Arrow Season 3 Ep 1 (TV Show Review)

I’ve remarked before that DC is going pretty much all-out in its bid to develop more and more properties for television. First there was the (mostly) celebrated 10 season run of Smallville a few years back. Then came Arrow in 2012, quickly becoming a fan-favourite. And this year we are getting Gotham and The Flash (both already premiered!) and Constantine (coming soon). But in all of this, the modern DC stable of television definitely owes much to the incredible success of Arrow, both from a story and casting viewpoint, among others. And now CW’s hit superhero show is hitting its third season.

Arrow Season 3 has been a hotly debated topic in recent months, especially when news of all the new castings and everything began to filter out, such as the fact that the probable big-bad of the season is going to be none other than Ra’s al Ghul, one of the greatest villains in DC’s history. Last night, the new season got underway with the premiere, “The Calm“, and it was an incredible revisit with all the characters and Starling City. The new episode does a lot to set the new status quo and also delivers some big moments, especially the shocking cliffhanger ending which seems improbable given the character involved.

The new season of Arrow begins by showing how Oliver and Roy team up to stop a truck carrying illegal RPGs and other military-grade weapons. It is a great opening since it gets you right into what the heroes do and it also provides some great shots of Arrow-specific action, what with Oliver front-flipping on top of said truck and Roy showing off his badass archery skills. Neat and short sequence, which then transits into a shot of the heroes returning to the Arrow-lair for some recuperation and we once again are treated to some great commentary from Felicity, who is undoubtedly one of the best things about the show and one of the most fun characters in a superhero show.

With script by Andrew Kreisberg and Greg Berlanti, and the teleplay itself by Marc Guggenheim and Jake Coburn, you are eased back into the world of Arrow with this simple heist break-up. The writers certainly don’t beat around the bush and go straight to the point. Here are the heroes, this is what they do, this is what they are all like, and welcome back to Starling City! A city that is finally experiencing fast-decreasing levels of crime thanks to the Vigilante, or the Hood or the Arrow or whatever else he is called. There’s a great sequence later on in the episode which underscores it, when Captain Quentin Lance announces to the press that the Arrow is a hero to Starling City, that he helped the SCPD the previous year in stopping the terrorists and that he is no longer an enemy of the law. This is a great moment, a BIG moment, for the character since the second season was defined by Oliver wanting to be a hero rather than a vengeful vigilante. He wanted to make a difference to people’s lives instead of going about things based on a dead man’s dying declaration.

And I loved every bit of it of course.

The big villain for this episode is Werner Zytle, otherwise known in the New 52 comics continuity as Count Vertigo. We’ve seen a version of the Count before on Arrow, in the first season for the first time, and then later in the second season. The previous version didn’t have any of the Count’s special abilities, and was just a drug dealer, albeit one was who was a bit crazy. The new one is much in the same vein, but he has seemingly taken up the mantle of the dead Count and even refined the Vertigo drug, causing hallucinations in targets and making them confront their darkest fears.

It didn’t work for me. I don’t understand how and why the writers cannot get the Count right on the show. The new version s much more kickass and awesome than the previous version yes, and I liked it more, but it is still not the Count, because none of them have been able to produce the fabled Vertigo effect that the Count can internalize and then cause the effect to radiate outwards.

Sure, Oliver’s takedown of Peter Stormare’s Werner Zytle rocks, and there are some really great hand-to-hand action scenes between them, echoing the character’s own martial arts skills, but I was disappointed by the episode nonetheless.

Thankfully, there is far more awesome on the show that definitely balances it all out. Such as the fact that we get to see Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer on the show! Brandon Routh has some previous experience with superheroes since he played Clark Kent/Superman in 2005’s Superman Returns. The movie unfortunately did not do well, due to a host of reasons, but it is great to see that Brandon has bounced back from that in the same way that Chris Evans bounced back from his often cringeworthy role as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four movies to go on and become a great Captain America/Steve Rogers in Marvel’s own movies universe. Right from his first entry into the show, Brandon Routh steals the scenes he is in and he is played off of both Felicity and Oliver in a great way.

His entry on he show is as a last-minute surprise bidder for Queen Consolidated which, when we were last in Starling, we saw that Isabel Rochev and Slade Wilson had stolen from Oliver by making him sign legal papers to that effect, leaving him penniless. Now, he is trying to get his company back, but it doesn’t look like he is going to have an easy time of it since Brandon Routh’s Dr. Ray Palmer is every bit equally interested in buying Queen Consolidated, setting up a long game for the season that I am very excited about.

For those not in the know, Ray Palmer is a great addition to the show in that he is the alterego of the hero known as Atom, who can shrink down to any size he wants and is also a scientist of significant talent, often helping out the heroes of DC with many of their technical science-y problems. Much as with the addition of Black Canary and the Suicide Squad last year, this is a great way for the show to expand its main cast, and Brandon Routh is charming and positive as Ray Palmer in a way that Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen just can’t be.

And this is a great signifier of the new direction the show is going in. We have already seen two seasons of grittiness on the show, and with all the body count that Oliver racked up in the first season, and everything that Slade did in the second season, Arrow gained a dark reputation, perpetuating the trope that “dark heroes win on television”. Or something to that effect. But that is changing now. Brandon Routh is just the start. The show is becoming much more… open now and another way that this is highlighted in this episode is when Captain Lance holds his press conference, and it takes place in broad daylight outside of the SCPD headquarters with clear skies and bright sunshine with Oliver dressed in relaxing civilian clothes, a smile on his face and that of Laurel as well.

Arrow Season 3 Poster 0001

Of course though, the hand that giveth, also taketh away.

The new season premiere ends on a very chilling note followed by a great example of two characters bonding in a way that they haven’t before, at least not until the season two finale when they finally cleared up all the air between them. But now their moment of levity is all a-shattered and even I’m in shock. Like seriously, this was most unexpected and I’m really sad that something so terrible could happen to a character that I really liked. How it is going to turn out next time, I have no idea, but you can be sure that I’m going to be very pissed if that ending holds out for the rest of the season.

If anything though, the new season premiere has given me a great reason to come back next week, as if I wasn’t going to already. They also introduced a great new villain there in the end, someone that I’m very excited about, doubly so since I want to see how this character’s relationship to Ra’s al Ghul is going to be explored. That is going to rock!

And alongside all of that, in the flashbacks that take place in Hong Kong, since Amanda Waller rescued Oliver from Lian Yu last season, we get to meet none other than Tatsu Yamashiro and her husband Maseo, who work for Waller. Oliver has tried to escape a number of times since being brought to Hong Kong and when Waller finally gets tired of it all, she implements something drastic to keep in his place. Even more than the surprise villain at the end of the episode, this is going to be really great since Tatsu is the alterego for the Japanese superhero Katana, and she is one of the deadliest female superheroes in the DC-verse, and it turns out that on Arrow, she is going to be one of the Oliver’s teachers, same as Slade Wilson was before.

This is going to be fun, fun, fun!

More Arrow: Reviews of all the second season episodes can be found here.

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Posted on October 9, 2014, in Arrow, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

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