Wednesday, November 19, 2014

REVIEW: 'Arrow' - Oliver Deals With a Stalker, Ray Woos Felicity and Thea Auditions New Talent in 'Draw Back Your Bow'

The CW's Arrow - Episode 3.07 "Draw Back Your Bow"

Oliver must stop an Arrow-obsessed serial killer who is convinced that The Arrow is her one true love and will stop at nothing to get his attention. Ray ask Felicity to be his date for a work dinner with important clients. Thea auditions new DJs for Verdant and meets Chase, a brash DJ with whom she immediately clashes.

Season three of Arrow has been off to an awkward start. For some reason, the show is finding it difficult to build momentum. The overall story isn't coming together as strongly as it has at the start of the previous two seasons. There's lots of different ideas at play this year - Sara's murder, the League of Assassins, Thea and Malcolm Merlyn, Roy's guilty conscience, Laurel becoming the Black Canary, Oliver's relationship with Felicity, Felicity's relationship with Ray, etc. As soon as one element of the show starts to break away a little bit, it gets placed on the back-burner so the show can deal with the other elements at play this season.

"Draw Back Your Bow" is very much a standalone episode that features a compelling new villain in Amy Gumenick's Cupid but a pretty lackluster story. There's just something off with Oliver's emotional arc this season. It got off to a great start with him embracing and pulling away from Felicity at the start of the year. That's a relationship he puts immense value in. And yet, he's kinda been hung up about that decision ever since. He's almost operating with this moral superiority. He has to be alone and feel all this pain so the people around him don't. He can't shield his closest friends from the pain in this world. But jealousy at seeing Felicity be happy and busy with a new part of her life working for Ray Palmer isn't that flattering either. It's an odd holding pattern the show has that character in that just isn't interesting.

That character work is unfortunately translated into the main case for this episode. Cupid is only interesting because of the spunk that Gumenick gives the character. It's not a nuanced story. Oliver learns how to interact with her. The fact that she kills people should give an urgency to the hour. And yet, it's never clear if the character is suppose to be anything other than just crazy. It's not quite an unhinged crazy either where basically anything could have happened. She actually tracked the Arrow to Verdant and shows up at the club while Thea is there and I never once feared for Thea's safety. That's largely because I always thought the two plots would never interact and the fact that we know that Thea can take care of herself now. The dynamic between Arrow and Cupid needed to be fleshed out in order to make the episode's climax work. She chains both of them to a train track so that they can be together in the afterlife. But the hour doesn't do enough to make us care about Cupid and how she would be willing to do all of this. It feels like the show going through the steps without remembering the emotion or the heart.

The episode's two subplots didn't fare much better. Every time the show just puts Thea in the role of club manager, it's just so ridiculous. Is she even old enough to drink? I like Austin Butler. And yet, there was no reason why I should care about him becoming a DJ at Verdant and kissing Thea in the end. It seems completely pointless and just another tangential thing added on top of this season. Conversely, the Felicity and Ray flirtation has been an ongoing story this season and it goes past the platonic stage this week. I've enjoyed Brandon Routh a lot as Ray Palmer. However, I keep finding that character as just teasing for what's to come in the future and not exactly living in the present. While it's cool to see him working towards Atom, the emotion of it all feels quite hollow. Thusly, I was upset when Oliver saw Felicity and Ray kissing because it was the cliche way to continue dragging that story out. Dragging is the one quality the show should not be doing right now.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Draw Back Your Bow" was written by Wendy Mericle & Beth Schwartz and directed by Rob Hardy.
  • Diggle is totally an Olicity shipper. He was the emotional highlight of the episode in telling both Felicity and Oliver that Oliver needs to confess his real feelings already.
  • I got a nice chuckle when Felicity saw Ray doing the salmon ladder and proclaimed that she has a type. Side note: how is the salmon ladder work appropriate? Or getting a co-worker that dress and necklace?
  • No Laurel this week which I suppose was a good thing. We didn't need her story jammed into this episode.
  • Cupid could very easily return in a future episode as she has now joined the Suicide Squad for Amanda Waller. Perhaps that could give the character a better direction.
  • Is the end of every episode going to tease the next bad guy Oliver will have to face in the next episode? Next up is Captain Boomerang.
  • The island flashbacks were often the most awkward parts of the shows first two seasons. And yet, they seem amazing in comparison to the current Hong Kong sequences. When the show tried telling us his male mentor was dead, it wasn't a big deal. It could be foreshadowing. They're establishing that this family doesn't belong in Hong Kong either. But I really don't care at all.