Friday, May 15, 2015

"My Name Is Oliver Queen," Not ARROW

Article originally written for Seat42F.

The CW’s ARROW tells us who its lead character is in the season finale, “My Name is Oliver Queen.” Still trying to trick Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable), Oliver’s cover is blown early in the hour, resulting in a scramble to stop Ra’s from releasing a deadly virus that could wipe out Starling City. Will Oliver’s friends, last seen being poisoned themselves by Ra’s, be able to help?

Oliver (Stephen Amell) has a rough go of things. In order to trick Ra’s, he must fully insulate himself into the League of Assassins, cutting himself off from those he cares about. Doing so requires making tough decisions and seemingly betraying people he would never betray. But not for one second did I believe, nor should any fan, that Oliver would allow Ra’s to murder all of Team Arrow, as appears to happen in last week’s “cliffhanger.”

Instead, Malcolm (John Barrowman) inoculates those captured, and The Flash (Grant Gustin) stops by to help them escape, with Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) inadvertently blowing his cover, something that could have ramifications later. Even though this is Oliver’s plan, this isn’t enough to assuage any hurt feelings, as he finds out when he returns to Palmer Technologies with Nyssa (Katrina Law) in tow and is greeted by stony silence, especially from Diggle (David Ramsey).

I understand why Diggle doesn’t approve of Oliver’s methods in “My Name is Oliver Queen.” When they first meet, Oliver does the wrong thing sometimes. Diggle sees Oliver’s latest actions as a backslide. Even with Oliver sparing lives, he crosses the line when he kidnaps Diggle’s wife. For Diggle, the ends do not always justify the means, and he thinks Oliver should have found another way. There’s no telling if another option would work, but that’s how Diggle feels.

Even by the end of “My Name is Oliver Queen,” after the virus has been stopped with minimal casualties, Diggle doesn’t forgive Oliver. The fact that Oliver leaves town might allow Diggle to continue on Team Arrow, hopefully finally adopting a secret identity, but their bond is broken. Is there anything Oliver can ever do to help Diggle understand what Oliver has done, or at least that Oliver regrets any pain caused? I just don’t know, and that seems a ripe question for season four.

Yes, Oliver will be back next season. As satisfying as it is to see him drive off with Felicity into the sunset, that’s series finale stuff, not the way ARROW will send off its titular character. The Arrow might be a blown cover that can’t be used any more, at least not for a bit, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be resurrected at some point, nor that Oliver can escape his mission, even if the voiceover indicates the mission is complete. It’s a bold choice to leave Oliver in this position, as it is really neat that the Arrow identity has been gone from the show for so long. However, this is just a part of the journey, not the conclusion.

The season also ends with Malcolm assuming the mantle of Ra’s. I assume this is something he demands in order to help Oliver, and Oliver did need his help. Still, I can’t help but wonder if this will end up being a huge mistake. Will Malcolm play nice with Team Arrow because Thea is a part of the group now? Or will his new position go to his head and make him more dangerous than ever? How will Nyssa try to take him down? This is an interesting development with many possibilities.
The last twist is that Ray (Brandon Routh) and Palmer Technologies blow up. He may be dead, at least temporarily. True, Ray is heading to the spin-off next January, but so is Sara, who is killed earlier this season. The fact of the matter is, though, Ray will return, so the stakes here are pretty low.

Surprisingly, “My Name is Oliver Queen” has quite a few moments that make me question the quality of the writing, something I don’t typically find with ARROW. I often complain about the flashbacks, the ones this week equally as useless as in other recent installments, but that isn’t the only problem here. The Flash leaves with a flimsy excuse. Oliver decides not to give Thea (Willa Holland) any gruff about becoming a costumed hero. Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) helps Oliver without complaint, something he has not shown a willingness to do lately, and the dialogue between he and Laurel (Katie Cassidy) when she confronts him about his drinking seems trite and cliché. Felicity learns to fly The Atom suit in moments.

Now, I’m not saying that the season finale is a bad episode; it is super exciting, and there is no denying how cool it is to see Felicity swoop in and catch Oliver, who then appears totally uninjured a short time later. I’m just saying that usually the writers don’t have so many plot holes or things that just don’t make sense. I feel much of this happens because they must wrap up a season in a single hour and want to end it happily and with a feeling of finality. These things aren’t enough to ruin the show, nor even the episode, but they do knock it down a few pegs from its usual perch.

ARROW has been renewed and will return for a fourth run next fall on the CW.

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