Wednesday, December 11, 2013

REVIEW: 'Arrow' Confronts Oliver's Past in 'Three Ghosts' Through A Couple of Returning & Surprising Appearances

The CW's Arrow - 2.09 Three Ghosts

Oliver is left for dead after fighting with Cyrus Gold; Felicity makes a risky decision to cure him but the cure causes him to hallucinate and confront his past; Barry and Felicity's connection grows stronger; The Arrow asks Lance to look into Gold, but when the stakeout goes bad, someone is killed; and Roy is captured and tortured by Brother Blood.

Arrow has had a great second season so far. It works so much because of the show's firm focus on the emotional stakes of its characters. Not everything works. Laurel literally gets a new story every other episode. Moira often is the embodiment of the show's more soapy tone. Thea and Roy are decent when interacting with Oliver or the Arrow but apart from that I fell nothing for them. But the core driving action is the trio of Oliver, Felicity and Diggle. And in that respect, the show almost always succeeds. That gang works incredibly well together but are also interesting as individuals with distinct and different characteristics.

The two-part fall finale introduced the new character of Barry Allen - aka The Flash in the comics. I was hesitant to his addition at this point in the season. The season has been building up this mystery with Brother Blood. I needed these episodes to directly pay off all that buildup. Introducing Barry could have felt distracting. The episodes would have to cover a lot of exposition to give that character - a potential lead for a spinoff - enough meat for viewers to grasp and want to see more from. Fortunately, the sudden appearance of Barry didn't hinder any of the major emotional twists and turns of this episode.

Barry Allen was just a small supporting player in this episode. There to heal Oliver back to health and to give him a new mask to wear as the Arrow. The show knew exactly how much of that character we needed to see.

But I do really like Barry Allen a lot. I love that he's not cut from the same cloth as Oliver but still in the same realm of a character who carries a CW show. How the show ended with him was a little tonally off and weird - but also a necessary evil for what this franchise will want to do with that character. The Particle Accelerator has had a big presence in most of the season so far. It's all the characters talk about when they aren't discussing something plot-related. But it did kinda explode with a whimper. Just being briefly talked about in the hour and then going boom in the final minutes.

It also may have felt too sudden for the show to turn Barry Allen into The Flash. What I love about the Slade twist at hour's end is the long game the show played to get that character realistically to that point. The slow methodical emotional beats are something this show has been able to pull off well. Tommy was a character I hated in the pilot but his death in the first season finale was an emotional highlight because of what it forced Oliver to deal with. Oliver now wants to honor Tommy by making sure nothing bad happens in this city. And the return of Tommy - in hallucination form - was a strong roundabout of Oliver's emotional journey. He needed to hear Tommy say he was wrong in order to grow stronger and stand up even more against the forces of evil. It's a plot device, sure. But one that has the emotional justification to just make it work - and work well.

Some more thoughts:
  • So Roy probably has super strength now. That's a cool trait for an often bland character. I'm intrigued to see how Oliver will connect with Roy and try to help him from not going down the same path as Slade. But in order for that to happen Oliver would have to reveal himself as the Arrow.
  • Moira only pops up for a second. That's fine with me.
  • Oh and Shado dies too. I guess that needed to happen in order to fuel Slade into the character he is now. And he always was the more interesting of the island characters.
  • But the show never did really explain why Oliver was having hallucinations.