Even though the hallucination of Sara Lance spoke for most of Arrow’s fandom during the cold open of the latest episode “Canaries,” Lawwrel has by far not been the sole reason that the show has seemed off its game this season.
The first two seasons were gritty with stories as tightly crafted as you can get out of a 22-episode network show. Season 3? Not so much. Here are some of the reasons why:
10. Flashbacks have gone nowhere: The flashbacks in the first two seasons were meaningful in so many ways. They served as the origin story of how Oliver Queen went from douchebag dilettante to vigilante avenger with the bonus the birth of Deathstroke in the bargain. They also managed to connect to the A-plot of each individual episode by putting the decisions Ollie was making in the present into a context. The payoff to this year’s foray to Hong Kong? The Yamashiro family owed Ollie a big favor. Riveting.
9. Merlyn’s plan: To get out of trouble with the League of Assassins, you are going to frame your daughter for the murder of a cherished member of the league, which would force Ollie to fight a duel you know he can’t win? That’s the dumbest idea since your plan for gentrification through genocide.
8. Ollie’s absence: Guy is out of town for less than 100 hours and an especially tough thug manages to take over an entire district of the city. Diggle should hang his head in shame while Red Ranger Roy is grounded from parkour.
7. Det. Lance: A cop with a heart condition so bad everyone thinks he will go into cardiac arrest if you tell him it’s cloudy outside would be put on long term disability, not given a desk job and occasional let back into the field.
6. Suddenly they’re sticklers to comic canon: In the first two seasons, Arrow’s creators freely raided DC Comic’s universe. If it was a cool concept or character, then it got thrown into the show, and it didn’t matter if it was more of a Batman thing or not. This season the show has done a 180 and now seemingly everything has its roots in the Green Arrow comics. The only positive is we did get the iconic boxing glove arrow.
5. Ollie’s “death”: This might get redeemed by the time the season is over, but how does one survive getting skewered through the abdomen, booted over the edge of a cliff and left shirtless in freezing temperatures?
4. Disjointed storytelling: Arrow is at its best when in addition to the normal duties of keeping the streets safe, Team Arrow is faced with a larger puzzle to unravel. It was that way with The Undertaking and with Mirakuru. Without that mission to drive the team’s actions, the show has lurched from situation to situation with Ollie being reactive rather than aggressive.
3. Ollie the recluse: Remember when Ollie had to live in the real world? He went to dinner, had to play family politics, and made a half-hearted attempt at running a multinational corporation. Now it’s all salmon ladders in the basement of Verdant and crime fighting. All work and no play makes Arrow a dull show.
2. Love triangle that never was: Show fans love them some Olicity. Every smile, every hug, every touch is squeed about and gives everyone with a heart the feels. Then Ray Palmer hits the scene and for a few episodes it looked like Smomer could be a real possibility, because Ray was all respectful and appreciative of Felicity and Ollie was going through one of this loner phases. It was an interesting dynamic that gave all three characters some extra purpose, so it was abandoned by the writers like a warehouse in the Glades.
1. Sara’s death: Even as a figment of Laurel’s Vertigo induced imagination Sara is still a bad-ass. Her cheap death at the hands of a roofied Thea threw the whole balance of the season off. At first it seemed the fallout from Sara’s death and the hunt for her killer would be that engine that would power the storytelling in Season 3. In a roundabout way it has, but instead of it being a driving force, the Sara’s death became just a reason to push Ollie and Merlyn on the same side and set Laurel on the path of the wig. Such a waste of a well-crafted character.
Craig Wack is a veteran journalist. Please follow his Twitter.