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Arrow “The Calm” Review (3×01)

9 Oct

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“A man cannot live by two names.”

A dilemma many superheroes must deal with is the question of how to balance a personal and a professional life, how to, in this show’s case, balance Oliver Queen and The Arrow. Throughout the season three premiere, we see that dilemma being applied not only to Oliver, but also to those who’ve come into contact with him, to those who’ve structured much of their lives around him in one form or another.

For example, Diggle’s been the loyal companion, the person who has been instrumental in many of Oliver’s successes and the person who has always stood by him. Now, though, he’s going to be a father, and Oliver elects not to bring him along to take down the new Count Vertigo. The idea of responsibility’s shifting now, the saving of lives placed up against the development of a new one, and an initial clash between Oliver and Diggle ends up blowing over after they realize that attempting to live two lives may not be the most prudent route to take.

We also have people like Lance, who’s caught between the captaincy and his penchant for field work. As he tells Laurel, this is what he’s always done, and not heading out himself to stop the bad guys seems stifling for him at first. Over time, though, it becomes clearer and clearer that living these two lives is detrimental to the Captain’s health, that what you believe you can do significantly overshoots what you actually can do.

The most overt exploration of this theme, of course, is that of Oliver Queen. He literally must confront himself in the episode when Zytle injects him with the vertigo, and what we see play out is a battle between two sides of the same coin. Admittedly, these are character beats we’ve seen countless times before on the show–and that’s one of the main faults of the episode–but there are at least several interesting elements to explore here.

The most important? Oliver and Felicity. It’s nice of the show to come right out and allow Oliver to admit his feelings for Felicity–many shows would drag the “will they-won’t they sexual tension” routine out for half the season–without it all feeling artificial. Amell and Rickards have obvious chemistry, both able to sell the relationship wonderfully and both keeping this personal side to the main character a compelling thread to follow, and although Oliver ends up deciding that he can’t live both lives, it feels only right that he try with Felicity. He says that he viewed everyone as threats or targets, but that Felicity was the first innocent person he saw, and the detail that he remembers about their first encounter says all that needs to be said about the profound impact she’s had on him. It’s not just physical–although Felicity has seen him shirtless multiple times–or simply romantic here; she holds a deep meaning within his heart.

Elsewhere, the flashbacks now bring about change, shifting to Hong Kong and setting up an Oliver who’s constantly trying to evade the grasp of Amanda Waller. In the present, newcomer Ray Palmer preaches the idea of change during his sales pitch for the Queen Consolidated bid. And, in what will surely cause a huge ripple–huge changes–in character dynamics, Sara meets her end at the hands of an unknown individual. The more things change, though, the more some things may remain the same. Oliver, at the end of it all, is still The Arrow. His city now officially accepts him, but which one is truly accepted: Oliver Queen, or The Arrow?

GRADE: B

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-Peter Stormare is always a reliable guy for villain roles.

-Porcupine flatulence.

-I’m not sure I like how the show handles the Sara plot here (cue: NOOOOOOOOOOO, SARA!). First off, Caity Lotz was fantastic and deserves a lot of credit. Second of all, the way the show brings her back just to kill her off reeks a bit of simple narrative convenience. It’s been clear for a while that the character was nearing some kind of end, but it’s still a bit rushed here.

-Sara’s never been Black Canary, but perhaps Laurel will be? I’m hoping the show will give her some more interesting material now, although let’s be honest: there’s definitely a drop-off in actress performance capabilities with the passing of the torch from Sara to Laurel.

-There’s a brutal irony in the juxtaposition of Oliver’s speech to Barry and Sara getting killed.

-Anyone else get serious Chuck vibes from this episode? We have Felicity taking on something similar to Chuck’s role at the Buy More, Brandon Routh coming in and stirring things up, and the show killing off a main character at the end of its season three premiere. Man, how I miss that show.

-Brandon Routh is really enjoyable in this role thus far. Palmer’s not a full-out douche like you might expect him to be; he’s a charming guy and a ruthless businessman and a kind person all rolled up into one.

-It’ll be interesting to see whether the show can maintain the high bar set by last season. Slade Wilson was one of the most compelling and exciting villains I’ve ever seen on television–kudos to Manu Bennett–so losing his presence is big.

-Roy’s Arsenal now. Hopefully, we’ll get some interesting stories out of that.

-I’ll try to check in frequently, although I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to cover this weekly.

Photo credit: The CW, Arrow

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