"I'm trying a new way."
Oliver's journey has definitely come to a middle. His entire reason for returning to the city has been gutted, and he no longer sees the point in being the vigilante -- at least not the one that kills people and crosses names off a list.
Sure, it's a little cheesy to have him pledge his new direction in a vow to honor Tommy's memory. Yet it works, both for the character and the story. It feels like a natural progression. He still isn't doing it for the totally right reasons, but he's definitely going in a much better direction than before.
What really comes through is the fact that Tommy's death has meaning and lasting repercussions. His absence in Oliver and Laurel's lives has created a vacuum of unanswered questions, and has left them wondering how to move forward. I like that this level of characterization was considered. Also, the destruction of the Glades had a similar impact. This is exemplified by the copycat Hoods. They were trying to emulate Oliver by targeting the financial sector so they could redistribute wealth back to the Glades. Just like what Oliver did in the pilot, except that their grief made them go to extremes that Oliver hadn't.
Until they kidnapped Oliver's sister and threatened to kill her. That was the push Oliver needed to take the mantle of the Hood back up. And it took everything he had not to kill them. He had to be a shadow instead of a tank. He had to use all his skills, and it was impressive to watch. Oliver even strung them up so that (now) Officer Lance could arrest them. Their brief conversation really sold his return, and maybe validated Quentin's choices a little. Quentin could see the Hood trying to change, to not be the killer anymore. It was just the right hero moment for this point in Oliver's path.
Diggle and Felicity also did a lot to help Oliver figure out this new direction, starting with their daredevil entrance, parachuting down to Lian Yu. Oliver without them is basically aimless and reclusive, and they give him the support to be who he needs to be. And I love that Felicity is now basically Oliver's right hand. She acted as his assistant in all the meetings with the company trying a hostile take-over. There was even a few moments of genuine affection on Oliver's part. It's obvious he deeply cares for Felicity, even if it's just in a protective way.
As for the situation with Queen Consolidated, it was an interesting way to go. Isabel Rochev (see my Comic Book Bits below for more on her canonical background) is an interesting foil for Oliver. It was pretty obvious from the start that Walter was going to show up and save the day at the last minute. (telegraphed by Moira mentioning seeking family for help, and Walter being literally the only other family we've seen). They could've introduced a new character, but that wouldn't serve the moment in the same way.
I'm also really happy they didn't continue the Oliver and Laurel relationship. It would've felt off for them to pick up the romance so soon after Tommy's death. However, I am not so thrilled that Laurel is now on the 'We must catch the Hood!' train. Do the show runners want us to hate Laurel? Because I was at the point of writing Quentin off last season because of that very annoying character arch for him -- it's beyond tiresome. If that plot needs to exist, shouldn't it be on the police boss that demoted Quentin? Or maybe someone else, like that new D.A.? Why Laurel? Sigh.
On the other hand, I love what they're doing with Thea. Having her run Verdant and be the adult in her relationship with Roy is really cool. I was getting bored with her self-destructive angst-ridden teenage drug addict character arch. Giving her a new role in the family as the responsible one makes me like her even more. I'm curious if her proximity to the new Arrow Cave will eventually lead to her finding out, too, although it's more likely that'll be the way Roy joins the team. Roy clearly has dedicated himself to the life of a hero, but he also clearly needs a mentor. So this new heroine clad in black leather might just be a way for him to gain some experience. We don't know who she is yet, but if her costume is any indication, she might be some kind of Black Canary precursor.
Lastly, we have the continuing adventures of Oliver, Slade and Shado on Lian Yu. Things pick up five months after Oliver killed Fyres. Oliver has picked up quite a bit of training from both of his companions. He and Shado are still involved romantically, and there is a bit of potential friction with Slade because of it. Slade dropped a couple of little remarks about Shado that intimated he was interested in her, too, and maybe a little jealous. The time jump also allowed for their wounds to be healed without dealing with the recovery.
Yet the most intriguing parts of the story dealt with the new enemy on the island. A large ship has arrived, and they are looking for graves. They are also pretty merciless, willing to torture Shado for information. Oliver, being a bit of a hothead still, jumped into the fray and killed the guy who was threatening Shado. It was a pretty brutal scene, and that final moment with Slade and Shado begging for him to stop was really interesting. It served as a nice parallel to the things happening in the present with Diggle and Felicity pushing Oliver to take up the Hood mantle again. It was Oliver's first real murder (Fyres was a heat of the moment kill) played against his vows to never kill again.
Comic Book Bits:
Isabel Rochev is also known as "The Queen" in the Comics. She was a Russian girl influenced by Robert Queen and obsessed with the Queen family legacy, which she believes is her destiny. There's more, of course. but it could be potentially spoilery. Extrapolating from her comic book background, one thing is clear: she is not a good guy.
Star Labs, finishing up a particle accelerator. How much do you wanna bet that comes up later in the season? Star Labs is a big deal in DC land.
The name of Isabel Rochev's company is Stellmoor International, which buys up companies and sells off its pieces. It has a parallel in the Comics too, although Isabel Rochev isn't a part of it.
The overhead shot of the Glades left in ruins was horrible, but at the same time it added some weight to the events of the finale.
Lian Yu looked incredible in those opening shots of the episode, with the white mountains and the pieces of the wrecked ships off the coast. Also that final moment with the pull back showing the ship off the coast with the searchlight was well done. I think the visual effects are markedly better.
An Alderman from the Glades named 'Blood' was mentioned as Oliver entered Starling City again, along with a billboard that was altered to rename the city 'Scar City'.
Deathstroke's mask from the pilot is still planted like a flag on the beach.
I really liked that Moira looked like an inmate, with her hair a mess and an unflattering prison uniform. Although Iron Heights must have lax policies, because they didn't immediately pull Thea and Moira apart when they started hugging.
Oliver must've had a plane or boat. Otherwise, how did Felicity, and Diggle get back off Lian Yu when they had to parachute in?
The new D.A. is named Donner, and Laurel is working for him.
I liked that both Roy and Laurel tried to stop the Hoods but failed.
Diggle: "Felicity, if you're so scared, why did you insist on sitting up front?"
Felicity: "It was the only seat with a seatbelt."
Diggle: "Which will come in handy when we hit the water at 180 miles per hour."
Thea: "You never texted, no post cards, almost like you were on the island all over again."
Felicity: "They're all in the conference room. Just FYI, no one is eating the bagels."
Oliver: "There's a part of being the Hood that neither of you are considering: the body count."
Felicity: "And excuse me for saying this, but so what? Since when do you care?"
Diggle: "Since Tommy."
Oliver: "After he found out my secret, you know what Tommy called me? A murderer. He was right. My best friend died thinking I was a murderer, and anyone that I kill dishonors his memory."
Moira: "If I had known the key to you taking your rightful place in the company was its demise, I would've declared bankruptcy a year ago."
Felicity: "This morning we flew in a plane so old I'm pretty sure I was safer once I jumped out of it. You could at least offer us a water... or a coconut."
Roy: "What I lack in height, I make up for in wicked good hearing."
Felicity: "Not bad for someone who got a 'D' in tenth grade algebra. (Oliver gives her a look) If it's online, I can find it."
This was an excellent start to the season and set up a lot of new and continuing plots carried over from last season. It's clear there's no reset button on this show (except for injuries) and I'm very happy about that.
3 1/2 out of 4 Super Composite Bows
J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related. He reviews Arrow and Farscape and cool new movies that strike his fancy.