By Matthew Soall
(Sadly, spoilers, because it’s impossible to properly review a whole season without them.)
After coming off a very successful season 2 of Arrow, I had high hopes for season 3. Sadly in review, I don’t think Season 3 had the same impact for me as season 2. While season 2 was a slow build to Slade’s master plan, Season 3 was more about a malignant presence in the room in the form of Ra’s Al Ghul, portrayed by Australian actor Matt Nable.
While the main story played out with Ra’s trying to win Oliver to his cause, our flashback sequences (that the series is famous for) took viewers on a journey through Oliver’s time in China under the reign of Amanda Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson).
So in usual fashion, let start with the good, discuss the bad, then wrap it all up with my thoughts on season 3.
This season had some really standout performances. Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) was a charming and sometimes naïve presence in the show. The audience follows along with Ray as he struggles with a tragic event in his past which has lead him down the path of the Superhero.
When Ray does don his costume, his story arc really starts to progress, leading us to his new spinoff series, “Legends of Tomorrow”. At times, I was frustrated by the fact that they were establishing Ray so quickly, just to spin him off into another show, but this is a minor complaint.
David Ramsey really stood out in this season as Diggle. Digs became a husband and a father, and that showed as the character reprioritised for his young family, trying to minimise the risk to himself while still helping Oliver in his crusade.
I will admit this straight up, I love my badass women. I don’t respond well to mopey. I like ’em tough! So when both Thea’s (Willa Holland) and Laurel’s (Katie Cassidy) character arcs lead them to becoming superheros in their own right, I was pretty damned pleased. I think both actors handled the transition well, and showed a steady performance depicting real growth in their characters.
Newcomer Matt Nable was really enjoyable to watch. As much as I liked Liam Neeson’s portrayal of Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman Begins, Nable’s performance seemed to have a much grander air around him. At all times, the character seemed in control and ready to do what he felt was justified, in order to get what he wanted. Nable’s concentrated movements and motions give the impression that Ra’s is a contemplative character, not spurned to action lightly, and this works well for the series.
The rest of the cast are serviceable, if not a little repetitive. Roy Harper (Calton Haynes) was more likeable this season and new comer Rila Fukushima as Tatsu (Katana) was a personal favourite, as we watched her transition from world-wary mother to sword of justice.
One performance that annoyed me to no end was Emily Bett-Rickards as Felicity Smoak. Every five minutes, it seemed she was crying and crying and crying. By the end of the season, my fiancée and I simply referred to her as “Weepy”. It’s really lazy writing, and it’s sad to see after Felicity had such enjoyable moments in the series. There was one standout episode featuring her backstory that was good. Other than that, I could have done without her this season and her love triangle between Oliver and Ray.
Stephen Amell’s Arrow maintains the same standard from the past two seasons, which isn’t a compliant I like the character and I like Amell’s portrayal. The problem with him, however, seems to stem from the writers’ room. The writers’ don’t seem to know how to push the character forward. The end of the season finale hints at an Ollie that we haven’t seen before, so maybe there is some hope for character development down the line.
The overall plot of Season 3 consisted mainly of the League of Assassins infiltrating Starling City, in order to avenge the death of one of its members. But we also had a few mini events throughout the series. Oliver’s supposed death, the villain Brick (played by Vinnie Jones) taking control of the city, and Oliver teaming up with The Flash (more on that in our Flash: Season One review). These little events helped to keep the series interesting.
A lot of characters had really good arcs this season, making the secondary characters the stars of the show. Ra’s also had some particularly good villain moments with the entire cast, and some sobering moments with Oliver as he tries to make Oliver his protégée. Plus tons of cool comic book Easter Eggs to find.
But the series was far from perfect. The story became bogged down in repetition. We would find the characters at Ra’s base of operations in Nanda Parbat, and then back to Starling City, then back to Nanda Parbat. What made it worse was that the dressed up rock quarry that was meant to be Nanda Parbat was about as convincing as the Batman 1966 Adam West series (Editor’s note: We don’t hate the Adam West Batman series)
Not to mention Felicity crying all the time, Laurel and her Dad falling out for the fifth time, and Olive switching between good guy and bad good guy so often it is just annoying.
Ok, now this isn’t going to apply to you if you’re not a Batman comic book fan, so disregard this paragraph and go onto the next. This season’s story arc is heavily adapted from the Batman graphic novel “Son of the Demon”. You just replace Batman with Green Arrow, and it’s the same story, only it’s a lot dodgier when done here. So if you’re a fan of that comic, then this season might really bug you with its similarities to the book.
The production value on the show was pretty decent. They pumped a lot of money into effects and costumes. Ray Palmer’s ATOM costume was pretty cool, if not heavily ripped off from Iron Man. We don’t see him shrink, though, that’s being saved for the “Legends of Tomorrow” series. Laurel looked really cool as Black Canary, and she received a little upgrade for her Canary Call which was cool.
There were a lot of drop-in’s as well this season. Cisco and Joe dropped in from the Flash as well as two appearances by The Flash himself. This might be a bone of contention here because in order to fully enjoy some storylines in Arrow you have to keep up with The Flash, so keep that in mind.
Overall, I still enjoyed a lot of moments in this season. The characters that moved forward did so well and Ra’s was another iconic villain done well. Plus there was a ton of comic book fun to enjoy. The season let itself get bogged down in overemotional dialogue and receptiveness, and the season finale left a lot to be desired (especially up against the Flash season finale). Here’s hoping that season four breathes new life into the series before it becomes stale.