“The city’s under attack? Must be May!” TV shows rarely get more self-aware than that shamelessly meta comment from Lance, winking at the fact that Arrow traditionally imperils Starling in time for the season finale. This time it’s a little different, though. For once we’re spared the scenes of mass panic and urban cataclysm that defined previous finales. This is a fight for the city where the true battleground is Oliver Queen’s soul.
It begins with an epic, widescreen vibe. We see a plane swooping through dark skies, the lights of the city below. Soon the show is heroically punching above its weight again, daring to stage Con Air on a TV budget as it crashes the burning jet into a field. It’s an immediate visual cue that the stakes are raised for this long-awaited pay-off to all the mazy, twist-and-betrayal-filled plotting of season three.
Of course the first order of business is to extract Team Arrow from last week’s splendid cliffhanger. It’s a joy to see the Flash pop up – and I loved his assault on Nanda Parbat, striking like an elemental force – but his presence is quickly exposed as a glorified cameo rather than a crucial part of the plotting, and that pushes him uncomfortably close to being a scarlet-clad deus ex machina. Barry’s forced to justify why he can’t stay around to help the team save Starling, and it sounds uncomfortably like the writing team making an excuse to remove him from the narrative. He’s so damn powerful you inevitably begin to wonder why he can’t save the day every day.
Did the guy playing the surrogate Damien Darhk look familiar? That’s Christopher Heyerdahl, alias Jack “The Electrocutioner” Gruber in Gotham.
We also inch closer to the Atom getting to truly be the Atom, at last. Good to see Ray make smart use of his nano-tech but did anyone else imagine he was going to shrink to sub-atomic size to battle the Alpha-Omega virus on the molecular level? That could have been a cool sequence, but clearly they’re keeping the full reveal of his shrinking powers for next year (or possibly upcoming spin-off show Legends Of Tomorrow).
For all the masks crowding this episode – and by the end even Dig seems on the verge of assuming a crimefighting alias – this is, at heart, Oliver’s episode. His climactic fight with Ra’s on the dam feels strangely underwhelming, as if we’re not fully engaged with it – maybe the camera needed to get a little closer, a little dirtier, though there’s a magnificently satisfying squelch as Oliver runs his opponent through with a sword – but you soon realise that scene isn’t the real capper at all. It’s the act of Felicity restoring Oliver’s mojo that really completes this season’s arc for its title character – and perhaps the entire three years of Arrow so far. The words “My name is Oliver Queen” may just be the sound of a man reclaiming his life.
So Oliver gets the gift of a happy ending, but does it ring entirely true? Perhaps his declaration of love for Felicity doesn’t wholly convince, for all that it’ll undoubtedly delight the Olicity fans (and god knows they need some happiness after this season’s endless teasing). It feels more like the writers manoeuvering characters into place for a steal from The Dark Knight Rises’ coda, the hero abandoning a life of crimefighting for sunshine and love. Christopher Nolan could sell that in the final film of a trilogy but it’s a harder proposition in episodic television. As viewers we know he’ll be back behind the mask in a matter of months. But might it be a lighter, brighter Oliver next time around – and will that give us a show more tonally attuned to stablemate The Flash? You never know, Starling City may just need to brace itself for talking gorillas…
Thea considers using the name Red Arrow to fight crime – an alias first used by the DCU’s Roy Harper in the pages of Kingdom Come.
Did You Spot?
Lance references “the Andreyko case”. Marc Andreyko is a comic book writer, best known for penning the adventures of vigilante hero Manhunter. He’s now writing Wonder Woman ’77, set in the continuity of the ‘70s TV show.
Did You Also Spot?
The traffic lights are down for twenty minutes at Adams & O’Neil, we’re told – yet another call-out to Silver Age creative team Neal Adams and Denny O’Neil, artist and writer on the groundbreaking Green Lantern/Green Arrow.
Arrow is broadcast in the UK on Sky 1 HD.
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