Review by Logan
The last episode of Arrow unleashed a new and bold story for Oliver. Or, should I say, for Al Sah-Him. Oliver Queen is dead, our hero has been saying, and he’s been replaced by the heir to the throne of the demon, the successor for Ra’s al Ghul. As I pointed out in my review of last week’s episode, this was not only a good thing for the show because it was unexpected, but it opened up a whole new era of moral discussions and worldview explorations. It was reminiscent of Harvey Dent’s “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” and it prompted us to look with introspection at what it would take for us to change and go down that dark path, which surely could never be justified.
With this week’s episode, however, we take a step back.
More like three steps back, actually. Instead of continuing on this idea of Oliver Queen now being the bad guy, and with the Arrow dead and perhaps even Thea rising up against her brother, we instead get a haphazard attempt at explaining why Oliver is actually still the good guy.
Yeah. Even though he kidnapped Diggle’s wife in front of their daughter, nearly killed Diggle himself, and about killed Nyssa, not to mention the people he actually has killed for Ra’s, he’s still on the good side.
I don’t know about you, but that’s not the moral compass I want roaming my city.
This does two things that are highly concerning for the show’s worldview. The first is that it takes the concept of the sanctity of life, which the show went to a great deal of trouble to develop over the first two seasons, and casts it to the wind. Sure, saving lives is great and all, but if you have to be an assassin for an evil world domination organization to take down a bad guy, well then by golly that’s what we’ll do. The second thing is that, in the same vein, it does a flip-flop and endorses the “ends justify the means” approach, which is another thing Oliver, as well as the show itself, has never endorsed (remember why the whole team was mad at him because he wouldn’t kill Merlyn to save future trouble?). Both of these ideas are things that, as a Christian, makes the episode somewhat repulsive for me.
And why does it do this? The answer, I think, is pretty simple. It’s not to illustrate a moral dilemma, because Oliver doesn’t even appear to be the least bit conflicted about his choices. No, the answer is something for more shallow and trivial than that. It creates drama between the characters. And so the greatest weakness of having a comic book show on The CW has been revealed: Arrow has once again reverted to being little more than a soap opera with archery.
That’s not to say that drama between characters is always a bad thing. Certain kinds of drama are what we look for in entertainment, but there’s a fine line between that and orchestrating artificial betrayals and reveals that run completely contrary to a character’s arc just for the sake of making more conflict. It’s not consistent with the character of Oliver, and it’s certainly not consistent with the thematic vision of the first two and a half seasons of the show.
And that’s just talking about Oliver’s part of the story. I haven’t even gotten to criticizing how this episode reinserts Roy just for the sake of a sex scene, how it somehow finds a way to split said sex scene across three different cuts, how the flashbacks tell us nothing new and therefore add absolutely nothing, and, in general, how this episode is an enormous disappointment. There are cool things, such as the fight scene on Nanda Parbat, particularly Tatsu wielding her sword, as well as a cool scene with the Atom, and I’m a big fan of Laurel’s canary cry. But the episode hardly is cohesive, and even when it is cohesive, it’s a thematic and conceptual mess.