Arrow – The Calm Review
"A Strong Premiere with a Major Surprise Ending"
Everyone's favorite hooded vigilante returned for this third season on Wednesday, and man, was "The Calm" anything but. The episode contained all of the best aspects of the series: Felicity being awesome, the Arrow fighting in epic battle sequences, Detective/Captain Lance offering up witty repartee, and little to no Laurel/Thea. It was about as well-constructed of a premiere as anyone could have hoped for. Oh, and we also were given a pretty shocking death. But I'll get to all of that shortly.
I'd like to start this review off by saying how much I missed Felicity Smoak in the downtime since season two ended. On a series with pretty wooden actresses, Emily Bett Rickards is such a breath of fresh air. And, judging from her work in this episode, Felicity should have plenty to do this season, which is pretty amazing. Now that the whole Olicity situation has been tabled*, I'm hopeful that Felicity can actually get some screen time and a strong story of her own. Both Rickards and the character have earned it.
*I imagine that there will be a large number of Olicity shippers out there with pitchforks, angry that the duo is apparently not going to take their smouldering chemistry to the next level. While I certainly think Felicity and Oliver are a much better matched pair compared to him and Laurel or Sara, I honestly think that both Oliver and Felicity will be much more interesting not as a couple, as that tends to turn the girlfriend of the hero into a less fully rounded character. I'm liking this new Felicity who isn't letting Oliver mess with her head anymore. So, I'm totally on board with letting Felicity play the field a bit.
The bulk of the episode centered on the rise of yet another Count Vertigo, this time played by the always interesting Peter Stormare (or, as I like to refer to him, the awesome Russian cosmonaut in Armageddon
). Now, I'm thrilled that Stormare appeared on the series. And I'm even more thrilled that he's just been captured and jailed and isn't dead, so there's a chance he might return (the Suicide Squad needs some new members...). But I'm disappointed to see the show reusing the Vertigo plot line again.
Now, I'm not all that well-versed in the general Arrow
lore beyond the series itself, so I don't know if Vertigo is a big thing in the comic world of Arrow
, but I'm tired of continually dealing with it. Yes, it would be unreasonable to think that a party drug of this magnitude could be wiped out easily. But do we really need to have the Green Arrow consistently fighting to clear the streets of the drug? Or, could we at least tie it into a larger story arc than simply having a new kingpin pop up and having Arrow dispatch of him quickly? I'm sure this isn't the last we've seen of this particular storyline (you don't cast high profile guest stars just to have them be a one-and-done), but I would like to see the whole Vertigo story either taken to the next level or shelved for awhile.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't touch on the shocking end to the episode. Now, while I might not know a lot about Arrow's comic backstory, I do know a bit about the Black Canary (thanks WB and Birds of Prey
!), so I've been waiting to see what would be the catalyst for Laurel finally stepping into the mantle of the Canary. I have to say, I wasn't expecting it to happen this soon, particularly since the series made sure to highlight that Caity Lotz (Sara) would be appearing in at least three episodes this season. But man, killing off Sara was an excellent decision.
I've enjoyed Lotz a great deal on the series (compared to Katie Cassidy (Laurel) and Willa Holland (Thea), Lotz and Rickards were the only watchable actresses left on the series), and I think Sara is one of the more nuanced and complex characters on the show. But Laurel has consistently been one of the most poorly written and acted characters on the series since day one. One of the major reasons for the rise of the Olicity shipperverse has been that Laurel has not seemed like a viable foil for Oliver in any context. The death of Sara should be an excellent jumping off point for the show to explore additional shades of Laurel. My only worry is that Cassidy won't be up for the challenge, but as with so many other things, I'm holding out tentative hope on this front.
-- No Thea in this episode. That alone is cause for celebration. I'm hoping that, as with Laurel, acquiring deadly fighting skills turns her into a more interesting and far less whiny character.
-- I'm glad the show didn't simply drop the whole Quentin Lance is sick storyline. I was worried for a few minutes that he would be just fine and it would be as if nothing had happened.
-- Excellent work by Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer. He's going to be an interesting one to watch this season.