Recap: Arrow 03×01 – The Calm

This post originally appeared on Panels, which is now Book Riot Comics

“The Calm”
Story by Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg
Teleplay by Marc Guggenheim & Jake Coburn
Directed by Glen Winter

Whenever someone asks me about Arrow, one of the very first things I mention about the show is its consistent capacity for organic self-correction. In just two seasons, Arrow has subtly shifted direction, tone, feel, and approach from where it started. The Season Three premiere manages to change the tone of the show again, while introducing major status quo changes in a way that still feels true to the core concept of a brooding vigilante.

Arrow 3x1 Roy OllieIt’s been five months since the Deathstroke/Brother Blood invasion of Starling City. And things have been relatively calm for our heroes. Most of the time, Arrow and Company have been shutting down illegal weapons convoys coming into Starling’s criminal underground. We begin with a tight, quick action sequence that gives us our first glimpse of Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) in costume and working as a full-fledged member of the Arrow team. (Can we call them the Quiver?). Roy’s costume is a nice blend of the Arrow design with Arsenal’s costume from the Outsiders comic. And we even get some unnecessary parkour out of Roy, a staple of his season 1 fighting style. Oliver (Stephen Amell) tracks down an escaping bad guy, delivers a stiff bow-in-hand punch, while delivering his signature “You’ve failed this city.” Cut to the stinger credits, with a slight redesign to the arrowhead. More superhero shows – and films – should capitalize on the James Bond formula of a big pre-title action sequence. It’s a quick way to get your fans hooked into the plot and give your heroes something heroic to do in the first few minutes.

As we settle into the familiar dynamic of banter in Arrow-cave, we get glimpses into the lives of our heroes. Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) is working to get control of Queen Consolidated back in Oliver’s hands, and they share some relatively overt sexual tension as they do so. Diggle (David Ramsey) and Oliver’s relationship appears to have evolved in the time away, a renewed look at the surrogate father-son aspect to their easy friendship, all while being weighed against last season’s revelation that Diggle will soon be a father himself.

The next day, Oliver meets Laurel (Katie Cassidy) under the pretense of seeing the men he’d stopped the night before being arrested, but Laurel has a surprise in store. Captain Lance (Paul Blackthorne), announces that Starling City Police will no longer be actively pursuing the Arrow, focusing on organized crime in Starling instead. Lance comes just short of calling the Arrow a fully-deputized agent of the law, but does say that he feels the Arrow is working with them, if not directly for the SCPD.

Shortly thereafter, Oliver and Felicity walk back to the Arrow cave, and after some awkward back forth, Oliver asks Felicity out on a date. It’s a very strong scene which is helped by the brighter palette of episode. More day scenes, more natural lighting, and even a brighter green on the Arrow costume. Counterposed to this brighter tone, we find out that Starling City is slowly dying: people are moving away, unemployment is on the rise, gangs are taking over, and something must be done.

We’re introduced to a new, more potent Count Vertigo (Peter Stormare) who is slowly but surely taking down the major crime bosses in Starling City in order to become the head of a sprawling criminal empire. This Vertigo is less camp, closer in spirit to the Scarecrow, and played with a certain unassuming menace. He’s a great character for this packed story – needing little introduction and not needing a lot of time – and could be the right type of recurring villain for Oliver in this season.

After a bit of misdirection, it’s revealed that Felicity is working at a tiny electronics store while simultaneously taking support calls for the Arrow. After stopping another arms deal, Oliver and Felicity finally get to their date. After some initial awkwardness, Oliver tells Felicity that she was the first person that broke his Island “programming;” the first person he saw as human. The date is shortly interrupted when the new Vertigo fires a grenade into the restaurant. Now, Oliver should have known this wouldn’t go well as this is the same Italian restaurant where everyone got attacked in years past.

Oliver and Felicity survive, but Oliver blames his renewed focus on Felicity for his failing to stop the attack. Diggle tries to set him straight, but they’re interrupted. Vertigo strikes again and in the course of trying to stop him, Oliver is poisoned. This poison is supposed to show the dosed their greatest fear, and we learn that Oliver’s greatest fear is himself. As the Arrow wrestles with a Vertigo wearing his own face, he puts Captain Lance – whose health has been fragile since last season – in danger. As the team regroups, Oliver again blames his lack of focus for allowing people to get hurt.

Arrow 3x1 RayFelicity bustles Oliver off to a board meeting at Queen Consolidated, but before the meeting starts, Oliver and Felicity run into Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) a rich, handsome, and uber-charming rival CEO. How charming, you ask? Charming enough to inadvertently talk Felicity into helping him hack Queen Consolidated’s computers to get information on their finances the night before. Ray is instantly likeable, even when he flippantly asks if Oliver will validate his helicopter parking. Palmer goes on to give a Steve Jobs-esque presentation before the board, including a smart belt buckle that’s a projector and a project to revitalize Starling City with jobs and a fancy new name: Star City. In many ways, Ray’s role seems to be a combination of the Brother Blood and Summer Glau stories from the previous season. I can’t wait for more Brandon Routh as the bits we got this time out were wonderful.

Back at the Arrow-cave, it’s discovered that Vertigo has taken down all but three of the major crime bosses in Starling. The last three are all attending a heavyweight prize fight at Starling’s arena. Roy informs us that the fight is “Christmas for crime bosses,” which seems an odd descriptor. Oliver and Diggle get into a fight when Oliver sidelines Diggle for his own good. Diggle suggests that he didn’t join Oliver’s mission just to stop because he’s now a father, however he ultimately decides not to cross Oliver. Oliver and Roy suit up and head to the fight which is sponsored by Ferris Air (also an easter egg in The Flash pilot!). Vertigo’s master plan is to blow up the fight, which feels a little odd for this character. Oliver leaves Roy to defuse the bomb – with Felicity’s guidance. Canary (Caity Lotz) makes a surprise appearance to help Oliver clean up the bad guys. Vertigo and Oliver square off, but Oliver is able to shake the effects of the drug he is injected with. He soundly beats him. When he captures the Count for the police, he cries out that all Arrow has done is stop one man. There will be more to take on the title of Vertigo, bespeaking the power vacuum in Starling. Canary and Arrow have a brief discussion on the rooftops, revolving around identity – a key theme this season – before Canary heads off to talk to Laurel.

Arrow 3x1 CanaryWe cut to the hospital where Diggle and Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson) have had a baby girl during all this action. Oliver and Diggle share a handshake and hug when Diggle thanks Oliver for sidelining him, otherwise he’d have miss his own child’s birth. Ray Palmer briefly appears to apologize to Felicity and we learn Felicity’s been aggressively retaliating by putting inappropriate noises on his phone.

Oliver and Felicity share a brief scene in which they talk about the future of their relationship: Oliver doesn’t want to see her hurt because of him, Felicity doesn’t want to coddled. They share a kiss before parting ways as a couple. Shortly afterward, Oliver gets call from Barry Allen and we get the set-up to the “handoff” scene between the two from the Flash pilot. It’s a really great moment for both characters and I’m glad we got it.

We cut back to a scene between Sara/Canary and Laurel, they briefly talk about their father’s health but Sara asks not to let it be known she’s back just yet. And just as Sara is about to head off into the a mysterious voice calls to her, threatens her and then fires three black arrows into her stomach. Sara falls off the roof, in front of her sister, and we fade to black.

Flashback: Hong Kong – Not much happens in the Flashbacks this time out. Oliver has been repeatedly trying to escape Hong Kong and Amanda Waller but ends up captured time after time. Ultimately, Waller threatens to kill Maseo Yamashiro’s (Karl Yune) family if Oliver attempts anymore escapes, including Maseo’s wife, Tatsu (Rila Fukushima).

In all a really strong and really full opening to the season. A lot of bases are covered and we haven’t even gotten to the Merlyn and Thea storyline. And the shock ending of the episode certainly left me surprised, disappointed and excited to see what’s next. What did you think of the premiere of Arrow?

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