My Name is Oliver Queen

I have a question for everyone reading this post. I assume you’re all Arrow fans with at least a casual interest in the show. Whether you’re a regular reader or you’re brand new here, I really want your opinion.

Did the finale fix anything for you?

It’s a serious question, because I have seen the reactions to “My Name is Oliver Queen” run the entire spectrum. Some people are overjoyed. Some people have quit the show. Some people are angry about Oliver/Felicity but willing to continue. Others don’t really care about Oliver/Felicity but they’re angry about Laurel.

If we ignore spin doctor Guggenheim and actually examine reactions to the episode and the season as a whole, the only thing we can conclude with certainty is that fandom has experienced a dramatic shift this year. The people who have been with the show since day one are quieter. The shippers are manic and tunnel-visioned. And you know which shippers I’m talking about — not a specific ship, either, but certain factions of fandom that just want their endgame and they don’t care how they get it — so don’t get offended, because I don’t include everyone who ships. I still consider myself an Oliver/Felicity shipper, I guess by default, even though the characters that drove off into the sunset in the finale were unrecognizable from the dynamic duo I used to ship. Shippers who value good writing and storytelling over endgame, those are the shippers I want to talk to.

And people are angry. Even the people who are happy and got exactly what they wanted, they’re engaged in angry, defensive debate with people who dare to argue. There’s been a pervasive sense of appropriation of fandom and characters this season that’s made any sort of meta discourse nearly impossible. If you get critical about certain characters, people converge and condemn you for being “too negative,” as if positivity is the only way to approach the media you consume. If you’re not positive, you’re just wrong, and your motivations are up for debate.

This is not to say that constant negativity is any better, and while my reviews have definitely fallen to the negative side this season, I still try not to approach this show looking for bad things. I’ve had varying levels of success (I would not say I’m very rational about the Ray Palmer aspect. At all.) but on the whole I’ve tried to strike a balance. But today I feel lost. I feel that no two people are having the exact same reaction to this episode.

This is why I genuinely want you to comment and leave your honest opinion of Arrow’s season finale. I’d love to know what you expected, whether you enjoyed it, whether it was predictable or surprising, and if it “fixed” the problems of the season for you — if this season was even problematic for you in the first place.

As for my opinion…

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**This post contains spoilers for episode 3.23 of Arrow, “My Name is Oliver Queen.”**

If you want a gauge of just how negative my review will be, I’ll start off with the blunt truth: I have no plans to continue reviewing this show next season. I will watch the first couple of episodes out of sheer curiosity, mostly related to Speedy and to see how the writers awkwardly attempt to bring Oliver and Felicity back into the fold, but overall, I have no interest in watching this show critically anymore. To me, this has fallen in my eyes to the TV-viewing equivalent of Once Upon a Time — a perfectly entertaining show, but riddled with enough plot holes and out-of-character moments that I can’t take it seriously enough to be critical. That’s why these reviews have been a bit of a slog; I’ve gotten so far removed from thinking of the plot from a meta perspective that I can’t completely engage anymore.

To me, this episode failed almost every single character. Let’s break it down:

Oliver learned almost nothing. He confessed that maybe he should’ve trusted his team and not tried so hard to protect Thea, but he did it in such a way that he never really apologized or admitted he was wrong. In fact, he did that kind of tired superhero-y trope of treating his ‘ragtag team’ like a bunch of scamps who escaped with their lives by pure luck, and not because of any talent, skill, or heart. And then he quit, because I guess after 3 terrorist attacks in 3 successive Mays, he thinks his crusade is over.

But yeah, let’s talk about how Oliver thought an apology would be enough for any of them. Thank GOD, in the end, that Felicity was the only one to actually accept it (and I’ll get to that in a moment) because no one else really forgave Oliver for his crappy treatment of them this season. Remember when he trusted his team? Remember when he put his entire life and trust in Felicity when he handed her a small syringe and whispered “Do you understand?” Remember, oh, all the countless times he’s confided in Diggle and Diggle ALONE over the course of the first two seasons?

But here we are, only a year later, and his team has given him no reason not to trust them, but Oliver still chooses to leave them out of the loop on his Grand Failure Experiment to Half-Assedly Infiltrate the League of Assassins with Malcolm Merlyn’s help. And when faced with the fact that he survived and that his team is angry, all he can do is mutter vague references to “protection!” and issue borderline non-apologies. He is virtually unrecognizable from the Oliver in the s2 finale, or oh gosh, the Oliver in the s1 finale, who was propping up an injured but determined Diggle as they both surveyed the destruction of the Glades with horror. Remember that? Remember who caused that? THAT is who Oliver trusted over his own team.

Him holding Malcolm Merlyn accountable, in the end, is a farce, because he also gives him the League of Assassins. This is pretty much 80% of the reason I barely want to watch next season, Damien Darkh notwithstanding.

Felicity actually regressed as a character. (Yes, this is controversial. I expect your torches and pitchforks.) Her scenes with Oliver were almost as cringeworthy as her scenes with Ray earlier in the season, because they were full of misplaced swooning and affection in the midst of terrorist attacks, team splintering, and oh yeah, Oliver’s totally awful betrayal. She was mad for about 17 seconds and then she was screeching at Ray to drop his nanotech work to go save Oliver. She actually asked Ray to stop trying to fast-track life-saving technology for the entire city so that he could go save her not-quite-a-boyfriend. For the first time all season, I was on Ray’s side, and that’s something for which I may never forgive this episode. So she donned the suit, rescued Oliver, and I guess the brush with death (which he’s neeeeever had before, and certainly not in the last six months) made her want to kiss him and run away with him to places unknown, but you know, places which hopefully do annulments for Nanda Parbat marriages. (All I can think about is Laurel incredulously asking, “How can you be so sanguine?!” as Felicity stares doe-eyed at Oliver. That would’ve been fun to see.)

Argue with me all you want, but you can’t tell me dialogue such as this is organic and in-character. This is the same Felicity who gave TWO impassioned speeches about believing in Oliver and out-foxing Slade Wilson in the big finale episodes last season. This scene is just lip service — this is literally some writers sitting there saying “Well Oliver is a man and he needs a woman to be his motivator so send in Smoak!” and this is the tired, stilted dialogue she was forced to deliver. This was an attempt to say “See! This whole season really WAS about identity, like we said! We stuck to the plan!”

– The only person in the trio of the original Team Arrow that didn’t regress or act out-of-character was Diggle, who held Oliver accountable, maintained his broken friendship and trust, and expressed his deep disappointment when Oliver quit the team. I’m proud of Diggle, who has become the only Every Man on this show, the only person we were able to consistently relate to throughout this fiasco of a season.

– Then there’s Laurel. Believe me, before season 3 started, I never thought I’d be sitting here saying that the Black Canary deserved a better arc, but here I am. She didn’t regress, she did nothing wrong, but she was still treated very poorly by these writers. She was excluded from the Rescue Thea Mission a few weeks ago, she was included as afterthoughts by most of the team (except Roy, really) and SHE had to go to the TEAM when Nyssa had information on Oliver’s fate with the League. As in, the team never had any reason to check up on her. She was flying solo. And that sucks, because her own sister was fridged* just to give her this arc which was supposed to be meaningful, but instead it was directionless at first, then had purpose for the three episodes Oliver was dead, and then she was just shunted to the side for the rest of the season because Oliver’s manpain took precedence.

This middle-of-the-road stuff doesn’t work with Laurel anymore (not that it ever did, but it’s glaring now). Either she’s essential to the show and the team, or she’s not, we can’t have it both ways. This is leaving aside all personal feelings about the actress and her abilities, I’m talking strictly from a storyline and writing standpoint — she ended this season just as middling as the last. And she deserved better — Sara deserved better.

Ray signed over the company to Felicity without her knowledge, then didn’t mention it during the entire finale. He let her ride off into the sunset even though she runs a company now and then he pressed a button and blew up the top floor of Queen Consolidated (I refused to call it by his dumb company name). But before you get too excited, no, he didn’t die, he just successfully turned himself from Iron Man to Ant-Man, so have fun with that on his spinoff show which I probably won’t be watching. Wonder who he’ll stalk on there.

Nyssa got the worst deal of all. After battling her father all season, then battling Oliver, then being banished, then being forced to marry Oliver, you’d think Nyssa would be gifted her birthright of becoming the next R’as al Ghul by her reluctantly betrothed. Well, Oliver Queen had a different idea, as he handed the League to Malcolm, who then forced Nyssa to kneel before him. Think for a moment about this: Nyssa becomes the next R’as. She uses the League to hunt down and kill Malcolm, once and for all. Thea’s not really that sad. Everyone else is relieved. I feel like maybe this whole season wasn’t a total farce after all. And Nyssa is a badass leader who just so happens to still be married to Oliver. That’s ripe for all kinds of fun shenanigans next season, including a couple of unholy alliances.

Alas. This show failed this city once again. Now an unhinged, untrustworthy mass murderer who Officially Isn’t BFFs with Oliver Queen Anymore is in charge of the deadliest league in the world. So next season will be the same old same old and Malcolm isn’t held accountable for anything. Again.

Captain Lance fell off the wagon, which was disappointing for a lot of people to see, but I actually sort of buy it. Sobriety isn’t a state of being, it’s an action, it’s a constant struggle, and Lance has been through some pretty bad stuff in the last few months. Most people have such a low opinion of the writers that they think this was used as a poor plot device to up the drama ante, and I don’t disagree with that as a distinct possibility, but maybe it’s the Elementary fan in me that is willing to give them a little bit off leeway on this one. To me, this didn’t come out of nowhere. (The guy needs a break though. His life has been terrible of late.)

– At least there’s Thea, the only wonderful, no-holds-barred development of this crap-tastic season. She donned Roy’s Arsenal getup and made her appearance as Speedy (or as she would call it, Red Arrow) and she’s hopefully going to be an integral part of the team next season. She is still mad at Malcolm, but she grudgingly admitted that he did make her stronger. She’s not happier now, though, and that’s sad, because we know those Queens are prone to brooding.

*Turns out Sara Lance is the latest in a growing list of deaths on this series that needs an asterisk, since she’s magically coming back to life via the Lazarus Pit in order to star in Legends of Tomorrow. Even though they buried the body. So we have some retconning, plot holes, and more unnecessary twists to look forward to. Nothing against Sara or Caity, obviously (I wish she’d just stayed alive on this show and then spun off onto LoT) but the more they do this, the more they weaken the fabric of the credibility of the entire universe. At this point I think the only person who will truly stay dead is Tommy Merlyn, because the writers just hate us that much.

To me, this episode fixed nothing. None of the things set in motion by Sara’s death were resolved. Malcolm is still out there, the League still exists, Oliver is still self-righteous and stubborn, and there has been too much loss this season (Roy, Sin, Ted Grant, not to mention the shattered interpersonal relationships that don’t directly affect Oliver…). This was not the amazing, tying-up-loose-ends sort of finale that we’ve come to expect. It made this poor season end with a whimper and not even a small toot, much less a bang.

The episode itself was poorly paced, with a lame attempt by Oliver to kill R’as on the plane, then R’as telling Oliver his entire plan, then R’as summoning Oliver to a duel to the death… Which Oliver won rather easily, because again, poor pacing. (It’s worth noting that ol’ Guggenheim has already hinted at bringing R’as back next season, so that’s gonna happen.)

Half of the dialogue was cringe-levels of cheesy, especially the sunset scene at the end, and the rest of it was almost unbearably expository considering we didn’t really need that much recapping.

Oh, and Barry was there, he freed the team from the dungeon (“an actual dungeon!”) and half-heartedly defended Oliver, while no one could explain how Oliver managed to make it to Central City while he was supposed to be on a virus-bearing plane with R’as. Barry was his usual delightful self but he was also a victim of anvil-y dialogue. No one was able to escape it in this episode.

So our ‘heroes’ (the quotes denote sarcasm) have spun into different directions: Oliver and Felicity for the coast, Diggle to his family, Laurel and Thea to keep fighting, and Ray to his own show. We’re supposed to believe this is truly the end of Oliver’s story, but we at least know we have two more seasons of flashbacks to endure, even if it’s just Oliver hunting and eating berries on the island. Who knows.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading and commenting along the way. It’s been a challenge of late, but once upon a time, I truly enjoyed writing these reviews. Optimistically, I want to believe that Arrow can recapture the magic next season, but I’m gonna manage my expectations during the hiatus.

This is Your Sword

**This post contains spoilers for episode 3.22 of Arrow, “This is Your Sword”**

I never thought I’d see the day when Thea Queen was the only one making any sense on this show, but this is that day. And I’m mostly glad that the one person everyone tries to protect and coddle is the only person not pulling her punches, so to speak. She never asked Oliver to sacrifice himself, and I’m glad she finally said it out loud. You go, Thea!

This episode of Arrow started with a particularly inelegant reveal that Oliver is not truly brainwashed — I am so surprised that six weeks of… starvation? waterboarding? didn’t make him completely forget his friends and family — by having him visibly react to the news that Maseo is the one who supplied R’as al Ghul with the same deadly virus that killed his son, Akio. I want to reiterate one more time that it does not matter that Oliver isn’t brainwashed. He’s still killing innocent people and he still endangered Lyla’s life, for the greater good doesn’t cut it anymore.

I think this show made a mistake when they tried to trend away from the gritty on-the-streets vigilantism that put them on the map. They’ve been trying to go Bigger Picture by introducing the League and getting R’as al Ghul interested in Oliver on a personal level (which still makes no sense) so that now Oliver is making decisions for everyone. He’s not Superman, and he was never supposed to be. He’s supposed to be a localized vigilante, the protector of his own city, who only gambles his own life for the greater good. We can’t even count on one hand the other lives he’s gambled this season, and for what? The characters barely mention Sara anymore, I can’t even remember the last time Oliver talked about her. Isn’t that where this all started? With Sara’s death? By Malcolm’s hand? But no one’s thinking about Sara anymore (Laurel is, of course, I know she is, so don’t attack me, Laurel fans!) and no one except Thea is holding Malcolm accountable for bringing this mess to their doorsteps.

Speaking of Malcolm, he’s the one who is sneaking to Nanda Parbat, which I guess is next door to Starling City based on how quickly everyone always gets there, to help Oliver with his infiltration of the League. Of COURSE the faux-brainwashing was Malcolm’s idea. Oliver gets the bright idea to send Tatsu, a woman none of his friends have ever met, to convince his team to come to Nanda Parbat and destroy the virus. Tatsu, who is amazing, talented, passionate, and smart… takes time out of her busy day to tell Felicity that she was Oliver’s last thought on the mountain. More and more, this is feeling like fanservice and not like authentic character moments.

I have to say that part of the reason this show is such a slog now is that Felicity is constantly. crying. She used to be the light of the show, but now the show has taken that concept in a more literal direction and they’re using her as the Optimistic Beacon of Hope that Oliver is still out there. Laurel accuses Felicity of being sanguine when really, Felicity is just telling herself that the Oliver she loves is dead now. This show was better when there was balance, when there were light moments of humor and banter in between the darkness of death and revenge, and Felicity was often the source of that sort of light. Now it’s all just constant doom and gloom all the time, much like my reviews.

Nyssa continues to treat her impending nuptials as if it’s her execution, and things only get worse when R’as decrees that she will bear Oliver’s child. *shudders* The League is so gross, and R’as is the grossest of the gross. He continues to threaten Nyssa with torture and pain if she doesn’t go through with the wedding, so really, he and Malcolm are probably in the running for the Father of the Year award on this show.

There’s a pretty good fight sequence in the field where the team successfully takes down the plane that supposedly bears the virus, but it turns out R’as still has the virus and they’re all taken into custody, where Malcolm promptly tries to turn on everyone. In a way, it’s pretty amazing. But mostly awful.

The most hilariously tone-deaf aspect of this episode — of the entire season — is how the drama hinges on Felicity finding out about Oliver’s upcoming wedding. She is crushed. Just devastated. The music swells, she looks thunderstruck and heartbroken, and you’re made to believe that this is it, this is truly the worst thing that’s ever happened to Felicity Smoak.

A wedding. A sham wedding. She’s devastated by a sham wedding, when Oliver’s been threatening and kidnapping and killing for the last few weeks. Those things are just sad, but a wedding, whoa boy, THAT is the true tragedy. (She’s gonna be hysterical when she finds out about Oliver’s secret Central City kid.)

Things get even more tone-deaf when Oliver pulls Diggle aside to try to talk to him and Diggle rips him a new one about trust and respect, and how Oliver has lost both of those things as well as his friendship. I really, truly hope Oliver’s actions from last week are long-reaching, as David Ramsey has hinted, because I’ve just about had it with everyone forgiving Oliver for these “morally grey” decisions.

And then the whole Al Sah-Him contrivance unravels even more when R’as, after Malcolm’s betrayal, finally considers the possibility that Oliver might not be totally loyal to him and the League. You know. After he spent a year bullying and torturing Oliver into joining the League. R’as makes Oliver unleash the virus on his friends, and they all cry and scream at him as he seals the room.

They all fall asleep very slowly and dramatically as Oliver weds Nyssa. We are genuinely supposed to believe they are dead, and then it’s totally ruined by the promos for the next episode, where everyone is very much alive — and angry.

There was nothing really wrong with this episode (aside from the tone-deaf scenes, which at this point are just part and parcel of the storyline) except that it’s a pretty lame climax to a very lame season-long story arc. We’re supposed to care about Malcolm’s motivations, but we don’t. We’re supposed to be cheering for Oliver, but we’re not. Felicity, the “normal” point of view for the viewer, is too wrapped up in dramatics and hysterics to really follow, and Laurel was pretty much sidelined emotionally, again, even if she did have more screentime in this episode. Digg is the only one we can really relate to, but we’re probably not, as the viewers, supposed to be so angry with Oliver.

Other notes:

– RIP Maseo Yamashiro, who was killed by Tatsu. He thanked her for freeing him from his prison. I feel terribly for Tatsu, but I could watch an entire episode of Katana fighting bad guys.

– Ray secretly transferred ownership of his company to Felicity. I’m not willing to suspend my disbelief long enough to buy that Felicity would sign documents without reading them, and I still distrust Ray enough that I feel like these are for nefarious reasons, even though the writers insist he’s a Nice Guy.

– Nyssa tries to stab Oliver during the vows, which makes her my new hero.

– Despite Laurel being kind of relegated to a backseat role, Katie Cassidy really held her own in this episode.

– There was a cute Felicity scene during the big battle where she tossed her broken tablet at a bad guy and momentarily grinned when she thought it worked to stop him — until he turned to reveal an arrow in the back from Malcolm Merlyn. Felicity: “Oh. That makes more sense.”

– Yes, Oliver and Nyssa are officially married, and yes, Oliver took time out of his honeymoon to go to Central City last night and help Barry with his Reverse Flash problem. I can only imagine the Flash writers sitting down to write this episode with a couple of Arrow writers and being like “Wait… WHAT did you to do your own show? How are we supposed to work with this?”

– Celebrate! The one great thing that came out of this episode is that Thea is now Arsenal! I’m gonna cling to this morsel with the hope that next season will be better than this one.

Al Sah-Him

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**This post contains spoilers for episode 3.21 of Arrow, “Al Sah-Him”**

I have great news! I didn’t hate every single aspect of this episode! It’s refreshing, really, because I know these reviews have gotten very doom-and-gloom of late, and the silver lining is that we are almost at the end of the line. Our long national nightmare known as the R’as al Ghul storyline will hopefully be a distant memory. (That’s me being optimistic.)

How great were Nyssa and Laurel? And I’m not even saying it in a “Nyssa was great, and Laurel was there!” kind of way, I mean I genuinely liked both of them in this episode. I think for a long time what Laurel really lacked was a good dynamic to bring a new dimension to her. All we see is her dealing with grief and fallout from other people’s actions (Oliver, Tommy, Quentin, the list goes on and on and it’s filled with men) and reacting accordingly. I didn’t always agree with her reactions, and eventually it got redundant because she never got new material. It felt like every time Katie Cassidy got a new script, it basically said “grief and anger” and that’s about it. She got a reprieve for a while when she got to actually be a sister when Sara was around, but then Sara was tragically taken from us and Laurel amplified her grief and anger. Even her short-lived arc with Ted Grant (why did he leave?) was fueled by vengeance.

But as we saw on The Flash a couple weeks ago, it IS possible for Laurel to smile, to banter, to talk about something other than all of the injustices of the world, even if it’s just for a minute. Cisco Ramon has that effect on people. And thankfully, someone got the message because we got to see Laurel palling around with Nyssa, eating fast food and sipping milkshakes and just chatting like normal friends. It really demonstrated that when Laurel isn’t written just to frame Oliver’s story, she’s capable of being dynamic and interesting.

It doesn’t hurt that it was fun to see Nyssa out of her comfort zone, dipping a fry in a milkshake and making an amazing face of intrigue and slight disgust before she tasted it.

Even when it all went downhill, and Laurel finally broke the news of Oliver’s ascension to the League Throne, we got to see the best aspects of both characters as the events played out. Laurel stayed fiercely loyal and protective, searching for alternatives and refusing to back down, while Nyssa bravely accepted her fate and went off to battle like the warrior we know and love. Laurel’s refusal to trade Nyssa was endlessly endearing, and I’m pleased to say that the only good side effect of this whole R’as al Ghul fiasco is that I’ve softened my opinion on the Black Canary.

So that was the great news. Unfortunately… that’s the extent of it.

When an episode starts with Oliver stabbing a hallucination-version of Diggle through the heart, that doesn’t make me think “Oh, thank God, it was just a hallucination!” It makes me certain that Oliver is capable of killing his best friend and brother. They did this to raise the stakes for the showdown later in the episode, but after a weak 30-second montage of Oliver getting tortured and laying sideways in a cell, it’s just awful. I find it hard to believe that someone who survived on an island for two years (at least) was so easily breakable — that it was so easy to make him stare blankly at his friends and family.

He’s instructed to remove his rival heir to the throne without mercy, and Nyssa warns Diggle and Felicity before going to face the fight. They’re all horrified when Oliver shows up on a rooftop and doesn’t seem to recognize Diggle and Laurel.

The hard part about watching Felicity and Diggle’s steadfast faith in Oliver’s ability to withstand brainwashing is how wrong they end up being. Either Oliver really isn’t as strong as they think he is, or he is only pretending to be brainwashed; if it’s the latter, then he still abducted the mother of his godchild and almost fatally stabbed Diggle in the ensuing gun-and-swordfight. Either scenario is likely, because let’s face it, this wouldn’t be the first time Oliver endangered loved ones For The Greater Good.

But the long-reaching consequences of his brainwashing are damaging to the structure of the show, because Oliver is a powerful weapon in his own right. If he’s capable of being manipulated and brainwashed into a killing machine (sort of like Roy when he was on Mirakuru) then that means he’s innately vulnerable for the rest of the series. The conceit of the show up to this point was that Oliver’s heart was his biggest asset as a hero. If that can be taken away by a few weeks of vague “reprogramming techniques” then what do we even have to hold onto as viewers? So really, either scenario is terrible in my mind.

How many times are we going to have to hear “Oliver, this isn’t you!” before they accept that this is who he is now. And I don’t mean this expressionless, wooden R’as al Oliver from this episode, I mean the Oliver we’ve been dealing with ever since Sara died. He’s lied and manipulated and treated his friends and loved ones like crap, because he’s been convinced all along that he knows what’s best for everyone. When Felicity extends this plea to Oliver in that warehouse, she’s wrong. He’s standing there facing off with his friends in a R’as al Ghul costume because that is who he is. There was no cosmic force of events that led him to being in that place at that time — it was all choices he made on his own, aided and abetted by Malcolm Merlyn.

Increasingly, Felicity’s insistence of Oliver’s steadfastness and strength of character began to ring false as the episode wore on, and not because she didn’t believe it, but because we were tired of hearing it. We are tired of hearing the excuses, even from Diggle, for Oliver’s actions over this season. At this point, I can’t think of an endgame or resolution that will make me okay with anything that’s happened.

If things weren’t whisky-tango-foxtrot enough as it was, the episode ends with R’as sparing Nyssa her life at the last minute (for the head of an assassin organization, he sure is sparing a lot of lives lately) and then demanding that Oliver marry Nyssa to “unite our families.” Nyssa, of course, would rather die, and I don’t totally blame her. She definitely got the crappy end of that deal.

Lastly, the family scene with Thea, Felicity, and the Diggle family was admittedly cute. It’s really important that the show is finally having Thea and Felicity communicate closely. It’s also important to note that Thea is in infinitely more pain than any of the rest of them. Oliver was the last vestige of her family, he was her champion and ultimately her hero, and the only reason she doesn’t feel alone in the world right now is because of John and Lyla thoughtfully taking her in. This is something that I absolutely want to continue seeing, no matter what happens with Oliver in the future, because I am sick and tired of seeing Thea be treated as an afterthought or a pawn by these writers.

Other notes:

– The Canary Cry was a letdown. Sorry.

– Did anyone else notice the weird blocking in this episode? A lot of staring off in weird directions, walking across rooms pointlessly, turning away from other characters at odd beats… it was all very awkward.

– R’as mentioned Damien Darhk, which has caused the internet to predict that we finally know the identity of Felicity’s long-lost father. More importantly, he’s presumably the leader of H.I.V.E., thus he’s likely the Big Bad for season 4. Here’s hoping they cast this villain correctly.

“What is a black and white milkshake?”

“I will not cower in the shadows, waiting for death.”

– In the flashbacks, they manage to take down an attempt to release a virus, but unfortunately it’s already taken hold in Hong Kong. The episode ends with Akio falling ill.

– Lyla was a total badass during the fight scene.

– I love that Thea was the one to stop Oliver in the end.

– Oliver is killing now, by the way. Ultimately, Tommy’s death meant nothing after all.

– Felicity finally breaks the news to Thea that Roy is alive, and she gives Thea his contact info and the choice to move away and start fresh, or to stay in Starling City and continue grieving.

– And, surprise! R’as wants Oliver to unleash the exact same virus from the flashbacks on Starling City! Because apparently Starling City is a modern-day Alexandria! Time truly is a flat circle.

Tomorrow night: going to the chapel and we’re gonna get maaaaaarried! It’s funny to me because I actually imagine it going a lot like any of those KGB spy marriages. Or, like, Oliver and Nyssa sitting in marriage counseling. C’mon. If you don’t laugh, it’s just tragic.

“You didn’t see that coming?”

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**This post contains spoilers for Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” under the cut. Proceed at your own risk.**

Believe it or not, I don’t ask a lot of my superhero shows and movies. Pretty much all I want is character consistency. Since I come from a place of mostly ignorance regarding the original comics, I have no expectations for big character moments or backstories outside of what I’ve already seen in previous episodes or movies. At the end of the day, I am the easiest fan to win over. The banter and action sequences and sweeping shots are just bonuses to me — just keep the characters true to themselves, and give them room to evolve as people. It’s really an easy task, right?

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Nanda Parbat, Sex Club

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Note: Apologies for not posting a recap last week, I had every intention and then I fell ill. 

**This post contains spoilers for 3.20 of Arrow, “The Fallen.”**

There have been rumors floating around my Twitter feed that season 3 is just one giant alternate timeline gambit, and that thanks to The Flash and his ability to time-travel, we will be hitting the reset button and reliving the entire season in a newer, brighter, League-less fashion. I don’t believe that theory, honestly, but I want to believe it, especially after this week’s episode.

When you find yourself at a crossroads in your life, you should always consult a reliable, trustworthy person to advise you and guide you in your time of need. Say you’re considering a move to a new city, or you’re choosing between your dream job and the love of your life, or you work up the nerve to tell your hairdresser, “I want blunt bangs!” You need someone there whose sage advice will help you make the right decision, to guide you through the process, or to put a comforting hand on your shoulder and say “Oh honey, no, you don’t have the face for blunt bangs.” This person will ideally be:

– 100+ years old
– a ruthless murderer
– a relentless bully
– an absentee father
– creepy
– unable to pronounce his own name
– owner of a fountain of youth
– questionable at interior decorating
– incapable of being in a long-term romantic relationship

If you think this is a ridiculous set of criteria for a wise advisor, well, you must think you’re SO MUCH SMARTER than Felicity Smoak, who is a certified genius. Surely if such a person is good enough for Felicity, he would be good enough for you! So next time your life partner decides to go head up a team of ruthless killers, just hop on over to Nanda Parbat, confront “Race” al Ghul, then stand there all silent and defiant as he doles out some unsolicited advice about love, life, and the perks of the one night stand! Nothing can go wrong!

And hey, don’t forget to drug your partner against his express wishes after the awkward sex, so that you can determine what is best for him.

Honestly, the promotion for this episode was 30% Thea getting healed and then leaping out of the Lazarus Pit, and 70% “OLICITY SEX!” with blinky lights and glitter bombs. And as a metaphor for the entire season, BOTH storylines fell flat in an almost spectacular fashion. Thea was momentarily confused, then disoriented, then sad. Malcolm was there. It was hot. A lonely gray couch. “Oh look!” cried Ned. And the kingdom was his forever, the end. (Sorry if you don’t get that reference… I’m a little punchy.)

So naturally, even though Thea deserved to be the main focus of her own death episode (Oliver got three episodes dedicated to his death and resurrection!) production saw fit to just wring out every last vestige of characterization from Felicity and Oliver. Her reasons for going to him were twisted and felt gross, since it was on dubious advice, and the scene itself was stilted and… A friend described it as almost “wholesome” which is not exactly a word you want to ascribe to a steamy sex scene. There was a distinct lack of passion, and it was one of the few times that the viewer can feel themselves watching actors portray characters instead of watching characters be themselves. This is not the Oliver and Felicity of seasons 1 and 2. This is awkwardness, or discomfort, or phoning it in. Maybe it’s on purpose. Maybe the reset button people were right.

And honestly, fandom should be more upset about Felicity drugging Oliver against his will. If the roles were reversed and he had drugged her, that’s all anyone would be talking about this week. As it is, if they were going to the extreme of having Felicity do something so out of character, they should’ve at least used the opportunity to have Oliver rethink his actions in the past. If he didn’t like having someone else try to dictate what was best for him, maybe he would stop trying so hard to “protect” his sister, or Diggle, or Laurel, or Felicity. But of course Oliver, Professional Agency Stealer, immediately forgives Felicity once he quickly and miraculously comes to at the right time, because her heart was in the right place. They’re just baiting me now.

Felicity goes and cries on Laurel’s shoulder, which actually feels like a more meaningful moment for Laurel than anyone else, until you consider the fact that Laurel deserved to be part of the proceedings as well. Why did she have to stay home while the team trooped to Nanda Parbat? Is she part of the team or not?

I can’t believe that a year ago, we were deeply mired in the Mirakuru plot. Episode 2.20 was when Moira was killed, and that was an amazing and tragic episode. Everything after that was full throttle, and we knew we were heading for an epic showdown. What are we aiming for here, exactly? Who is Oliver’s enemy? It should be Malcolm Merlyn, or “Race” al Ghul, but he’s teamed up with both of them right now. What is the endgame? What are we hoping for? Because everything I hoped for is gone — there is nothing left of the characters I once loved, the characters I once wanted to defend to death. There’s no good story to tell when your characters have been compromised in unchangeable ways.

Besides John Diggle running around being all amazing all the time, there’s literally nothing else to talk about from this episode. Oliver is officially becoming the next R’as, and we’re supposed to be excited about that. I will say that the stunts were better in this episode, don’t say I can’t find a silver lining!

I can’t wait for this season to limp into the hiatus. I hope they spend that time getting their act together.

Bonus: Tumblr has a sense of humor about it.

Quentin Lance Wasn’t a Very Good Detective After All

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**This post contains spoilers for episode 3.18 of Arrow, “Public Enemy.”**

In the three years since the Arrow has appeared in his city, Quentin Lance, detective-turned-beat-cop-turned-captain, hasn’t figured out his true identity. This is besides the fact that the Arrow’s sidekick was Oliver Queen’s bodyguard, that his other sidekick was Queen’s executive assistant, that his daughter Sara Lance, aka the Canary, was dating Queen when she ran around saving the city, and that his other daughter Laurel, aka the Black Canary, has taken over that mantle.

I’m not sure how we can interpret this other than Quentin being a colossal idiot who is terrible at his job, but hey, at least he probably knew it on some level. Sigh.

It really undermines the incredible pathos that Paul Blackthorne puts into Lance’s storyline in this episode. He’s on a rampage to get to the Arrow because he’s grieving, he’s hurt, and he believes he’s lost everything. He’s reacting irrationally, but in a way that makes sense — he can’t trust Laurel because she burned that bridge, and he’s similarly angry at the man under the hood. In his mind, neither of them did anything to protect his daughter, and they spent the intervening months lying to him about her true fate. It’s awful that his inability to figure out the truth about Oliver has clouded this otherwise compelling story.

Lance is captured by “Race” al Ghul, who not only reveals the Arrow’s identity, but also tells Lance that Sara spent some time on Lian Yu. He announces the Arrow’s identity to the entire city, effectively shutting it down and forcing Oliver to turn himself in. Oliver tries to do it in exchange for immunity for his team, but none of them are thrilled with letting Oliver take the fall.

 

Ray, meanwhile, saves Felicity’s life or whatever. He ends up in the hospital and he’s still SUPER boring there, even on his literal deathbed, as he talks about his “teeny tiny robots” which can break up a blood clot. Then he goes from boring to psychotic in a teeny tiny robot second when he tells Felicity that he loves her. You know. Less than a year after he lost his “beloved” fiancee during Slade’s Mirakuvasion. This is definitely manipulation on his part.

It’s all gonna be okay, though, because Mama Smoak is back! “Hey! At least you finally have a boyfriend!” (Literally my mother. Like. Seriously.) Felicity confides that Ray said he loved her, and Donna lays it out for her: “You don’t love Ray, because you’re in love with Oliver.” She sweetly tells Felicity that it’s time to make a choice.

Roy abruptly goes off the deep end, consumed by sudden and random guilt over everything he’s done. It almost reads as out-of-character until we get to the end of the episode, when he dons the Arrow leathers and reveals that HE, in fact, is the Arrow. (Nice try, Roy, but are you saying that YOU saved YOURSELF from that man on the train back in season 1?)

“Race” al Ghul is still trying to bully Oliver into taking on his mantle, and make no mistake, this is actual bullying. Stephen Amell can tweet his faux-excitement to be “the next R’as!” all he wants, it’s not gonna fool me into thinking this is actually a good turn for him. This show needs a huge reset button for this storyline and I hate that they’ve driven me to the point of actually wanting time travel or Lazarus Pits or anything that will get rid of this stupid “Race” al Ghul storyline once and for all.

By far, one of the best scenes from this dismal season is the one between Lance and Oliver in the back of that van. “Well, was it worth it? All the pain and misery you brought back from that island? Merlyn, Slade Wilson… wouldn’t it be better if you just died there?” Then he goes on a heartbreaking list of the casualties of Oliver’s war: “Tommy. Hilton. Your mother. My daughter. And now you’re set on killing Laurel too.” It’s not fair for him to put all of this on Oliver — Tommy and Sara’s deaths aren’t on his hands, especially as Oliver chose Sara over Shado on Lian Yu — but it really punctuates Lance’s actions in this episode. None of this is fair, but we can see the thread of logic that runs through it all. Oliver IS the common denominator even if he’s not the instigator, and Lance, in his grief and anger, has boiled it down to its most simple solution.

“Do you have any idea what you’ve done, huh? What you’ve done to all of us, to the people you claim to care so much about? You’ve made us criminals! You’ve made us liars and victims! You, Mr. Queen, are not a hero! You’re a villain.”

And then —

 

Mmm whatcha saaaay…

Other notes:

– Nyssa is still around! She gives Team Arrow the absolute minimal amount of help when she gives them Maseo’s location, but that’s enough for me! #TeamNyssa

– In the flashbacks, Oliver runs into Shado’s (long-lost, never-mentioned) twin sister, Mei. SUSPICIOUS. This raises so many questions, but until we find out from a third party that Shado definitely had a twin, I’ll remain suspicious.

“If your father were here –” / “He’d be arrested.” Bits of backstory on Felicity’s father.

“You, Harper, Sara, the freak in Central City, the Huntress, I got a new guy flying around the city!” I love Lance’s breakdown of the various Starling City vigilantes.

– I assume something happens to Akio in the flashbacks, prompting Tatsu’s present-day grief and Maseo’s alliance with the League, but they keep dragging it out and it’s getting tiresome. This whole show is tiresome.

TONIGHT: Felicity and the punchable Ray Palmer make appearances in Central City where huge revelations are made, and probably reversed thanks to time travel. So watch The Flash if you need your Felicity fix.

TAX DAY: I just watched the extended promo for this week’s Arrow and while I’m looking forward to an Oliver-and-Roy centric episode, it’s also gonna be heavy on Bootleg Iron Man, so my mental countdown for when Ray goes to his own show has already begun. SPOILER: Supposedly someone will die, too. The internet is rampant with theories from Roy to Diggle, but like I listed above… Akio, to our knowledge, is not alive in the present day. And presumably, his death or disappearance has to happen soon. I haven’t delved too deep into online (okay, Tumblr) theories but I don’t know why people aren’t considering Akio to be a significant death… since it sorta sets Maseo’s, and by extention Oliver’s, current storyline in motion.

Are you excited, or are you dreading it?

I, Raybot

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**This post contains spoilers for episode 3.17 of Arrow, “Suicidal Tendencies”**

Talk about a polarizing episode.

No really, someone talk about it, because I don’t even know where to begin.

Sigh. Fine. Here goes nothing.

I’m not happy with Arrow, and if you’ve been reading along, I think you’re aware of that. I keep trying to write about it, but it’s exhausting to be this angry over a TV show. It’s just a TV show, right? I mean, now it is. It used to be well-crafted and a real genre-buster, but now, it’s not even formulaic. It’s really not even basic. It’s bad. And no one is willing to listen to us.

I will grant that there is a very vocal and often irrational side to fandom that might drown out the constructive criticism of the show. There are fans of Oliver/Felicity that are so angry about their ship that they’ve taken to all platforms to rant and rage at anyone even remotely related to Arrow production. I understand that it might be easier to lump the entirety of fandom in with that group and pretend that we are all just screaming nonsensically, but at the end of the day, the showrunners are ignoring a very well-spoken and deeply concerned corner of fandom that is just wondering what happened to their once-great show.

I’ve made no secret of my allegiance to Oliver/Felicity — I would call myself a shipper, I think my videos speak for themselves — but on Arrow, I value the story over the ship. I’m willing to lose Oliver/Felicity for a while, to see them in other relationships or just apart, if it means they’re telling a good story. I’m willing to sacrifice romance and true love for characterization. I will always value the team — even including Roy and Laurel — over the ships. That’s because all I want, all I’ve ever wanted, is to watch a good story.

I was willing to watch Oliver choose to be alone, to watch him push Felicity away for her safety, and to watch her rebound with another guy. I’m actually a fan of slow burns in romance, and Oliver/Felicity is rife with so much angst that the slow burn could’ve been great. I was in complete agreement that Felicity deserved a break from the Oliver Queen Angst Show and that she should date a guy with less baggage. But they chose to saddle Felicity with the worst possible character in the history of television* when they brought in Ray Palmer, and all he’s done is dragged down her character and sucked the life out of her.

(*except for Chuck Bass)

I’ve covered Ray’s stalking, his manipulating, his general air of entitlement, and I think I’ve even mentioned that I think he’s dead behind the eyes. He carries himself like he’s handsome and suave but he actually seems like one of those humanoid robots that knows it’s supposed to feel emotions and does its best to manufacture them, but they’re always a little off and ultimately they just creep you out. So we end up watching scene after scene where Felicity should be acting out the plot to I, Robot and kicking Ray in the face Will Smith-style, but instead she’s actually flattered, touched, and flirty with the robot. The more she submits to his programming, the creepier and more upsetting it gets for the fans. In the most recent episode, “Suicidal Tendencies,” she even let him shame her for keeping Oliver’s big secret from him, like she somehow owes Ray her allegiance. She doesn’t. He’s never been completely forthcoming with her, and she’s never revealed Oliver’s secret to anyone unless Oliver’s life was in danger, so why would she owe Ray that truth? Why does he think he’s entitled to it?

He does the same thing to Laurel later in the interrogation room, when he’s trying to tell her that Oliver is the Arrow. Laurel isn’t as susceptible to Ray, possibly she can hear the whirring of his machinery in the quiet of the interrogation room, and when she points out that Oliver was arrested under the same suspicion two years ago, Ray isn’t stymied — he immediately claims that Laurel is similarly compromised because of her past with Oliver. Laurel had demonstrated composure and professionalism with Ray during this conversation, but his first instinct was to treat her like an irrational woman, and he did it all with that smarmy look on his face that we are supposed to find — charming? Endearing? Handsome? (These are times where I find myself wondering, yet again, how differently this all would play out if they’d cast a better actor in this role.)

 

To add insult to injury, Ray shows up for his big fight with Oliver and immediately turns it into some kind of contest over Felicity. Oliver’s literally standing there in leathers with just a bow and arrows as his defense, Ray is standing a head taller than him dressed in metal and looking like a freaking idiot, and he’s crowing “show Felicity what kind of man you really are!” Like Felicity doesn’t know, after three years. Like Oliver’s even worried about Felicity’s opinion. Like Oliver’s not preoccupied with clearing his name, finding and fighting R’as al Ghul, and not letting Felicity’s boyfriend trip over his metal feet and kill himself on accident. This is a fight for survival for Oliver, just like it always has been, but it’s just a game to Ray — and the writers don’t seem to realize that that’s the message they’re sending about Felicity, too. She’s just a game for him as well.

It’s all very comical when Oliver simply disables Ray’s dumb suit, and instead of killing him and putting us out of our misery, he takes his hand and they forge some kind of truce.

Honestly, the writers should’ve course-corrected around the time Oliver fell off that mountain and decided to make Ray Palmer a villain. Screw canon. ATOM is dumb anyway, and Ray Palmer is no Tony Stark. If you can’t get your actor to actually connect with the audience the way you intended, then why not lean into it and pretend that this was your plan all along? Then at least all of his manipulations of Felicity would have pathos instead of just being “Oh tee hee that’s just Ray, he’s such a scoundrel! And also he’ll follow you back to your apartment so take the long way home.” Sure, he’d still be the lamest supervillain to ever supervillain, but… oh wait, no, we still have R’as al Ghul ringing in at Lamest Supervillain, so I guess Ray would get second place. My, how the mighty supervillains have fallen since Slade Wilson was in town.

I don’t even want to get into the lunacy involving Oliver actually considering becoming the new R’as al Ghul, but this show is determined to crash and burn spectacularly, I suppose.

But I have a silver lining for this cloud, and that is Deadshot. Poor guy suffered from PTSD and ended up in jail and losing his family, which is how HIVE got ahold of him and turned him into a sniper for hire. He and Diggle have an unlikely friendship that is downright fun to watch, and Deadshot’s interactions with Carrie Cutter were even better, because he saved her life so now she’s obsessed with him. That might be part of the reason he decided to sacrifice himself for the cause and got blown up with the hospital that the Suicide Squad was trying to save (and that storyline had some of its own WTFness going on) but I’m pretty sure Deadshot is still very much Alive-shot somewhere. It wouldn’t be the first time this show half-heartedly killed off a beloved character only to bring him back three episodes later, would it?

Other fun notes:

– Congratulations to Diggle and Lyla, whose second wedding happened in under three minutes flat! I hope they have a third one only because I wanted to punch their officiant in the face. Ray Palmer ruins everything.

– Diggle seriously Diggle’d this bit, and then Ray was absolutely terrifying:

 

You can’t tell me that second gif doesn’t look like a robot that is searching its programming for an appropriate response to a threat.

– This was not a good Felicity episode, no matter which way you slice it. I tend to be a huge Felicity apologist, I’m willing to forgive a lot of the little character lapses that happened along the Ray Palmer Douchebro Storyline this season, but her behavior in this episode was unrecognizable. The same Felicity that stands up to Oliver time and time again was basically cowering in Ray’s self-righteous indignation. I’m starting to wonder if they hired a writer who hates Felicity.

– Laurel’s trainer is “enthusiastic.” And I like the idea that Nyssa’s still in Starling somewhere, grocery shopping and drinking coffee at cafes.

– Maseo killed an innocent woman at the end of the episode, and his arrow was trained on Felicity before the screen cut to black. They’re raising the stakes for Oliver, that’s for sure.

– If Arrow‘s bumming you out lately, have no fear! Community is back on Yahoo Screen, and it’s actually really good!