The sign of a good show is to maintain the general status quo while moving the narrative forward. The sign of a great show is to make me yell “WTF” so loudly my dog thinks their might be a problem. That is what the season premier of Arrow made me do at the very end, which we will talk about, but the entire lead up and completely out of left field turn that we took throughout the entire runtime was very, very satisfying. Even without that ending this would have been an extremely good premier, but with how the episode closed out there are now so many new storylines and avenues for our characters to explore. We have been told that this season will be about identity and Oliver’s journey to discover if he can be both The Arrow and Oliver Queen and from our first look the immediate outlook is no. So let’s dive in.
So with the episode titled “The Calm” I expected some batshit crazy antics to occur in this episode, but we went from Ollie’s life is great to Ollie’s life is shit in a flash (cough cough, pardon the pun). The opening few minutes of seeing Oliver and Team Arrow have a string of wins was so very gratifying after everything the team has been through in the last couple of years. Unfortunately, all good things have to come to an end and for us that end’s name is Werner Zytle, as portrayed by the fantastic Peter Stormare. Even with his limited amount of screen time Zytle’s new Count/Scarecrow hybrid chews scenery with the best of them. He was both suitably terrifying and psychotic and seems to lean more on the side of the mass chaos spectrum than the original Count did. If I was in the room when Vertigo made his initial entrance I would have signed on the dotted line so fast it would have made your head spin. I am definitely looking forward to Vertigo reappearing in the future because his off the wall performance will definitely be enjoyable in small doses.
Speak of small, Ray Palmer showed up to single-handedly steal Oliver’s company and the episode in general. I will say I have never been a huge fan of Brandon Routh, except when he is a villain, like Shaw from Chuck, but his Palmer has so much charisma and humor to him that he just can’t help but be likable. His interactions in both the boardroom scene and his two scenes with Felicity spoke volumes about the type of man he is: a driven, snarky, eccentric billionaire who will keep trying until he gets what he wants. Even though Palmer was clearly supposed to be Ted Kord or at least Kord-esque, this incarnation clearly has a lot of potential and it will be interesting to see how far they are willing to go with Palmer’s obsessions with shrinking technology. My only regret is that we really did not get to see Palmer interact with Ollie in any meaningful way, hopefully this will be remedied shortly.
As for the Oliver material in the episode, it was kind of a mixed bag. Oliver clearly wants to have a more normal, or as close to normal for him lifestyle as humanly possible. However, the idea that he was off his game and thus becoming soft and complacent was kind of a stupid idea. Ollie literally did the same exact thing last year when he found out Slade was alive and that did not really benefit him in any way. Like Sara said, Ollie has to be able to lean on his friends for support because if he doesn’t he will eventually lose himself. Oliver clearly is mature enough to know that his friends can take care of themselves, but also that they are there to help him when he falls flat on his face. I hope it won’t take an entire season for Oliver to realize this fact as he is a full grown adult and should be able to handle himself with relative ease.
I said the Oliver material was a mixed bag and that does not only go for present day Ollie. Flashback Ollie, since we now can’t call him Island Ollie, is stuck in Hong Kong basically serving as Amanda Waller’s prisoner. The opening of Ollie trying to escape Maseo was everything I wanted it to be as it proved Ollie clearly can’t be contained without a viable motivation, in this case it is making sure Maseo and Tatsu’s family stays alive. I did find it a little odd that Ollie would agree to stay with Maseo after having no connection to the man and being beaten to a pulp by him for the past five months. I guess we can chalk it up to Oliver being a good guy. I just want more solid motivation. It was a little disheartening to see even after all of Ollie’s training by Slade, Ollie was still getting the shit kicked out of him by Maseo. They could have at least let Ollie put up a decent fight.
Now let’s talk about that ending. Sara is dead and there is a mystery afoot: who shot her full of black arrows? Obviously this will reverberate throughout the entire season as there are many people who loved and respected Sara who will not rest until her killer is found. I just hope that the actual ramifications of her death will be seen as we have not truly seen the team deal with a loss like this. The aspect of this murder that intrigues me is that Sara recognized her killer which means they will probably have a legitimate connection to the members of the team. All I can say is I am extremely excited to see how this all plays out and for the League to rain hell on earth down on whoever did it.
Overall a very strong start to the season.
Final Grade A-
+Vertigo and Ray Palmer are welcome additions to cast
+All of the great action scenes
+Interesting new status quo in Hong Kong
-Really Ollie is being a sad sack again
-Roy was suitably cool in his new Arsenal attire and had some fun scenes
-No sign of Thea or Malcolm although Thea is apparently texting Oliver
-Diggle got some great screen time this week hopefully his story continues to amp up.
-So Captain Lance is officially Commissioner Gordon.