There was a scene in The Simpsons episode “Krusty Gets Kancelled” where the Itchy & Scratchy show abandons Krusty the Klown for the all-new, all-different Gabbo Show. Krusty is left only with the bizarro Soviet cartoon Worker and Parasite and after 30 nearly incomprehensible seconds we cut to Krusty smoking a cigarette and saying exasperatedly, “What the hell was that?!” That’s kind of how I feel having watched Arrow’s third season finale. I sat there, looking at the TV, saying, “What the hell was that?!” Not the whole finale, the action was dope, the character interaction pretty effective, and there were some interesting moments with fascinating long-term implications for the series, but seriously, What the hell was that?!
Problem number one: back-up plans inside of back-up plans. Exactly when did Oliver and Merlyn sit down and game theory the $#@% out the final showdown with Ra’s al Ghul? Merlyn used science magic to inoculate Team Arrow against the virus, Oliver sabotaged the plane to kill himself, Ra’s and everyone in the League on a mission to wipe out Starling, at some point Nyssa seemed to get in on the scheme, but if all else fails then Team Arrow was to rally and save the day as per Oliver’s proxy representative Merlyn. And people thought Inception was hard to follow.
Naturally, Plans A, B, C, and D all fail. But out of failure comes opportunity, as Oliver and team learn that all of Ra’s sermonizing about cleansing oneself by wiping out your hometown was a smoke screen to get his own arch-nemesis, Damien Darhk, the head of H.I.V.E. Perhaps it was naive to expect that we’d get a look at Mr. Darhk, but it added a surprising bit of pettiness to Ra’s story that he would set all this up to get the guy that got away. In the midst of a very busy season finale though, it was really just a pointless distraction taking time out to tease the already acknowledged villain of season four.
Ultimately, despite the build-up and the fire power brought to bear against Ra’s and the League, the cataclysm was really terribly disappointing. This isn’t the first time Ra’s tried to kill a city with a virus, his first attempt was in the comic storyline Contagion that ran through the Batman family of comics. Now that would have been a helluva way to cap a season of Arrow, instead of just a couple of dead bodies stopped by the magical cure-all of Ray Palmer’s nanites. The season began with people noting that Starling had become a magnet for total urban chaos of Hellmouth proportions, hence Palmer’s “Star City” gambit, which is a thing I don’t think has been mentioned in any episode since the premiere.
So Starling gets a break (or “The city’s under attack so it must be May,” as Captain Lance put it), and the season comes down to a sword fight between Oliver and Ra’s at the dam. I gather it was supposed to play as an emotional crescendo that the entire season’s been building up to, and the music had a definite “Dual of the Fates” quality, but by this point I was more invested in the story being over than in getting a satisfactory resolution to it. Ra’s suddenly being so easy to defeat was also kind of off-note, it’s almost like Ra’s wasn’t even trying. It’s also weird that the moral ambiguity of Oliver killing Ra’s isn’t addressed. Not even once.
Ra’s beatability wasn’t the only development that wasn’t set up with any kind of reliability. Captain Lance started drinking again because of Laurel’s betrayal, which is an intriguing turn for the captain, but one that wasn’t given any air at all because Lance has been MIA the last couple of weeks. Nice of the show to squeeze in a little bit of character development before the year was through, but it was too little, too late. There was some good stuff for Lance for a few weeks there, but mostly this season’s been bust for the captain, a victim of being left out of the loop for too long and seemingly having less to do than Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara as how they were played in the 1960s Batman. Did they ever leave the office?
So Oliver is the new Ra’s after all, right? Well, technically. But apparently transferring ownership of the League of Assassins is as easy as transferring ownership of a major company without the knowledge of the recipient (another story point that wasn’t touched upon in the finale). In the end we see Merlyn as the new Ra’s, apparently the price for helping Oliver beat the original Ra’s, with Nyssa by his side promising tenuous obedience. So the rest of the League is going to just follow the guy that was persona non grata like a week ago and ask no questions? I know that the League demands loyalty, but there was no one in a black mask that did a double take at being told they’re taking orders from Merlyn now?
There were some good parts. David Ramsey got a chance to stretch as Diggle, showing both anger for the way Oliver treated the team, but also wise pragmatism that they all had to work together to accomplish the mission. I also like Diggle’s reaction of pride to being helped by Thea as the new Arsenal, or make that Speedy. It was a small thing, and one that will obviously be played up next year, but it’s again interesting to note that Team Arrow is now a majority female operation. The consensus amongst the Nerd Bastards to the new Supergirl trailer was almost universally negative, but it will be interesting to watch two women in the form of Black Canary and Speedy make Starling’s criminals quake come season four.
I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the cameo of the Flash. Grant Gustin was a breath of fresh air with the high octane kick-off the episode and flawless comedic delivery of the line, “You guys have a hot tub?” The Flash might have been handy to have around later when it was revealed that four League assassins were the carriers of the virus using their own bodies as delivery methods, but he had to go because he’s “overdue for a pointed conversation with Harrison Wells.” Fair enough, as for Tatsu, she had to leave because her storyline was over, I mean she had to return to her life of solitude.
The flashback this week focused on the fallout of Akio’s death, which prompts Oliver to torture General Shrieve for hours in retaliation. And did we see the origin of the immortal words, “You have failed this city?” There was something compelling about the way Oliver’s two journey’s were juxtaposed. In Hong Kong, we see him make his biggest leap yet into becoming the person who would return to Starling three years ago; in the modern day, we see Oliver walk away from the life he knows to embrace the life he wants, driving into the sunset with Felicity by his side. And he’s happy.
It almost seemed like a series finale rather than a season finale. It’s got to be a happiness that’s bound to be short-lived because this is Arrow, and Arrow needs an Arrow. How will the writers clean up this mess, I wonder. All the Arrow-Cave’s components were carefully put away in evidence storage, so the gear is ready when Oliver is. While I understand the underline reasons Oliver can’t suit up again as the Arrow, I’m not sure why he can’t suit up as an Arrow, like taking up a new vigilante archer identity. Wells’ newspaper scan from the future mentions a “Green Arrow,” so when the show comes back in the fall, I expect that the show’s evolution of Ollie to something closer to his comic book self will make another leap forward.
So that brings an end to this year’s Arrow coverage. Admittedly, it was a disappointing ride, but Stephen Amell and Co. are still a compelling group, and while not all the choices made this year worked, season three is still the year that gave us Speedy, Black Canary, a lot of humor in the form of interactions with the Flash cast, and a couple of notable guest appearances including Nick Tarabay as Captain Boomerang, Rila Fukushima as Tatsu/Katana, and Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer, who will now be spun off with the Legends of Tomorrow despite the fact that it looks like he blew himself up along with the top floor of Palmer Technology. I’m sure he’ll be fine though.
So with only occasional posts for news and casting announcements between now and October, we’ll see you here for more Arrow in the fall.