, but the show got there in the end.
Oh, right. Thea. She’s still training with Malcolm and otherwise oblivious to absolutely everything. She is getting pretty handy with a sword, though, so that’s nice.
All in all, this episode marks a welcome mid-season return for Arrow, generating a nice balance of action and emotion and moving some promising pieces into place for the remainder of the season.
Season 1, 2 and 3 of Arrow are available on Amazon Prime, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription – or, for free next day UK delivery on Amazon items, as part of a £79 annual Prime membership.
Where can I watch Arrow Season 3 online in the UK?
Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.