Arrow – Season 3 Episode 23
“My Name is Oliver Queen”
Arrow season 3 comes to an end and with it Arrow’s conflict with the immortal Ra’s Al Ghul while Starling City hangs in the balance…again.
At least Quentin Lance makes reference to that. Starling City has been under major threat at the same time of year three years running so it’s good that characters in the show directly address that. It doesn’t make it okay that the finale is once again a Starling City under threat scenario though. I feel that something more diverse could have been attempted for the third season finale.
I mentioned last week how disappointed I was in how the twist of Oliver’s double cross was given to the audience so early and speculated that it might be a loss of momentum that couldn’t be easily repaired coming into this episode. Sometimes I really hate it when I’m right as this episode struggled on a lot of significant points.
The resolution of the cliffhanger was the first stumbling block as the team were apparently clinging to life as the virus slowly killed them but of course we knew that they wouldn’t be since Oliver isn’t actually evil. It turns out that he did actually expose them but Malcolm Merlyn managed to sneakily inoculate everyone with some bizarre hand contraption that was entirely over-explained. Couldn’t it have just been a vial of knockout gas or something? I’m not saying it’s a crap episode for this reason but it seems needlessly complicated given that the scene was robbed of any jeapordy anyway.
I do like that Barry ran in to free them from their cell. It’s a good example of how connected this universe is and a nice callback to Oliver’s appearance in The Flash where he set this up. Barry’s appearance would actually have been a really good way to reveal Oliver’s plan. Imagine how much more effective it would have been if Barry had ran in, freed the team and told them that Oliver’s only pretending to be evil. It would be a cool surprise for the audience I think. It would create issues with Oliver’s appearance on The Flash but there would have been a way to make it work. His appearance gave the episode some much needed humour. Lightening the mood is definitely something that was required even if it was only for a few seconds.
Anyway, Barry doesn’t stay long because he has problems of his own to deal with. Tune into the finale of The Flash next week to find out more so it’s left to Team Arrow to save the day. This is definitely as it should be for a finale. There can’t be a call made to another hero to solve everything for them. This show is called Arrow and Oliver Queen should have the necessary agency to deal with things himself. Granted the plot wouldn’t really have moved without Barry but beyond that it’s all Team Arrow.
I feel like Oliver’s dramatic outing of himself to Ra’s Al Ghul was a little premature. I know he only did it to save Nyssa but he tipped his hand a little too early there. Given how careful his plan has been up until this point it all feels a little sloppy to pack it all in now. Especially since he doesn’t really know how Ra’s Al Ghul plans to spread the virus so he finds himself at a distinct disadvantage.
His declaration that he is Oliver Queen was pretty badass though and I like how surprised Ra’s Al Ghul looked when he found out that his golden boy had managed to successfully deceive him. The theme of identity has gone through this season so Oliver making a choice over who to be so defiantly brought a suitable close to his arc. He’s been struggling with what defines him this season and I get the impression that after a while he has finally realised. More on that later.
Team Arrow are less than willing to trust Oliver initially after what he did to them. The fact that Malcolm Merlyn continues to vouch for the guy makes the whole thing all the more questionable and everyone is visibly hurt that Oliver would choose to trust Malcolm over them.
Diggle takes it the worst and punches Oliver as retribution for what he did to his family. The episode wants the audience to think that Diggle punching him is the first step towards their friendship being repaired. I really don’t think it’s that simple and I would like it to be more fractured than it seems to be. Having an arc where Oliver has to earn Diggle’s trust all over again would be really compelling. It seems like they’re pretty much friends again judging by the goodbye that they share. It’s a shame that they back down from such obvious potential. It’s great that Diggle is willing to put his personal feelings aside for the greater good. It shows how professional and on task the guy is. I also enjoyed the hint that he’s going to get a costume next season.
This is actually something that this season has had a big problem with in general. The storytelling has been undoubtedly ambitious but it’s almost as if the producers, writers or the network are too afraid to let these stories develop in more compelling ways. There was the potential for Oliver to completely lose who he was but it turned out to be a trick for example or his return from death didn’t have Oliver in the emotional turmoil that it should have. There are other examples that I will cover in my full season round up should I ever get around to writing it. I still have to get around to shows that ended in February.
In this case it was a very ambitious story to have Ra’s Al Ghul so desperate for an heir that he arranges for the destruction of everything Oliver Queen holds dear so that he can fully commit himself to the League of Assassins. There’s a very real struggle in here somewhere with Ra’s Al Ghul driven to have a successor who can protect and expand upon everything he has made the League stand for and Oliver being fixated on making sure that the League of Assassin’s ends with Ra’s Al Ghul’s death so that they can fade away completely.
Unfortunately the episode doesn’t quite reach those dramatic heights. What it basically boils down to is Ra’s Al Ghul with more shaky motivations doing things with no explanation or reason. It seems that the writers are falling on the crutch of him being a mysterious character which apparently gives them the impetus to make him do whatever the plot requires for reasons the viewer couldn’t begin to understand. It makes Ra’s Al Ghul look like a cartoon villain who concocts an evil scheme because that’s what he needs to do. There’s enough vague dialogue about honour and tradition to sort of cover it up but it definitely comes across as flimsy.
Having the Starling City plan turn out to be an attempt on Damien Darhk’s life was a complete washout from a narrative point of view. It makes this whole thing look like Ra’s Al Ghul was grooming Oliver to take over from him just so he could be in the position to attack his oldest foe. It’s more likely that he found out about his visit later but it is awfully convenient. I also don’t believe for a second that Ra’s Al Ghul would be stupid enough to think that he could get rid of his oldest foe so easily. He must know the challenge involved in going after this guy. It’s all a flimsy setup for season 4 anyway but the fact that it was so obviously trying to do that was pretty offensive. How about tying up the season you’re on before starting on the next one?
Some good did come from the sequence where Team Arrow went after Darhk though. It did show some really cool team work and precision timing from Oliver, Malcolm, Nyssa and Diggle. This show has always been good at keeping the action cohesive while flipping locations.
In general the action was pretty well handled and there was some great tension throughout. Ra’s Al Ghul using 4 of his assassins to spread the virus once their blood was exposed to the air was a really nice touch and a very fitting plan. Seeing more of this sort of cunning from him is something I wanted to see a lot more of. I actually found it funny that Thea’s last second save was pretty much what doomed that part of the city. Her costume looks cool and I’ll be interested to see how they develop her journey into being a hero. Laurel and Nyssa’s contribution to the fight proved to be really entertaining as well. It’s cool to see how Laurel has progressed.
Unfortunately Oliver’s final battle with Ra’s Al Ghul wasn’t quite as epic as it should have been. There was no real urgency to it and it was certainly bereft of any passion. I was hoping for both men to be giving it their all especially after Oliver was killed the last time they fought. As rematches go it reminded me of Batman’s final fight with Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Like Batman in that film I didn’t feel that Oliver was any better equipped to handle Ra’s Al Ghul than he was last time. Apparently love conquers all and he manages to turn that to his advantage. Such a disappointing end for such a cool character. This fight was so difficult to follow since both combatants were wearing identical outfits. Everything about the villain and plot really paled in comparison to the final episodes of the previous seasons.
I’m sure I literally rolled my eyes when Felicity donned Ray’s Atom suit to save Oliver from plummeting to certain death. It was such a ridiculous thing to happen partly because Felicity has had no practice flying the suit never mind having the skills to pull off such a precise rescue. I appreciate the effort to give Felicity more to do than support them on a keyboard but this isn’t the way to do that.
My favorite scene was Laurel’s discussion with her father that quickly brought alcoholism into it. He has seemed more distressed ever since finding out that Sara is dead and it turns out that he’s been hitting the bottle again. Laurel has a deeper understanding of the addiction he feels thanks to her own experience and helps him wake up by calling him out on it. The conversation was really moving and I really liked how Quentin realised how stupid he sounded when he said that it was only two drinks a day. Laurel reminds him of the obvious truth that there is no such thing and it gives him the verbal splash of cold water he needs to start approaching the situation more objectively. I think the show has handled this subplot really well as relapses are only natural when dealing with an addiction. Paul Blackthorne always delivers the goods with his performances so I’m glad he’s not going anywhere.
The way the season wraps up is pretty ridiculous all round. I like the fact that Oliver has developed to the point where he’s willing to trust other people to truly help them with his mission. He lets Thea make her own decision about becoming a costumed hero and generally trusts the team to get on with things. I also like that he’s at the point where he feels like he can be Oliver Queen again and enjoy his life without such obsessive adherence to his self imposed crusade. These are all good points of character development and it brings a close to what Oliver has been going through throughout the season. He’s had problems with his sense of identity and has felt a growing sense of isolation as he seems to lose more than he gains but he’s come out the other end stronger because of those around him.
I do take issue with the fact that he decides to give up being the Arrow and turns round to Felicity to tell her that she can be with him now. I can see why he might want to give up given that the entire police force know who he is and the Roy stunt probably won’t have fooled the public but to tell Felicity that he’s ready to be with her now is just plain offensive. I’ve had my issues with how they’ve been drawing out their relationship all season and it’s annoyed me more than once but I think Felicity is owed a lot more consideration than that. She is not some prize to be won and picked up when Oliver feels that he’s ready. He has this conversation in front of Ray Palmer as well. I never thought I’d say this but what a dick! Everything about this exchange was completely offensive and so terribly written.
Felicity forgave Oliver too quickly for what he’d done to them in trying to trick Ra’s Al Ghul but the fact that she just stands there and accepts Oliver’s possessive nature and drives off into the sunset with him is beyond ridiculous. She isn’t being written as a character any more, she’s simply something for Oliver to win and she is robbed of any agency as a result. Nice work on destroying a good character Arrow writers.
Of course we know Oliver will be donning the hood once again next season because the show is called Arrow and there is going to be a 4th season. Also he’s wearing it in the Legends of Tomorrow trailer so no big surprise there. I am interested to see what brings him back into that fold and how the status quo will be from here on out. I really think Felicity has to go at this point before they run her completely into the ground but that’s a discussion for another time. At least we got to see Ray Palmer blow himself up though, that’s great isn’t it? It’s obviously going to lead to his shrinking ability but we’ll need to wait to see that happen.
I don’t buy for a second that Oliver would let Malcolm Merlyn take over as Ra’s Al Ghul. I can sort of understand allying with him out of necessity but letting him have the keys to that kingdom makes no sense. Has Oliver forgotten that this was the man who had his father killed, caused a devastating earthquake and made his sister kill Sara? On their own one of those is unforgivable but together there’s not even a word for that. The show was definitely going for a “better the devil you know” scenario but if I were him I’d have left it with Nyssa. She has proven she can be trusted by Malcolm really can’t. I hope this comes back to bite him next season because he deserves it.
Similarly Thea seeming to reach an understanding with Malcolm after what he did to her is completely laughable. She quite rightly hated the guy a few episodes ago but now she seems to be fine with him out there. It seems that the writers want us to forget all the truly terrible things the guy has done but I won’t.
The flashbacks were a waste of time as usual but did give us a final moment with Maseo who brings his story full circle in revealing how he winds up with the League of Assassins. I thought the grief of him and Tatsu as they mourned their son was handled really well and it gave both characters a sense of closure. It seems that Oliver is on his way to Coast City so when is he getting back to the island? This aspect of the show definitely hasn’t worked this season so the sooner he gets back there the better.
Some standout moments weren’t enough to elevate this disappointing finale to the level of average. There were too many poor choices bringing down the good stuff.
Barry running in to save Team Arrow who were all secretly inoculated by Malcolm Merlyn was a nice touch. It got the plot moving and introduced some of the only laughs we got in the episode. It’s just fun to be reminded that there’s a big universe full of other colourful characters out there.
Oliver outing himself to Ra’s Al Ghul was really badass but a little premature. He found himself lacking in a lot of information doing this so soon and generally had to fight uphill after this point. Fair enough he did it to save Nyssa but I think she could have handled herself.
Team Arrow’s mistrust of Oliver makes a lot of sense especially where Diggle’s concerned. He refuses to forgive Oliver for what he did to his family and makes it clear that their friendship has been fractured by this. He seems to be on the road to forgiving him a little too quickly though but it is good that he mans up and puts his personal feelings aside to get the job done.
As always, Ra’s Al Ghul’s motivations are shaky and seem to change depending on what the plot needs. The writers seem to use the crutch of him being mysterious and therefore his intentions can’t be fully understood but I find that sort of storytelling lazy. There’s no real reason for Ra’s Al Ghul to be doing what he’s doing other than a clumsy setup for the villain of season 4.
I did like Ra’s Al Ghul’s plan to use 4 of his assassins to spread the virus once their blood hit the air. It was a really clever plan that proved to be a nice surprise when it was revealed. Tying this to Thea’s introduction as Speedy worked well as this became her first mistake as a hero.
Despite some well handled action the final battle between Oliver and Ra’s Al Ghul was really limp. A big part of that was their identical outfits making it nearly impossible to figure out what’s going on. I never got the impression that either of them were driven to defeat the other. It just felt too passionless to be a final duel. Also, Oliver won far too easily and the cheesy rescue of him by Felicity in Ray Palmer’s Atom suit was beyond ridiculous.
My favourite scene was Laurel calling her father out on his alcoholism and giving a realistic view of how this is a never-ending battle where relapse is a very real possibility. Paul Blackthorne always kills it with his performances and this scene was very moving.
Oliver reclaiming his Oliver Queen identity and giving up being the Arrow makes sense given how difficult Ra’s Al Ghul makes it for him to return to that role. I like that he managed to develop to the point where he’s not telling everyone what to do and is willing to pass on his mission to other people. This shows genuine growth on his part and lets him restart in some ways.
I take issue with the fact that Felicity is treated like the prize he has now earned. He lets her be with him now so all is fine and she actually accepts that. I found this to be a very real example of character assassination that is fairly unforgivable. It’s a shame as Felicity is such a good character who seems to be written as nothing more than the object of desire for super heroes now.
The fact that Oliver trusts Malcolm Merlyn of all people as the new Ra’s Al Ghul doesn’t work for me at all. Considering all the terrible things Malcolm has done he certainly doesn’t deserve it and there’s no way that Oliver should believe that this will be anything but terrible. Why not give the League to Nyssa? She can be trusted sometimes and is certainly a woman of her word.
Lastly the flashbacks continue to be largely a waste of time. It was good to see Maseo’s plot come full circle and give some closure to the Maseo/Tatsu part of the story but it felt out of place. Oliver being on his way to Coast City is almost certainly a bad idea.
Poor form on season 3 Arrow writers. There was so much potential that kept getting swept aside and it culminated in an ending that was both underwhelming and disappointing. The game needs to be upped for season 4.