Thursday, June 4, 2015

Review of Arrow: Season 3

 As some of you may know, I was a little late jumping on the Arrow bandwagon. I didn't start watching the first season until the second season was over. Once I had, however, I had to wait several months, by which time the third season had started, before I could watch the second season.

As a result of all of this, my review of the first season didn't come out until well over a year after the season had ended, and my review of the second season didn't come out until about six months after that season had ended. And because I binge-watched the second season, I was able to watch most of the episodes of the third season within days (and often within hours) of when they aired. And so my review of Season Three comes less than a month after the season ended.

As with my second season review, I will mention some minor spoilers for some of this season's episodes, I will avoid major spoilers for the overall arc of the season. But as I can't do justice to this review without discussing things that happened during the first two seasons, there will be some major spoilers for the events in the series that happened prior to the start of Season Three.

So before you read any further, SPOILER ALERT!

A new logo was issued for Season Three
Season Three starts several months after the end of the second season. And things are as good for the Arrow and his team as they've ever been since he began his crusade as the vigilante known as “The Hood” two years earlier. As a result of Team Arrow's victory over Deathstroke's terrorist attack on Starling City, Oliver and Roy have been publicly recognized as heroes and have brought crime in Starling City to an all time low. Officer Lance has been promoted to Captain and has disbanded the anti-vigilante task force. Laurel is doing her part working for the District Attorney's office by prosecuting the criminals Oliver and Roy catch. And Diggle and Lyla are expecting their first baby.

A poster depicting Team Arrow during the third season

Though not everything is perfect for our heroes. Oliver has lost control of his company and is now broke. Nobody has heard anything from Thea since she left Starling City during the second season finale. Roy is struggling with keeping the fact that he knows why Thea left a secret from Oliver. And Felicity has been reduced to working a low paying tech support job at a computer store.

Oliver's opening monologue for most of the third season is: “My name is Oliver Queen. After five years in hell, I have come home with only one goal- to save my city. Now others have joined my crusade. To them, I'm Oliver Queen. To the rest of Starling City, I am someone else. I am something else.”

Early in the season, Oliver and Felicity begin to explore their romantic feelings for each other, but as is often the case for these characters, whenever someone starts to experience happiness, disaster strikes.

And as disaster strikes, Oliver comes into conflict with trying to maintain his identities as Oliver Queen and the Arrow. As he says in an early ad for the season, "I thought I could be Oliver Queen and the Arrow. But I can't." Throughout the season, he struggles with the dilemma of wanting to have both a normal life as Oliver, but realizes that in trying to do so, he puts those he loves in danger due to his enemies who have it out for the Arrow. Though other superheroes have dealt with a similar problem, it is still interesting to see how Oliver chooses to face it (or not face it, as is sometimes the case).

Oliver experiences an identity crisis
During the second season, the League of Assassins was introduced and Ra's al Ghul was mentioned. But both play a much bigger role in the third season. As with Malcolm Merlyn in the first season, and Deathstroke in the second season, Ra's al Ghul is the main villain of the third season, and much of the season revolves around Oliver's conflict with Ra's and the League and trying to find a way to defeat them, as that is the only way he can keeps his loved ones and his city safe.

Ra's al Ghul, played by Matt Nable
As with the earlier seasons, the third season is full of twists and turns. Some things happened that I definitely did not see coming. Some of them definitely left me shocked.

The third season also sees a number of changes between many of the major characters Some of these relationships improve, others get much worse, and still others move back and forth between the two. For several of the characters, their relationships with each other will never be the same.

Malcolm Merlyn, played by John Barrowman
This season also saw Malcolm Merlyn being brought into the main cast, and much more is revealed about his motivations and what drives him to do what he does. The season also contained flashbacks that showed not only his origin story, but also that of Deadshot and Felicity Smoak. And as I mentioned before, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Ray Palmer brought in as a recurring guest star this season, seeing him build the Atom suit, and watching him develop into a hero in his own right.

Ray Palmer/The Atom, played by Brandon Routh
The season also contained one major crossover with The Flash, as well as several guest appearances of characters from The Flash (For that matter, there was also one major crossover with Arrow on The Flash, along with several episdodes with guest appearances of characters from Arrow. But I'll save those for my review of the first season of The Flash). I really enjoyed seeing how characters from I've come to love from both shows interact with one another. The contrast between Barry and Oliver in particular is very interesting to watch. They are both heroes, but each have very different methods. In spite of this, they each not only admire and respect one another, but they also learn and grow from their interactions with each other.

A screenshot from the Arrow/Flash crossover
Though I did enjoy this season, I found that it to be a bit of a let down from the previous seasons. Though the overall story was good, it didn't live up to its potential as much as it could have. Often, though I couldn't quite put my finger on it, I was left with a sense that something was missing or was coming up a little short of what it should have been.

In addition, some of the characterization seemed off to me. Starting with Roy, even though he was part of the main cast this season, his role seemed much more diminished than in the previous seasons. And many of the episodes that did attempt to center around him just didn't quite do him justice. They attempt to deal with Roy's guilt about learning that he killed a cop while being influenced by Mirakuru last season, but it never quite felt authentic to me. Roy also seemed too mellow compared to how he was portrayed before. While, it's true that much of his anger and rage during the second season was due to the Mirakuru, gone is the anger and much of the passion that we saw in him in the first season and the first half of the second season.

Though his characterization may have been a bit lacking,,
Roy did get an awesome new costume and code name this season
I also found some of the characterization of Malcolm Merlyn to be off, as well as his relationships with both Oliver and Thea. Though I get that parts of Malcolm's personality conflict with each other, the extremes he bounces back and forth between don't fit with how he was portrayed in earlier seasons. In addition, with Thea, and to a lesser extent, Oliver, I find them to alternate too much with at times being far too forgiving of his actions while and being far too accepting.

And while I enjoyed seeing the conflict that developed between Oliver and both Felicity and Diggle, it just didn't fit like I felt it should. I lost track of how many times during this season Felicity said something along the lines of “We are not seriously even considering this, are we?” And nearly every time she did, it just felt out of character for her.

So overall, while the third season of Arrow was enjoyable, it didn't quite live up to the same standards as the previous two seasons. While I've heard rumors that the reason for the drop in quality is that many of the regular writers for the first two seasons started writing primarily for The Flash (which in my opinion had an excellent first season), they may or may not be true, But if they are, I fear that the same thing may happen with The Flash when Legends of Tomorrow launches next year.

Despite the problems mentioned, I still did enjoy Season Three. Even when falling a bit short of the bar the series set earlier on, I found it was still very much worth watching. I just didn't get quite as excited about it as I did for the earlier seasons (or for The Flash, for that matter). My only hope is that next season we see a return to the quality that marked the first two seasons. This is a show that I still definitely intend to continue watching.

Season Four of Arrow begins this fall

And if you're a fan of the Arrowverse, or even just of superheroes in general, keep watching in the coming weeks for when my review of the first season of The Flash.

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