On the D/L – Arrow
Season 3 Episode 2 – “Sara”
Team Arrow say goodbye to one of their own and try to track down the killer of Sara. There isn’t much to go on other than the killer used arrows to take her down and there not being many known people in the world with this as their MO.
Structurally the episode plays out as a bit of a whodunit and a very effective one at that but the narrative never loses sight of the weight of the loss on each of the characters. Particular attention should be given to Felicity who takes the emotional center of this episode. Her relationship with Sara in season 2 was something of a strained one for various reasons, one of which is that she was starting to feel left out because of Sara’s late addition to the team coupled with her extensive field experience. Not to mention the fact that she immediately won Oliver’s affection.
In short Felicity was pretty jealous of Sara’s skills so resented her a little bit from the beginning, a fact that she admits to in this episode. Sara represents a strong, skilled and confident woman which is something that Felicity identifies as something she isn’t and can never be so naturally she will resent Sara for that. None of that means that Felicity didn’t respect or care for Sara and she takes the death the hardest of anyone not related to her. There are many scenes where she was on the brink of falling apart and Emily Bett Rickards plays her as being distracted throughout the whole episode. It’s a wonderfully nuanced performance and it was a good call to make Felicity the emotional core since she is the most human of the characters. This episode pretty much cements her as the heart of the series and it’s a great choice.
Laurel feels like a different character so far this season. As morbid as it is to say, her sister’s murder is the kick in the ass her character needed to really get moving. Katie Cassidy plays her as so grief-stricken she’s willing to do almost anything like torture an injured witness in hospital to get the information she needs. I liked how they had her completely willing to kill Sara’s suspected murderer and the later regret over the fact that she would have done it had the gone been loaded. Oliver’s reassurance does nothing to absolve her personal guilt and it’s clear that she feels that she’s crossed a line even if she didn’t actually kill anyone. This probably marks the beginning of her journey to become the next Black Canary. It’s something they will have to be very careful of since Sara had years of training from the League of Assassins as well as a cold and detached attitude making her the perfect assassin whereas Laurel hasn’t had anywhere near this level of intense preparation so having her suit up by the end of this season will feel a bit rushed. I can’t imagine a scenario where it’ll feel organic for them to have this transformation in a relative handful of episodes. Her best scene in the episode was one towards the end where she chooses not to tell her father about the murder of Sara for fear of worsening his medical problems. You can see the weight of the decision on Laurel’s face as she suppresses the news and the associated pain for her father’s benefit. This will likely cause plenty of friction once he inevitably learns the truth.
Diggle and Roy were left in the background of the story here and that’s a little disappointing since each of them have plenty of scope for interesting moments. Diggle’s new status as a father seems to be defining his character at this point which is fine but it’s mostly been off screen, there’s a lot going on in this episode for sure but the potential for contrasting the loss of a life with the birth of a new one was there and feels like something of a missed opportunity. Roy’s story so far seems to be a little poorly formed with there being no clear idea on what to do with him outside of being Oliver’s partner in crime-fighting. There’s plenty to be mined here like how he feels about being backup to Oliver in the field as well as how he is reacting to his training. I have no doubt that this will come later but for now Roy feels a little like decoration. His admission of why Thea left to Oliver was a good moment though.
Oliver naturally has a significant role in the episode and his reaction to Sara’s murder is important. Stephen Amell played Oliver as being haunted by Sara’s death and every scene he was in was very subdued, the moment where he assessed the scene of the murder was nicely downplayed and Oliver’s emotions were subtly developed. He explains to Felicity that he has to step up as a leader and be strong for the rest of the group to allow them the opportunity to grieve which is a very heroic thing for him to do. It looks like he’s not in emotional turmoil but in reality he’s breaking apart and just wants to find out who did this. He and Felicity have different emotional arcs this episode but both realise that they want more out of life by the end of the episode, the moment where Oliver sits in his near empty lair and says “I don’t wanna die down here” is particularly chilling, the expression on his face shows a startling realisation of the fate that he will inevitably suffer. Oliver sees Sara’s death as his future and it’s only a matter of time before he’s lying forgotten on a slab.
The villain force in this episode is the archery themed villain named Komodo, a very recent addition to the Green Arrow universe in the comics so it’s interesting to see him adapted so soon. His appearance is more of a stunt to make it look like he’s the murderer to create the surprise reveal that he’s not Sara’s murderer but responsible for another set of murders that are happening at the same time. It’s a bit convenient that two arrow wielding murderers would be active in the same city at the same time but it’s done well enough, allowing for the mystery of who is actually responsible to carry on for a while longer. Questions are thrown out over the League of Assassins who favour archery as a method of execution but apparently don’t kill their own. Is it possible that Sara left them again and was hunted down as punishment? The killer clearly knew her and had a vendetta so that question will remain open for a while longer. Komodo makes it through the episode so I imagine he will be back at some point which suits me just fine.
Brandon Routh returns as Ray Palmer again and has a lot less to do this week but is memorable all the same. He seems to be the nicest billionaire ever with his plans to shrink -pun totally intended- his personal wealth to put back into the city’s economy and encourages other wealthy people to do the same. He also continues as a great foil for Felicity and the two bounce off each other wonderfully. He really is a breath of fresh air and is shaking things up nicely. Thea and Malcolm appear so briefly that you might miss it but there’s a nice geographical nod to Corto Maltese thrown in. The CWs DC universe is growing nicely with most of the familiar place names so far intact. No mention of Gotham or Metropolis as yet
Arrow is well known for the excellent fight choreography and this episode really doesn’t disappoint here with a thrilling motorcycle duel featuring two expert archers and a high octane battle between Oliver, Roy and Komodo in the offices of Queen Consolidated. The stunts are absolutely superb and the action is thrilling. At times the motorcycle duel was hard to follow due to the darkened colours of both combatants but it was still great.
I’ve rambled a lot here but I’ll briefly mention the flashbacks. Oliver’s time in Hong Kong has him work as an unwilling assassin for Amanda Waller who orders him to kill some rich guy that turns out to be Tommy who has come to Hong Kong to trace activity on Oliver’s email account. These scenes are almost pointless and are completely divorced from the present day story. It is good to see Colin Donnell as Tommy again but there was really nothing to these scenes and they heavily distracted from the main plot of the episode.
A powerfully written episode with an engaging mystery that remains unsolved and some top notch character moments. Felicity takes the emotional center of this episode and Rickards delivers a wonderful performance of a woman almost consumed by grief as a nice contrast to Oliver who is trying not to be consumed by grief. Both characters realise they want more out of life than to die in service to the Arrow’s crusade and it’s powerfully played. There are some missed opportunities with Roy and Diggle as well as flashbacks that feel pointless when compared to everything else that’s going on but a great subplot involving Laurel helps compensate for these shortfalls. The archer villain Komodo is well used if a little underdeveloped but will almost certainly return and helps contribute to some incredible action sequences.