Review by Logan
When Arrow debuted nearly two and a half years ago, they took the nerd world by storm. It was relatively easy, really. There weren’t any other good comic-based TV shows, so it was easily the best comic show on TV. But things are different now. Sure, Gotham still isn’t any good, but with The Flash and most recently Daredevil providing top-notch entertainment, Arrow isn’t the best comic show on TV anymore. It has to fight for its ratings.
With this week’s episode, they seem to have finally woken up to the coffee.
As I’ve referenced in a couple of my other Arrow reviews, one of the unspoken rules of comic book hero-based stories is that the vigilante can never get caught. Whenever the police are opposing the hero, and they’re tight on his tail, you always know that he’s going to make it out, and he always does.
Except when he doesn’t.
That brings us to the current predicament in Arrow, where Oliver Queen has been arrested by Captain Lance, while Roy has donned the green suit to bring blame on himself and exonerate Oliver. I saw that at the end of the last episode and thought, “It’s just a facade. Oliver will be released, then Roy somehow exonerated, and we’ll be back to normal.”
But that’s not what happens. Instead, Lance goes after Oliver full force, storming the basement of Thea’s club, and having the Queen’s loft searched, all with warrants and a plethora of police officers to boot. Oliver can’t go anywhere as the Arrow, or that renders Roy’s sacrifice inert, so he’s left to stay in hiding. Then, with no Arrow to protect the city, a metahuman shows up to kill people and rob money and basically be a bad human being.
And Oliver has to sit and do nothing.
There are several reasons I like this episode, and some of them are too directly tied to the episode’s ending to mention explicitly. But generally speaking, it’s making an uproar by departing from the standard, predictable flavor of past episodes. The third season of the show has largely been more of the same, without much culmination of Oliver’s story. Just the same old no kill rule struggles and bad guys occasionally breaking out, with a Ra’s al Ghul story nabbed from the pages of Batman comics tacked on at the end. In “Broken Arrow,” however, there are at least three distinct plot twists that can hardly be expected, and we get to see Oliver in a relatively new conflict: not being able to do anything.
In a rare improvement of screenwriting, the flashbacks also connect with the story. They drive home the theme that Oliver needs to learn to accept help, pushing his need for humility and his need for others to help him. Contrary to a Rambo-esque self sufficiency that tends to pervade American culture, most especially in superhero narratives, it strikes down pride, which just happens to be the first of the seven deadly sins in the book of Proverbs.
There are some things I don’t care for about the episode. While I like what the flashbacks are going for I think the balance between that and present time is off, and this story was more about the Atom than it should have been. But as a whole, it brings the show back to its gritty and unpredictable roots from the phenomenal first season, and comes at the conflict thematically from a relatively fresh perspective. I’d still like to see more consistently appearing villains and more of the Black Canary, but this episode was exactly what I look for in an Oliver Queen story.