Arrow TV Reviews

TV Review: Arrow, “Three Ghosts” (S2/EP9) – Now That’s How You Do a Mid-Season Finale

To read our other Arrow episode reviews please go here.

Arrow Three Ghosts Shado

  • Airdate: 12/11/2013
  • Director: John Behring (Arrow, Vampire Diaries, Charmed, Numb3rs)
  • Writer(s): Ben Sokolowski (Arrow) & Geoff Johns (D.C.’s Chief Creative Office, Arrow writer, will leave to write for The Flash if the CW orders a full season)

This might be the greatest compliment I can pay to Arrow’s mid-season finale, “Three Ghosts”: I just finished watching it, and I immediately want to watch it again.  Moreover, even though they haven’t even completed casting yet let alone begun shooting I want to see The Flash pilot right now.  Seriously, get on that CW.  Prior to “Three Ghosts,” the first 8 episodes of the season have challenged my faith in Arrow‘s producers and writers far more than I expected.  There have been romantic hook-ups which didn’t make sense, a nonsensical trip to Russia, multiple people returning from the dead in exactly as soap opera a fashion as you’d expect, the world’s fastest trial of an admittedly guilty accomplice to mass murder, and way too many retconning to explain new plot twists.   That’s not even mentioning the, shall we say, curious direction they’ve taken Laurel, and at times overplayed hints of an Oliver/Felicity relationship.

There’s also been plenty of good, such as the scenes shared by Caity Lotz and Paul Blackthorne, continued commanding performance of Stephen Amell, and repeatedly engaging and impressive action sequences.  I have not rejected the season as resoundingly as some nor embraced it as enthusiastically as others, as there are those who argue the show has gone off the rails and those who counter-argue it has taken things to another level in going from a merely good show to a great one.  “Three Ghosts” earned back my enthusiasm.

Let’s break it down:

THE MAIN PLOT 

Oliver & The Three Ghosts-

When last we left Oliver, he had a bad case of “about to die from mysterious poison.”  Felicity’s intuition is proved correct as Barry does manage to save Oliver, using rat poison as a blood thinner.  Oliver is seriously, seriously angry at Felicity for revealing his secret to someone else, signaling his distrust of Barry and basically yelling “That was different!” when Felicity compares this to the other times a wounded person has been taken to the the Arrow Cave.  Oliver doesn’t even thank any of them for saving his life.  We get our first taste of whether or not Grant Gustin can be anything other than adorable when he stands up to Oliver and practically demands that he apologize for yelling at Felicity, not backing down when Oliver stares him down face to face.

Three Ghosts
We’ve got to really work on your “thank you”‘s, Oliver.

With that bit of testosterone out of the way, we get Team Arrow and Barry investigating Cyrus Gold, the dude that almost killed Oliver last week, while Oliver suddenly begins hallucinating ghosts, first Shado and then Slade Wilson.  After Diggle is also almost killed by Cyrus, Oliver turns the case over to Officer Lance and the squadron of police officers he leads.  Oliver does warn them that Cyrus is basically a monster, but they don’t really believe him until all of them die, except for Lance and Sebastian’s acolyte who is his mole on the police force.  In response to this, Oliver heads out to battle Cyrus once again, much to Felicity’s extreme dismay.  Once there, he encounters Brother Blood for the first time, and does again get his ass kicked by Cyrus until the ghost of Tommy gives him a pep talk after which Oliver becomes a badass again, beats the bad guys, and saves Roy.  Blood escapes to reveal his boss and source of the serum to be Slade Wilson, who has big plans for his revenge on Arrow.

Thea, Roy & Sin – The Comedy Trio-

Thea and Sin are hiding a wounded Roy away in the Queen mansion, clearly having tried nothing to help Roy and they’re all out of ideas.  Oliver helps pull the arrow from Roy’s leg.  You know – the arrow he shot through Roy’s leg in the first place.  This entire scene was an immense delight, particularly Oliver’s odd introduction to Sin and “it’s a long story” response to Diggle over the phone.  Oliver warns the three of them to let it go, as maybe they weren’t meant to find the truth behind the death of Sin’s friend.

Three Ghosts

Nuts to that.  They enlist Laurel to look into it, who turns out to now be dating Sebastian Blood.  That makes it all the more awkward when Thea & friends bring her the information implicating some shady doings with Blood’s, um, blood drive.  Laurel finds enough to raise suspicion (everyone at his blood drive as a psych profile performed on them), but not enough to warrant, um, a legal warrant.  So, Roy breaks into Sebastian’s offices, steals the psych profile of Sin’s friend, and then gets captured and made just the last super soldier experiment for Brother Blood, injected with super powers before Oliver saves him.

Meanwhile, On the Island… –

Ivo leaves Slade’s apparent corpse behind, takes the miracle drug supply with him, and escorts Sara, Shado, and Oliver outdoors for a military-style execution.  Ivo gives Oliver the opportunity to pick which girl gets shot in the back of the head, Sara or Shado.  If he doesn’t pick Ivo will kill both girls.  At the literal last second, Oliver jumps in front of Sara, thus effectively making his choice (or attempting to offer himself as sacrifice?).   He immediately keels over in instant regret and remorse when Ivo coldly executes Shado.  Slade awakens back on the submarine, newly superpowered and cured of the scarring on his face.  He emerges as a one-man wrecking machine, brutalizing Ivo’s soldiers.  Ivo barely escapes, and upon seeing Shado’s corpse Slade pledges vengeance against anyone responsibile, Sara instantly covering for Oliver’s part in the murder.  Seriously, this new superpowered version of Slade is one scary dude.  Sara may have saved both of their lives with her quick lie. 

Felicity & Barry-

Last week, many viewers fell utterly and deeply in love with Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen, although surely we all laughed when Felicity told him, “I don’t like Oliver” because, come on, me thinks the lady doth … I don’t know Shakespeare.  The point is she was lying.  This week, Barry calls her on that, basically taking a step back from her and doing the whole “you may not even realize it, but you are clearly hung up on this guy.  If that ever becomes not the case, please give me a call” thing.  Then after they have that very conversation over the phone with Barry at home in Central City, the particle accelerator goes off, a flash of red cascades through the city, and Barry is struck by lightning and thrown back into assorted chemicals in his gorgeous, spacious loft.  And that, kids, is how Barry Allen became The Flash.  This sequence was one of the most visually striking scenes yet accomplished on Arrow.

WHAT I LIKED

Arrow Three Ghosts Slade

–Why would Oliver be seeing ghosts everywhere due to survivor’s guilt now?  If it was a pharmacological side effect from the rat poison it would at least make TV sense, but the show dispels that explanation, revealing it’s all in Oliver’s head.  So, why would Oliver only just now be seeing the ghosts of those friends he believes/knows to be dead?  With Shado and Slade, their fates are so tied to the super soldier serum that maybe re-encountering it in the present is drawing up bad memories for Oliver.  

Three Ghosts

However, each individual ghost scene was incredibly effective.  Before she even died, we effectively got to say goodbye to Shado, with her begging for peace and warning Oliver (much like a random Doctor Who side character with a prophecy) about all the bad things awaiting him.  Slade showing up to battle Oliver was not only a well choreographed fight sequence, it gave just enough about what’s to happen in the near future on the island to make that storyline seem far more immediate now.  Yes, it is another example of retconning where Slade argues Oliver wasn’t making up for his father’s sins last season but for his own based upon the bad things he seems set to do on the island in the forthcoming flashbacks.  However, this time it actually worked for me.

The final sequence with Tommy, though, practically broke my heart.  I had not realized how much I missed Colin Donnell’s presence until the moment Oliver looked up to see his face.  I don’t know if his return had been spoiled elsewhere, but thank you to the gods of the internet that I hadn’t heard anything about his cameo until watching this episode.  That was basically a boxing scene, with Oliver the prized fighter down for the count and Tommy the trainer yelling at him to get back up.  Except, you know, quieter and more emotional.  Does this mean that to Brother Blood and Cyrus they saw Oliver looking/speaking to someone who wasn’t there?  Eh, probably, but why tear this down?  Plus, yes, this is not really the literal ghost of Tommy but instead something inside of Oliver’s head meaning not everything Tommy says is something the real Tommy would.  However, the emotion of the moment still landed for me.

Grant Gustin as Barry Allen in a forthcoming episode of Arrow.

–It took an extra episode with him, but I am officially on board with Team Barry now.  Last week, Gustin was all awkward smiles, trailed off sentences, and poorly set up monologues about his tragic past.  This week, he saved Oliver under immense pressure, played more than mere meet-cute with Felicity, held his own physically in commanding the frame alongside Stephen Amell, and by the end when he was gone I genuinely missed having him around.  There was more nuance to his performance and additional shadings to the character, and I hope to heck the CW picks up the pilot because this absolutely cannot be the last time we see Grant Gustin as Barry Allen.  That all being said…wasn’t he supposed to go back to Central City right away or else he’d lose his job?  Yet here he is sticking around in Starling City for an additional day in this episode?  Also, after Oliver was more protective than jealous of Felicity/Barry last week and Barry flat out refers to Felicity’s affections for Oliver as being unrequited this week could all of the Oliver-Felicity teasing mostly amount to her having to move on because he doesn’t feel the same way about her?  To some, that would be amazing news but devastating to others.

–This was an amazingly violent episode of Arrow, with Shado shot in the back of the head, Quentin’s ex-partner shot in the face, and Slade reaching into a freaking man’s chest (or neck?) and ripping out viscera (or an organ of some kind?).  However, we barely saw anything, with the violence instead communicated via effective editing and minimal blood spatter (if any).    

–I can’t be the only who instantly thought that when Quentin’s old partner, Lucas (the enjoyable Roger R. Cross), mentioned plans to go shopping with a loved one that it meant he was a goner.  You give us that bit of personal information to humanize the guy just to kill him.  I sort of enjoyed how transparent it was.  He might as well have complained to Quentin about only having 3 days left until his retirement.

–The producers long ago indicated a need for this new season to streamline their stories more around Oliver as well as find a way to bring more immediacy to the island storylines.  Plus, they alluded to the possibility of Slade Wilson evolving into Deathstroke, which means some have expected him to show up as the season’s secret big bad in the present for a while now.  Just as Sara has been used to draw more direct connections between past and present stories, Slade will do so just from a more villainous point of view.

–Speaking of streamlining, maybe I should reject the notion of Laurel Lance again needing a male protector for comfort in Sebastian Blood, but I think attaching her romantically to Sebastian is a fantastic method of reintegrating her into the show.  Yes, it is a sleeping with the enemy storyline, but when you watch earlier episodes you can see hints of a Sebastian/Laurel pairing.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

Arrow Three Ghosts Shado

–Shado and Slade have largely been used this season as part of a love triangle with Oliver.  However, until last week there had been no real significant screen time granted to the Shado/Slade portion of the triangle, their union mostly hinted at.  So, Slade’s remorse over Shado’s death could have been more effective had those two actually had a little more screen time together this season.  Or, for that matter, just more screen time at all, as they were both sidelined for multiple episodes.  It remains to be seen how central Shado’s death will be to getting Slade from the island to plotting his revenge against Oliver in Starling City.  

–Last week, it was Shado who got a turn to register her disgust at Oliver’s man-whoring ways, with Celina Jade beautifully playing the look of a woman instantly falling out of love with someone.  This week, it’s Felicity.  The problem, though, is that her mocking Shado and Oliver’s bevvy of island women (“You sure it wasn’t Fantasy Island?”) seems horribly insensitive when it happens in the same episode when we see Shado-a rather likable character-summarily executed for no good reason.  It seemed like another example of either Oliver or Felicity acting slightly out of character for the primary purpose of teasing a potential romance between the pair.  In this instance, Oliver actually appeared to be on the verge of opening up to Felicity.  It seemed at least a little monumental that he even mentioned the name Shado to her.  In the past, Felicity has not been nearly as dismissive of his island stories.  You could argue that Felicity is simply still frustrated with Oliver over the Isabel Rochev incident in Russia.  Plus, after the way he confronted her at the beginning of the episode she had a right to be angry. However, Oliver and Felicity are not a couple, but they’ve quite often placed Felicity in the role of the jilted lover.

–I know they are going off the comics and everything, but I have to be honest – when we finally saw Slade’s face at the end with the eyepatch and streaks of grey hair on the side I laughed a little bit.  Partially because I just wasn’t prepared to see Manu Bennett look like that, even if that’s basically what Slade Wilson looks like underneath his Deathstroke mask, but also because I was reminded of  the David Hasselhoff version of Nick Fury.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Arrow is a show which is freakishly good at finales.  Last mid-season finale, Oliver was almost killed by the Dark Archer (who we discovered was actually Malcolm Merlyn!) and Walter was abducted; in the proper season finale, Tommy died and Oliver failed to save the city.  In “Three Ghosts,” Shado dies but appears as a ghost, Slade Wilson shows up as the secret big bad behind Brother Blood, Roy gains superpowers, and Tommy freakin’ Merlyn shows up to give Oliver a “get up and fight!” pep talk, like Mickey (Burgess Meredith) to his Rocky (Sylvester Stallone)!!!  Oh, yeah, and Barry Allen gets superpowers, and Oliver gets a proper mask to cover his eyes.  It managed to do all of that without feeling like an utter mess.  It’s going to be an especially long wait for the next episode now, 1/15/14.

THE NOTES

1. Comic Book 101: Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke, The Terminator

Slade as he appears in the Teen Titans animate...
Slade as he appears in the Teen Titans animated series. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • First Appearance: 1980

On the show, Slade Wilson is an Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) agent sent to the island as part of the mercenary unit Team 7.  Slade kills his turncoat partner Billy Wintergreen, assists Oliver and Shado, and just got a dose of super soldier serum from WWII.  In the comics, Slade is an American in the United States Army who rises up the ranks so fast he marries the female officer that trained him and enlists in your standard comic book super soldier program.  Disgusted by the corruption in the military, Slade becomes a mercenary without telling his family.  After some drama involving his son and wife, he goes rogue, turning into a rather prominent supervillain but also quite often an antihero  He is most often an antagonist to the Teen Titans, and is quite often a member of Team 7.  In the New 52, he has received an altered origin story, but is still part of Team 7 and still has super strength, this time due to an emergency operation.  Ron Perlman voiced a super creepy version of Slade throughout the 5 seasons of the animated series Teen Titans.

Fun note: Deathstroke’s nickname was The Terminator several years before the first James Cameron Terminator came out meaning don’t go thinking DC ripped that off from the movie.  Oh, also, the name Deathstroke is a reference to his skill with swords, if that wasn’t already obvious.

2. Comic Book 101: Shado, RIP

Arrow Home Invasion Shado Kiss

  • First Appearance: 1987

On the show, Shado was depicted as being the daughter of the hooded archer and Chinese soldier Yao-Fei, who it is implied raised her as a soldier of some kind.  In the comics, she is the daughter of a Yakuza agent who lost a crap-ton of Yakuza gold to no good bastards in America when Shado was just a little girl.  The father kills himself, and she is raised to become a warrior who can be sent back to America as an adult to hunt every last person who wronged her father.  She does exactly that (almost), catching the attention of Green Arrow in the process.  The two start out adversaries, but become allies when Shado helps him save Black Canary after she’s been captured by one of the guys Shado meant to assassinate.  Later on, things take a turn for the strange as the next time Shado and Green Arrow meet up she puts an arrow in his chest, mistaking him for an intruder.  While nursing him back to health, she straight rapes him, and later bares his child, only revealing the truth to Oliver much later.  In the New 52 continuity, that is all erased, but now Shado is the mother of an illegitimate son of Robert Queen, Oliver’s dead daddy.

3. What do we make of Slade Wilson’s Plan?

Specifically, his promise to tear everything Oliver cares about away from him (Lance looking at his police shield), destroy those who choose to follow him (Roy looking at his healed leg), and corrupt those he loves (Felicity smiling at her computer)?  How on Earth could Felicity be corrupted?  As for the arrow through the eye comment, remember that we have two times now seen a shot on the island of Slade’s Deathstroke mask with an arrow through it’s right eye.  So, there’s that.  Also, was Manu Bennett attempting an American accent during his speech at the end?

What did you think?  Like “Three Ghosts”?  Hate it?  Love it? Let us know in the comments section.

All of the pictures used in the above review, unless otherwise noted, came from CWTV.com © 2013 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

7 comments

  1. Hated it with a passion.

    Don’t know why Laurel was hiding that it was Blood that sent her flowers. I guess it was just convenient since, hey look, Sin & Thea want her to look into Blood’s blood drive because of Max. What a coincidence. But, once again, poor writing makes Laurel look bad. She had no real reason to hide it and it makes it seem like she was doing something wrong by associating with Blood. They continue to have Laurel act as if she has knowledge of things that she actually doesn’t. Also, after Laurel was so distraught over her actions in Moira’s trial, she and Thea aren’t even going to comment on that whole thing?

    I’m not surprised to learn Ben “Olicity” Sokolowski wrote this episode. Why else would they pan to Felicity Smoak when Slade says he’s going to corrupt “those (Oliver) loves” instead of panning to, I don’t know, Oliver’s freaking family who I’m pretty sure he loves a hell of a lot more than he loves Felicity?

    What’s up with them letting Roy Harper get his superhero powers before BC?

    Mostly I’m annoyed by this episode because it completely negated any purpose stated by TPTB for fridging Tommy in 1×23. They said it was all about sending Oliver on his journey from being a vigilante to being a hero. Hell, the beginning voiceover even states, “I can’t be the killer I once was. To honor my friend’s memory, I must be someone else. I must be… something else.”

    Kreisberg keeps referring to Tommy as a ghost in the interviews re: this episode but he was obviously not a supernatural-type ghost because he would have known that Oliver failed at stopping Malcolm because he’d know Malcolm wasn’t dead. As a hallucinatory ghost, as inferred by Diggle, that means Tommy was basically Oliver talking to himself. So, Oliver already believed he was a hero and not a murderer subconciously and it completely flies in the face of everything they set up with Tommy’s death and setting Oliver on the hero’s path.

    I have been trying really hard to just let things play out on this show and let them take me on whatever story they want to tell but it’s becoming obvious they aren’t interested in logical, coherent, FAIR story-telling. They seem to live for the OMG jaw-drop in the last 5 minutes of the show instead and it’s not enough for me anymore.

    1. I think I was more lenient on the handling of Laurel in this episode because I preferred it to the alternative. Yes, it was convenient that she suddenly appears to be in a relationship with Sebastian just in time for that to be useful to Thea/Roy/Sin. And, yes, there was no real reason for her to hide that the flowers were from Sebastian. That seemed more designed so that Thea/Roy/Sin wouldn’t know that what they’ve asked is actually for Laurel to investigate her potential new boyfriend. And it is a bit peculiar that Laurel’s time prosecuting Moira has been forgotten by Thea. However, the alternative appears to be that Laurel not even be a character on this show at all. She simply hasn’t been around a whole lot ever since her encounter with the Dollmaker. When we have seen her it’s been mostly to establish a substance abuse storyline and have Oliver/her dad ask if she’s okay only to have her almost literally run away. You could argue that she continues to be so poorly written this season that maybe she’s better off not even being around until they give her something better to do. However, I actually think their solution to that problem was this romance with Sebastian. It doesn’t come completely out of nowhere, and it is a way of re-integrating her into the overall story of the season. I kind of like it.

      I also raised an eyebrow when Slade’s voice over implied Oliver loved Felicity. Yes, surely Oliver has family members and/or Laurel/Sara with whom there is a longer history a deeper established love. However, the commonality between those featured in that montage are that they are members of Oliver’s new crime-fighting family, Lance, Roy, and Felicity. I’m not sure why Diggle was left out of that. So, I didn’t really read it as Oliver loving Felicity above all others in his life. I will admit, though, that I was at least a tad annoyed by having Barry Allen argue in one section that Oliver likely doesn’t feel the same way about Felicity and then via the voice-over imply that Oliver loves Felicity (even if not necessarily romantic).

      I’ve never been a fan of Colton Haynes’ version of Roy, with him rising from an element of the show I disliked last year to merely feel indifferent about this year. As such, I’m not too put out one or another about his attaining superpowers.

      You can certainly tear down the moment with Tommy, as you have done so here. Yes, that’s not really Tommy but instead Oliver basically talking to himself. So, yes, this version of Tommy says things the real Tommy wouldn’t. However, I thought the emotion of the moment still worked, not simply because of instant nostalgia from Colin Donnell’s presence. There is a very simple dynamic at play in which Oliver has been knocked down, and he needs someone to tell him to get back up. For that person to be Tommy and help Oliver work through some of his guilt over Tommy’s death worked for me. But I certainly understand why you might reject it on principle.

      I can relate to your initial assessment of hating this episode with a passion. I felt somewhat similar about prior moments like Malcolm’s nonsenical cliffhanger return, Oliver having lied about Sara this whole time, and the Oliver/Isabel hook-up. This is not the show I fell in love with last season. And the Olicity pandering is annoying. However, for the most part I like these characters and the actors in the roles. The show is becoming increasingly soap-y, and the retconning is annoying. The result is a show which I arguably do not respect as much as I did last season, but it is one I can’t help but still enjoy. If it’s all becoming too much for your, though, I don’t completely blame you.

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