We are definitely living in a golden age of superhero television. Last year, we dedicated an episode of Hard NOC Life about the topic of comic book adaptations in prime time, but this season has seen a dramatic increase as the first three days of the week are chock full of superheroes — with DC heroes dominating the landscape1. And while Gotham on Fox and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC get all the press — because they’re on major broadcast outlets — those two shows should be taking notes from The CW, the network that does superheroes better than anyone.
I’ve already sung the praises of The Flash. Not to be outdone by their newly arrived companion, the third season premiere of Arrow kicked off with one a hell of an episode! Fortunately, Rodrigo was live-tweeting along with all of the other Arrowheads. Warning: there be spoilers ahead!
The episode starts in media res as Arrow and his crew are on the pursuit of a semi carrying illegal weapons. Ollie, Diggle, and Felicity are doing their usual thing, when we get our first look at Roy finally tricked out in his own superhero costume.
Gone is the silly red hoodie, and in its place is a leather getup similar to Ollie’s, complete with domino mask and tricked out bow and arrow. And big ups to Andy Poon for another great costume concept to be realized on screen! Press materials released earlier in the year revealed that Roy will be going by his Arsenal persona — rather than Speedy or Red Arrow — but you wouldn’t know it from the episode since everyone keeps calling him Roy.
And if I had one nitpick, it would be that nobody ever refers to each other by their codenames. It’s like, why even have them in the first place? Also, I think it’s time Diggle got a mask and a superhero identity. Eventually, someone is going to figure out that Ollie Queen’s bodyguard is also, somehow, on Team Arrow, especially if he keeps calling him “Oliver” on the radio.
Secret identities aside, the good guys’ latest bust leads to Team Arrow being all-but-officially sanctioned by the Starling City Police as a newly promoted Captain Lance announces in a press conference that the Arrow has similarly been promoted from “vigilante” to “hero,” making Detective Lance’s evolution to Commissioner Gordon nearly complete. BTW, Paul Blackthorne is a way better Gordon than Ben Mackenzie so far.
Anyway, turns out the weapons that were confiscated by Team Arrow were intended for the main villain of the the episode, a new and improved Count Vertigo, this time played by veteran actor Peter Stormare. True, this isn’t the first time Vertigo was featured on the show, an eponymous Season One episode featured a drug pusher known as “The Count.” In fact, they even reference the fact during the episode. This version of Vertigo is much closer to the comics, though, since a) his real name is Werner Zytle, and b) he has a non-descript foreign accent.
Like the previous incarnation of the villain on the show, he still disables his enemies with a Vertigo drug — rather than having vertigo-effect abilities himself — though he’s modified the drug to induce his opponents’ greatest fears. So I guess he’s more like Count Scare-ti-crow in that regard.
The other major plotline running through the premiere was the stuff of shippers’ dreams as Ollie and Felicity attempted to try to be a real, actual couple. There’s no doubt that stars Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards have loads of chemistry on-screen, and as much as I like and root for #Ollicity, I don’t actually really want them to end up together in the end. In that regard, Ollie and Felicity remind me a lot of Clark and Chloe on Smallville.
And yes, I know I keep going back to the Smallville well when reviewing these CW Superhero shows, but they did kinda create the template. And since I have Superman on the brain, let me take a moment to give a shout out to Brandon Routh. His debut as Ray Palmer (aka The Atom) was pretty great, from his meet-cute with Felicity to his Queen Consolidated pitch2, I think Routh as Ray Palmer will definitely rehabilitate the actor after a disastrous turn as the Man of Steel in Bryan Singer’s 2006 Superman Returns.
Speaking of which, I wonder if Ray Palmer “stalking” Felicity was an easter egg for Superman Returns haters? Because we all remember how creepy Routh’s Super Stalker was, right?
I wonder if The Atom is going to be a deadbeat dad too.
Still, I think Routh will do great as Palmer and is already off to a great start. His flirty, bickering banter with Felicity will probably lead to romance between the two, which will make The Atom the third superhero in a row Felicity will have dated.
In the meantime, though, Felicity is dating Oliver. And everything is going swimmingly — including a pretty nifty scene of the Arrow changing into his civvies as he transitions from a mission to his date — until an RPG is launched into the middle of the restaurant. This leads to Ollie realizing that superheroes can’t have nice things, like a normal love life, so he starts pushing everyone away. And by “everyone,” I mean Diggle. See, John and Lyla are about to have a baby, and Ollie feels that Dig can no longer risk himself for Ollie’s crusade now that he has a family to care for. After a heated argument, Diggle eventually agrees and retires from superheroing to become a daddy.
The rest of the team, though, sets out to stop Vertigo from his latest plot to bomb an arena full of people watching a boxing match — and eagle-eyed viewers might have caught a brief Ted Grant (aka Wildcat) cameo during the fight.
After a pretty dope fight scene between the Arrows and the Vertigo thugs, Roy goes to disarm the bomb while Ollie pursues the baddies to the rooftop.
Unexpectedly, Canary returns to the fold and assists Ollie who was starting to get outmanned. The two lovers-cum-superheroes make swift work of Vertigo’s crew and it looks like all is well that ends well. Canary is seemingly back into the fold of Team Arrow; Diggle and Lyla welcome a healthy baby girl to the world, and Felicity has another flirty encounter with Palmer. Of course, this being Arrow, you can’t have a happy ending.
For some strange reason, Canary decides to meet with her sister Laurel on a rooftop. There really isn’t any explanation for why Sara is back in town. Remember, at the end of Season Two, Canary left with Nyssa Al Ghul to rejoin the League of Assassins. After the sisters exchange pleasantries, a mysterious figure approaches Canary and shoots three arrows into her chest. And just in case you were wondering if Canary could possibly survive that, she proceeds to fall off the rooftop and plummet to her death. She lands right in front of her sister, and the seeds for Laurel taking over the Canary mantle start to sprout3.
In the island flashbacks, we get more background on Ollie’s time in Hong Kong but not much. All we know is that Amanda Waller has plans for Ollie and has employed a man named Maseo Yamashiro to watch over him. Later, Ollie wakes up in Maseo’s home and meets Tatsu — played by Rila Fukushima who you might remember as Yukio in The Wolverine, thus crossing the streams from Marvel to DC. Maseo tells Ollie that if he tries to escape again, then Waller will kill his family. The guilt on Ollie’s face in the present day probably means that he’s directly responsible for the origin of Katana. An appearance by the Soultaker sword is probably not far behind either.
Basically, Arrow picks up from where its action-packed second season left off and is likely headed for another touchdown of a season. It was hard to imagine the show embracing its comic book roots more than it did last year, but after a season premiere filled with more superheroes and villains than ever before, it looks like they’re gonna just keep upping the ante.
So on back-to-back nights, The CW has proven itself as the place to be for real quality superhero programming. I know the suits at Warner Brothers have already proclaimed that the Arrowverse will be an entity distinct from the DC Cinematic Universe they’re creating with Dawn of Justice, and you know what? I’m totally fine with that. At this point, Arrow and The Flash are the best live action versions of DC properties out there, and they don’t really need to be validated by the movie division. Chances are, by the time the Justice League movie actually gets off the ground, they might need Stephen Amell and Grant Gustin more than Green Arrow and The Flash need the JLA.
- In fact, once Constantine debuts on NBC on October 24, four out of five nights of prime time television will feature a DC Comics property. The CW hasn’t yet announced which day iZombie will be on, but if they put it on Thursday, there’ll be a DC show each night of the week! ↩
PS, how great was Palmer’s pitch to rename the city Star City?! I know it’s a really superficial gripe, but that was one of the reasons I couldn’t get into the show during Season One.
- I feel like they’ve been telegraphing Laurel becoming Black Canary for a long time now. The most obvious scene came last season when Sara handed Laurel her leather jacket and said “it looks good on you!” Guess in the Arrowverse, Laurel will inherit the hero identity from her sister instead of her mother ↩