This post contains spoilers for the mid-season finale of Arrow, “Three Ghosts.”
When we last saw our heroes, Felicity was begging a recently-drugged Barry Allen to “Save my friend,” as Oliver lay unconscious on a table in the foundry. He’d been injected with two different needles during his fight with a scary superhuman, and while Diggle had frantically dialled 911, Felicity had made the executive decision to call Barry instead.
You know how in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Toula’s dad thinks Windex cures everything? Did you think that was ridiculous? Well then you’re not prepared for Barry Allen, who cures Oliver with rat poison. Diggle, the entire time, defers to Felicity to make all of the calls, and she decides that rat poison is the way to go. Diggle’s implicit trust in Felicity with regard to Oliver’s life is so fantastic, I can’t even put it into words.
When Oliver wakes up, he’s livid. Not because Barry, you know, technically poisoned him, but because Felicity revealed Oliver’s secret to Barry. It’s probably 50% disorientation from his current condition, 40% jealousy because it’s Barry, and 10% justified because Oliver is an intensely private person. He tells Felicity that he only brought in her and Digg after he did his research on them, but honestly, Felicity only needed to retort “Helena!” to shut down that line of self-righteous yelling. As Oliver and Felicity bicker, Diggle’s in the background rolling his eyes like “I told her he would react this way, no one ever listens…” and Barry tries to intervene on Felicity’s behalf: “You don’t have to thank me, but you should thank her instead of being kind of a jerk.”
You just know Oliver’s picturing at least seven different ways to disable Barry in that moment. Really, Oliver is a jerk the entire time, but it’s also great to see him be emotional and unreserved around Felicity, and it’s nice to see her hand him his behind in return. Oliver stomps away without a thank you or an apology, and Felicity quips to Barry, “Never meet your heroes, right?”
Oliver “Scrooge” Queen has also forgotten it’s Christmas for the second year in a row. Last year’s festivities ended with his stepfather getting kidnapped, so this year is bound to go better, right? Well not for Oliver Scrooge, who is in for some pretty trippy hallucinations thanks to ol’ Barry and his rat poison; italics are always necessary. (Okay, I’ll level with you: it turns out that hallucinations are psychological, but still, it probably started with the rat poison, right?)
This episode is surprisingly well-crafted. On the surface, it’s a nonstop thrill ride of action, suspense, agony, joy, and even some hilarity. It’s kind of like a regular Arrow episode on steroids, or on the Mirakuru that Blood’s injecting into everyone. But when you break it down and consider that Oliver Scrooge was visited by three “ghosts” at Christmastime, the structure becomes a little more elegant.
The Ghost of Christmas Past is Shado, who we see is killed in the flashbacks to the island. Professor Ivo, with no explanation, tells Oliver to choose who will live: Sara or Shado. Oliver can’t choose, so when Ivo turns his gun on Sara, Oliver leaps in front of her, sacrificing himself. Ivo takes that as Oliver’s choice and shoots Shado instead.
Today, as Oliver recovers from the effects of the mysterious injections and the rat poison, he begins hallucinating, and the first phantom to appear is the most inexplicable death in Oliver’s past: Shado. She begs Oliver to stop fighting, to put down the bow and take off the hood, or else everyone he loves will die. We also got confirmation that Oliver wears the green hood to honor Yao Fei and Shado, which is unbelievably sentimental for him. I need a moment…
The Ghost of Christmas Future is Slade, who first appears on a rooftop as Hooded Oliver is talking to Beat Cop Lance. He only stands there silently the first time, but it’s enough to freak out Oliver. Later, Oliver’s shooting tennis balls in the foundry when HalluciSlade catches an arrow and snarks, “What’s the matter, kid? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
In the flashbacks, Slade wakes from the injection fully healed from the burns on his face, and he roars outside to save Shado. He’s completely primal as he breaks guns in half and rips out hearts, but he sobers when he finds Shado shot dead. He vows to Oliver and Sara that “Whoever did this to her is going to suffer.” In the present, HalluciSlade yells at Oliver for not being a hero, friend, or brother. He harbors a lot of bitterness against Oliver, saying “The island didn’t make you strong, kid. It revealed you to be weak.” (It’s a fantastic scene for Manu Bennett, who has tears in his eyes throughout.) Oliver ends up “fighting” him and ruining the lair.
The fun thing about this particular “ghost” is that Slade is actually alive and well and living in Starling City. He’s the Ghost of Christmas Future because he has a lot of nasty stuff planned for Oliver and his friends, stuff that will run the course of the second half of the season.
“I am going to tear everything that he cares about away from him. Destroy those who choose to follow him. Corrupt those he loves. Once he has lost everyone and everything he values, I will drive an arrow through his eye.”
Fans got really excited that the camera panned over Felicity when Slade said “Corrupt those he loves.” After sweeping up the lair and sharpening his arrowheads for battle, Oliver asks Diggle if he’s lost his mind. Diggle, ever the soldier, says that we’re all a little crazy anyway. He tells Oliver he’s just suffering from survivor’s guilt, something Digg himself has gone through, and he advises Oliver to listen to what the ghosts are trying to tell him.
This scene is lost in the hustle and bustle of the rest of the episode but it’s probably the most important thing that’s happening for Oliver on a personal level. In a lot of ways, Digg is Oliver’s present-day Slade: he’s military trained, he has an instinctual understanding of Oliver, and he’s Oliver’s closest ally. All along, we’d assumed Oliver had lost Shado and Slade to death and nothing more, but now that Slade’s back with a vengeance, Oliver’s friendship with and trust in Diggle is even more noteworthy. Oliver is at his most vulnerable when he asks Digg how to get rid of his ghosts, and Digg, true to form, handled it like a pro. These little moments are going to become more and more important as we get closer to the day that Oliver discovers Slade is alive.
The Ghost of Christmas Present was a terrible, powerful punch of feelings to the viewers. Oliver ambushes a masked Brother Blood and his cronies just a minute too late, as they’ve already injected Roy, whom they captured earlier, with the Mirakuru serum. He dies as Oliver tries to fight off Cyrus Gold, and that’s when Tommy Merlyn appears.
Tommy says the things Oliver needs to hear: that he’s a hero, that he beat the island and his father, and that he needs to fight back. He’s the Ghost of Christmas Present because he represents the normal life that Oliver should be fighting for. Shado reminded Oliver of everything he’s lost in the past, Slade reminded Oliver of everything that’s at stake, but Tommy reminded Oliver that he needs to fight every day because there’s no other way to survive. Oliver jumps up and fights off Gold as Blood runs away. He starts yelling the same sorts of platitudes at Roy, telling him he’s a strong kid and that he needs to fight, and Roy finally wakes up… with superhuman strength, presumably.
Does Oliver ultimately learn the lessons that his three ghosts were setting out to teach him? I think so. Then again, they were all hallucinations, so maybe Oliver just needs to lay off the eggnog for a while. I hear Barry spiked it with rat poison.
Outside of the demons that Oliver’s fighting, there’s a lot going on in Starling. Originally, Roy was recovering from the arrow shot to the leg in the privacy of Thea’s room. Oliver helps out (with a rather sweet and awkward “Hi” to Sin, suddenly I need them to be in more scenes together) by pulling out the arrow and then telling those meddling kids to stay away from that blasted vigilante. His poker face is a thing of beauty throughout the entire scene. Later, Roy wakes in the Haunted Queen Mansion after his ordeal with the Mirakuru, and his leg is fully healed. Oliver tells Felicity and Digg that they need to keep an eye on Roy for the time being.
Oliver also hands over his information on Cyrus Gold to Beat Cop Lance after a failed recon mission by Diggle. Unfortunately, Lance recruits the wrong people to accompany him on the bust–namely Officer Daly, Blood’s right-hand man. The bust ends up being an ambush, and everyone except Lance is killed, including his former partner, Lucas Hilton. Hooded Oliver visits Lance at the hospital and apologizes for the deaths, but Lance sagely tells him “Not every death in this city is on you.” It’s the nicest thing Lance has ever said to him. (I really, really hope it turns out that Lance has known it’s Oliver under that hood since “Broken Dolls.”)
And yes, Laurel was floating on the periphery of this episode, barely crying over her father’s injuries, chastising Oliver for not decking his Haunted House halls with boughs of holly, falalalala lalalala, and awkwardly hugging Alderman Blood in the hallway of the hospital. Where every other character got a great setup for the back half of the season, Laurel got nothing.
Felicity and Barry share some really great scenes, the best of which is when Barry tells Felicity that if she likes Oliver, he would understand why. “I just have a little experience with liking someone who doesn’t see you the same way.” Felicity never concedes the point that she likes Oliver, but she and Barry seem to have a sort of mutual understanding of where they stand.
She also has some rather intense scenes with Oliver; when he prepares to go after Gold, Felicity begs him not to.
Barry looks like a sad puppy as Oliver walks past him, but he doesn’t let it deter him later when he calls Felicity and asks her to give him a ring if she ever decides that Oliver Queen is not the man for her. Felicity, meanwhile, is incredibly relieved that Oliver is back safe and sound from his encounter with the superhuman.
Thanks to a combination of a malfunction with the oft-discussed particle accelerator, a bolt of lightning, and a mess of chemicals, we see Barry go from Barry Allen, Fake CSI, to Barry Allen: Probably The Flash. Don’t worry, bro, I’m sure some rat poison will set you right in no time.
That brings the count of potential superhumans up to three, with only two of them potentially being on The Arrow’s side. We already knew that Roy and Barry were destined to be superheroes, but the fact remains that Oliver is still just a mortal man who is a good shot and happens to like parkour. The danger now is that he’s descending into a world where other people have “powers” and he does not… unless you count the rat poison, of course.
Finally, earlier in the episode Barry had asked Oliver why he wears grease paint instead of a mask, and Oliver snapped, “Find me a mask that conforms perfectly to my face and doesn’t affect my ability to aim while I’m on the run.” Nice try, Oliver, but at the end of the day, you’re still wearing eyeshadow. Just own it. Anyway, the episode ends with Oliver opening a Christmas gift from Barry: a mask!
Felicity puts it on and Oliver asks how he looks. “Like a hero,” she says. And she’s right: Tommy said so.
No new episodes until January 15th, but I think this one gives us enough material to last until then, don’t you?