‘Arrow’ Season 3 Recap, Episode 1: ‘The Calm’
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 back for the third season of the popular series in our recap feature we're officially dubbing Pointed Commentary.
This week: Smoak and Oliver try going on a date (with explosive results), Dig becomes a dad, and Peter Stormare barely says one intelligible word.
This week's bad guy is Vertigo, as portrayed by Swedish actor and Coen Brothers stalwart Peter Stormare.
Stormare is generally great and I can forgive him almost anything (even these Volkswagen commercials), but he's slumming all over the place here. He barely got out a line I could understand. If he returns, I'll have to turn on closed captioning, toute suite. Here's about all his said that I could grasp:
- This entire, hilarious line: "Our course of action is STRAIGHT as an ARROW. Gentlemen, we're gonna KILL HIM."
- Something about how his new version of vertigo is mixed with mushrooms so that it's now hallucinogenic and makes people see their worst fears. They made Count Vertigo the Scarecrow.
- His name, Werner Zytle, which is the very first thing he tells Arrow, because he's a man with nothing to hide.
That's about it.
In addition to being the Scarecrow, this version of Vertigo is also the new Shrapnel. Not only does he blow up the restaurant where Ollie and Smoak are having a date (more on that in a bit), he also tries to blow up an arena where a boxing match is going on. I sincerely had no clue why he was doing this, in part because I never understood a dang thing he was saying, but also because I think he was just in the episode so there could be a bad guy of any sort. (It seemed to be some sort of convoluted plan to kill Arrow but also take over the city's organized crime.)
Vertigo is also there so we can get a couple scenes of Arrow staring down his greatest fear: himself. Arrow gets dosed with Vertigo twice to demonstrate this. The second time, he just stands there and lets it happen like a total doof. this is a guy who has caught speeding arrows in mid-air and he lets himself get hit by a dart.
Vertigo is dealt with very easily when Canary returns and helps Arrow beat him up; he gets shot in the shoulder with an Arrow and says a bunch of gibberish. He may show up again, but I'd be OK if he didn't. Let Stormare do anything else.
Other than Vertigo, Starling seems to be pretty quiet for the first time in the show's run. It truly is "the calm." Team Arrow has so completely cleaned things up that at one point they're chasing after a guy who robbed a liquor store. This after fighting people who made earthquake machines.
Last season's finale teased viewers who wanted to see Ollie and Smoak get together with a fakeout moment of Ollie confessing her love for her, all as a ploy to trick Deathstroke.
This season, after a summer full of "Olicity" (that's the real name of the coupling) shipping, the writers decided to give it a go and have Ollie and Smoak go on a date. The resulting scene at an Italian restaurant is as awkward and painful to watch as you might imagine. There's a part where Ollie brings up Hong Kong out of the blue, despite not having mentioned it at all in the past two years. That leads into some claptrap about how he can trust Smoak and no one else. Look, I'm as confused as you.
That said, Emily Bett Rickards actually does a good job of making it funny and entertaining in spots, like when she talks about how much she's seen Ollie shirtless. And it ends in an explosion, which is a pretty good scene transition. (It's an explosion from which Ollie, our title superhero, only saves one person, Smoak.)
Meanwhile, Dig and ex-wife Lyla/Harbinger are nearing the arrival of their baby. We know this because:
- Ollie and Dig talk about it at length at the beginning of the episode
- There's a scene with a false-alarm birth scare in which Dig and Lyla go to the doctor's office instead of the hospital, even though I know for a fact this show has hospital sets like crazy
- Ollie and Dig argue about how Dig can't go into the field for Team Arrow because he's going to be a dad, despite the fact they've known about the baby for months
So it's made clear.
At the end of the episode, Lyla has her baby at the hospital (see, I knew they had that set). Ollie smiles at the baby weird and Dig gives a speech about how being a dad changes everything. Dig is kind of becoming a non-character on the show, I fear, considering how much of a walking cliche this makes him.
Also: There's a scene where Ollie gives Dig's not-yet-born daughter a necklace (?) made out of arrowheads (??) that he made. There are certainly more inappropriate gifts for unborn babies, but how about a mobile or something, Ollie? Jeez.
At the hospital, Dig and Smoak kind of break up (?) when Ollie says he can't be Arrow and himself at the same time. I suppose we're supposed to get that from him having to fight himself in those encounters with Vertigo. It's really rushed and doesn't come across, though.
Did I mention that Smoak works at Best Buy now? She does. Or at least, the TV equivalent. After Queen Consolidated got taken over by last season's villains, I guess there was just no job market for completely magic computer hackers.
Anyway, while she's at work, she meets Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) who's there to buy a super-convenient hacking machine. You know, like you can get at Best Buy.
It turns out this version of Palmer isn't a professor. He's a businessman (because everyone on Arrow is a businessperson) who just happens to be trying to outbid Ollie to take control of Queen Consolidated, which I suppose has been operating without any owners for several months.
The boardroom scene where Palmer explains how he's going to save Queen Consolidated AND Starling City was my favorite part of the episode, and Routh did a wonderful job with it. His casual reveal that he hacked the QC computer system with his Best Buy hacking machine is well played, and Routh just has a charisma about him. I really like that The Atom talks in abbreviations (he says "BTW" twice), and his plan to revive Starling after two terrorist attacks is to rename it the comics version of the name, "Star City." I shit you not.
It's ludicrous, stupid, and great, particularly since the writers already nodded at Star City last season.
By the end of the episode, Palmer and Smoak are threatening each other with childish hacking pranks. That part wasn't so fun.
This episode's big infodump comes courtesy of Detective-then-Officer-and-now-Captain Lance, who doesn't explain his mysterious health scare at the end of last season, but does say it led to a promotion and a desk job.
In that same scene, he publicly commends Arrow for his heroism while decrying vigilantism as still completely illegal. Why'd they promote him, again?
Later, we (and Laurel) discover that Lance is absolutely still going out into the field, though. We see it when he helps Arrow beat that liquor store robber (worth the health risk, clearly) and Laurel sees it after her dad has another coronary during a fight with Vertigo. Capt. Lance and his daughter have a heart-to-heart about his health in a piano music scene that really has cello music in it.
Very little happens in this week's flashbacks to Hong Kong, the place where we saw Past Ollie last.
Ollie tries to escape from his new captor, Amanda Waller, a bunch of times, all of them unsuccessful. In the first one we see, he ducks into an emergency Internet cafe and tries to tap out an email to someone before an ARGUS goon beats him up.
Later, Waller vaguely tells Ollie the reason why she needs him (his "skills") after nine (!) escape attempts. Seems she would have done this earlier, no?
Later, Ollie is taken to the ARGUS goon's windy house, where he discovers that the goon is married to who we'll later discover is Katana, and that Waller said she'd kill the goon's children if he lets Ollie escape.
As I noted, Sara Lance returns for the last big fight scene, after seemingly exiting the show for good in last season's finale (she left so the League of Assassins wouldn't kill everyone; I guess they got over that).
After she and Arrow catch up for a bit by casually chatting--no joke-- in an open parking lot, in public, with their masks off, Sara meets up with Laurel on a rooftop to tell her not to mention it to their dad that she's back in town. There's a little more chatting (Groaner of the episode: "And here I thought you used up all your League of Assassin vacation days.") and eventually Laurel goes on her way to leave the audience with what seems like a completely unnecessary scene.
But then a deep voice comes from just offscreen to greet Sara, then someone fires three arrows into her stomach. Sara falls off the rooftop, right in front of Laurel (how convenient). Laurel cries and screams.
It's shocking, but a little abrupt. And it's a bummer that the best-written character on the show, Sara, had to go out like that.
Here's something I noticed: Each season of Arrow starts with Ollie running through woods. That's kind of neat, except this time it's pretty terribly force in. He just runs through some trees on his way to chasing down a truck full of stolen RPGs. Why are those trees even there?
We'll never know, I suspect. What we will likely know soon is who killed poor Sara, who came back from the League just to die. All signs point to it being Ra's al-Ghul, but that almost seems too obvious.
A few other observations that didn't fit anywhere else:
- Because Dig's going to be a dad and Smoak is (at least temporarily) going on dates with him, Ollie keeps sending Roy, now fully Arsenaled out, to do the dangerous stuff. Poor Roy.
- Also, Colton Haynes has maybe four lines in this whole episode, and they're all really short.
- That said, he does get a completely unnecessary mid-air flip in one scene, and he defuses a bomb by freezing it. So maybe they decided speaking just isn't his strength.
- You know how last season it seemed like Thea was going to run off with Malcolm and become a reclusive supervillain? Not so much. She and Ollie are in touch. They text. He knows where she lives. So much for starting an Arrow Revenge Squad, huh?
- Felicity says "frak" during the boardroom scene and it almost ruins the entire thing.
In all, this episode was an uneven start to what was an improving show. It felt...overstuffed. Hopefully, they writers will find their stride again.