Season 3 of "Arrow" Loses Track of What Made Prior Seasons Great Review

After the surprisingly good freshman season and the superb second season, fans of DC’s Arrow could understandably check themselves into the hospital with a nasty case of whiplash thanks to a third season that seemingly undid much of the goodwill the first two had garnered. It’s as if, with DC finalizing that their movie and TV series would never cross over, and with Batman stuck as a teenager in Fox’s Gotham, that the writers of Arrow decided they may as well start cribbing from Batman’s greatest hits. And so, gone are the steady build-up of a villain over two seasons (as with Manu Bennett’s Deathstroke) and the group dynamic that made even the darkest moments of Arrow fun to watch.  Left in their place is a villain (Ra’s Al Ghul) pursuing a storyline that belongs firmly in the Batman mythos and many of the fan favorite characters turned into dour, angsty versions of themselves.

It was a disappointing season to say the least, and the only real bright spots to speak of are the addition of Brandon Routh as would-be superhero Ray Palmer and the crossover episodes with spin-off series The Flash, which quickly overtook Arrow as the best superhero series on television.

The events of Arrow’s second season understandably left Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and his team shaken in their conviction that they were up to the task of defending Starling City from the evils within and without, even as a thankful populace embraced the Arrow as a hero. However, with the police no longer hunting for them, Oliver decides maybe there’s enough room in his life for an actual relationship with Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) and that things are looking up. It’s a nice thought, but just as quickly Oliver’s life begins to fall apart: with newcomer billionaire Ray Palmer (Routh) buying Queen Consolidated out from under him; a disastrous first date reminding Oliver that his life as the Arrow puts his loved ones at risk; the return of Thea (Willa Holland) from her time studying under Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman); and the death of one of their own at the hands of an unseen archer.

All of this sends Oliver and his friends reeling, making them especially vulnerable as a new force descends upon Starling City that will forego the city’s destruction in exchange for the acceptance of an offer made to Oliver that would take him from them forever.

Arrow has always had a soap opera sensibility, but in its third season that facet of the series threatens to take over completely as characters go in absurd directions for reasons designed to incite drama and not further character development. Even things like Oliver’s secret identity are sacrificed for the sake of some really shallow drama, and it would be great if it was at least a little unexpected but the third season’s writing is so sloppy that most of the twists are clear the instant they happen thanks to the power of coincidence (ie thing ‘A’ happens and it’s then revealed person ‘X’ is back in town). By the season’s end there’s really no one left who doesn’t know Oliver’s secret identity and who isn’t involved in his team, and that’s a bit ridiculous considering it only took three seasons for all the supporting players to get in on the act.

The character transformations this time around are also handled pretty poorly with Oliver merely becoming a more sullen version of himself with a new haircut, Laurel (Katie Cassidy) doing some very stupid things in an effort to take on her sister’s mantle (at least when she was a drunk her poor decisions made sense), and Felicity being forced into the alternating voices of reason and desperation that need to be over-the-top or ignored by other characters so ridiculous things can happen unabated.

What’s worse is that the dual-timeline format of the show loses a lot of its impact thanks to the shift from the island to Asia changing things considerably and making Oliver’s secret history a bit more conventional. Yes, we get some insight into how Oliver knew Waller before she showed up back in the first season, but ultimately the scenes exist to endear Maseo Yamashiro (Karl Yune) to the audience in the past as his present poses an obstacle to Oliver’s plans. At least in the first and second seasons they served to deepen both Amell and Bennett’s characters so that when they faced off as Arrow and Deathstroke in the second season there was significant history for the audience to draw upon. With the Asia flashbacks, we don’t get that same depth.

All Arrow fans can really hope for is that the writers have gotten this out of their system and that the fourth system will be a return to form, because if not, Arrow will be better remembered as a two-season series.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

The Blu-ray combo pack includes the series on Blu-ray and as an Ultraviolet digital copy, with featurettes covering the show’s costumes, the sets for Nanda Parbat, audio commentaries, the Arrow panel at Comic-Con 2014, Brandon Routh’s addition to the cast, a gag reel, and deleted scenes.

"Arrow: The Complete Third Season" is on sale September 22, 2015 and is not rated. Action, Adventure, Crime. Directed by John Behring, Michael Schultz. Written by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg. Starring Colton Haynes, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, John Barrowman, Katie Cassidy, Stephen Amell, Willa Holland.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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