Random Musings: Assessing Arrow’s third season to date

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Arrow season 3 promo poster
Some SPOILERS follow:

Earlier this season, Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) was murdered by a then-unknown assailant and the question of who killed her has been a running subplot this fall. We now know (more on that in a bit), but it’s not surprising that Sara died.

Sara Lance and Oliver Queen as the Canary and the Arrow

Sara Lance and Oliver Queen as the Canary and the Arrow

Nothing against the character, but in the comics (Dinah) Laurel Lance is the Black Canary. Laurel (Katie Cassidy) can’t well be Black Canarying if her sister’s already got the job. So either the Arrow producers deviate from established history by having Sara be Black Canary permanently, or Sara either retires or dies so Laurel can step into the role.

Laurel being motivated by revenge has more of an impact than if Sara simply retired.

“My name is Inigo Mont— I mean Laurel Lance. You killed my sister. Prepare to die.”

Laurel Lance as the Black Canary

Laurel Lance as the Black Canary

But here’s where any plans of revenge get tricky. As we recently learned, Thea Queen (Willa Holland) killed Sara.

A brainwashed Thea, it turns out. Brainwashed by her biological father, Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), who recorded the killing.

Why did he do this? To force Oliver to challenge Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable) to single combat (and, indirectly, to protect Malcolm from the League of Assassins, who have a beef with him). If Oliver were to fail to challenge Ra’s and/or to accuse Malcolm, Malcolm would release the video of Thea killing Sara and the League would turn its attention to her for retribution. Maybe Oliver could convince them his sister was brainwashed, maybe not.

Of course Malcolm’s plans have been scuttled, given that Oliver was killed fighting Ra’s. He took the blame for Sara’s death, rather than turning over Thea (which he’d never do) or Malcolm, which would amount to the same thing.

Thea, for her part, remembers nothing of her actions; She’s like Raymond Shaw from The Manchurian Candidate in that respect. She doesn’t even recall that she was in the country the day of Sara’s death.

As for Laurel, who has been training with boxer Ted “Wildcat” Grant (J. R. Ramirez), it’s unlikely that she’d hunt Thea down, even if she saw the video. She’d rightly conclude that— the evidence aside— Thea is an improbable murder suspect. She’d also find it hard to believe that Oliver could be responsible. Will she turn her attention to Malcolm Merlyn, whether or not the others tell her of his involvement, just on a matter of principle? Or will she go after the League of Assassins, in the belief that they manipulated Thea in some way?

As for Oliver, to quote Dr. McCoy, he’d dead, Jim. Guess they’ll have to re-name the show.

Ra's al Ghul stabs Oliver Queen.

Ra’s al Ghul stabs Oliver Queen.

Or maybe not. Either it will turn out that Oliver was critically injured, but not killed, in the stabbing by Ra’s and subsequent push over a cliff in last month’s mid season finale “The Climb”; or he will be revived in one of the staples of the comics: the Lazarus Pit.

The existence of the Lazarus Pit has already been implied by Ra’s statement to Oliver that the last time someone challenged him to single combat was 67 years earlier. Ra’s appears to be in his 40s.

Arrow has been more or less grounded in reality, so presumably the Lazarus Pit, if introduced, will be explained by scientific rather than supernatural means.

In the comics, the Lazarus Pit not only rejuvenates Ra’s al Ghul from time to time, it also causes periods of insanity. If they keep that aspect of it for Arrow, it’ll be interesting to see how a revived Oliver is affected. If he appears deranged upon his return to Starling City, Laurel might well believe he did kill Sara.

The primary exception to Arrow being set more or less in the real world is that the metahumans of The Flash exist in the same fictional universe, but their existence is explained by scientific means: the result of a particle accelerator explosion.

Arrow has a number of direct and indirect connections to Batman, which is ironic given that the character of Green Arrow was originally considered a second-rate Batman. He even had an Arrowcar and an Arrowcave. But in the early 1970s, he was teamed with Green Lantern for a series of stories that addressed various social concerns (the “relevancy period.”). He also lost his fortune (just as Oliver has in Arrow) and became fiercely political, fighting on behalf of the common man.

In another irony, characters in the show refer to Oliver’s base below the Verdant night club as “The Arrowcave.”

“When did we start charging admission to the Arrowcave?” Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) asks, to Oliver’s annoyance, in the two part crossover with The Flash.

Batman-related references include the characters of Ra’s al Ghul, Floyd Lawton AKA Deadshot (Michael Rowe) and Helena Bertinelli AKA the Huntress (Jessica De Gouw).

This season, in the flashbacks to Oliver’s time in Hong Kong, we learn that he met Tatsu Yamashiro (Rila Fukushima), known in the comics as Katana, one of the founding members of The Outsiders in Batman and the Outsiders. Tatsu’s husband, Maseo (Karl Yune) was Oliver’s “handler” in Hong Kong. In the present day, he’s become a member of the League of Assassins.

Of course Arrow is peppered with other DC Comics characters and references, many depicted in different ways than in their original comics incarnations. As I said last year, in the comics Slade Wilson was an American soldier who later became the mercenary and assassin known as the Terminator when he gained enhanced reflexes and increased brain power. In Arrow, Wilson (Manu Bennett) was an Australian secret agent who helped Oliver survive on the island of Lian Yu.

Felicity Smoak

Felicity Smoak

In Arrow, Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) is a young woman in her 20s, a member of Oliver’s team and an employee of Queen Consolidated (and later Palmer Technologies). But in the comics, she was introduced in Fury of Firestorm #23 as a business owner in her 30s or 40s who had a run-in with Firestorm. She also later, ironically, became the stepmother of Ronnie Raymond, the primary identity of Firestorm’s composite persona.

Firestorm and Felicity Smoak

Another DC Comics character to appear in Arrow is Ray Palmer AKA the Atom. Palmer (Brandon Routh) has bought out Queen Consolidated. He also has plans to protect the city, using a suit he called A.T.O.M. (Advanced Technology Operating Mechanism). He told his plan to Felicity, who (unknown to Ray, of course) was already a part of Oliver’s team.

“Why does this keep happening to me?” she muttered.

It’s possible that just as Grant Gustin’s appearance on Arrow last season was something of a backdoor pilot for The Flash, the same might hold true about a spin off series focusing on The Atom. Time will tell. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying Brandon Routh’s performance in Arrow.

In the comics, Green Arrow’s sidekick, Roy Harper, went by the name Speedy (and later became Arsenal). In Arrow, Thea’s nickname is Speedy and Oliver once suggested “Arsenal” as Roy’s sobriquet.

As to Thea, in the course of time, she’ll probably learn the truth about Malcolm Merlyn (and maybe about her own actions). When and if that happens, I suspect she’ll use her skills and training on behalf of the people of Starling, like Oliver and company. It’s not likely she’d use her well-known nickname of Speedy. Maybe in Arrow, Thea will use the name Arrowette, another of the archery-themed heroes in the comics.

Among the major unanswered questions is why is Amanda Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) still alive? As we learned from last season’s finale, she somehow learned Oliver Queen was alive and on the island of Lian Yu during the five years he was presumed lost at sea prior to the start of the series. Rather than return him home, she brought him to Hong Kong and forced forcing him to work for her. Among other things, it turns out that Waller’s, um, encouragement, led to Oliver becoming adept at torture.

But when Oliver is rescued in the first episode of the series, it’s from Lian Yu, which means that Waller returned him to the island at some point during that five year period. It’s improbable that Oliver returned to the island of his own free will; Waller must have dumped him there when she was done with him. So, given that Oliver has killed in the past— and given that Waller was willing to sacrifice the people of Starling city last year to stop Slade Wilson’s mirakuru-affected army, why is she still breathing? Hopefully, we’ll get a credible explanation for her continued existence.

One possible answer that might apply now, given that the Arrow is a well-established figure in Starling City, is that Waller has made it clear to Oliver (off screen) that his secret becomes public if anything happens to her. Fair enough, but Oliver could have gone after her when he first started his campaign, before most people knew a vigilante had started operating in the city.

Arrow remains an excellent series. It returns tonight at 8 p.m. on the CW with new episodes.

Copyright 2015 Patrick Keating.

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