Wednesday, April 15, 2015

REVIEW: 'Arrow' - The Team Asks Oliver to Be Patient While Ray Deals with a Meta-Human in 'Broken Arrow'

The CW's Arrow - Episode 3.19 "Broken Arrow"

Lance continues his mission to take down the Arrow, so Felicity orders Oliver to keep a low profile. When a meta-human named Jake Simmons, who kills people with blasts of energy and plasma, starts terrorizing Starling City, Oliver is forced to ask Ray for help. The unlikely duo is forced to team up to save the city.

Oliver Queen made a grand sacrifice to protect the people he loved when he turned himself in to Captain Lance. And then, Roy had to ruin all of that potentially great character work just in order to return the favor. It was a plot contrivance that didn't really work. Everyone in the city is willing to just go along with Roy Harper saying that he is the Arrow. Even Ra's who orchestrated this whole situation in the first place doesn't interfere until episode's end. It's a story that still generates a compelling internal struggle for Oliver. But none of it really feels earned because Roy dealing with the consequences of the Arrow's actions isn't as uniquely compelling as Oliver dealing with them.

Over the course of his tenure on the show, Colton Haynes was either given way too much to do and couldn't make the material work or simply faded into the background doing his parkour and being an ally for Oliver. The show simply couldn't rely on him to carry an emotional story beat. Despite many attempts to do so, it all was delivered in the same way that didn't feel as deeply emotional as it could have been given a better actor in the role. Haynes has always been the weak link in the cast. He struggled being as emotionally expressive as everyone else. So when the rest of the cast was able to rise above and beyond, his lackluster skills only stood out more.

Leaving all of those issues aside the actual character arc Roy Harper had this season has intrinsically built on him killing a police officer when he was high on Mirakuru. That was an action that deserved to have consequences. The show did a fantastic job at not making death meaningless to the characters. Taking someone else's live had an effect on the people of Team Arrow. And yet, the bulk of Roy's story has been about him unable to handle what he did. He couldn't just blame the Mirakuru. So he saw honorably falling on his sword for Oliver as the punishment he deserved. That's the story that he feeds to Captain Lance on why he's doing all of this. And yet, it never feels fully believable because the story itself was so one-note and bland that it grew tiresome every time the show addressed it.

It was a very precarious situation the show found itself in with Roy - but for all the wrong reasons. It didn't really know what to do with the character. Thusly, it shouldn't be surprising that his death scene is void of emotion. This story really is more about Oliver and what Roy's current placement in prison means for him. If Roy were to die, it would mean Oliver would have to carry around that guilt of not doing more to save him. And yet, something was clearly up with Felicity and Diggle throughout the episode. Both of them telling Oliver and Thea to be patient while using Oliver's own issues against him as reasoning didn't really work that well. In fact, all of it only really works with the context that they all conspired to kill Roy in prison just so he can escape and flea the city. The character really won't be missed by many. The show didn't do a great job at fleshing out the mentor-mentee dynamic he and Oliver had. And Thea obviously has bigger concerns to worry about now.

The episode needed a good distraction from the Roy story. One that didn't influence the ongoing storyline too much. It just needed a decent bad guy to start terrorizing the city and the team figuring out how to deal with him. The prospect of having a meta-human on Arrow has been an idea looming over this season from the very beginning. The Flash established that people with powers now exist in this universe. Those characters have been done so well on The Flash. And yet, there's a very different context to an appearance by a meta-human on Arrow when Barry Allen isn't around to fight him. Even though Ray is the stand-in for the big fight, it's still a person with special powers battling with a man with no real idea how to be a successful vigilante. As Oliver notes, Ray doesn't have any of the requisite training to battle bad guys. He has all of this technology but none of the skills on how to use them in battle.

The big moral of the story is that sometimes Oliver has to lean on others to help him. He has spent so much of this season feeling that he needs to carry the weight of the world and his city on his shoulders. Felicity, Diggle and Roy have helped him but it's still a struggle he has to carry himself. With the ever growing threat that Ra's poises, Oliver is going to need the skills and ingenuity of the fellow members of his team. He hates having to sit on the sidelines as the Arrow can't make an appearance in public. His identity has been taken away from him and he has no idea how to react. Ray and his Atom suit are able to keep the city safe in his absence. But this is still Oliver's story. Even though Roy is leaving town and Starling City believes the Arrow is no more, Ra's is still hellbent on making Oliver his successor. That means dragging Thea into the middle of things. It was brave of her to take on Ra's in battle even though there was no way she was ever going to beat him. The only real question throughout that fight was how much damage Ra's will do to her. A blade through the chest does have a very visceral reaction. Roy survived a similar blade but the same cannot be said for Thea. That is great symmetry even in an episode that doesn't spend too much time on Thea's point-of-view. And now, Oliver will be faced with a choice of asking Ra's for his help to save Thea's life or simply let her die. That's ominous in a way that gives the episode a strong ending even though it was mostly middling throughout the rest of it.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Broken Arrow" was directed by Doug Aarniokoski with story by Jake Coburn and teleplay by Ben Sokolowski & Brian Ford Sullivan.
  • As his appearance on The Flash proved this week, Ray Palmer is capable of being charming and a male version of Felicity. But the moody atmosphere of Arrow just doesn't bring out those qualities as well despite the show's and Brandon Routh's best efforts.
  • However, Ray does have valid questions about the number of abandoned warehouses in Starling City and how Cisco and the STAR Labs team feed the various meta-humans they keep in the pipeline. And yet, answers weren't given either.
  • Also, when will the Atom stop just being a lesser, knockoff version of Iron Man?
  • Jake Simmons does have special powers but he wasn't in Central City the day of the particle accelerator accident. That's a lingering question that will likely be answered sometime this season on The Flash, right?
  • The flashbacks are also about Oliver needing to accept the help of the people around him in order to be more successful in his missions. It's just too obviously trying to tie into the present-day story and isn't all that successful. Also, it's a mission likely destined to end badly considering the state of those characters later.
  • "Broken Arrow" is officially the end of Colton Haynes run as a series regular, but he's likely to still make guest appearances on either Arrow, The Flash or the potential third spinoff considering he's just leaving town and not dead.