The CW’s superhero series Arrow re-imagines Green Arrow for a TV audience as a tough, often ruthless vigilante bent on setting things right in his home of Starling City by punishing the wicked. ComicsAlliance’s Matt Wilson is here to wrap up the third season of the popular series in our recap feature we’re dubbing Pointed Commentary.

This week: Everything comes to a head in the big finale! Viruses unleashed! Feelings laid bare! Decisions made! Lives ended! Alcoholism pep talked away! Explosions exploded!

  • The Cold Open

    Last week, we left of with Ollie dropping a vial of the alpha/omega bio-weapon in Team Arrow's spacious, shared cell at Assassins HQ. They were pretty much dead.

    But, of course, they aren't. They all wake up coughing as Malcolm explains that he was able to subcutaneously dose them all with a vaccine synthesized from Ollie's blood (because he got the vaccine in Hong Kong) that he had in a skin graft on his hand (?) which he then removes from his palm (??).

    Setting aside how absurd that is (it's actually very Batman '66, which means I can't really hate it, it's been established that's not how that vaccine works. Ollie, Katana and Maseo didn't go unconscious when they were exposed to the virus. They just kept on truckin'. Team Arrow was simply knocked out by plot contrivance. Only Malcolm knew he was supposed to act dead.

    Malcolm explains that the whole we're-killing-you-whoops-j/k thing was intended to get Ollie back into the good graces of Ra's, who didn't trust him after last week's Team Arrow plan to attack that tiny, decoy plane that they though was going to dump a virus on Starling City. The death act solidified it again.

    After some grumbling about being not killed, Team Arrow starts wondering how they're going to get out of the cell. Cue The Flash, who shows up to open the cell (Who contacted him? How did he know exactly what time to arrive?), give a quick pep talk about how Starling needs Team Arrow, and blast away without even offering a ride home. He all but says, "I have to go be in my own season finale now." Team Arrow runs off to go get back on the plane on which they arrived, which the assassins have conveniently not smashed.

    Team Arrow encounters Katana on the way out, and encourages her to come with, but Katana says she must "return to [her] life of solitude," because she's the saddest character you can imagine.

    Meanwhile, Ollie's wakes up on a plane with Ra's, Nyssa (who's sitting way far away from them) and a bunch of assassins. They're on their way to Starling to deliver the bioweapon. Ollie says he was dreaming and Ra's launches into one of his long granddad anecdotes about how there are only three kinds of dreams or whatever. I assume the assassins just constantly tune out his droning on and on about absolutely nothing.

    Anyway, Ollie says he was dreaming about his rebirth as Ra's, and it's so fakey that it should already be an indication that he's not sincere. Has he been this bad at hiding it the whole time?

    Ra's shows off a gold, full-finger ring that, to my knowledge, we've never seen before. (Or at least it's never been pointed to this directly. He definitely wasn't wearing it during the mountain fight back in episode 9.) Apparently, it's the key sign of someone having the title of Ra's al Ghul, and extremely important. It's really there so the title can be passed off easily later.

    After a while, two of the plane's engines explode, and Ra's blames Nyssa for the sabotage. Ollie quickly jumps up and says it was him, adding, "My name is Oliver Queen." You know, that thing he says in voiceover at the beginning of every show? That's not the only time that happens. Everyone starts fighting.

    The plane's rear door opens and Nyssa just starts tossing out assassins. It's wonderful. Ollie fights Ra's to a standstill, so Ra's grabs the only parachute on the plane (why only bring one?) and bails, vowing to destroy Starling and continue hounding Ollie for the rest of his life.

    The pilot runs out of the cockpit with the sorriest attack you've ever seen. Nyssa and Ollie deal with him quickly and run to the plane's controls. Ollie, who is officially now a crack pilot, says the hydraulics are out, so he has Nyssa activate the landing gear manually. They crash-land the CGI plane on some CGI ground.

    That's just the cold open.

  • The Action

    Team Arrow rallies at Palmer Tech to set up their plan of attack. Malcolm starts barking orders about containing the bio-attack and mobilizing a task force. Smoak and Laurel don't really like his tone, but Dig says they have to listen to him right now.

    Ollie and Nyssa drop in (literally, they fall from the ceiling) and calm, level headed Dig reacts to that by clocking Ollie on the jaw. Everyone leaves during this moment of intense crisis so Ollie, Smoak and Dig can have a leisurely chat.

    Ollie starts in with the explanations: He had to keep Malcolm close to learn about the League; he had to stay in Ra's' good graces to find out how he would attack Starling (which was definitely going to happen as part of Ollie's ascension). Oh, and also, he was definitely planning to die on that plane as a means of killing Ra's. Fully half of Ollie's plans this season have involved dying.

    Dig can't believe Ollie would trust Malcolm before he trusted him. Smoak's more upset about Ollie's death wish. Ollie insists that it was "the only way," but it clearly wasn't because they're fighting Ra's now, and he's alive. Ollie says he's glad he lived so he could apologize to his friends. Dig won't accept it, but quickly pivots to "we've got bigger fish to fry."

    The team launches into investigation mode. Nyssa and Dig discover that Ra's hasn't contacted any local League cells. Smoak has discovered several weird occurrences around the city — power spikes and the like — and one of those involves the top floor of a hotel being closed off for one Damien Darhk, Ra's' old nemesis.

    Ollie figures that Ra's had an ulterior motive for wanting to wipe out Starling: Kill Darhk in the process. He decides to go grab Darhk and hand him over to Ra's. Malcolm calls the plan "incredibly cold-blooded," so he approves.

    The team quickly secures the hotel and Ollie swings down to face down Darhk. What he gets instead is a low-rent Bill Nighy who quickly reveals he's not Darhk at all, just some lackey in a suit who is there merely to say Darhk skipped town when he found out Ra's was there. He's also there to die, which he does when an arrow comes flying in from behind him.

    Ra's speaks to Ollie via the lackey's cell phone (I think, or maybe he's just got a direct line into Ollie's brain at this point), telling him that he set his bio-weapon plan in motion 10 minutes ago (like a less-punctual Ozymandias, which they already kind of pulled in season one's finale).  Not only that, he's releasing it in four different places via four "instruments of death." Team Arrow can't get to them all in time!

    Look, Ra's, babe. I'm not here to tell you how to unleash your supervillain plans. You're the expert. But maybe just let the hero believe you're only unleashing it in one place while you really release four, so that the plan definitely works? Just a thought.

    After a brief scene where Laurel gets the cops on Team Arrow's side (more on that in a bit), everyone splits up and tries to find those "instruments of death." Apparently, the alpha/omega gives off a bit of a signature visible by satellite, like radiation, so Smoak and Palmer can see it. Palmer works on getting his ATOM suit outfitted with an "inoculant" to help contain the virus while the rest of the team sets out their assigned locations.

    In his spot, Dig sees a guy carrying a briefcase and starts chasing him down. He catches up to him, but the guy pulls a sneak attack and bonks Dig on the head with the briefcase. It looks like he's got Dig dead to rights, but then, Thea, in Roy's Arsenal costume (but it's totally redesigned and fits her now) shoots the guy with some arrows.

    Dig opens the briefcase and finds it empty. He quickly deduces that it's the guy himself that's carrying the bioweapon. The dude slits his own throat, which...releases the gas, I guess? Makes him more contagious? I don't know how this virus works.

    Dig starts telling the good citizens of Starling to stay back, so, of course, they panic and run wildly in every direction. Some get infected. Starling crowds are the most consistent characters on the show. Too bad they didn't have homemade signs. That was a missed opportunity.

    Elsewhere, Malcolm, Canary and Nyssa take down additional virus carriers. When Canary takes down hers, Nyssa observes that she trained Laurel well, which means maybe, finally, terrible fighter Laurel is a thing of the past.

    They all say they're going to take the bodies of the infected dudes somewhere safe, but we don't see where that is.

    During all this, Ollie just chills out on top of a building giving out orders. Ra's calls him up and invites him to fight him at Starling City Dam. Ollie asks why he should do that instead of saving the people of Starling, and Ra's says it's because Ollie definitely wants to know if he can beat him in a one-on-one fight. That's enough to get Ollie to abandon saving thousands of people to fight an end boss one more time.

    When Ollie arrives, Ra's says he actually wins either way. If Ollie kills him, he takes the mantle of Ra's al Ghul. If he kills Ollie, the city dies. They start fighting. As they do, Ra's observes that Ollie has changed, in that he wants to live now (more on that later).

    Just beyond the dam, a cop watches the fight and tells Captain Lance that he has orders to shoot both Ra's and Ollie when he can get a clear shot. Lance says, "Hey maybe don't?" but the cop says the orders override Lance's authority (who the hell are they from, then?).

    Lance calls Smoak and warns her about this. Smoak turns to Palmer and says he has to take the ATOM suit to the dam to save Ollie. Palmer, quite rightly, says that he's preparing the suit to go save thousands of people from a bio-attack. Smoak goes, "But Ollie!"

    Back on the dam, Ollie stabs the ever loving crap out of Ra's. As he's dying, Ra's says he chose his successor well. Ollie says the prayer Ra's said when he stabbed him on the mountain, and Ra's dies.

    Just then, the cops shoot Ollie off the dam, and Atom flies in and grabs him before he can hit the water. They land elsewhere and — guess what — it's Smoak in the suit. Smoak says she'd kiss Ollie, but she can't get the helmet off.

    Later, on Starling's One News Station, a report states that the virus was contained by an inoculant rumored to have been developed by Palmer Tech. So wait, how did Palmer get that out to everyone? Smoak took his ATOM suit. Are there two of them?

    Also, did he synthesize a cure for the virus that Shrieve said last week there is definitely no cure for? Or did the people who got infected die? We'll never know.

  • Relationship Stuff

    First, there's Ollie and Smoak.

    As I mentioned, she's pretty angry with him about the whole trying-to-die thing, but at one point she brings him a cup of coffee at Palmer Tech. They talk, and Ollie reveals that he has had a recurring dream about taking her advice and not going off to fight Ra's on a mountain. In the best versions of the dream, they drive off together and live happily.

    Smoak says she knows that can't ever happen, because of Ollie's responsibilities. But, she says, Ollie has become "something else... someone else" (there's that opening voiceover again). He's changed because he's "allowed himself to feel something." She adds, "Don't fight to die. Fight to live."

    That seems to be the clincher. She should be a motivational speaker.

    By the end of the episode, Ollie tells Team Arrow that they're all true heroes, and as a result, he doesn't need to be Arrow anymore. He's quitting, and he and Smoak are going to go somewhere far away together.

    That sends Dig out of the room in a huff. As he's waiting for the elevator, Ollie approaches and tells him that he's "my rock." Dig takes that surprisingly well for being such a cliche, but says he doesn't know if he can get past the whole kidnapping-his-wife thing. They shake hands and Ollie tells him to find a way to conceal his identity if he's going to continue fighting crime.

    I'm glad Dig didn't die.

    Earlier in the episode, Laurel goes to visit her dad to get him to bring the cops into the fold of helping stop the virus. In the course of the conversation, she discovers he's drinking again, but only "two drinks a day," he says. She says she feels awful that he's been lying to her about that, and he says, "Takes one to know one."

    She says she can't stop him, and that she did keep him in the dark about Sara, but then again, he should really stop drinking and help. Somehow that works.

    Another end-of-episode scene explores Thea and Malcolm's relationship. Malcolm says he's leaving Starling, but he'll be around to help Thea if she needs it. She says she'll be okay, but thanks him for helping train her to be tougher.

    Ollie comes downstairs with his bags for his getaway with Smoak, and Thea tells him she's considering Red Arrow as her new hero name. Colors are just fine in hero names now, I suppose. Ollie says she should be Speedy, though, so I guess not. (I do hope they stick with Speedy. It's a name with too much history to give up.)

    Finally, Ollie talks with Malcolm. He hands Malcolm the full-finger ring, "as we agreed." He also tells Malcolm he won't forgive him for Sara's death. Malcolm asks if they're enemies now, and Ollie says, "that depends."

    A few things here:

    1. Literally all it takes to make someone Ra's al Ghul is give them that ring. It is a ring-based title.

    2. If this was part of their agreement all along, how was Ollie going to get Malcolm the ring if he died in the plane crash? How did he know Ra's would challenge him to that duel? It's almost like this is all total nonsense.

    3. Isn't Malcolm getting absolutely everything in this deal? All Ollie got out of it was Malcolm not entirely betraying him (even though he kind of did last week).

  • The Flashbacks

    Last week, Shrieve tricked Ollie and Maseo into thinking there was an alpha/omega cure. There wasn't. He got the jump on them with some of his soldiers. Ollie deals with that this week by pushing Shrieve and shooting some dudes. Maseo also shoots. The soldiers are dispatched, and Ollie shoots Shrieve in the leg.

    Later, an aid worker (who has his mask off, which is probably not advisable) hands urns with Akio's remains to Katana and Maseo. He also gives one to Ollie, who says he doesn't deserve it, but Katana wants him to have it.

    Ollie takes it back into the store where Akio died, which is where he's keeping Shrieve. He's been torturing him, not even really for information. Just for fun, it seems. He tells Shrieve that he "failed this city," which is a pretty awful, grim origin for that line. Katana and Maseo come in and discover what Ollie did, and they're horrified. Maseo shoots Shrieve to put him out of his misery.

    Then Maseo leaves his wife. Katana tries to stop him, but he says he is "without a soul" because his son died. Also, he sees Akio's eyes in Katana's and he can't bear that. Katana says she loves him, and also this is a tough time for her and he should stay, but he walks on out.

    The one thing they do agree on, though is that Ollie is a monster.

    At the docks, Katana tells Ollie that she's headed back to Japan. Ollie says he can't return to Starling because of what he did to Shrieve, so he jumps on a boat for Coast City, where he'll presumably go meet Hal Jordan and they'll torture some people together.

  • The Happy Ending

    A few quick scenes close out the season:

    Ray Palmer works on his ATOM costume, which he has discovered he can shrink down to tiny sizes. Outfitting it with the inoculant apparently did that. He starts to test it, and it makes an entire floor of Palmer Tech blow up.

    Malcolm returns to Nanda Parbat and revels in bossing Nyssa around. Just steal the ring off his finger, Nyssa! It's all you have to do!

    Someone seems to be boxing up everything in the Arrowcave and taking it into evidence somewhere.

    Ollie and Smoak (who has officially quit as a VP of Palmer Tech, despite her signing her way to ownership last week) drive around in some picturesque place, and Ollie says, "I'm happy."

  • Final Notes

    • One of the locations given in a big infodump scene is "Adams and O'Neil," which is a nice nod to Neil Adams and Denny O'Neil, who worked on some of the more famous Green Lantern/Green Arrow team-up stories of the early 1970s.
    • It's also worth noting that comics Oliver Queen really did die in an air crash in 1995's Green Arrow #101 by Chuck Dixon and Rodolfo Damaggio. He was in a helicopter carrying a bio-weapon, and sacrificed himself to destroy it.
    • When Laurel describes the virus plan to Captain Lance, he retorts, "The city's under attack? Must be May." Line of the season. Line of the series.
    • In that same scene, Lance mentions "the Andreyko case," a seeming nod to comics writer Marc Andreyko, who created the Kate Spencer Manhunter (a character who appeared in early seasons of this show as the DA).
    • The Flash calls the cell where Team Arrow is being held "a real dungeon" and calls the Lazarus Pit a "hot tub." He also gets on Smoak's case for saying his real name in front of a supervillain (Malcolm). He's a fun guy.


    Well, that was exhausting. I can't say there wasn't a lot of action this time, but the more I think about the story of this finale, the more frustrated I get and the more rushed it seems. I can't get over the business with the Ra's ring.

    Compared to the Deathstroke Army, this was a step down. And the stuff with Ollie torturing Gen. Shrieve was pretty doggone rough. This is how they decided to use the leader of the Creature Commandos?

    Well, at least we got a true wrap-up to the Arrow story. He's retired now with his true love, and that's that. Quite a series finale.

    Oh, hey, here's writer and producer Marc Guggenheim with a message for viewers about... season four. There's going to be another one.

    Well. Until September, then.