I gotta give Arrow credit. Most shows opening their third season after quieting the doubters giving the metaphorical finger to the specter of the sophomore slump and delivering an audience and critically praised season two might rest on their laurels a bit. Also given that little brother show, The Flash, was touted by The CW as the show to watch and leaked pilot reactions seemed to support the sentiment, one might have thought that big brother Arrow would step aside to let little brother have the spotlight and not do anything to steal little bro’s thunder the day after their ratings smashing debut.
But Oliver Queen and Co. don’t play that.
Further cementing the differences between the hopeful shiny world of Central City to the gritty relentless put that is Starling City, Arrow shot its viewers in the head, heart, and gut with a whopper of a premiere that made sure we don’t forget the life of a hero is a dangerous one and that it can all end in the blink of an eye.
But the episode didn’t start that way. In fact Season 3’s first episode, The Calm, was off to a rather happy start for Oliver and Co. In media res we find Oliver and Roy (suited up in Red to Ollie’s green) tracking an arms shipment and stopping it with an assist from Diggle and Felicity. Team Arrow is a well-oiled, professional, successful crime fighting bunch, complete with an updated computerized version of Oliver’s S1 list that they’ve been whittling down over the last five months.
Crime in Starling City is at a low and that has Oliver feeling good (despite his mother having been brutally killed a mere six months prior and his sister Thea off in parts unknown only texting updates ‘with no pictures’ grumps Oliver). Not only is Oliver feeling good, he’s feeling flirty. He and Felicity are bantering quite cutely as Diggle and Roy both look on wondering if they need to give the duo the room.
This openness about their feelings and even exploring them is new for Oliver and Felicity. Last season Felicity was pining and Oliver brooding, but it seems like after last finale’s events, Oliver and Felicity has inched closer to going for it as an official item. Felicity is willing, Oliver still hesitant until he and Dig have some bro-conversation time where Oliver continues the schmaltz in giving Dig for his coming daughter and Dig tells Oliver to just go for it already with Felicty.
Result? Oliver asks Felicity on a date where both are beautiful, cute, adorably nervous and on the cusp of something awesome when Count Vertigo sends a missile their way and Oliver and Felicity’s first date ends with everything blown to smithereens. Fortunately, both come out unscathed but Oliver of course begins reassessing their having a relationship, Felicity puts her foot down about Oliver stalling, and basically tells him that she won’t put up with his waffling and wait for him to get his act together which bruised my Olicity loving heart.
I get what the woman was saying and why she was sick of waiting; life is short and they both know how they feel so why keep stalling? However, I also got where Oliver was coming from: dude has a lot of issues to work through and needs time to get his head right. Both have valid points. And frankly as much as I’ve wanted Felicity and Oliver to get together, it really did feel like things were happening a bit too fast. Just last season Oliver was bedding Isobel and Sara Lance and only came around to Felicity towards the end. Jumping right into another relationship with someone he really cares about and doesn’t want to treat like all the other women doesn’t seem like a good idea for Oliver. He wants this relationship to last.
But in the meantime, Felicity isn’t waiting around and it looks like she already has another beau (two if you count Mr. Allen over in Central City) smitten with her brains and beauty in the form of Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer who was the right mix of cocky, arrogant, charming, and smart and had nice chemistry with Miss Smoak. Granted these two got off to a rocky start with his hiding that he was the new buyer for Queen Consolidated and using her ideas to hack into the computer system, but her retaliation for his error bespoke that he hurt her, which means she liked him, which means if Ray grovels enough and wows Felicity enough with his brains, dimples, and wit he might be able to turn her frown upside down and help her get through her Oliver withdrawals.
While all this drama was going on Diggle and Det. Captain Lance both struggled with the rough transition of being men of action to being…something else. For Diggle, it was believing that he could still be Oliver’s right hand in the field and a daddy to his baby girl (born at episode’s end). For Lance it was still being a cop even as his heart continued to fail him when he so much as bellowed in a bad guy’s general direction. In the end Diggle happily relented SoldierDiggle for DaddyDiggle while Lance had to be cajoled a bit more by his daughter, Laurel, into accepting the reality of his situation and that he may not be a cop anymore the way he wants to be but he was still her dad in all the ways she wanted and needed. Lance put on a brave face and promised that he heard what his daughter was saying, a very poignant moment between Laurel and Quentin that made the final moments of this episode all the more devastating.
In the course of apprehending the new Count (who was dispatched way too soon for my taste), Arrow gets a surprise assist by Canary who swoops in with her staff and kicks bad guy butt. Oliver is grinning from ear to ear at her arrival and hopes she’ll stay in town. Sara’s cagey about it all but makes sure to tell Oliver that he needs to make sure he has someone without a mask in his life before leaving for rooftops unknown.
Later, Laurel and baby sister Sara meet on a rooftop where Sara reveals she doesn’t want their father to know she’s in town as she’s got some stuff to do but again…being cagey. Laurel accepts this no problem, but continues to be awesome in season 3 by supporting her sister and telling her she loves her before leaving for work.
And then it happened.
Sara’s left alone on the rooftop. Donning her mask she’s about to take off when a voice calls out to her from behind and she turns, registering surprise and familiarity with her unknown visitor and then before you know it, takes three arrows to the gut before falling over the rooftop (killer cinematography work and music as we see Sara’s face as she realizes what’s happening).
Now, not only does poor Sara die, the fallen Canary literally lands on top of a dumpster before rolling off to land eyes open in death at Laurel’s feet, the Canary’s mask landing in front of Laurel with the clunk of an anvil.
Laurel of course falls to her knees in anguish, crying for her sister, cradling her dead body and I am left unable to complete my live tweeting of the episode as I shake my head in disbelief that the awesome Sara Lance and her Canary are most indeed dead. Three arrows to the gut? A header fall off a roof? Eyes open in death with blood pooling under your head? Dead, dead, and DEAD.
Granted there is always the Ra’s Al Ghul go to of the Lazarus Pits but I don’t think that’s in the cards for Sarah. For one, I think the pits are being saved for a future surprise resurrection (Looking at you Tommy Merlyn!) or a past reveal resurrection (Oliver or Malcolm Merlyn are the front runners for having been previously resurrected) or a future need (Thea Queen’s dalliance with darkness may require her taking a dip). The other reason? Laurel Lance is canonically the Black Canary and for that journey to happen, the way must be cleared by dispatching the first Canary and allow for the proper motivation for Laurel to devote her life to vigilantism as oppose to the law and the inspiration to fight in her sister’s name.
Now many in Arrow fandom feel that Sara was always on borrowed time and that she’d eventually be killed to ‘prop’ Laurel and that her death, like my beloved Tommy Merlyn, has been another egregious sacrifice at the altar of a character that just isn’t working and shouldn’t have so many people ‘die’ for her. And I get that sentiment. On the other hand, in dramas, especially comics, deaths are always used to galvanized a universe and create new avenues of story for the surviving characters. The mystery of Sara’s death – who killed her? Why? How will her loved ones react? – has set up loads of story for Season 3. Yes, mainly for Laurel but also for Oliver who will want to avenge his friend (NOTE: NOT lover. I do find it interesting when TPTB chose to kill Sara- after she and Oliver had ended their romance from last season so that her death isn’t anything about HIS manpain, but firmly about the Lance’s and more specifically about Laurel’s pain, loss, and evolution) and for the central mystery of the season of who/what is this season’s big bad and what threat do they pose to Oliver and Starling City.
It wasn’t the most positive way to start the season by losing a complex, affirming, kick butt female hero, but it was most definitely an attention grabbing one that will have me committed to the season to see Sara avenged by those who loved her and the mantle of the Black Canary and what she strived for continue on.