Wednesday, October 8, 2014

REVIEW: 'Arrow' - Oliver and Felicity Go Out on a Date and It Blows Up in Their Faces in 'The Calm'

The CW's Arrow - Episode 3.01 "The Calm"

With crime at an all-time low, Oliver thinks he can finally balance being both the Arrow and Oliver Queen and asks Felicity out on a date. When a new villain emerges, Oliver is caught off-guard and someone close to him is hurt. Meanwhile, Oliver fights to regain his company, Diggle becomes a father, Lance is promoted to Captain, Laurel joins Arrow's inner circle, and Felicity gets a part-time job at a tech store to make ends meet.

Season three of Arrow promises to challenge each of these characters' core identity. Can Oliver be both the Arrow and Oliver Queen? The Arrow is no longer being seen as a rogue vigilante who needs to be captured. Crime in the city is at an all-time low. And yet, crime still exists. Peter Stormare guest stars as the new purveyor of the drug Vertigo and he's made some major adjustments to its formula. The one time that Oliver lets his guard down and embraces what could possibly be a life with Felicity it literally blows up in his face. There is a connection between the two and it's not going to be as if they never went on a date after this point. But he continues to live a very dangerous life. He could die at any time while trying to protect the city. Throughout this hour, Lance needs an ambulance, Felicity is knocked unconscious and Sara returns only to get three arrows shot into the chest. The world isn't suddenly going to let Oliver stop being the Arrow just because there's a moment of peace and the city is trying to rebuild its image. It is brutal watching both Oliver and Felicity accept that this is something that simply can't happen right now. That is especially difficult for Felicity. This is a tumultuous connection that seems like it could just all be one big tease. She deserves happiness and a life too. Diggle is off becoming a father for the very first time. That throws a lot of things into perspective. Oliver and Felicity walk their separate ways but their relationship is only going to grow more complex.

This was a wonderfully exciting episode with which to come back. Yes, it's reestablishing the status quo following the assault on the city from the last season finale. Roy is now an official part of the team. The show finally seems like they know what to do with that character - which is simply doing lots of brief stunt work. Lance has been promoted to Captain and Laurel is helping lock up all the criminals that the Arrow catches. It's a quite effective team now. The new Vertigo throws that balance out of whack. He's not as instantly memorable as Seth Gabel's version. But he works as the villain-of-the-week who forces many of the main characters to undergo a moment of introspection.

And then comes the final brutal scene of the hour - Sara's death. That came out of nowhere. Last season she made the choice to return to the League of Assassins. She could never be a part of the Lance family as long as she was also a part of the league. She makes a surprising return during the climatic fight sequence of the episode. They reminded us just how great she is on this show and then tear her away just as easily. She really was a huge find last season. And now, she's gone. Because of the flashbacks, I don't expect this to be the last time we see Caity Lotz on the show. But that doesn't lessen the pain at all. Moreover it adds a sense of mystery back to the show. Who killed Sara? That will be the question on everybody's minds. It's sure to have an explosive answer and the reverberations of this moment on the rest of the season will be amazing to see.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Calm" was directed by Glen Winter with story by Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg and teleplay by Marc Guggenheim & Jake Coburn.
  • Brandon Routh also debuts as Ray Palmer, a tech genius and the new owner of Queen Consolidated. He already has a complicated relationship with Felicity. I'm curious as to whether he'll be a good guy or bad guy in the long-term this season.
  • Meanwhile in flashbacks, Oliver tries to escape from Amanda Waller and his new Hong Kong environment. It's not terribly exciting or completely relevant to the stuff happening in present day. Oliver is thinking back on his time there now but I don't see how or why yet.
  • I was excited when I saw Grant Gustin's name as the guest credits rolled. But it ultimately wasn't that necessary. It was just him calling Oliver saying he's awake and wants to talk - a moment which we already saw yesterday in The Flash premiere.
  • Felicity's line about how frequently Oliver is shirtless for all the wins.
  • But it's also so strange seeing Felicity working as your average blue-shirt wearing tech support girl. At least it doesn't interfere with her work on the team.