Okay first of all I just want to say- FINALLY!
Being a huge fan of the show “Arrow” has left me jonesin’ for something from Ollie and crew for a month now. That’s what a truly great show does- it makes the viewer have a vested interest in what’s going to happen next. We’ve had two and half seasons following Oliver Queen’s amazing story. He is a character with his faults, yes. But he is a very real character and one who is immensely relatable. So when the mid-season finale came and we saw him get pwned by Ra’s Al Gul (and come on, who didn’t see that coming) we were left hurting. Oliver was our friend and hero and now he’s gone.
“Left Behind” does a great job of relating those feelings through the intermediary of Oliver’s friends. Felicity is worried about the man she (sic) loves. Diggle is worried about his friend. Roy is worried about his mentor. But, as another Queen said, the show must go on. Crime doesn’t stop because our hero is lying on the ledge of a cliff with a scimitar wound through his lungs. The first scene is great. You really start to get the sense that even though the team is trying their best, their are now leaderless. And, by the way, seeing the natural bad ass that is John Diggle donning the green hood, even for that brief scene, is EPIC!!!
One thing the episode makes clear is that Roy, Ollie and Felicity are perfectly capable heroes without Oliver. The collective skill, strength and experience between the three of them should mean that Starling City’s criminals should still be quaking in their boots. Roy is still the acrobatic hot head, Diggle is still the unrequited, unfiltered 100% bad ass that he is and Felicity is still smarter than nearly anybody any of us are ever gonna meet. To put it another way- Roy is more agile than Oliver, Diggle is stronger and Felicity is smarter. But Oliver is the glue- the perennial leader of the team. And even though they should be able to soldier on without him, it is a fools errand.
I am willing to bet good money that Emily Bett Rickards, David Ramsey and Colton Haynes (Felicity Smoak, John Diggle and Roy Harper respectively) gave a collective fist-pump when they got this script. This is their episode through and through and the actors deliver in spades. The writers doing this by keeping each character in their component parts. Roy is the under-prepared hero, the proverbial young man trying to fill his daddies shoes, as it were. Mr. Haynes portrays the character with an open wound, an almost naked sensitivity. Which is appropriate- Roy can’t be with the woman he loves, thought for a brief period that he murdered one of his friends and now has to deal with what seems to be the inevitable loss of his best friend and mentor. David Ramsey is still a massive pair of walking balls drenched in testosterone, but this is all to mask the fact that he is truly worried about the man he swore to protect and has been fighting some terrible criminals with for 2 years now. Felicity is…well she’s Felicity. She’s honest. She’s caring. And Mrs. Rickards truly deserves heaps of praise for her acting this season, with this episode being a sterling example. Felicity is not a super hero- she’s a computer geek. Granted she is a ridiculously gorgeous super-geek, but none-the-less she is beset on all sides by extreme loss. In “Left Behind” she is withdrawn and defensive, a stark contrast to her usual bubbly and optimistic self. The writers toy with this- she is, in fact, in denial even though she refuses to admit it.
The episode works to set up what I hope will be the bad-guy for the rest of the series: Danny Brickwell, aka “Brick”. Any of us familiar with the Green Arrow comics know that Brick is a recurring baddie and fairly prominent member of Oliver’s Rogue’s Gallery. He is a vicious, ruthless gangster who plays by the old rules. And who better to portray that than Vinnie Jones. They could have put Brick in a bowler hat with a cane and it wouldn’t have been more appropriate. The man literally walks the walk and talks the talk. Mr. Jones, a veteran character actor and well known football brawler, puts his own heavy-fisted finesse on the character by playing up the old-style gangster. It is, or at least it seems, all business with this guy. He has a respect for the men he kills, even going so far as to offer them a gun to shoot him with. Granted it seems as though he has been physically augmented somehow, but come on, don’t split hairs on me here.
The interesting thing here is that there is already a parallel to be drawn between Brick and Ra’s Al Gul. Don’t get me wrong- Ra’s is a world class assassin, well spoken with an army of well trained followers: Brick is an old school gangster with an army of thugs. But both are men of honor. Brick offers you a chance to fight him- Ollie was killed by Ra’s with this same opportunity. The writers are doing a brilliant job, hopefully, of forecasting a truly triumphant ending.
Back to the story. Roy, Diggle and Felicity are chasing down leads that run straight to Brick. Thea, Oliver’s sister, is worried about her brother that she hasn’t seen or heard from in 3 or 4 days. Her mentor, Ollie’s arch nemesis Malcolm Merlyn -portrayed with ruthless daring by the one and only John Barrowman- is concerned for Thea, but also truly concerned for Ollie, the boy his son was best friend with and an enemy that he greatly respects. I’ll be honest, I still don’t know what to make of Thea. Or her relationship with Malcolm. But whatever it is, it is a great watch.
Meanwhile Laurel Lance is still plodding away at her incredible character arc. She is a true believer now, a convert to Ollie’s way of life through and through. Though she has always been a ruthless litigator, what struck me was the scene in the Arrow layer (can we call it the Quiver yet? Even comic book Oliver thought that was a good idea…). Team Arrow is hurting. Roy and Diggle have started to accept the fact that Oliver may not be coming back while Felicity is still hiding from it. Laurel says a line that I think is indicative of her characters arc-to-come: “This isn’s the first time I’ve been told that Oliver is dead. He’s been back before, he’ll be back again.” Katie Cassidy doesn’t come off as desperate or in denial. She is fierce and determined. As a matter of fact, with that scene, I’d totally accept her as the de factor leader of Team Arrow until Ollie’s return. Which is saying something because by the middle of season 2, I hated this bitch. She was mean and stuck up and self-righteous and egotistical and just a bitch. Now, she’s a mean, inspiring, goal-oriented, team-playing bitch.
Of particular note this season is the secondary story-arc between Felicity and Ray Palmer. For those of you unfamiliar with DC Comic books- that’s The Atom. He’s a super hero who, like Bruce Wayne, uses his vast wealth to build a suit that allows him to shrink to the size of an atomic particle. Believe it or not, it actually comes in really, really handy sometimes! Brandon Routh plays Mr. Palmer with a nerdy-svelte swagger that fits his acting style to a tee. One minute he is geeking out about the latest advancements with his suit; the next he is solemnly telling Felicity not to talk about his dead fiancee. Very rarely do we get to see nerds in fiction who are still both manly and gentlemanly.
Felicity is torn apart. The man she loves is presumably dead. And now the man she’s falling in love with-Ray- has told her about his plans to use a physically augmented exoskeleton to fight crime and save the city (there’s a great line said by Routh that acknowledges with perfect sardonism the lunacy of the situation). Felicity doesn’t want to lose yet another friend. It is a recent wound for her and every time Ray asks for her help, he unknowingly pours salt in it. Routh and Rickards have a palpable chemistry, much more so than the seemingly forced romanticism of Ollie towards her. They’re both nerds, but exceedingly smart, but otherworldly good-looking…and both hesitant to love again. Even though I rooted for Felicity and Ollie to get together at first, a Felicity-Ray love line would be much more realistic.
Team Arrow confronts Brick in the warehouse where Brick is essentially trying to tamper with evidence. He’s doing this to build an army of thugs taken down by The Arrow who have been sent to prison- all of this evidence is against them. Diggle and Roy unleash the sound and the fury on his team. It’s really great- Roy is bouncing around everywhere, beating the shit out of dudes. Diggle is pounding away at them like they said somethin’ about his mama. The all-to-brief fight between Diggle and Brick is like watching two silver back gorilla’s wailing away at each other. And they have him. Well, they think they have him. Diggle straight up shot Brick in the melon and nothing happened, so it’s obvious this guy is more than just your typical thug. But Diggle and crew have defeated all but one of Brick’s henchmen and have got Brick on his heels with the Starling City police posted up outside. Brick gets in his van and makes a run for it- evidence in tow by the way- and Diggle and Roy go to give chase. Then the door slams shut on them-literally, out of nowhere. Going back to The Quiver (fuck it, I’m calling it that), Diggle realizes that it was tech genius Felicity who closed it.
Why? Because she didn’t want to see them get hurt like Oliver. This one scene illustrates why most women are not fitted for this kind of work- they are too emotional. Earlier in the warehouse scene, Felicity froze up when Diggle and Roy needed her help. And her solution? Let the bad guy get away with all the evidence. Don’t get me wrong- I absolutely love Felicity’s character and, truth be told, have a huge celebrity crush on Emily Bett Rickards. But women can be over emotional, there I said it. Unless your Laurel Lance, of course. With all that being said, the nerd/fan-girl portrayal has only ever been done right once, and that was with Felicity Smoak. An overwhelming majority of the time she is smart, capable and gorgeous. And unlike nerd/fan-girls in other media (e.g. Clara Oswald, Caitlin Snow), Felicity isn’t afraid to call Ollie out on his shit.
While all this is taking place, the writers and directors twist the knife in the wound of us fans by showing us Ollie’s lifeless corpse freezing on a ledge. But then, just before commercial break, we see a figure clad in black coming to retrieve him. Who could it be? My initial thought was Merlyn- why not, the bastard put him in this spot to begin with. Once we realized its not him it becomes obvious who it is through the flashbacks to Ollie’s time in Singapore- Maseo Yamashiro. In the last episode we learned that since their time together working for Amanda Waller, Maseo has gone on to join the League of Assassins. That’s right- Ollie’s former ally is now in the employ of the man who will kill him. And make no bones about it- when we see Ollie lying on that snow drift, he is dead. I don’t care what Island you’ve been on, you do not survive a scimitar through the chest cavity AND a, like, 3,000 foot drop. Even Batman would need some stiches after that one. But, in any case, Maseo gathers him up and takes him to the hut of his (former?) wife, Tatsu. I’m really glad the producers and the writers didn’t rely on the crutch of the Lazarus Pit- y’know, the pit of magic water that keep Ra’s Al Gul from dying? Instead we get the more satisfying result of what, I’m assuming, is a more homeopathic remedy. The result is Oliver’s first breath in a few days being satisfying, not only to him, assuredly, but to us fans as well.
The ending of the episode serves to set up the premise for the rest of the series. Brick’s got his army of Arrow-hatin’ thugs and he’s got them by the balls. But HOLY SHIT LAUREL PUTS ON THE CANARY COSTUME AND WHIPS TWO OF THEIR ASSES! FUCK YES! BLACK CA-NAR-Y! BLACK CA-NAR-Y! Really, though, even though press photo’s have been leaked showing Katie Cassidy in that black leather (hawt!) it is really great to see her take on the role of Black Canary. It just fits so perfectly well. She’s avenging her sister. She’s avenging Ollie. She’s avenging Tommy (remember Tommy Merlyn, right?). She is The Black Canary now. And us comic book fans are more than happy to see Mateo and Tatsu making appearances in the current-time story line, seeing as how they both play into DC comic lore (lets all say it together now- Tatsu is Katana!). Just like a cigarette after a cup of coffee, the ending of the episode leaves us satisfies and amped up.
Nearly everything. From the acting, the set design, the direction (notice the use of wide angle lenses during Ollie’s scene to really drive home the fact that he is no longer someone we should be attached to), acting.
The episode does a great job of moving the show forwards, introducing new villain Danny “Brick” Brickwell, while giving us our first glimpse of Laurel as Black Canary and getting to see Maseo and Tatsu having an effect on the current storyline.
I really cannot rave enough about Emily Bett Rickards portrayal of Felicity Smoak this season. This episode shows why.
Not enough screen time given to Laurel, Thea or Quentin Lance. But given the plot of the episode, that is entirely understandable.
The one characterization that I cannot get in line with is Amanda Waller’s. I know in the comic book she’s an ice cold bitch. But Cynthia Addai Robertson just kind of seems to be phoning the role in.
Really, who else are you gonna get to play a guy names Brick? It had to be Vinnie Jones. The guy missed the first day of filming of his very first movie because he was in jail because the night before he had gotten into a pub fight!
Brandon Routh was Ray Palmer even when he was Clark Kent.
Is it me or does “A Most Violent Year” look ridiculously good?