Arrow Review – “The Calm” S3E1

If you were lucky enough to catch the pilot for The Flash, then you know what it is like to be thrilled by something new and exciting. On the other side of the coin, the Season 3 debut of Arrow brings us back to a familiar place, but not necessarily in the way that we would have intended it to be. The episode title, “The Calm,” refers to the proverbial calm before the storm – and trust us, there is nothing short of actual poop raining from the sky by the time this episode is over. We won’t ruin the surprise, but it’s a bomb of a spoiler.

Fans of Arrow will be able to pick up right where we left off at the end of Season 2; Slade Wilson’s army of Mirakuru-infected soldiers have been defeated, leaving the city recovering again. Many of Starling City’s inhabitants have left town (I always wonder why nobody in Gotham ever does this), and the town is not the only thing rebuilding; Queen Consolidated is now in charge of a group of board members that Oliver Queen must convince to put him back in charge of the company. This new Oliver is in the highest spirits we’ve ever seen him in, and that has everything to do with the new-found flirtation Oliver has with Felicity. I have to say that, as a viewer, the moment for a romantic moment to happen between the two has passed with the Season 2 finale, and anything happening here just feels a bit overdone. Thankfully, we get a firm answer to whether or not Olicity (or Feliciver, Diggle has not confirmed either) becomes a permanent item and we can finally move on. Romance aside, Felicity proves time and time again that she’s still got it. There are a few hilarious one-liners commenting on porcupine farts and shirtless Stephen Amell, but the girl has game. She manages to work intel for Arrow while at a computer in the back room of the computer store she now works at (talk about multitasking!) – and she’s not even the most impressive part of the episode.

She's thinking about Stephen Amell shirtless.  Heck, we all are.
She’s thinking about Stephen Amell shirtless. Heck, we all are.

Let’s talk about what we’re all really thinking. Roy Harper has undergone a serious transformation over the off-season. Without Thea becoming a constant distraction (as of yet, anyway), Roy has fully committed to kicking in teeth all over town. He even has his own matching outfit to Oliver, and seems to be fitting in fine in the sidekick department. The martial arts this kid throws out are down right ridiculous, and one of the biggest gripes I had in this episode was that he was not in it nearly enough. There is a particular scene where he is charged with disarming a bomb during a boxing match that made the show for me. He seems to be a viable replacement for Diggle, and then some, even though it seems he is still having trouble harnessing his anger at times.

Roy Harper is quite possibly the toughest guy in town.
Roy Harper is quite possibly the toughest guy in town.

As a side note, during the boxing scene, there was a quick glimpse of a Ferris Air billboard.  This morning BuzzFeed released an article about Arrow and it was mentioned with the success of the two DC shows The CW currently has, they are looking into doing a third show. Ferris Aircraft is the company that Hal Jordan is a pilot for before he becomes the Green Lantern.  Could The CW’s new show be an origin story for the Green Lantern?  I guess only time will tell.

The rejuvenation of the series is symbolized by the newborn child that Diggle and Lyla bring into the family. Diggle fights Oliver tooth and nail to avoid being domesticated, but ultimately chimed how right Oliver was. He’s the luckiest man on Earth, and is in such utter bliss, which makes it so much harder when we scream at the television that statements like this are almost always a declaration of, “please, TV writing Gods – murder somebody close to me, maim me permanently – because I am far too happy to be an interesting character on my own accord.” DOOOOOOM is coming for Diggle, and I am cringing to see what becomes of that.

Not only have things changed amongst the characters, but it would seem that the acting has been improved upon, as well. Laurel’s character returns with a brand new personality, which is unrelated to her brand new surgically-enhanced face – and she is surprisingly charismatic when she’s on-screen. Her gaping look of stupidity and confusion have been replaced with solid lines and a strikingly genuine conversation with her father.

Oliver, Laurel, and Laurel's new face.  Plus a shining personality!
Oliver, Laurel, and Laurel’s new face. Plus a shining personality!

The story isn’t all roses and chocolate, though; there is most-definitely a bad guy here, and he’s one that we’ve seen over and over again. Vertigo returns this episode with a stronger drug and an extensive knowledge of kicking buttocks. Avoiding carefully the use of the word “Scarecrow” or “fear toxin,” this new Vertigo forces people to see their worst nightmare – which in Arrow’s case is himself. This leads to one kick-ass scene of Oliver Queen beating up a costumed Arrow. Arrow does manage to extinguish this threat, but not all bad guys come in the shape of repetitively appearance pill-pushers.

Ray Palmer, that ASS. Look, Brandon Routh, you don’t get to come into Oliver Queen’s house and Rick James all over his couch. You can take your stupid Superman curl and stick it where the sun don’t shine. Routh’s portrayal of Ray Palmer (also known as The Atom in the comics) is douche-tastic. So far, he seems to be Oliver’s nemesis, even more so than Oliver himself.  Palmer is taking over Queen Consolidated, renaming the Starling City to Star City, and flirting with Oliver’s girl.  Who pings a pretty girls cell phone and then meets her at a hospital?  Creeps who used to be Superman, that’s who.

Ray Palmer is shaking things up in Starling City.  Too bad he's a total dick.
Ray Palmer is shaking things up in Starling City. Too bad he’s a total dick.

More than any series we have reviewed thus far, Arrow is all about the characters. While the martial arts were good, O.K. freaking great, that was not the focus that “The Calm” took.  There was a lot of time for development all around.  That isn’t to say there isn’t room for more; character development is often times the best part of television shows because a triple spinning can only carry the story forward so much.  Arrow has always done great job of telling Oliver’s story through his flashbacks.  This season we are going to get a MUCH different taste of his past.  In his third year “away”, he is in Hong Kong, running from Amanda Waller.  We only got a glimpse of his time there, but we do know that he is taken in, or hostage, or something, by the Yamashiro family.  The woman is also known as Katana.  This should be an exciting year.

Most of the episode focuses on his struggle to split his time between being Oliver Queen and the Arrow. It’s a brand new day in Star(ling?) City and the Arrow has been formally recognized by the city, so things could be looking up for the masked vigilante.  But like I said, this is “The Calm” before the storm.  There is no telling where Oliver’s Hong Kong flashbacks will take us, how the new villains will affect our heroes, or where that bombshell ending will go. Hush Comics gives “The Calm” a B+ for the kick-assiest of kick-assness, strong character development, and that major cliffhanger.

All photos belong to DC Entertainment and The CW.