A lot has changed in Starling City since Arrow aired its second season finale last May. For one thing, Team Arrow no longer has to skulk in the shadows thanks to the recently promoted Captain Lance, who disbanded the anti-vigilante task force. Not only that, but the team feels like even more of a team now that they’ve learned to work together and that includes Roy, who suits up alongside Oliver, and Laurel, who prosecutes the criminals they catch for her.
“The Calm” also introduced us to someone we barely recognized – Oliver with a positive outlook on life. He’s happy for his friends, happy for his sister (who texts her latest travel hotspots – not that we believe she’s actually visiting any of them), happy with his dual role as Oliver and Arrow. Plus, after a pep talk from Digg, Oliver decided it was time to act on his feelings for Felicity and he asked her out on a real date.
Naturally, everything that could go wrong would soon do exactly that because this is a television show about a superhero so the word ‘calm’ automatically needs to be followed by ‘before the storm’.
Several storms started brewing at once: some mobster guys wanted to take out the Arrow, a new Count Vertigo came to town, someone else wanted to buy Queen Consolidated and Captain Lance was popping pills and ignoring doctor’s orders by continuing to go into the field instead of accepting his desk job. By the way (or BTW as Ray would say), now seems like as good a time as any to point out that Sara was murdered at the end of the episode – in front of her sister.
I have mixed feelings about this. When Sara showed up unexpectedly to help Oliver battle (new) Vertigo and his cohorts, I got really excited to see her. Even though I’ve never supported their messy romantic relationship, I enjoyed the character of Sara a lot last season. She’s fun, loving, quick with a quip, and a BAMF who was trained by assassins. That’s pretty damn cool so it was hard to watch her get hit with three arrows by a person she recognized and then fall off a building to land at her sister’s feet (that’s pretty cold, show).
On the other hand, I think the writers have opened a giant well of story potential by killing her off, not just for Laurel, but for Oliver and the rest of the team. They’re going to have to figure out who killed her and why and make that person suffer dearly. Will this put Laurel on the track to becoming Black Canary? Most likely and that’s a good thing in my book. It’s heart wrenching that the sisters repaired their relationship only for this to happen (how cute was their sister moment?), but that emotion will only make Laurel more determined. I’m still bummed Sara’s gone though.
Let’s shift away from the sadness and talk about the introduction of Superman Ray Palmer. He first showed up at Felicity’s new day job to buy a hacking program and mentioned he might know of a job for her, but she wasn’t interested. We see him again at the Queen Consolidated shareholders’ meeting and it turns out he used his new software to hack into their system and find the numbers to back up just how awful Oliver was as CEO. Felicity was a lot less impressed with him after that. He offered her a job a second time, along with an apology, but Felicity had already served up her own brand of justice and was not interested.
I am very interested. As always, I know next to nothing about comic book characters so I don’t know his origins or potential, but I like what I see so far. Ray and Felicity had a nice chemistry and I love their banter. He’s fun and a little (maybe a lot) arrogant and I’m hoping he’s going to continue to inject some humor into the show each week because it’s definitely better when there’s something to laugh at between each of the harrowing stunts and heartbreaking deaths.
Before we get to the big date, I feel like I should say something about the flashbacks. Look, I know the writers love them and have the five years all planned out, but they bore me. The island bored me and now Hong Kong is boring me. Here’s what I got out of it: Amanda Waller is in charge, Oliver doesn’t speak Chinese and she’s found a new way to threaten him since he keeps trying to escape. That’s all well and good, but tell me why I should care about any of this when I’d much rather be watching present day interactions?
All right, let’s get into shipper territory. I’m not really a fan of any of the ships on this show (please don’t throw things at me). But because I’m not waving one ship flag over the other, it’s easy for me to get swept up in the romance IF the story is compelling. Usually, it’s not, which is why I tend to roll my eyes a lot during the big moments. That being said, I liked the way the Oliver and Felicity scenes played out tonight, starting with how realistic their nervousness was when they got to the restaurant, even though they already know each other so well and spend so much time together.
Taking a friendship to another level, even one where there’s already love between two people, is always a risky thing so I like that the show played that beat. I did roll my eyes at the pen thing though because I remember season one and I don’t believe for one second that Oliver cared enough in that initial meeting to recall the pen color (again, don’t throw things at me). Oliver started to open up to her about the boring flashback stuff and why he holds himself back and I think we all knew what was coming then – a rocket through the window and Felicity lying on the floor unconscious.
The team got down to business and Dig and Felicity could both see Oliver pulling away as he realized that he still couldn’t afford to have people close to him because they were always going to be in danger. He fired Dig, who spilled some truth tea by reminding Oliver that he would have been dead ages ago without him. Oliver agreed, but insisted this was his fight and Dig needed to be around for his daughter (I absolutely did not at any time suggest that Dig shoot him). Roy still got to suit up because apparently his well-being means nothing to Oliver (why am I so amused by that?).
After the team took down the bad guys, Lila gave birth to a baby girl and Dig thanked Oliver for making the right call. How cute was their bro hug? I think Dig let him off the hook too easily, but it’s fine. We all know this isn’t the end of Dig being on Team Arrow. Then it was time for Felicity and Oliver to have the talk and again, I found myself impressed with these scenes and with Felicity, who made it clear to Oliver that if he wanted to end things, he needed to mean it and make it final and not keep dropping maybes and saying ‘I love you’ and then he kissed her and said he was never going to deny loving her and she repeated that once they talked, it was over and walked away.
I give major kudos to Emily Bett Rickards for selling Felicity’s resolve during this scene. We’re used to her hilarious one liners or her fun mannerisms, but I’m always most impressed with her quiet moments. Felicity had to be the strong one because Oliver wasn’t going to be and even after a passionate kiss, Rickards kept her voice and her expression steady and it just made me root for Felicity that much harder. Felicity needs to walk away from the back and forth. Oliver means well, but he can’t want to date her only when it suits him. Obviously this relationship is by nowhere near over for good, but these scenes really worked for me.
Oh, one more nitpicky thing. I love Barry Allen and I’m never sad to see him on my screen, but considering The Flash aired last night that scene felt out of place since we already saw Barry and Oliver’s chat. If there are going to be crossovers (and we know there are), the writers need to take extra care to make sure they fit both shows and aren’t just doing them to do them. That scene easily could have been lifted right out of the episode and not taken anything away from it.
So where do we go from here? The premiere laid out a foundation for a lot of stories and we still need to find out what’s happening with Thea and Malcolm (even though I love Thea, I respect the writers’ choice not to cram too many stories into the premiere). I definitely want to see the teamwork continue and I hope everyone bands together to find Sara’s killer instead of trying to go it alone. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Ray (speaking of – I know it’s a nod to the comic, but are they really going to change the name of the city? Who does that?). And of course I’m looking forward to more bad guys coming to town, but hopefully they’ll be more interested than Count Vertigo 2.0.
Now it’s your turn. Hit the comments below and tell us what you thought of this episode. Are you sad Sara’s gone? Do you like Ray? Did you enjoy the way the date went? Who do you think killed Sara? Share your theories!