Arrow: “The Calm” Season 3 Premiere Review

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The CW’s flagship superhero series returned with its best premiere. You’ll cheer, laugh, and maybe even cry at one hell of a bang to start the season.

The Calm was an excellent episode of Arrow even before those shocking final moments. We had the same crew, many in new positions in Oliver’s life, fighting a great villain.

Season 3 starts with Arrow and Arsenal, a newly suited-up Roy, taking down a few criminals. We quickly learn that Starling City is cleaner than ever following Deathstroke’s massive assault. With Quentin Lance now a police captain, the city’s police are fully behind the Arrow. All they need is a flood light pointed at the sky carving out an arrowhead in the clouds to call him. With Laurel in on Oliver’s secret, she books anybody the vigilante brings in. Things are good for a change, which is where the premiere gets its title from.

Oliver is faced with five conflicts in this episode. The first, and most buzzworthy, is his acknowledgement of his love for Felicity (leave it to Diggle to talk some sense into him). You have to appreciate a show that packs half a season of will-they-won’t-they in one clean subplot of an episode. The fact is, Felicity has way more chemistry than Laurel and Sara. Perhaps its destiny, but a rocket through a window on the first date is enough to have Oliver second-guessing his love’s safety. They end things by the episode. For good? They say yes now, but we know how television works. These guys are like the Ross and Rachel of superhero shows. It’ll happen, but I’m happy to wait for when it can be used most effectively for the show’s endgame.

Next, Oliver has to tell Diggle, whose now an expecting father, that he can’t be in the field anymore. With Roy now acting as some pretty effective backup, Diggle’s value as a father outweighs his value as a partner. Diggle doesn’t understand at first, but with his child born by episode’s end, they make amends and understand each other.

Oliver’s third conflict is his company, which he lost at the end of last season. Just when he thinks he has a chance to win it back, Ray Palmer (former Superman Brandon Routh) enters the room and sweet talks the board. The Queen name doesn’t mean anything when somebody walks in with a 22nd century PowerPoint showing how terrible you are for the company.

The fourth is a new Count Vertigo (Peter Storamre), who has developed a new version of the drug that essentially makes him the Scarecrow (that is, victims see their worst fears). When it hits the Arrow, he sees Oliver Queen, leading to some fun fight scenes. Eventually he’s able to shake his fear of himself long enough to take down the villain, with some help of newly returned Black Canary of course.

Finally, Oliver struggles to separate Oliver Queen from the Arrow, claiming he can only be the latter. As Sara says, this will only make things worse for him and he needs to find balance between his two personas. Considering this is a theme that was also strung through the newly reenergized flashbacks (goodbye island, hello Hong Kong!), this will likely be Oliver’s main arc through the season. Is it one we’ve seen in a ton of superhero movies? Yes. But Arrow reigns as the superhero king of television, making this the first time this conflict will be seen and possibly done justice in the format.

Okay, now we have to talk about those final moments. Just when Laurel and Sara get a chance to talk, Sara is impaled with three arrows by a mysterious voice. She falls off the roof and lands in front of her sister. With her mask off, you can see that her eyes are open. The Season 3 premiere just killed one of Season 2’s most interesting characters. Wow.

While this naturally paves the way for Laurel to become the Black Canary, I can’t help but be sad to see Sara go. With next week’s episode titled Sara, get ready for a sobfest all about the death of the Arrow’s most electric sidekick.

The Calm already feels aptly titled and the storm hasn’t even hit yet. But it did prove that the show can still deliver big twists, character moments, and fun. This was an excellent premiere, setting the bar high for the upcoming season. With some of the stuff we already know they have cooked up, don’t expect Arrow‘s reign to falter. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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