ARROW Isn't "Calm", Delivers Gut Punches

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Episode 301 “The Calm”

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[photos: Cate Cameron/The CW]

Well, now. Didn’t quite see that one coming. Now, didja?

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Every time I sit down to write one of these, I always try to figure out the best way to organize things. Mainly because doing a play-by-play gets boring, and that’s not how you talk about the show at work the next day. But there’s so much to unbox in this hour, so the trick is to share the salient points without getting bogged down in the details. Don’t try this at home, folks. We’re professionals.

“The Calm” really doesn’t fit this episode much, except as it maybe applies to the calm within the eye of a hurricane. Having just almost destroyed the city (again), now our heroes are left to pick up the pieces of their lives. Oliver faces a life with no money, no family, no company. Felicity faces a job at a Buy More to make ends meet and have dental. Diggle faces unexpected fatherhood. Roy faces loneliness at the same time he feels empowered.

And that ending… whoa, as Bill & Ted would say.

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OK, let’s look at the main track first: Oliver trying to get his company back, trying to have a life outside of his mask, trying to figure out if it’s even possible to do everything he wants to do. Short answer: no, he can’t. The long route to get there involves study sessions with Felicity, whose khaki pants day job puts her in contact with a handsome hacker we later learn is Dr. Ray Palmer, the other guy making a play for Queen Consolidated.

Ray: “I parked on your roof. I hope that’s OK. You guys validate, right?”
Felicity: “Oh, frak.”

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Dr. Palmer has all sorts of cool gadgets, including a video projector in his belt buckle. This is going to play so well when they finally let Brandon Routh put on the Atom suit. Clearly, they’re setting him up early as a gadget guy, and Routh’s performance gives Ray Palmer that “oh, don’t mind me” manner that will completely hide the superhero core yet to be revealed. And while he may be embarrassed that he played Felicity — and she’s definitely not happy about that — there’s also the beginnings of the David & Maddie dynamic that will so obviously lead to a romantic entanglement of some sort.

Romantic entanglements are also in play between Oliver and Felicity, giving the #Olicity shippers more than enough reason to sit on the edge of their seats and watch with bated breath as Oliver and Felicity finally… oh, wait. Nope. More on that in a moment.

Palmer’s presentation gets him the key to the executive washroom, and Oliver gets put out on the street. Felicity has the feels, but really… there’s no comparing the two presentations. Palmer had charts and slides and all sorts of factoids that showed he’d clearly done his homework. Party Boy Ollie made a speech invoking the memory of his mother. Yes, it was a heartfelt speech, but it was too much “Sell to me because … family!” instead of “I have a vision to rebuild a company to financial success, BTW.”

And it’s probably not a coincidence that Brandon Routh’s character meets the smart spy-tech blonde with the legs in a store that looks very much like Chuck‘s Buy More. Really. It’s too good a wink to pass up, right?

BTW, Palmer talks in internet emojis. BTW.

Oliver has a little bit of an excuse to be distracted, as there’s a new Count Vertigo in town, and he’s got a new formula that looks like he’s been consulting with Jonathan “Scarecrow” Crane. This formula turns your worst fear in on yourself, and Oliver at one point finds himself fighting … himself. The illusion is such that it convinces Oliver that he has to be The Arrow full time, and he can’t have any kind of personal life to distract from that. He even makes the decision that Diggle — with a baby on the way — can’t be out in the field anymore. Oliver realized that he’s got to make some sacrifices to protect the rest of his team. Especially after a tracking device on Arrow’s costume means an RPG in to blow up the restaurant where Oliver and Felicity are having their first official date. With awkward conversation. About shirtless Ollie.

[Let me inject there, that they should loose the tight hair and glasses more often. Emily Rickards is just …well, you know.]

Which means no Queen Consolidated, no Felicity. The #Olicity shippers will be gnashing their teeth over this, but it’s a smart move to make for the show. This season looks like it’s going to go “lean and mean” besides adding the mystery back into it, like we had in the first season. The big mystery?

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Who killed Sara Lance?

That sound you may have heard toward the end of the episode could have been a million voices crying out in terror as Sara was suddenly silenced. And yes, producers have confirmed that Sara Lance is “Ben Parker Dead” and not “comic book dead”.

First, though, have to call out the show for the very “Hand of the Writer” way that Sara just shows up too conveniently as Oliver and Roy are trying to defuse a bomb Vertigo has put at the boxing match where many mob thugs are watching the championship match. Yes, there’s a line of dialogue that gives us Sara overhearing the com chatter for Team Arrow, but why would she still have her ear bug? Why come back to Starling City at all after choosing to leave with Nyssa at the end of season two?

It would have made more sense for Sara’s death to come at the end of last season, leaving a heck of a cliffhanger along the lines of “Who shot J.R.?” Her sudden appearance at the end of the hour feels a bit contrived and shoehorned, and it’s obviously a setup piece to get us moving on the arc that will play throughout the season — Laurel as Black Canary. Given that Sara fell dead off a building, in front of her sister, with the mask falling to the foreground of the camera shot as Sara bounced off the dumpster… yeah. They figuratively and literally trashed Sara. Story motivations obviously have us at this point, and I predicted long ago that Sara would ultimately have to die.

Even in the comics, Dinah Laurel Lance is the second Black Canary, taking up the mantle of her mother. So, whether it’s mother or sister, the first Black Canary has to be set aside for the real Black Canary to come to the fore. This is the Black Canary that has the relationship with Green Arrow. This is also the Black Canary who sometimes can’t stand Green Arrow. Theirs is a tempestuous relationship at best, and it will be interesting to see just how far the show lets Arrow and Canary get their noses out of joint with each other.

Nice bit to tie in the premiere of The Flash in this episode, too. Now we have a frame of reference on when the rooftop conversation between Oliver and Barry takes place, and primes the pump for the eighth episode cross-over.

And I’m not going to spend any time on the Hong Kong flashbacks, because it just adds more to the growing sense that Amanda Waller is a lame character. I mean, really, why would she be so interested in recruiting a rich party boy who’s been stranded on an island for a year and is believed to be dead? It’s probably the weakest of all the plot lines running through the show. Waller’s just there to fume and fulminate.

And congratulations, Diggle, you’re a father! You husband/boyfriend/ex-husband, you.

[Show web site at CW]

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Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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