Sunday, May 17, 2015

It Doesn't Matter What Your Name Is: Arrow Season 3 Finale "My Name Is Oliver Queen"

If you have listened to our podcast or spoken to me in person, you might know two things about me. One is that I love pro wrestling. The other? That I think Arrow is the #BestShowOnTV

Seriously, this show embodies the best of comics and the best of action spy movies. It’s in your face and keeps at a hectic pace, despite the fact that it mostly involves an entire season of a major villain playing a cerebral chess match and planning out everything meticulously to best foil our heroes’ efforts. This in my opinion is the piece which allows Arrow to keep my favor over the far more flashy adventures of its sister show, The Flash.

The Flash is amazing. Don’t get me wrong. If I were to pick a number two, I’d be hard-pressed to say there’s a show more deserving than Grant Gustin’s high-octane exploits.  But even though the whole season of The Flash has led to Barry Allen’s showdown with Eobard Thawne, it also spent a large portion of time dealing in the “bad guy of the week” business. Which, hey, is a pretty cool racket to be in! It just doesn’t have the aim and focus of Arrow.

Myself, I just love the tactical feel of Arrow. Every person has their place and is critical. Oliver does not get far against the likes of Deathstroke or Merlyn without Felicity on tech support, without Diggle as his lookout and back-up, or without Roy assisting him as Arsenal.  Fans talk about Team Arrow because they adore the dynamic composition and how each member complements one another.

The city needs saving, but first we gotta take our nap.
Can't fight evil if you're tired!

It’s an ensemble show, but it makes its main character strong enough and competent enough that you believe he will succeed. That’s what made the mid-season finale episode “The Climb” so powerful. You had faith that Oliver Queen could somehow defeat or at least tie in a match with Ra’s al Ghul. He didn’t. He was struck down and thrown from the clifftops. Thanks to old allies Maseo and Tatsu Yamashiro, he was revived and brought back, which only drove Ra’s to want Oliver as his heir to the title of Ra’s al Ghul. Ra’s attacked and tortured Oliver and the rest of Team Arrow throughout the second half of the season until Oliver finally submitted and agreed to join him as Al Sah-him, his “new” name.  As the final part of his ascendance to Ra’s, Oliver was told that he must release the Alpha-Omega Virus on his home of Starling City and sever his ties with the world.

Katana looked awesome and kicked ass in this season.
You know she was Wolverine's bodyguard, right?
Wait, multiverse doesn't work like that?

There are some light spoilers in this review, so be aware!

This is where we are left off for the season 3 finale of Arrow, “My Name is Oliver Queen.”  Oliver has destroyed the trust of his closest friends, and they fear they will die in the cage due to his betrayal. After an escape with the help of another ally, Team Arrow return to Starling City to hold off the League of Assassins and prevent them from killing the entire city. Sadly, Tatsu does not join them, as she is mentally exhausted from her battle last episode where she killed Maseo, the man she loved, and left her katana stained with his blood.  As a huge fan of Rila Fukushima, I was disappointed to not see her join in the fight for the fate of the city, but with her exit, there is still room for a season 4 return. Diggle joins with Thea, who has taken Roy’s Arsenal jacket and become Speedy, and fights against the member of the League of Assassins who is carrying a briefcase with the virus. The assassin sacrifices himself in service of his master, and cries out, “The will of Ra’s al Ghul lives on,” which admittedly lacks any sort of impact like a good ol’ “Hail Hydra!”

You're welcome, Speedy.
Sorry that, like, everyone hates you

The virus begins to infect anyone who has not been inoculated and spreading quickly through the city. In a brilliant moment of self-awareness, Captain Lance mutters “The city is under attack? Must be May!” citing the fact that each season finale has had the fate of Starling City at hand and debuted in May. And on the note of Captain Lance, his scene with Laurel was wonderful. The emotion and desperation in her voice as she pleads with her dad, taking a stand that brings her back to the well-written and strong-willed Laurel of season 2, is acted out fantastically. I do hope to see Laurel have a strong storyline in the upcoming season as district attorney-by-day, vigilante-by-night Black Canary, perhaps with some flashbacks of her mother thrown in to take advantage of Alex Kingston's talents and add to the Black Canary mythos.

On the League of Assassins’ plane, Oliver reveals he always retained his identity, despite Ra’s brainwashing and conditioning, in the titular moment of the episode. This episode had many moments that played as a swan song for the entire series of Arrow, even though we know the show Arrow has already long been confirmed for a fourth season. But the opening scene where Ra’s realizes Oliver has betrayed him and eschewed his legacy and shouts, “You wed my daughter! Your name is Al Sah-him and you are Wareeth al Ghul!” To which our hero counters with his oft-repeated opening monologue, “My NAME… is Oliver Queen!” and battles against his assumed master. When this attack fails and Oliver returns to his team to get back together and save the city, finally realizing he cannot do everything alone, after heated initial resentment, they agree to work with him. Diggle is hurt the most, and rightfully so, as Oliver attacked his wife and left his child alone while gaining Ra’s’ trust. Felicity, perhaps due to her love of Oliver, forgives him and tells him that he now can defeat Ra’s, as (and again quoting the opening monologue) “he has become someone else. He has become something else.”

Forgive and have mercy upon him
Excuse him and pardon him
Make honorable his reception
Protect him from the punishment of the grave
And the torment of the Fire

The climactic clash between the Arrow and the Demon’s Head does not quite live up to the incredible mid-season finale, unfortunately. Where “The Climb” removed all music and background noise and left the only sound heard to be the clanging of metal and the grunting of warriors, “My Name is Oliver Queen” has chanting and drums overwhelming the action at several points. It is still nicely choreographed and fought, and Matt Nable does an excellent job of keeping his mannerisms as Ra’s down even in fight scenes, but nonetheless this battle felt somewhat hollow at points. The best moment within it is at the very finish, as we see a mirror image of the previous duel, and Oliver speaks, in Arabic, a shortened version of the same prayer Ra’s al Ghul had spoken over his impaled body earlier, and in killing Ra’s, Oliver may have fulfilled Ra’s al Ghul’s own methodology, to replace evil with death.

What you said before, but, yanno, CliffsNotes edition. Kthxbai

In all, the Arrow season 3 finale is a great episode, with many excellent moments, but it sadly does not live up to the level set by either of the preceding finales.  It leaves you on a cheerful note, while still leaving tons of open threads for future storylines, such as Thea potentially taking up a hood permanently, how Diggle might gain his own hero identity, what Laurel might do now as Black Canary, or how they could possibly appear in the new DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, which we know will feature Ray Palmer in a further-improved Atom suit.  Rather than having the strong resolution and huge final battles of the previous seasons, Arrow season 3 ends feeling like it was a series finale, but we know it will return and that is the next time we will see a new episode of the #BestShowOnTV.

Short version: If you’ve been watching Arrow, get back to it and see this finale. If you don’t watch Arrow, why not?! It’s the #BestShowOnTV people!

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