Since it premiered back in 2012, Arrow has not been a show to ignore the dark corners of the superhero psyche. Again and again we have seen some really horrible things happen on the show, whether it is torture or mutilation or what have you and betrayal of the self and betrayal of the family is something that has been a running theme on the show. Season 3 itself got off to a really grim tone last year, and recent episodes have shown that this theme isn’t going anywhere and that the times are indeed wholly dark for Team Arrow.
Episodes 18-20 of the show have been very interesting from a story perspective. Oliver’s secret is once again out in the open as Ra’s al Ghul intensifies his… pressure on Oliver to become the next Demon’s Head, and with this come some true heroics from the team. And not only that but we also get to see Ray Palmer become a hero himself, as he begins to embrace the difference he can make alongside Team Arrow and even perhaps as a part of it. But that is all overshadowed by what is happening in the flashbacks, where Oliver and the Yamashiros’ freedom has become anything but.
In recent weeks, CW’s Arrow has taken a somewhat darker turn, and it all has to do with how the metaplot concerning the League of Assassins has developed and the large shadow that the season villain, Ra’s al Ghul, has begun to cast on the characters. He is a downright manipulative bastard and since Oliver has refused to take up his offer of becoming the next Ra’s al Ghul, the current incumbent has seen fit to take it upon himself to make sure that Oliver does what he wants, no matter who has to die for that, criminals or innocents or both.
Last week’s “Suicidal Tendencies“, while it involved the Suicide Squad for much of the episode’s running length, was pivotal in what it made Oliver confront when it came to the League. Maseo is wholly sworn over to the League and he is now on a mission to destroy the Arrow’s reputation in Starling, on orders of Ra’s al Ghul. And this creates problems, not the least of which is Ray confronting the Arrow while decked out in his brand-new ATOM suit. And on the other side of the world in Kaznia, the Suicide Squad team does a few really unexpected things, things that really made me love the likes of Deadshot and Cupid. Oh and there was a wedding involved, which was kind of fun amongst the darkness.
When CW’s Arrow went on break back in February, the final minutes of the 15th episode of the 3rd season provided us with one of the biggest twists to date on the show: Ra’s al Ghul, the Demon’s Head and leader of the League of Assassins, wanted to make Oliver Queen his successor, the next Ra’s al Ghul. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Hold your horses there! What!? Yep, pretty damn big twist and something that needed a lot of clarification from a story perspective. Which is where the returning episode from last week, “The Offer“, came in.
The episode last week laid out exactly why Ra’s al Ghul chose Oliver as his successor instead of his own daughter, Nyssa al Ghul, who has been quite the force on the show ever since her debut in the middle of the second season. In a war of dual identities where much of the good he has done has been twisted and rendered ineffective, Oliver seriously considers the offer, and the journey to get to that point speaks volumes about how he and his friends and allies have developed over the last three years, and the long road that lies ahead of them all.
I remember back in the first season of Arrow, there were a ton of breaks in the show. It was as if we couldn’t go a straight month without one break in-between episodes or something. It was quite frustrating for someone like me, who hadn’t really watched shows “live” before, binge-watching entire seasons being more my thing, and so it was one of the few things I didn’t like about Arrow. But I’ll admit that when an episode leading up to a break is as awesome as the mid-season finale back in December, or this week’s episode, “Nanda Parbat“, then things are very different.
“Nanda Parbat” this week is one of the most intense episodes of the third season yet, and also one of the best to date. Last week Thea found out that Malcolm had used her in his war against the League of Assassins, making her commit Sara’s murder. It was an emotional moment for everyone involved and the new episode picks from that point, affecting everyone once again. Thea makes a dangerous choice and then it is up to Oliver and Diggle to figure out a way out of this jam, while Felicity and Ray continue working away at his ATOM suit, which we finally saw in full!
With Brick out of the picture, and Oliver back from Nanda Parbat or wherever it was that he “fell” while fighting against Ra’s al Ghul in a duel, it was time for the show to move on to grander things yet, such as Team Arrow dealing with their central element being back in the picture, and Oliver learning how much the city and his friends have changed in his absence. And at the same time, we also got to see some really nifty stuff elsewhere as Oliver finally comes clean with Thea about his… extracurriculars, which in itself was handled maturely by the writers of the episode.
In this week’s episode, “The Return“, we have Thea and Oliver on Lian Yu, training to fight against the League of Assassins. Malcolm wants Oliver to regain his killer instinct, the one he displayed when the two of them had their big showdown in the season one finale and which Oliver did not have during the season two finale against Slade Wilson, and so the Dark Archer puts into effect a really dangerous plan that just might see both Thea and Oliver dead. With the return of the awesome Manu Bennett as Slade, this episode would have been great on its own, but we also get to see Oliver and Maseo come to Starling in the flashbacks, and those sequences expose something deep-rooted with the show.
It isn’t a secret that CW’s Arrow has had an amazingly good season 3 as far as I’m concerned. I’ve loved pretty much all that we’ve seen on the show so far in the 2014-2015 season, and the greatest thing definitely has to be the fact that Starling City has gone bring the Vigilante’s city to a City of Heroes. Season 2 actually had that whole latter theme going on, but it was more a transitionary thing, and it is season 3 is where it all starts to really come together. And along the way, characters like Thea Queen and Laurel Lance have improved immeasurably since their earliest appearances on the show, while the others like Felicity Smoak and Oliver Queen among others have continued to grow.
Two weeks back the villain Brick, who has set himself up as the new power in the Glades, set the stage for a hostile takeover for all of the Glades, pushing out both policemen and city officials. We’ve already seen before that Team Arrow minus Oliver has really struggled against Brick before, so them going up against the big bad once again is perhaps not the best idea, but then, the way it is all handled in episode 12 shows how Team Arrow has grown into being more than just Oliver’s allies of need and circumstance. And this theme carries on over in episode 13 from this week when we see how the team functions when it is whole once again.
CW’s Arrow returned last week and fan expectation was pretty high since the writers had seemingly killed off the hero in the mid-season finale. While the hero’s return was a bit too quick, and perhaps even too soon, the tempo was still right I think and I certainly appreciate that the writers have found a way for the hero to be busy while his allies take charge in his absence. And the new season villain Danny Brickwell, played so brilliantly by actor Vinnie Jones, oozes a lot of rough charm and brutal authority, so I’m excited to see what’s going to happen next.
Last week Danny Brickwell gained himself an army by stealing entire stacks of case evidences from the SCPD and thus freeing a lot of criminals from their court cases. Now this week, we begin to see a hint of his larger plans, and he wants nothing less than full control of the Glades district, absent any police or governmental authority. Team Oliver gets to flex its muscles again, and comes off the worst in a way that was natural and interesting while we learned yet more about Oliver’s time in Hong Kong and what caused Maseo to turn into Sarab. Excellence all around.
This week marked the return of two of CW’s best and top-rated shows of recent years, the superhero epics The Flash and Arrow. The Flash, a new entry to CW’s line-up last year, made its mid-season comeback in a grand way by bringing back one of the favourite villains of the young show and had the hero fight off against some big challenges, physically, mentally, and morally. It was the kind of writing that has seen the show become such a big hit in a short-amount of time, and for Arrow it is the same. The mid-season finale left things on a very grim note, with the titular hero having been killed by Ra’s al Ghul, the leader of the League of Assassins, and the wait for the mid-season premiere has been long and hard.
But, it happened this week, and I’m quite happy to say that it was a pretty damn good episode in almost every way that mattered. The writers touched on pretty much all the major plotlines, whether set in the present time or in the flashbacks in Hong Kong, and they showed how Team Arrow is moving on and handling things in Starling without the aid of Oliver, presumed dead. “Left Behind” is a great episode in the finest tradition of the show, now in the middle of its third season, and shows the entire team taking on challenges that you wouldn’t have assumed they’d take so early. That’s what I love most about the show, in addition to all the new twists on classic things, and the mid-season premiere is definitely an episode to watch.
A few days ago I did my best of 2014 list for the comics I read in the second half of 2014. And back in July of 2014, I did the first “best comics of 2014” post. The reason I mention that is because of the changes I’ve made for this list. While previously I used to do it so that I put up my top 6 comics, in July’14 I did a top 12 on account of the increased number of comics I was reading at the time. And that same holds true for this list as well since I’ve gone up on the number yet again, and this list has the top 20 and then 20 honourable mentions.
More comics, yay!
So, with the books of the second half of 2014 already having been covered, I now delve into my favourite monthly comics of the same period. The next post will be a list of the top graphic novels I read in all of 2014.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
Doing one of these posts often takes a lot out of me because of all the linking and checking and verification and formatting and everything, but lists like this also help me crystalize my year in reading, so I value them quite highly. Thankfully, I’m able to get this list out in time and most of the books on the list have already been reviewed as well, so that’s something too.
With the year 2014 now done and over, it is time to do the first of my “Best of the Year” posts, for the period 1st July to December 31st. I didn’t read as many books this time as I wanted to, primarily because I got married in the first week of July itself, and things have changed a fair bit. But life remains exciting and interesting in equal measure, and my reading also happens to match that rather closely, so I’ll take that in full indeed!
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
I’ve long wanted to play EVE Online, a game that many friends over the years have recommended to me on various levels, but I’ve never been able to get around to it. The expansive scope of the game, the concept, the visuals, the mechanics, everything is very intriguing and compelling, and any time I come across something to do with EVE Online, I get a hankering to play the game. But sadly, no time for a game requiring as much investment in time and effort as EVE. That’s actually one of the reasons I stopped playing World of WarCraft a few years back, to my continuing regret since I still have a great amount of nostalgia for that game, which I try to get around by reading the books that are published, which is where EVE: The Empyrean Age comes in.
From a bit of googling I did a while back, EVE: The Empyrean Age by Tony Gonzales is a tie-in to the EVE Online expansion The Empyrean Age. In it, the writer covers the rise of the Caldari Providence Directorate, the return of the Minmitari Elders, the return of Jamyl Sarum to the Amarr Empire, the fall of CONCORD (in a way), and several other things besides. Since I know very little of the world of EVE Online, I was initially wrong-footed by the novel, but as the pages went by, I discovered a riveting tale of interstellar politics and wars and economics that really drew me in and instilled in me a fascination for all sorts of EVE lore, making it one of the best novels I’ve read this year, even though it wasn’t published in 2014.
As with The Flash last week, we got to see some incredible things happen on Arrow as well when Team Flash came calling and ended up helping Team Arrow with apprehending a villain, Digger Harkness (future Captain Boomerang). It was quite a solemn and sombre episode broken up with the occasional humour from Team Flash, and I loved it to bits, especially the ending when the two heroes decide to do a friendly rematch of their fight in Central City from the eighth episode of The Flash, to see who really could win a fight between the two of them. No conclusions either way, but still a damn good episode.
And now, this week’s Arrow was the winter finale that finally saw Sara’s killer revealed and brought Oliver into direct confrontation with the League of Assassins, specifically the Demon’s Head Ra’s al Ghul himself. After some of the lightness of the last week, this time there is no such thing and it is Mood Serious all the way as the tension between all the characters got ramped up over and over. And Oliver didn’t have a good time over in the flashbacks either since we learn a rather game-changing revelation about his time in Hong Kong, one that I’m hoping isn’t directly carried over, personally speaking.