Well, if nothing else, Season 3 was certainly something. Was it something I was always wild about? Maybe not. Definitely not. But it happened. Good things happened. Good character development and story telling, and while there was definitely moments of over reaching or clunky side lines, I’m certainly not going anywhere come Season Four. So let’s break it down. Take a look at Season Three and talk about what worked, what didn’t work, what were good choices, what were not so good choices. And then let’s talk about what’s to come.
I have to say, I have been a fan of Ms. Thea Queen since day one. She doesn’t always react the way I want her to or make the choices I want her to make, but I am a fan. I am always, always rooting for her. This season we saw her training with Malcolm Merlyn. And while his pushing a father/daughter relationship on her made my skin crawl, her training and her reasons for wanting that training were great. I loved seeing her, sword in hand, holding her own against Malcolm. And despite my devastation that Roy is gone and it’s unlikely they’ll end up together, I absolutely cheered the first time we saw her in Roy’s Arsenal gear.
In order for Thea’s training and succession of Roy’s position to make any sense story-wise, she finally had to be let into Oliver’s secret. And they way that went down was perfect. Malcolm threatened Oliver, threatened him the truth would ruin his relationship with Thea, but in the end the truth only strengthened it. Oliver took that threat to heart, but no matter how many times Malcolm claims to know and understand his daughter, Oliver is her brother in much more than name. And he knew her better.
I really appreciated that in the same season we have Thea training to be the badass fighter she’s become, Laurel got her training too. And their stories could NOT have been more different. Thea’s taken by Malcolm down to South America, she’s trained by someone who wants to train her, and everybody else in her life lets her get to it. Oliver and Roy may not like Malcolm, but they stand aside when it’s what she says she wants and needs. Laurel, on the other hand, had to fight tooth and nail to find someone to take her seriously. Oliver and Dig and Felicity certainly didn’t. You’re not Sara, they all said, so why bother. Grant was reluctant, but he helped. Then Roy was reluctant, but he helped. And then finally Laurel was able to find Nyssa. Someone who understood her rage and her guilt and her need to do this, to be this, to honor her sister. And Nyssa was able, in just a short amount of time, to take the haphazard training Laurel had already managed to cobble together, and turn her into the fighter she knew she could be.
And let’s be real, the Canary Cry – with Laurel’s dark lipstick and her teeth bared – looks fuckin’ sick. A+ Cisco and Laurel.
3. Team Arrow
If you don’t know this, there are five stages to Team Building: forming, storming, norming, performing, and celebrating (some people know this stage as adjourning, and while it does rhyme which makes me happy, I learned it as celebrating and I like that better – acknowledging your achievements is better than just achieving them and moving on). These stages don’t work in a straight line, however, and a team can move forward and backwards depending on what’s going on in the group. But they are all equally important.
Team Arrow spent most of the season in the storming stage. Usually, that stage rears up when some kind of big change happens. Like the death of Sara and everything that came after that. That change shakes up the group and they have to figure out how to work with each other again under these new circumstances, usually leading to disharmony and in-fighting until conflicts can be hammered out in order to move onto norming. As much as people want to believe that their team is stronger than that, that they won’t resort to such conflict, it’s actually incredibly healthy and important for team growth. And it’s an important stage for Team Arrow to work through.
All season long we saw cracks forming. Felicity and Dig felt themselves become closer to equals rather than Oliver’s underlings, but he was resistant. Nobody wanted Laurel to join in the fight, but she was determined to earn her place. Oliver was forced into some incredibly difficult decisions and felt like he wasn’t being supported by his team. Captain Lance felt betrayed by his daughter and the rest of the team and his grief caused his to turn on his own team. Roy still needed to find some way to atone for his crimes. And then Oliver’s trip to Nanda Parbat, his choice to trust Malcolm rather than Felicity and Dig, struck the biggest blow to Team Arrow.
They’re not broken. Even with these major fissures, they were able to come together to defeat the League and stop the release of the Alpha Omega. But they’re far from back up to their best.
4. Oliver Wins
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but one of the things I find so enthralling when it comes to Arrow is that Oliver never seems to pull off the big win. In Season One, Lance may have stopped one of the bombs, but then we realized there were more, and while The Undertaking didn’t succeed the way Merlyn planned, a good portion of the Glades was still leveled and Tommy was killed. In Season Two, Slade was eventually stopped and imprisoned by ARGUS, but not before getting revenge on Oliver for the death of Shado by killing Moira. Now in Season Three, Oliver actually won. He defeated Ra’s. He stopped the Alpha Omega virus. He feels the city is in good enough hands to actually hang up his hood and let others take up the mantle of Starling City’s protector. In the wake of his team imploding, I feel that was an important choice, to finally let him win.
The Not So Good
1. Ray Palmer
Ray was a problem from the minute he showed up. He was introduced as a rival for Oliver, both personally and romantically, but neither of those things really came to pass. Sure, Oliver lost his company, but after the initial sting he never once seemed to care, or even remember that he once owned a company. And when it came to Felicity, no one – not the viewers, not Oliver, not Felicity’s mother, not even Felicity herself – ever really saw Ray as a threat. He was the person Felicity chose because Oliver said no. She didn’t choose him over Oliver, she chose him over loneliness. He was, from the minute she decided to be with him, second choice.
Not to mention, his initial interactions with Felicity were incredibly creepy and inappropriate: from buying out the company she worked for in order to force her to work for him, to pinging her phone, to showing up at her apartment unannounced. He showed no sign of understanding boundaries, and the few times Felicity protested his behavior, she was shrugged off. Most women would be flattered, he said. No. This woman would be getting a restraining order.
Lastly, Ray never seemed to serve any real purpose other than his own. His presence didn’t progress any of the stories on Arrow. He was poorly integrated, kept to himself and Felicity, and felt more like an extremely long and tedious backdoor pilot.
For a more complete analysis on Problematic Palmer, see Just About Write’s fabulous breakdown.
Throughout Seasons One and Two, Felicity was a great character. She was funny, she was smart, she was accessible. But then, somewhere during the end of Season Two and the beginning of Season Three, she began to lose all the things that made her whole and complex and was relegated to Oliver’s Love Interest. I don’t think she really did anything this season that wasn’t to further Oliver’s story or Ray’s. And more than that, something about her characterization just seemed off to me all season.
One thing I’ve appreciate throughout the three seasons of Arrow is its distinct lack of love triangles. Okay, there was a little bit during Season One of Oliver and Tommy vying for Laurel’s affections, but even that was minimal. But no, there was never any real competition between Laurel and Sara for Oliver’s affections. Laurel was done with him by the time Sara came back in the picture. And by the time we got to Felicity, Sara was back with Nyssa and the bridges between Laurel and Oliver seemed to have been burned to the ground. None of Oliver’s women have ever felt it necessary to fight over him. And I so appreciated that.
So you can imagine my disappointment when I finally got to what was actually bothering my this season about Felicity. Felicity has spent this season in a love triangle, fighting over Oliver. Not the Ray Palmer/Oliver Queen non-existent love triangle. No, she’s spent the season competing with Thea for Oliver’s affections.
Two things, Oliver said, would always be true. He would do everything he can to protect Thea. And he loves Felicity. Unfortunately, loving Felicity doesn’t necessarily mean being with her. And so when being with Felicity came in conflict with protecting Thea, Oliver chose Thea. Because he could still love Felicity, even if they weren’t together.
I don’t think Felicity ever thought of it that way, as her competing with Thea for Oliver, but that is how it came across. Just about everything that Felicity fought with Oliver over, every decision he made that he couldn’t be swayed on, was something involving Thea. Oliver couldn’t go fight Ra’s because he would die and how could he leave her? Oliver was fighting Ra’s to protect Thea. Oliver should have gained some perspective from his fight with Ra’s and want to be with her now, not to mention he would never stoop so low as to align himself with Malcolm Merlyn. Oliver kept himself from Felicity and allied himself with Merlyn to train himself to defeat Ra’s and protect Thea. Oliver can’t take Thea to Nanda Parbat and trade his life for hers, because then Oliver will really be lost to Felicity. Yeah, of course he’s going to trade his life (and a life with Felicity) for Thea’s. Was there ever any doubt in anyone’s mind?
Oliver was put in some extremely tough situations this season. He had to make some impossible decisions and even rougher sacrifices. And everything he did kept being brought back as a direct attack on Felicity. He didn’t always make the best decisions, that’s for damn sure, but Felicity making it all about her really started to bother me, especially by the last two episodes. She and her friends are literally locked in a prison being poisoned and her thoughts are not on her or her friends’ safety, but on Oliver’s betrayal by marrying Nyssa. Seriously, Felicity? And then during the finale when Ray was busy saving the whole city from a virus outbreak, she wanted him to stop and put on his Atom suit to go rescue Oliver. Um…no? Oliver and Ray have both positioned themselves as Heroes, as Protectors of the City. The city comes first.
Look, I liked Felicity a lot in Season One and Two, but her unrequited love (that’s not quite the right word – he did love her back, he just wouldn’t be with her) for Oliver really clouded her judgement and made her hard to root for this season. I’m hoping Season Four brings her back to her former glories.
3. Hong Kong
I don’t even know what to say about this mess. Hong Kong was terrible. The first two seasons’ flash backs were both incredibly entertaining and highly connected to the current plot. And, I feel that they were complete, complex stories with several moving parts and characters and conflicts. I can barely tell you what happened during this season. Mostly because nothing did happen. Oliver went to Hong Kong. He met Maseo and Tatsu. Then they had to steal the Alpha Omega virus. That was it. I was so bored by it. That story just plodded on and on and on, never going anywhere. I hope Oliver leaves Hong Kong and never goes back.
Hopes for Season Four
1. No more Hong Kong and a better, more integrated flash back story.
2. More backstory on Felicity and Dig: Felicity’s dad, Dig’s brother
3. Rebuilding Team Arrow: reconciling Oliver and Dig, bringing Oliver and Felicity back in, stronger integration of Laurel and Captain Lance, and Thea right in the thick of things. This shouldn’t be immediate. I want to see them work on it!
4. Oliver and Felicity as a couple: I am so definitely over their mutual pining. Let’s see how they actually work as a couple and how they can balance their commitment to each other with their commitment to the team and the city.
5. Seeing Laurel not in mourning: Every season she has been grieving. In season one, even though it was five years earlier, Oliver’s reappearance in her life caused her grief to resurface and she was finally able to deal with some of those feelings of pain and grief and guilt. Then in Season Two, Tommy had just died and we saw her decent into alcoholism and addiction as she grieved his loss. Then early in Season Three, Sara died again. And Laurel had to mourn her all over again. Let’s have a season where Laurel is happy. Where she’s not grieving.
6. A more consistent cross-over timeline: I love The Flash, and I love how much they’ve incorporated both shows into each other. But the last few cross-overs made very little sense. One of the shows got preempted or something and things got screwed up. And when you’re expecting people to watch both shows, you need those cross-overs to make sense.
7. An explanation for Merlyn becoming the new Ra’s. As much as I love the fact that Thea is now Heir to the Demon, it makes little sense for Merlyn to take over. And even less for Oliver to be okay with it, considering he straight up murdered Sara. And even less sense for Nyssa and the rest of the League to accept him. I hope she ends up killing him next season.
Well, that’s it. Season Three has been put to bed, and there’s nothing left to do but wait til September!