Arrow TV Reviews

Arrow’s “This Is Your Sword” (S3,EP22): The Right & Wrong Way to Pull Off a Twist

Pulling off the deceptive character turn is a tricky thing for a TV show. The success rate is usually tied to how long you continue lying to the audience about it and the amount of explanation you give whenever you do finally pull your “Gotcha!” moment. In Arrow’s case, they devoted an entire episode (“Al Sah-him”) to convincing us that Oliver Queen had become a brainwashed member of the League of Assassins. Four minutes into the next episode (“This Is Your Sword”), they relented and explained Oliver and Malcolm were actually in cahoots to dismantle the League from the inside. Likely due to his prior membership in the League, Malcolm knew Oliver’s first task as the new Ra’s al Ghul would be to destroy Starling City. So, the two hatched a plan, but Malcolm figured they would have several months to work away at the League, not a mere couple of days. Thus, “This is Your Sword” was all about Malcolm letting everyone else in on the secret and rallying them together along with Katana to stop the League before it destroys their city, traveling to Nanda Parbat for an extended action scene before they were ultimately caught and jailed.

As far as save-the-world plans are concerned, killing the beast from the inside is not a terrible way to go. Genre television is filled with episodes in which the good guys merely pretend to be in league with the bad guys. Joss Whedon did it with David Boreanaz’ Angel multiple times across Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, but in that case it always made sense because Angel had turned legitimately evil for half a season on Buffy. So, there was precedent. Plus, by his very nature as a vampire with a soul, Angel was a monster forever fighting the temptation to give in to evil, making him a metaphorical alcoholic always one bad day away from falling off the wagon. It was not a violation of his character to make us believe he’d turned evil again, and when they pulled that trick they’d only do it within the confines of a single episode, revealing the truth of his deceit in the episode’s climax, be it [Buffy/Angel spoiler warning] him tricking Faith and The Mayor to get information with Buffy and Giles’ help or tricking everyone, good and bad, to set up a Godfather-esque simultaneous hit against all the bad guys on Angel.

Angel Faith Buffy EnemiesI point to Angel because that is a show Arrow’s producers have mentioned multiple times in interviews, making it an obvious reference point, e.g., a brooding, taciturn male protagonist whose central mission draws a surrogate work family to his cause, a tendency toward soap opera, an emphasis on killer action scenes, consistent flashbacks. When Angel would pull the same thing Arrow just tried, it would always come with eventual flashbacks clearly explaining everything, leaving little to doubt or nitpicking. For example, that guy you thought [again, Buffy/Angel spoiler] stole Angel’s soul was just someone putting on a fancy light show and repaying a favor to Giles. Arrow just gave us a short fireside chat with Malcolm.

We don’t actually know when Oliver and Malcolm hatched their plan. It was presumably on the flight to Nanda Parbat when they were transporting a nearly-dead Thea to the Lazarus Pit. But if you think back over the events of the past two episodes it brings up some questions. Why did Malcolm go along with Felicity’s attempt to break Oliver out instead of simply letting her know what they had in mind? Or did they actually completely anticipate something like that, thinking it would make Ra’s believe Oliver more if he rejected a chance to escape and sent his friends away? Moreover, when Oliver killed that poor victim he mistook for Diggle due to the effects of some “magical plant” did he in fact know it wasn’t really Diggle even though the plant made him see that person as Diggle? Would he have killed Nyssa if Diggle and Laurel hadn’t stopped him? The same goes for when Ra’s al Ghul stopped him. And what exactly would have happened if Thea hadn’t shot Oliver in the arm as he had a sword raised and ready to fall on Diggle? What was Oliver’s endgame there? Clearly he wasn’t going to really kill him, but what was his plan if no one happened to stop him?

Arrow-Al-Sah-him-Oliver-Dark-Archer-Oliver-Stephen-AmellIf you’re writing a storyline like this you constantly have to think of it on two levels, anticipating every question the viewer might have and coming up with a rational answer to ensure that what you’re doing has an actual internal logic to it as opposed to merely being a case of you haphazardly yelling, “Gotcha!” I think that what Arrow just did was more “gotcha” than anything else, and it retroactively explains their completely half-assed attempt at a “The League tortures and brainwashes Oliver” sequence last episode. That part wasn’t important to them because it didn’t actually have any effect on Oliver, but they waited too long to tell us that thus making “Al Sah-him” an incredibly challenging episode to accept even if you did suspect Oliver was possibly pretending the whole time. That episode shouldn’t have ended with the cliffhanger reveal of Ra’s evil plan, but instead with Oliver relaying that information to Malcolm.

The funny thing is that Arrow actually pulled this same exact stunt a couple episodes back when it wrote out Roy Harper, and in that case it followed the Buffy/Angel model of mostly containing its trick to a single episode which used climactic flashbacks to very briefly explain everything. Everyone was lying to Oliver in that scenario whereas now we’ve returned to our default setting of Oliver being the one living the lie and keeping everyone in the dark. It’s perfectly in keeping with Oliver’s behavior, but it does beg the question of whether or not he’s actually developed at all since the pilot. The guy who’d spent 5 years on an island struggling to make connections with people and constantly lying to them about his past makes sense; the guy who’s been back in society for 3 years, gone through multiple girlfriends, gathered multiple friends and family members around him, and still treats deceit as his go-to move and abhors hearing anyone else’s opinion feels like a character who’ll simply never actually change. Then again, Supernatural’s gotten 10 seasons out of a set of brothers who are constantly lying to each other, failing to ever learn their lesson, and beyond picking up a sense of humor along the way Angel never really changed.

Arrow -- So, with all of that business out of the way I can finally get to this: I absolutely enjoyed “This Is Your Sword.” I have issues with their execution of “Oliver pretends to be brainwashed,” but now that we’re seeing him working against the League I’m just going with it. Really, in general, entire seasons of Arrow are like airplane rides with smooth takeoffs which give way to stretches of pleasant flying routinely interrupted by rather severe turbulence before completely nailing the landing. And with “This is Your Sword” being the penultimate episode of the third season we are clearly in the landing phase. This is when they truly go all out, designing their final episodes to all feel like mini-season finales before everything collides in one final action-heavy hour. So, “This is Your Sword” gave us a convincing enough scene of ATOM downing a jetplane, and Team Arrow (minus Oliver, but plus Malcolm and Katana) battling the entire League. The Felicity of old even showed up with a funny moment in which she thought her frisbee’d tablet had killed a threatening assassin before realizing the two Malcolm Merlyn arrows in the guys back had more to do with it, with her hilariously deadpanning, “Yeah, that makes more sense.”

Moreover, we saw crystal clear signs that Team Arrow is not going to easily forgive Oliver, nor should they. He kidnapped Diggle’s wife in front of his infant daughter! He’s lost Diggle’s respect. It seems pretty apparent that he would have absolutely killed Nyssa if he hadn’t been stopped, and that shouldn’t go down well with Laurel. And he’s lost Felicity’s trust, although this episode’s handling of Felicity was very problematic.

Katana Twirl This Is Your SwordAs rightfully pointed out, Team Arrow has no reason to trust Katana since they’ve never met her before, and the writers clearly wanted her to somehow bond with at least one of the characters to up the trust factor. On paper, their choice was obvious: Felicity. Katana lost a husband to the League, and Felicity feels as if she’s lost Oliver the same way, struggling to trust Malcolm when he says that Oliver’s just pretending. So, clearly, Katana should give Felicity a speech about not giving up on Oliver the way she gave up on Maseo.  Plus, it helps reminds of why Katana and Maseo broke up, thus setting us up to connect with her weeping over his body after she’s forced to kill him in self defense.  I get why they did it. It’s just so economical. But far too often their go-to move with Felicity this season has been to reduce her to tears and romantic histrionics, neither of which I would regard as being Emily Bett Rickards’ strong suits. Seeing her actually taking charge and tricking Oliver in an ill-fated escape attempt a couple episodes ago seemed like such a relief in the same way that seeing her balling and claiming she couldn’t bear to see “that version of Oliver” ever again felt disappointing.

This Is Your Sword FelicityShe shouldn’t be the one in denial. She should be the plucky one on the front line back to Nanda Parbat because after they stop the League she is going to give Oliver a thorough lashing for lying to her. That role fell to Laurel instead, although Laurel didn’t really have a whole lot to do. And without Felicity needing the pep talk from Katana then who does Katana bond with? They didn’t have any other answer, and practical matters like actor availability and budget likely prevented them from simply introducing Team Arrow to Katana earlier.  That doesn’t mean it came off any less contrived.

Arrow Final ShotStill, when Arrow goes all out like “This Is Your Sword” it can make for incredibly engaging comic book TV, every single character, regular and recurring, fighting ninjas (as insane as that sounds), Felicity and ATOM combining to take down a freakin’ jet, Malcolm revealing his true nature and turning on the team to save his own ass, cliffhanging with a scenario in which no one’s really going to die but we’re still curious to see how exactly they’ll survive (apparently with the assistance of The Flash because it’s about dang time they asked him for help). The flashbacks are unfortunately still happening, made slightly jarring now that the Maseo in the present has died yet we’ve only just now reached the moment in the past when Maseo lost his son. We can only hope they cut their losses and keep the flashbacks to an absolute minimum in the season finale since without the consistent presence of Amanda Waller around the Hong Kong flashbacks really got away from them this season

THE BOTTOM LINE

If you can forgive Arrow’s far-too-delayed reveal of Oliver’s deceit and its very problematic handling of Felicity, “This Is Your Sword” is everything Arrow’s penultimate episodes usually are: big, crazy expensive action scenes, cliffhanger ending setting Oliver up to rush to stop a mad man with a bomb (in this case, a disease bomb I guess).  However, there were some pretty tough pills to swallow along the way.

THE NOTES

Arrow This Is Your Sword Wedding1. Oliver’s marriage to Nyssa isn’t legally binding, right? Like, when he gets back to Starling City they’re not going to recognize him as legally married just because some priestess in an international terrorist organization presided over a weird ceremony. Right?

2. Spin-Off Pitch: Oliver and Nyssa in a wacky sitcom in which they’re an Odd Couple type who have to stay married for Visa reasons but can’t let their pesky next door neighbors know.

3. Kudos to Nyssa for refusing to go out without a literal fight.

4. Kudos to Oliver for completely anticipating Nyssa’s knive attack, handling it quite nonchalantly.

5. Boo on Arrow for constantly having Nyssa lose just about every fight she has.

6. Boo on Arrow for trying to make Ra’s al Ghul interesting for half a season before deciding he’s pretty much just a generic villain.

7. Good for Thea getting closure with Roy.

NEXT TIME

SECOND OPINIONS

GirlOnComicBookWorld – Overall I can’t say I even know what to make of Arrow season 3 episode 22. Everything seems to be bordering on the line of absolutely ridiculous. The season finale looks like it’s bringing us another episode of Starling City in chaos, yay. I’m really hoping that the showrunners have a great plan to set-up season 4, because right now I can’t say I have loved season 3, which is a shame because season 2 was completely awesome.

12 comments

  1. I enjoyed this episode a lot more than the last one and whilst I agree with most of the points you have raised, I think in doing so you missed out on examing the fight between Maseo (who we could call by his new name, but Maseo will do) and Tatsu/Katana.

    I dont think we were ever going to get a Dark Archer/ Arrow style of battle here. It was simply fought in the heat of battle one on one and I liked the Camera focus just on the pair of them even if some of the sword fighting seemed a little too… well designed to be blocked and counter attacked. Im not sure that either in a way wanted to kill the other although at times I think Maseo was leaving himself open for Tatsu to end him.. as if he wanted to lose but still had to go through the motions.

    And it was obvious as soon as Maseo had Tatsu on the ground that the sword upwards through the gut was coming.

    However the scene where Tatsu propped up Maseo to me was the most inspiring/emotional of the episode. Ive liked Maseo all season… I know a lot of people just consider him a plot device with the bio weapon and to turn up in Olivers past but he has struggled with the decisions made all season in the present day at least. Karl Yune has brought a dedication to the role which has been grand.

    Anyway, as Maseo is dying his words ‘Thankyou for releasing me from my Prison is obviously a payback on the line he tells Oliver earlier on. Still the scene made me tear up as Tatsu realises that Maseo was never going to be able to forgive himself for what he had done in Ra’s name and never break free from his own made Prison. His escape was Death.

    It does get me to wonder what their plans are with Nyssa and Tatsu for season 4 and I think both would be strong additions to the cast in either to replace Roy/Ray so we may end up only getting one of them.

    Tatsu to me seems the best bet, as we realise that her living so close to the League HQ was her way of being close to Maseo… but not really. She didnt have the courage either to bring Maseo back. Now she is alone again.. perhaps more so than before and I think her link to Oliver might be the way to bring her to Starling City and a ‘new’ family.

    Which leaves Nyssa. I think they are A) Going to have Nyssa kill Ra’s and B) Have her become the new Demons Head. That way they get to keep the League out mostly of the next seasons storyline but have Nyssa remain a link to the League and possible an occasional guest star. I dont see her as staying in the show, like I do Tatsu.

    (All assuming each actress is available).

    I like the fact they went ahead with the wedding in spit of all. The Costuming was awesome (and has been for the League fullstop) and whilst I havnt always enjoyed the storyline, that aspect has always been spot on.

    Season 4 is obviously going to be the year of regaining trust, although from the Promo it seems that Felicity is already either back with Oliver or forgiving of him. Diggle will take a lot .. and I dont think it will ever properly gel there again.

    My final thought:

    In the season finale, there will be at least one point of Nyssa either asking for a divorce or directing Oliver to do something for her as she is commanding him to as his wife.

    1. Karl Yune has done a fantastic job with Maseo, often bringing more to the role than was actually on the page. In an earlier review, I jokingly pitched a buddy comedy spin-off following Maseo and Oliver’s adventures in Hong Kong, but in fact I wasn’t really joking – I would absolutely watch those two in their own buddy comedy because Amell and Yune make a great on-screen pair. However, Maseo has been such an odd character to me ever since they introduced him as being a member of the League of Assassins in the present, sacrificing his identity due to the death of his child. It sort of left the flashbacks from that point forward to simply play things out with minimal narrative tension because we now knew Maseo and his wife survived but their son did not, and we didn’t actually reach the moment where the Maseo of the past finally lost his son until the Maseo of the present had died, likely their effort to connect his physical death to his spiritual death. Due to the way this show is structured with its flashbacks, maybe there’s no other way to do it. However, I would have been curious to see Katana and Maseo lose their son earlier in the flashbacks so that we could see the Maseo in the past pulling away from Katana and the Oliver while the Maseo of the present was working against Oliver as a member of the League.

      Either way, I am sorry that I didn’t discuss the Katana/Maseo fight in more detail in my review. I at least gave it more attention that Thea’s last dalliance with Roy.

      I haven’t really heard anything about Arrow adding any new cast members to replace Roy, especially since Thea is clearly about to become his replacement as Oliver’s red-hooded sidekick. At this point, you are probably right in that the two obvious candidates are Nyssa and Tatsu/Katana. Nyssa is the more obvious choice considering how much interaction she’s already had with the other characters to go along with her nascent friendship/relationship with Laurel. However, I see things playing out the same way you do – Nyssa will kill Ra’s in the finale and become the new head of the League of Assassins, receding back into occasional guest star status. That leaves Tatsu/Katana, who’s kind of hard to read since she only just now met the other characters on the show. After losing Maseo, there is nothing left for her, which the writers could view as a situation where her story is pretty much over now or they’ve given themselves plenty more to explore. There might be some studio politics in there, though, since Katana will be a character in the Suicide Squad movie. They may not want her on Arrow at the same time much in the same way Arrow “killed” Deadshot off (come on, he’s totally not really dead, right?).

      The one thing in all of this I dread is the possibility of them killing off Nyssa in the finale. She is a far more interesting character than the show has realized to this point, although again tipping the hat to the realities of running a TV show I have no idea how much Katrina Law’s availability has impacted their storylines for Nyssa.

      1. Thanks for the reply. I think we have a LOT to explore in Katana and was wondering what element she would bring to the Arrow cave team. As for the Suicide Squad movie… its a tricky one. But again, the DC shows are NOT connected to the movie versions, unlike the MCU.

      2. Interestingly, Stephen Amell just told Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con that going forward the Suicide Squad will not be featured on Arrow, at least for now (http://screenrant.com/stephen-amell-arrow-crossover-non-cw-shows/). If that’s because WB wants them to back off for a while since they have the movie due out August 2016 then that could mean any of that film’s characters are off-limits, although it’s all very confusing because we had no idea Katana was even in the movie until around two weeks ago. The show could be forced to write her out the way they did Deadshot. If they are able and actually want to keep her around, one immediate component which jumps at you for future storylines is how she lost a husband and son and Diggle still has a wife and daughter yet continues to fight. There could be an interesting dynamic between the two of them as a result, her loss reminding Diggle of everything he risks everytime he goes out to stop bad guys, although the “Will Diggle retire from field duty?” angle was kind of already toyed with this season. Further down the line, from a mere action standpoint having her around could result in some awesome sword fights if (more like when) they bring Deathstroke back.

  2. My apologies, I cant seem to edit my post but above in the middle where I stated Season 5 , I meant season 4. I do not think we will see a Season 5 as S Amell himself said early on that he saw the story going through to the end of Season 5.

    1. Sorry about the “no editing” thing. My current set-up WordPress for this site does not allow visitors to edit their own comments (I know, it’s annoying). I am, however, allowed to edit everything. So, I fixed the part in the past where you said season 5 when you meant to say season 4.

  3. Yeah, I actually read that Stephen Amell post after writing my posts above. If we dont see the Suicide Squad again it wont be a huge loss (it may mean the show needs to come up with new new Diggle centric plots… obviously his Argus connection will be a constant).

    Im more concerned about the direction they take Felicity in season 4 and beyond. If she does become Olivers +!, the show needs to find a way to not mute her character into the background of her just supporting Oliver 100 percent of the time. I dont know what it is but I find Angsty sad Felicity quite.. I wont saying annoying.. perhaps .. not as good to Watch as Comic Felicity. Felicity can certain be involed in the drama based scenes but something just seems to be lacking there sometimes. I can certainly see her forgiving Oliver (and the photos of the finale do seem to point to that), but Oliver seems to work better when he is conflicted then when his personal life is in a somewhat ‘stable’ state of flux.

    Another thing I hope they veer back towards is the Oliver persona. Hes not the Arrow anymore. He not only needs to forge a new other identity (Yes he may have that be the Green Arrow but hes now been exposed twice on tv.. and possibly national tv). Thats gotta stick somehow. If he starts disappearing for no reason, I just dont see how the public wouldnt suspect the Green Arrow was him.

    Speaking of Oliver, they need to give something for OLIVER to do. Not the arrow. His fake playboy persona (and honestly he hasnt had this persona since Season 1 ). So he either needs to get a new job, a place of his own, something so the show can re-establish that part of the character.

    Finally Id like to applaud how well the show has treated Lyla. On most shows of a similar vein , she would fade into the background, and once pregnant you would barely see her and once a mother again, even less so. The show has treated her character with a great deal of respect. She is still calm under fire, she is understanding, but still having a personalty of her own. I must admit, I dont know much about Audrie Marie Anderson the actress behind Lyla but she brings a lot to that role.

    1. If you haven’t seen it yet, Guggenheim teased the season finale in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, saying it feels more like a series finale than season finale, “‘We’ve never ended a season the way we’re ending this season, where literally you are going, ‘How can the show go on?’ […] there is no more Arrow identity. There is no more lair. Relationships are fractured. All the things that sort of make the show the show are kind of gone. It’s an interesting conundrum the finale poses.”

      http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/arrow-season-3-finale-spoilers-794902?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=hollywoodreporter_livefeed_daily&utm_campaign=THR%20Live%20Feed_now_2015-05-12%2011%3A00%3A38_kstanhope

      It’s an interesting corner they’ve written themselves into, and I remember reading an interview with Julie Plec of The Vampire Diaries/The Originals in which she admitted sometimes as far as they’re concerned it’s fun to write into a corner even when you don’t know how you’re going to get out of it because that offers a nice new challenge. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has almost completely done away with secret identities, and Man of Steel sort of thumbed its nose at the idea. However, that’s been a huge part of Arrow and The Flash and was a consistent element of the Nolan Batman movies. So, how does Arrow work now that the whole world thinks the Arrow was Roy Harper and died in prison? I don’t really know. Making Oliver into some kind of public copycat vigilante would just be tired, and as you said probably not plausibly fool anyone. Based on the comic book history, there is one obvious solution: Have Oliver move to a different city. Green Arrow famously had to leave Star City and move to Seattle with Black Canary. But I really, really don’t know how feasible that would be for Arrow. It would probably require all new sets, force a contrived scenario in which most of the other characters move with him, complicate the convenient cross-over opportunities with The Flash, and possibly violate Oliver’s original mission to save his city. I could see a scenario where, ala Buffy The Vampire Slayer season 3, Oliver starts out the season living elsewhere and isolated from the rest of the cast (except maybe Thea) before the show eventually returns to its default setting.

      Whatever they do, I would agree with you – they need to rejuvenate Oliver Queen as a character. This season’s identity crisis between Oliver/Arrow and now Al Sah-him as sort of left us with a slightly fractured view of Oliver, who could probably desperately use some kind of normalizing force like a job or normal everyday concerns. I am pretty sure they’re setting it up that Felicity will take over Ray’s branch of his company he set up in Starling City and thus be the new CEO of the former Queen Consolidated. So, maybe she’ll give Oliver a job. It’d be hilarious if they made a jokey video for Comic-Con playing with gender roles and having Felicity as the CEO and Oliver as her annoyed personal assistant, uncomfortable with the massively shifted power dynamic.

      On the topic of Felicity, I’ll say it for you – At times, Felicity probably was a little annoying this season, chiefly when she immediately snapped at Oliver after he “came back from the dead.” There’s a really weird dynamic at play where when Laurel was the obligatory love interest people hated her, but now that she’s independent she’s become more tolerable if not outright likable and Felicity is following the same exact path from an opposite direction. There are ways to have the nominal love interest both go through her romantic angst with the guy but remain funny and forever standing up to him without veering into annoying territory. See: Angel and Cordelia throughout most of Angel. I imagine what’s driving some of this with Felicity is that the writers are aware of the truth in your statement “Oliver seems to work better when he is conflicted then when his personal life is in a somewhat ‘stable’ state of flux.”

      I haven’t discussed Audrie Marie Anderson’s acting as Lyla a whole lot in the reviews, but similar to Karl Yune I think she has really elevated the material.

  4. Thankyou for saying what I was thinking about Felicity. I don’t think I would of had the courage to do it. If she does in fact become the head of Palmer Tech in Starling City, there could be a role reversal ‘Make me some Coffee’ type scenes. Bringing back some humor. Im ready for that!

    In regards to the MCU stripping back the Secret identities I was going to agree with you, BUT (we were starting to agree too often on things! 🙂 ) then I remembered a certain 13 part MCU series that showed the combination just right and is probably for me at least the best MCU thing for the past year or two (outclipsing Avengers 2).

    That is Daredevil which got the combination just right. Matt Murdoch and Daredevil were depicted for about the right length of time each and both personas got a chance to shine through. Do I think being on Netflix helped this process? Yeah I do and also the fact Netflix is trying to make a name for itself in regards to original programming. Its still something Arrow could do (even if we are talking DC here).. Not the violence quoata but snag back to the distribution of time between Oliver and his alter ego.

    Now I know Arrow is a CW show, but I also remember how well violent Arrow was in its first season. I actually do miss that level of violence because we knew that it was targeted towards the people who deserved it. I miss the list. THings just seemed simpler then , and Oliver was at least trying to act as normal as possible around his family. I think the killing of Moira and the exposing of his secret to Thea was two mistakes the show made because it got a lot of mileage about Oliver wanting to protect people closest to him from his darkest secrets. Now it kinda feels like Smallville (and I never though Id ever type that) did in its last couple of years. Everyone is in on the secret.

    Id been thinking of where I had seen Karl Yune before and noticed how similar in appearance he was to a certain villain in a James Bond Movie. Karl Yune is the brother of Rick Yune who was that villain.

    1. I get the impression that a lot of fans are ready for Felicity to go back to being funny again.

      Daredevil is the one obvious exception in MCU’s treatment of secret identities, for now – we don’t know what they’ll do with Black Panther, Spider-Man, Captain Marvel or even Ant-Man. Of course, as we have since learned Jeph Loeb runs Marvel TV and Kevin Feige runs Marvel Studios (more or less), and the two don’t share as many notes as we might have guessed, Feige deflecting most questions about SHIELD or Daredevil and even admitting to not having watched Daredevil yet.

      As for how Daredevil handled the dual persona hero, I have seen some throw snark at the show’s way for not doing nearly as much with Matt Murdock, the lawyer, as the early episodes seemed to promise, with Matt pretty much just having the one case before spending the rest of his time entangled with Karen and Foggy’s defense of the poor Spanish lady and her refusal to be pushed or bought out of her home. It’s not totally dissimilar to the way season 2 Arrow had fun with Oliver doing CEO stuff until it just got bored with that, to the point that multiple episodes went by without him even showing up at the office. At the very least, Matt is shown in his office all the time, and even when he’s away he’s having encounters with his priest or Night Nurse while still in the Matt Murdock guise.

      I miss so, so much about the first season of Arrow. My working theory for where Arrow really started going off track is when it did away with Oliver’s enemies list. As formulaic as that list may have seemed, it provided the show structure, not a structure it religiously adhered to since he wasn’t fighting people from the list in every single episode, but still some kind of guiding framework. I think that once the show lost the list the writers lost their safety net, and the only guiding framework they had left were the flashbacks. So, without the episodic structure of a man working from a list the show had to think up crazier and crazier ideas, invariably lean more and more toward soap opera, and completely abandon its once rigid adherence to anything resembling reality (although the decision to make a Flash TV show forced that departure on them, albeit as a self-inflicted wound). On the other side, if the list was still around in the third season the show would probably be getting murdered by snarky critics, accusing it of Smallville-esque freak of the week formula, and it wouldn’t make Oliver seem particularly heroic especially when the mission of the first two seasons was to transition him from vigilante to hero. So, I am not saying they were wrong to get rid of the list. I just think that from a practical day-to-day running of a TV show point of view that’s the moment you can point to as when they started to lose their way even if wasn’t immediately apparent since season 2 started off so dang strong.

      As for Arrow’s secret identity issue, it’s inevitable that everyone will discover the secret eventually, and BirthMoviesDeath had a real fascinating article exploring how modern comic book movies/TV shows have largely abandoned secret identities or rush through them as fast as possible:

      http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2015/05/07/our-secret-identity-crisis

      Wow. Good pull on Karl Yune and his brother. I never would have made that connection.

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