Summary: Though the comic relief borders on derailing it, a delightful twist and a shock ending make for a sad but thrilling hour.
If you have not seen this episode yet and do not wish to be spoiled, do not continue reading!
Roy is arrested for being the Arrow, even though Quentin Lance is well aware that it is Oliver Queen. The District Attorney’s office releases Oliver because they can’t charge him for the same crimes that Roy is being charged. Lance tries to appeal to Roy to give up confessing for Oliver’s mess, but Roy feels that his guilt over the cop he killed means he should be in jail. Obsessed, Lance raids the Arrowcave, forcing Team Arrow to go for Oliver’s secret secondary lair. With all of the cops watching his moves, they all have to accept that Oliver can’t go around as the Arrow. Oliver plans to break Roy out of prison but Diggle and Felicity stop him to allow the team to take out a metahuman attacking the city while Roy’s arrest distracts the police.
They turn to Ray Palmer for help, and his ego is bruised after a disastrous first encounter with the electricity powered villain. Oliver convinces Ray that he needs to trust himself more than his tech if he wants to be out in the field. When Felicity is captured by the villain, they marry Ray’s tech with Oliver’s ability by having Oliver remotely control Ray in the ATOM suit. When the link breaks, Ray has to rely on himself to take down the bad guy. In prison, Roy survives one attack by inmates who want to get back at the Arrow. In another, a security guard shivs Roy and Lance informs Thea and Oliver that Roy has been killed.
Oliver tries to make sense of it all when Diggle and Felicity reveal that Roy is alive and the arrest and stabbing was all a ruse to convince people that the Arrow is dead. Having sacrificed his public life, Roy leaves town to start anew. At the loft, Ra’s al Ghul confronts Thea as his next gambit to get Oliver to accept his offer. They fight and Ra’s slams Thea through a table and then runs her through.
Tired of her pursuit, Oliver decides to confront Waller to get her to call of her men or take her down. He discovers an injured Waller who claims to have been held captive by General Matthew Shrieve. She reveals Shrieve plans to use the Omega virus on Hong Kong to take out China. Oliver, Maseo, and Tatsu break into a Shrieve base and steal the Alpha antigen. Oliver takes a device with the plans for the release of Omega on the city. He plans for the Yamashiros to inoculate themselves and leave while he stops Shrieve. Tatsu decides that they can’t run and she and Maseo have to help Oliver for it to succeed.
As a lifelong Seattle Seahawks fan, I find myself positively thrilled by this modern incarnation of the team. Aside from a stout defense that continues to build a case each year for consideration as one of the best in the history of the pro game, they have a far less celebrated offense that is actually quite exciting to watch as a pure football fan.
They are deceptively better than most give them credit because their stats aren’t as sexy as other teams. Yet, they enjoy more success because it’s a highly intelligent squad that adapts well, even while they convince everyone that they’ll just smash the ball down the throats of other teams behind one of the best running backs ever to suit up.
Frequently, a play will seem to be going one way on the field only to emerge the other, often faking out even the cameraman covering the game.
Lest you think this is becoming a sports blog, the comparison is an apt description of the effective dodge of Roy Harper’s “death,” shrewdly fooling our lead which sells the whole gambit to the audience. Not to rest, they double down by unexpectedly driving a blade through Thea in a surprisingly brutal scene to close the hour.
It’s a helpful reminder that when Arrow gets down to business it gets down to business. And at this time of year, not only can anything happen, but the cast call sheet has a tendency to get a smidge lighter. For the last six weeks, since some ominous postings on social media by various members of the cast, the viewing public has been in overdrive attempting to suss out if someone was slated for death and who the victim would be. While sunshiney Quentin Lance, he of the fragile heart and volcanic anger, has been the frontrunner for most of the time, Roy giving himself up to the police as the Arrow to free Oliver jumped him to the head of the line.
Anticipating that fervor, or more likely orchestrating it, the writers play with the very concept of death on the series, which sort of becomes meta commentary itself. Perhaps in a nod to its nature in the source material, death is sort of a fluid state in the DCwU. With the introduction of the mystical powers of the waters of the Lazarus Pit, it becomes even more of a symptom or misunderstanding than it is a final sentence. That said, the show has been consistent when it truly wants to get rid of a character for story purposes, and we’re not likely to see Robert Queen, Moira Queen, or Tommy Merlyn in present-day life again. (Caity Lotz’s Sara Lance is a big fat question mark at present with other developments.) So, for Roy to take a shiv, especially from a seemingly crooked prison guard, it certainly bore quite the air of authenticity.
Going into the episode, the promos suggested this was a distinct possibility. Yet, we’ve all learned that promos can deceive or outright lie; it’s a way to get you to tune in. Still, one couldn’t start the episode without the feeling of inevitability. The chapter even stacks the deck in its favor. Roy is steadfast in his determination to take the fall for Oliver’s alleged crimes. Oliver has his resources taken from him at every turn, as well as Felicity and Diggle putting the brakes on his efforts to run off and free Roy from Iron Heights. Lance attempts to sway him from his confession in a touching admission that he’s been trying to save the boy for years. They even play the card of Roy being jumped in prison by some less-than-grateful recipients of the Arrow’s good will.
On top of all of that, there’s a profound amount of effort put into proving to the cops that Roy is the Arrow, even when Lance Elliot Nesses his way into the Arrowcave. It was, indeed, curious that Felicity had swept the foundry, making sure to remove evidence of everyone but Roy, yet I let it slide as a matter of convenience. In fact, the hour seems to use all of these obvious points so well that it was easy to become blinded by that belief that Roy was going to die. To get so caught up that it was going to happen that the importance of the obvious points gets lost until all is revealed. One immediately thinks back to how subtle they aren’t being, but only after Roy steps out from behind the curtain.
None of this takes away from the moment Roy fields a blade to the side. They added to the fake of it all by filling the marching line with the same inmates that had tried to kill him earlier. Even though the bad guard is a bit of a trope now, it was still surprising to see him commit the act. Though we’d been waiting for it, Roy slump to the ground in a bloody mess was still quite wrenching.
What was the true masterstroke was the immediate cut to Oliver entering the loft after the defeat of Deadbolt to find Lance the moment after he informed Thea that Roy was killed. When Lance gives him the news and you see Oliver’s usually stoic and broody face crumble with emotion, it was like a dagger to the viewership heart. Any rational thought was gone and all anyone could deal with was the impact. It was not difficult to buy it hook, line, and sinker.
To not include Oliver in the plot was partly a necessity, given that he’d turned himself into the cops without warning and wasn’t around to let in on the plan. It was also a surefire way to fool the cops and the public at large. Roy Harper and the Arrow are dead in their eyes, even if Lance knows the truth about Oliver. Most important, it was the perfect way to fool the audience. We needed to see Oliver’s frustration that he couldn’t do anything for Roy, as well as his breakdown when he found out he was too late. That made the reveal that Roy was alive and the extent of the plan in the very next scene even more of a surprise. Emotional manipulation of the audience is always a tricky thing, but when it’s done well you can’t help but admire it.
What’s really a pleasure to enjoy is the showcase this gives Roy on his way out. Obviously, without a permanent exit, they are free to call Arsenal back into active duty at various points down the road. With soon-to-be three active shows in the DCwU, he’s also not limited to adventuring in Starling City alone.
Like a commencement ceremony, though, Roy is given the lead on the plan that forces his exit out of town. The hothead, the wayward soul, the young man looking for purpose and finding it. The guilt over taking that cop’s life (and Colton Haynes’ burgeoning career) was a hard thing to get past, and you knew Roy was eventually going to have to take a personal journey very separate from the activities of Team Arrow to find peace. His departure wasn’t expected, per se, but it’s not altogether shocking nor unwarranted. To see him concoct such a complex plan on his way out bodes well for his future, and it’s a moving repayment to his mentor. Haynes has had some good moments this season — Roy’s pleading with Oliver not to give up on him in “Guilty” immediately jumps to mind — and here he gets a nice swan song, of sorts, that he essays quite ably.
It’s sad to see Roy and Haynes go as a regular, but one looks forward to how time off-screen allows the character to develop.
As if the exhilaration of one death with an immediate “resurrection” wasn’t enough, the episode offers us a potential second just as we are making peace with Roy leaving. Arrow has heartily earned a reputation for terrific stunt and fight coordination for its action. Though after experiencing the mostly unglorified brutality of Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix, it’s a bit hard not to be spoiled. That made the showdown between Ra’s al Ghul and Thea as surprising as Roy’s fake death. That moment he slammed her through the big glass table in particular was as stunningly violent as anything we’ve seen on the show before. Followed by the shish-kebabing, it might possibly have been more shocking than anything we’d seen in the hour preceding it.
The major villains of the series have this impressive knack of being unrelenting and doing the things in short order that we either expect them to hold back from doing or take forever to get to. What impresses most about Ra’s threat now is that every episode he turns the crank a bit further. When you think he’s pushed Oliver into a corner and there’s nowhere else for the archer’s obstinance to stand, Ra’s finds a stick to jam him further into the crevice. Malcolm was not dropping hyperbole when he said that Ra’s does not take no for an answer.
The question becomes just how much dead can one be before the Lazarus Pit doesn’t work. That wasn’t an insignificant wound. Factor in the time it takes for Oliver or someone to find her, to get a flight set up, travel time to Nanda Parbat, and cart her to the magic waters; it’s quite possible that she actually isn’t alive by the time they dunk her.
It’s very clear that’s the intention behind Ra’s action. What better way to force Oliver into a decision than by bringing him back to Nanda Parbat to face it. What better ultimatum to offer than your sister’s life for gold-festooned robes of the head of the League of Assassins. Clearly, Ra’s is not one to engage in a game of Texas Hold’em. That or an extremely formidable challenge that might just be more thrill than the possibility of a win. A telling bit of continuity is that Ra’s doesn’t leave behind the sword he used to stab Thea, as is his custom with a target. Oliver is his target and he he either doesn’t believe Thea will die or that Oliver will opt to resurrect her, if possible.
Oliver is kind of a passenger through all of this, which is a surprisingly fitting development. The moment he turned himself into the cops he’d basically given up his existences as both Oliver Queen and the Arrow. It makes sense that when they need to deal with the metahuman threat of Deathbolt, they turn to the hero available in the Atom. Though, to be fair, seeing Oliver give up control so easily, even as he paced around like a caged bull, was a bit hard to buy. Logic isn’t always his strong suit.
It made for a fascinating inclusion of Ray, and an opportunity for Oliver to prove mentor once again. His show has spawned the DCwU, so there’s a poetry to Oliver being the one to guide Barry Allen, Roy Harper, Laurel Lance, and Ray Palmer in their journeys as heroes. (Could Thea “Mia” Dearden Queen as Speedy be next?) Ray was at a point where he needed to be shaken from the idea that his technology was the end all-be all. As the man beneath the suit, he required Oliver’s lesson to move forward. Then, to literally have Oliver in control of Ray’s body was a fun bit of tech and physicality, and thankfully it was brief before it turned into too much of a shtick.
If there is one thing to enjoy about Brandon Routh’s performance as Ray, it’s that it is relatively light and sunny. Yet, while it’s fun in spurts to see an exasperated Oliver who is used to trading in brood rather than quirk, the one thing that nearly derailed the episode was a heavy lean on humor. Humor on Arrow is welcome, but there’s a balance and it felt off this time out. Still, it gave us a number of choice lines. (See below.)
The best thing going for “Broken Arrow” is its pacing, keeping the threat against Roy constantly at the fore while Oliver is relegated to a mostly helpless bystanding position. Narratively, the episode, including the flashbacks, was to reinforce (yet again) the lesson that Oliver needs to learn to lean on others. That’s going to become more important as he’s forced into an untenable position with his refusal to become the next Ra’s al Ghul. Reducing the bodies crowding the Arrowcave makes a great deal of sense, as well. That’s a lot of people to have to write for on a consistent basis and paring the cast down should make for stronger writing. It’s sad to see Roy go, but true to one of the most appealing aspects of the show, this was a natural development and they didn’t hold it up.
Odds & Ends
- After Felicity & Ray put in a stop over in Central City, and Joe West and Cisco Ramon are set to arrive in Starling City next week, the connection of the two shows is becoming more firm and entwined in the last few weeks of their seasons. Ray drops Jake Simmons, aka Deathbolt, off at S.T.A.R. Labs for detainment, and Cisco makes a fascinating discovery with significant impact on the entire DCwU. Simmons wasn’t in Central City the night of the particle accelerator explosion. Their current belief is that the metahuman phenomenon started that night. How does he have abilities if he wasn’t there? Could this set up Ray’s mission for is new show?
- Opal City is another of the fictional cities that exist in the DC Universe. This one is the home of various heroes who have gone by the name Starman.
- Nice to hear mention of Oliver’s second lair, first revealed last season after Moira’s death.
- “You actually put those things on display?!”
- “Stop calling it a ‘team-up,’ Ray.”
- “How many abandoned warehouses do you think are actually in this city?” – Nice commentary, Ray.
- Ray also questions Cisco on the moral and logistical implications of holding metahumans within the accelerator
- “There’s a decent chance that you and Palmer are related.”
- Tatsu mentions the possibility that if they don’t stop Shrieve’s play they might not “get off this island alive.” Oliver chuckles at the irony of that statement.
- Someone is apparently a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team, as a street corner is named after Jim Gantner and Robin Yount, two well-known long-time players with the team.