Review by Logan
How do you deal with grief? There are many ways to do it. Some people eat ice cream. Others put on boxing gloves and beat the tar out of a punching bag. The Arrow, on the other hand, takes to hunting down assassins.
The last episode of Arrow, while being pretty lacking in overall substance, ended with a bang, leaving a critical member of the Arrow team dead on the ground (and her eyes open, in case you should doubt the episode’s conclusion). As if that wasn’t unexpected enough, this episode deals with it in the most mature way that a show really can, by showing real people going through real grieving processes.
Grieving in TV and movies often follows a line of reasoning that is not as like real world events as it is like intricate fantasies. Characters go crazy on plots of revenge and long trips of running away, but it’s pretty seldom in real life for people to do things like that. They do occasionally, but the more common response is to struggle through grief, figuring out how to live day to day again while being stricken with the travesty of losing a loved one. When Sara died, I assumed the show would launch into those same plot elements, but it instead opted for a very real look at grief. So instead of the team launching into a tirade of revenge, it shows Felicity calling into work because there’s been “a death in the family,” Laurel struggling with not being able to give Sara a proper funeral, and Oliver trying to be strong for the team, but being an internal mess.
The episode does surround trying to track down her killer, but not in the way that you might expect. I was afraid that the show would turn the revenge route, which is contrary to Biblical principles (Romans 12:19). Instead, however, Oliver really is focused on justice, and it doesn’t hurt that the same killer is apparently targeting other people in Starling City with the same M.O. When they do find him, Oliver doesn’t take him out in revenge, but instead makes sure that he isn’t murdered. The balance in Oliver, and the overall character development that this shows in him since his early days as the vigilante in season one, gives a crystal-clear message: The Arrow is undoubtedly a hero.
Adding to this the phenomenal performances all around from cast members, the episode was nearly a home run. It gave Sara the focused exit that she deserved as an integral member of the cast, and Laurel’s involvement, while dramatic, was still believable and never over the top. The total sum of performances packed the emotional punch of a freight train, so far as Sara was concerned.
When it came to Thea, things weren’t quite as cohesive. Oliver wanted to talk to her, and that part of his performance was excellent, but it’s really shocking how much Roy has been benched. He’s not been in the show very much at all since becoming the fully-fledged Red Arrow, which is pretty disappointing, considering how interesting he is as a character in his own right. It seems ever more bizarre that they only address his relationship with Thea when it comes to the letter that she left for him at the end of last season. He clearly still loves her, so if they’re talking about Thea missing, why aren’t they focusing on Roy’s emotional turmoil?
But beyond that, “Sara” really set a new bar for the show, even making me forget about last week’s travesty (temporarily, of course). And if the show can maintain this level of emotional intensity with villains this season such as the returning Merlyn and the promise of Ra’s al Ghul, it will easily surpass previous seasons.