Review by Logan
Sara’s killer. Malcolm Merlyn’s return. Thea’s path to the dark side. Ra’s al Ghul. Laurel’s fury pushing her to vigilantism. The new character every wanabe nerd pretends to know. Season three of Arrow has been pulling on several threads, promising us to go several new, compelling directions. And in the midseason finale, they’re all coming to a head.
The League of Assassins has grown tired of waiting. They want Sara’s killer and now. So if Oliver doesn’t find her killer soon (and by soon they mean 48 hours), then they will slaughter innocent civilians in Oliver’s beloved city until the killer is brought to them. The Arrow team then goes to work as fast as they can, but then there’s a catch. They find the killer. But it’s not someone that Oliver wants to turn in to them. That, in turn, leaves Oliver with the greatest conflict he may ever face: should he break his rule, and kill Ra’s al Ghul?
Well, as it turns out, even if he can answer that question, that’s much easier said than done. But that conflict brings up an interesting question. I’ve said before in these reviews that the show has become something of a bastion for superhero morality. It has moved past the Punisher-esque vigilantism from the first season and on to a Batman- or Superman-like moral code, forbidding killing (even if using somewhat questionable interrogation methods). But is there a scenario in which killing could be acceptable?
There are exceptions in the Old Testament, at the very least. The Mosaic Law forbade murder, but there were some instances in which the taking of a life did not constitute murder. An obvious one was capital punishment (for both parties in adultery, murder, and a couple other sins), although it should be pointed out that this punishment was used only when directed by God. Another interesting exception, however, is in the protection of one’s family and life. If someone broke into your house at night, and you killed them in the confrontation, you were guilty of nothing. You were if it was during the day, but not at night. Why? The expectation is that if it’s during the day, you can possibly injure and debilitate him without killing him. But if it’s at night, you shouldn’t try to only injure him when you can’t really see him, therefore risking the well-being of your family. In that case, the lives of your family are more important than the life of the man (or woman) threatening them.
Because of this concept, Oliver challenging Ra’s al Ghul, and possibly killing him, doesn’t have to pose a problem of Christian ethics, at least as it pertains to Christian worldview and Arrow’s treatise on ethics. A bloodier man has scarcely lived than Ra’s al Ghul, and he’s threatening thousands of innocent people in Starling City, and why? Because of another individual he wants to kill. Oliver is acting not from vengeance, but in an effort to save his family, his loved ones, and all of those innocent people in the city that he doesn’t even know.
Yes, this episode is good. It’s phenomenal. It’s that great because it weaves together the events of the past season, finally answering the question about Sara’s killer, giving us some great vigilante action and bringing forth the drama with a purpose. But more importantly, it’s a great episode because it digs deeper into these serious moral issues. It causes us to really think about the value of human life, and to reject the culture of death, simultaneously broaching the difficult question of when, if ever, killing is justified. Despite the CW’s reputation for shallow, ridiculous dramas, the show is broaching deep questions of morality, questions we hear far too often in favor of “he’s the bad guy; of course he should die!”
And it manages to do this while still answering questions that we’ve had all season long. Somehow, even in the midst of this very busy plot, the show still manages to do character development. Oliver still grapples with his sister’s path to the dark side, we experience a newfound hate for Merlyn, Ray Palmer gets a truckload of character development, and Laurel’s pain is every bit as visible and believable as the day Sara died. The fact that show can simultaneously ask difficult questions while fleshing these characters out that much just says that this is a great show, despite the rough start at the beginning of this season. The show has found its groove now, and is both offering a quality and compelling drama and is asking difficult questions, a combination makes me hope it doesn’t go anywhere soon.
But for the record, I still don’t like flashbacks.