'Arrow' Recap: 'The Calm'

One day after The Flash hit, and hit hard, we have the season premiere of Arrow, the series that kickstarted DC Entertainment’s live-action television efforts into high gear. When Arrow debuted in 2012, it was pretty much the only superhero game in town, but now there’s some stiff competition. Does Arrow remain competitive? Read on!

We kick off Wednesday’s Season 3 premiere with an opening that reminds us just how awesome our crew of heroes is, as Ollie, Diggle and Roy take down a semi-truck filled with stolen armaments. Of course, guiding them in her Oracle-like role is fan-favorite Felicity Smoak. The sequence feels similar to the opening of The Dark Knight, as Starling City is in better shape than ever, thanks to the constant presence of Arrow and his band of vigilantes. And, oh yeah, Roy Harper looks awesome. It’s comforting to finally see the red and green bowmen side by side; in the comic books, Ollie and Roy have been together since the Golden Age, but this is the first time on Arrow the two have appeared together, wearing close proximities to their classic costumes. It’s long overdue.

Things are going well for our heroes. Roy may miss Thea Queen (who was only briefly mentioned in this episode), but he’s comfortable in his role as Speedy/Arsenal/Red Arrow/unnamed vigilante who wears red. Felicity is as content as always being the woman behind the scenes, and even the usually brooding Ollie appears happy with the job he and his merry men are doing. Diggle is still the team’s rock, but he’s about to set off on a new adventure as a father. So there’s great joy within Starling’s finest. But of course, we know that can’t last.

With happiness as a theme, this episode’s main focus is the budding romance between Oliver and Felicity. The two briefly go on a date, but we all know a superhero and his romantic interest can’t enjoy an Italian restaurant together (just ask Rachel Dawes and Bruce Wayne): While Ollie and Felicity test the waters of romance, this week’s villain, Vertigo, attacks.

We’ve kind of seen a Vertigo before, in the form of the drug-pushing Count (who produced a drug called Vertigo), but this version is more in line with the foreign menace familiar to fans of the comics. A conceited man hungry for power and thirsty for violence, Count Vertigo has long been one of the few villains almost exclusive to Oliver’s rogues gallery. It’s cool to see the series extend the legacy of a villain, to see that not every threat Arrow faces is a one-and-done, and that their legacies can continue in unexpected directions. Now, we’ve had the Count and we’ve had Vertigo, and even though latter is defeated by episode’s end, he will always be the baddie that cost Oliver a meaningful romantic bond with Felicity.

Rest easy, Arrow fans, Felicity isn’t killed, but she is injured in Vertigo’s attack, forcing Ollie to realize he can’t maintain his mission and find happiness with such a special woman. So he gives up his pursuit of Felicity while making it clear he still loves her. Oliver is left alone, but Felicity, the woman who’s truly the relatable point-of-view character; there could be another romantic possibility on the horizon in the form of a new, yet familiar, character that arrives in Starling City.

Could comic fans ever imagine Ray Palmer would appear on television, played by an actor who once portrayed Superman, no less, the always-delightful Brandon Routh? He’s even better than expected here, as the series doesn’t go for the obvious love-triangle route. It would’ve been so easy for Arrow to introduce a scumbag to compete for Felicity’s affections, but instead, the producers introduce a man who’s known to fans to be just as altruistic as Ollie. And, hey, he keeps gadgets in his belt. Plus, Ray, who’s not only competing with Ollie for Felicity but for Queen Industries, wants to rename Starling City as Star City.

Ray may be Oliver’s rival in the boardroom, but Vertigo is the enemy he has to take down this week. The villain’s attack not only cost Oliver lasting love Felicity but also the services of his longtime partner John Diggle. As Oliver realizes he can never settle down, he sees how blessed Diggle, the expecting father, truly is. He dismisses Dig, who angrily protests, until he sees his newborn daughter and realizes his responsibilities as a father outweighs his work as a vigilante. It will be interesting to see how Diggle will play into this season if he’s not Oliver’s right-hand man.

So Ollie’s squad fell by two this week. We’ll get to the second departure in a minute (I’m still verklempt), but first let’s mention the flashback sequences. Arrow has always been split into two parallel narratives: the present-day events in Starling City story and those that occurred five years earlier on the fateful island that forged Oliver Queen into a hero. The island stuff has been great, but going back to that well a third time could have been tedious, something the producers must have realized, as this season, the flashbacks take place in Hong Kong. This week we get to see more of Amanda Waller’s manipulation of Oliver, and the introduction of Tatsu Yamashiro (played by The Wolverine’s Rila Fukushima), whom DC fans will recognize as Katana, and her husband Maseo. There’s not much background material introduced for these new players, but I’m excited that their established DC characters.

Now, the elephant in the room: Laurel Lance seems happier and healthier than we’ve seen her in a long time. She is dedicated to her job, off the pills and booze, and for the first time in a long time, she’s in a good place with her father (now a captain), with Oliver and with her sister Sara. With Laurel so content, the death of Sara is even more brutal. That’s right: After Sara, aka Canary, helps Oliver defeat Vertigo, she’s shockingly struck by arrows. As she plunges off the roof and crashes lifeless at Laurel’s feet, we’re reminded just how important Sara was to just about all of the characters. This is going to be a brutal, seismic event with wide-ranging ramifications. But the first question we must ask is, naturally, who killed Sara? I have theories, but I’ll save them for another time. No matter who it was, it could mean some black leather and a staff is in Laurel’s future.

All in all, Arrow started as strong as it ended last season, with the arrival of a familiar DC villain and an even more familiar hero, along with the death of a character we’ve grown to care deeply about. With Palmer and Katana on board, the series is more entrenched in DC lore than ever before. And if those two future heroes aren’t enough, a fledgling Scarlet Speedster also pays Ollie a brief visit this week.

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