For its mid season finale, Arrow did their own spin on Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol; transforming the cautionary tale of Scrooge into a story where Oliver (Stephen Amell) finally accepts himself as a hero. Following last week’s setup, my expectations for “Three Ghosts” were high and I’m pleased to say I wasn’t let down.
The ghosts of Oliver’s past are Shado (Celina Jade), Slade (Manu Bennet), and Tommy (Colin Donnell); each friends he couldn’t save and each come to him as hallucinations – survivor’s guilt, David Ramsey‘s Diggle tells him – to impart some wisdom. Shado warns Oliver to give up being The Arrow before everyone around him gets killed, Slade tells him he isn’t fighting to avenge his father but rather to atone for his own sins, and Tommy comes to apologize for calling him a murderer and tell Oliver he’s a hero who fights back because someone must. These three ghosts take Oliver on an emotional arc that eventually brings him to accepting his role as Starling City’s savior and hero, signified by his donning of the mask by episode’s end; a gift from Barry Allen (Grant Gustin).
(Random observation, but when Ollie is hallucinating Slade and the two end up fighting in the Arrow Cave, breaking a bunch of stuff, is that just Ollie throwing himself around and into the glass cases? Couldn’t have hallucinated himself not destroying stuff, could he?)
And I appreciate that Arrow took the time to give a plausible reason for Ollie using the greasepaint from the get go instead of a mask. Sure, we’re meant to believe it was all part of his journey to herodom, but he says there’s no mask that doesn’t impede his vision and accuracy while on the job. So Barry makes him one. What a little genius, that one. And Oliver has Barry to thank for more than just a new mask as he was, obviously, able to counteract the blood coagulant Oliver was injected with last week. This doesn’t stop Oliver from freaking out on Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) for revealing his secret identity to Barry. But I mean, come on, he would have died otherwise. Chill out and show some gratitude, Olives.
Far better than in its first season, the storytelling technique of using the island flashbacks to provide extra information and development alongside Oliver’s problems in the present day has become more effective. These two paralleling plot lines have been slowly melding together and with the introduction of Miracle, or Mirakuru, are now deeply connected. More so than Ollie learning to fight and survive on the island and translating those skills to urban vigilantism, the discovery of Miracle on the island has a direct effect on the drug’s appearance in Starling City, and this Season 2 arc is all the stronger for it.
Soo… how does Professor Ivo’s (Dylan Neal) discovery five years earlier come into the hands of Brother Blood (Kevin Alejandro)? If you’ll remember, in a last ditch effort to save Slade’s life, Oliver chose to inject him with Miracle, which ended up killing him. Not long after that Ivo discovers Ollie, Shado, and Sarah (Caity Lotz) and quickly takes them as well as the stash of Miracle from the submarine. With the super-serum in his possession Ivo gives Oliver an ultimatum: both women held at gunpoint Oliver must decide which lives or both will die. In the end, after Oliver moves to save Sarah, Shado is shot and killed.
I believe I missed a bit of crucial information which could have explained Ivo’s reasoning for the ultimatum, but it’s obvious the purpose it serves in the story. After Shado is killed Slade awakens having “miraculously” survived the injection of Miracle. Disoriented, he catches up with Ivo and upon seeing Shado’s lifeless body, goes ballistic, and brutally kills Ivo’s men (Ivo, somehow, manages to escape). Blaming Oliver for Shado’s death the two are odds, leaving Shado’s fate serving no other purpose than to cause angst between Slade and Oliver.
For a series that features a variety of interesting and capable women characters, to see Shado’s death used primarily as motivation for two male characters is a disappointment. And on top of that, to see Shado die at all is a real shame as I was not only enjoying her character, but her budding relationship with Slade. Guess I should have realized there was only one way it was going to end, huh?
Still, how does this bring Miracle to Startling City? In a fantastic end of episode reveal we’re introduced to Blood’s supplier. Shot from behind we can only hear his voice but it is instantly recognizable. Slade Wilson survived the island and is seeking revenge on Oliver Queen. He’s providing Blood with a samples of his blood, allowing the alderman – who’s now officially running for mayor – to manufacture Miracle. As for how Slade’s looking all these years later, he’s seen wearing that iconic eye-patch and his hair has become streaked with white. This is the Slade Wilson, nay the Deathstroke, fans will recognize and while revealing him as this season’s “big bad” may not be totally shocking, it is no less welcomed. Even if the white at his temples literally looks like someone sprayed it on with hair paint.
Besides pep talks from ghosts, the unfortunate fridging of Shado, and Slade’s backing of Brother Blood there’s still LOTS that happened in this mid-season finale. Dropping in another fun tidbit of DC Comics’ lore, Blood’s only Miracle surviving henchmen is revealed to be Cyrus Gold, a.k.a. Solomon Grundy. He’s no zombie, but as a super strong, mindless killer he might as well be. The Solomon Grundy poem comes up more than once, initially seen in Gold’s apartment, and it’s just another great little wink to the hardcore fans.
Oh! And remember how last week my absolute favorite part was Roy (Colton Haynes) getting shot by Oliver in the leg? Wel, Arrow got my hopes up really high that we’d see Roy kick the bucket this episode after he’s capture by Blood – yes, Roy Harper, always the damsel in distress – and injected with Miracle. And he does die, but only to be brought back to life, fully healed from his arrow wound and now likely sporting super powers. Hey, at least he’ll be more useful, as long as he can stop being so wholly inept and ineffectual in everything he does. Also, neither Thea (Willa Holland) or Sin (Bex Taylor-Klaus) thought to remove that arrow from Roy’s leg? Really!?
Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) gets himself all fucked up and several other police officers killed (I must say, this was quite the violent episode of Arrow.) when they try to take down Gold. Not much comes of this other than reminding us how formidable someone doped on Miracle can be, and to let us know Laurel (Katie Cassidy) still cares for dad. Oh, and she’s banging Blood. Or at least they go Christmas shopping. Basically, when the series returns in January there’s going to be some serious tension between Oliver, Laurel, and Blood, I’m sure of it.
Last, but most definitely not least, Barry returns to Central City just in time for S.T.A.R. Lab’s controversial particle accelerator to turn on. Malfunctioning, the accelerator appears to explode sending streaks of electrical energy into an already stormy sky. Blocks away in Barry’s apartment/lab, lightening strikes through a skylight sending Barryhurtling backwards through shelves of chemicals. The Flash is born. It’s a little surprising but fantastic to see Arrow go with the classic, old school Flash origin rather than some newfangled birth of Barry’s powers. All that’s left is to wait and see how the speedster is brought to life in his own TV series, coming soon the CW.
And with that, the first half of Arrow‘s second season ends. “Three Ghosts” was an extremely satisfying midway conclusion, and where they’re taking the series next looks only better. For a show I was only slightly interested in to begin with, often only watching out of an obligation to write these recap/reviews, I am genuinely excited for Arrow‘s return in January 15th.