Arrow: Three Ghosts

Dig: "Even the Arrow deserves a Christmas present."

Well, that was a big episode, wasn't it? So much happened that I'm not entirely sure where to start.

This was essentially the Arrow Christmas episode, basically a nod to Dickens' A Christmas Carol but without being too literal. We did get three ghosts visiting Oliver, though I didn't really buy the reason why he was hallucinating (it would've been better if it had been a side-effect of whatever he was dosed with last episode), but at least they didn't outright say it was ghosts. Especially since at least one of them is still alive. They were just ultimately Oliver's demons, manifest as his greatest failures.

Shado was the first ghost. She pleaded for Oliver to stop fighting and live his life, or warned that everyone he loves will die. Ominous, sure. Yet it also fit both her character, and how Oliver probably remembers her. I think she clearly represented his doubts about being the Arrow. Still, she was definitely his softest hallucination, so her warning came off almost like wishful thinking. It's as if his desire to no longer be the Arrow is like wishing he could be with her, a nice daydream with no possibility of ever happening.

The second ghost was Slade. Talk about conflict. Slade basically pulled a Tyler Durdin, complete with a trip through the Arrow costume case. It was fun, but a touch unbelievable. I think this one was about unresolved conflict, partially stemming from Oliver's actions on the island and everyone he's failed in the past, and partially from his greater feelings of inadequacy.

Oliver doesn't think he's worthy of being a hero. He also takes far too much onto himself. Even Quentin mentioned that Oliver shouldn't blame himself for everything, when in that moment, Quentin could've easily shifted the blame for his partner's death onto Arrow. Arrow supplied the information that got him killed, after all. Talk about character growth. Quentin has risen from my least favorite character to one of my favorites in half a season.

Finally, the last ghost was a bit of a surprise. I knew there were going to be three, because these things always happen in threes (and the title of course), but as the episode was airing, I couldn't for the life of me figure out who it would be. There has been more than enough dead characters to fit, but of course it had to be Tommy. The last time Oliver spoke to Tommy it was as he was dying. So in a lovely little turn, it was Tommy who helped Oliver push past giving up and dying.

Even if it was his own psyche telling him what he needed to hear, having Tommy say 'You are not a murderer. You are a hero.' was the perfect validation. I hate to say it, but it felt like a defining moment -- when Oliver finally accepted his role as a hero instead of as just a vigilante. Of course, that moment with the mask at the end was the symbol of that acceptance. This show isn't always subtle, but I gotta commend them for doing things right.

Island Flashback:

So is Shado dead? She got shot in the head, but I'm getting the distinct impression that doesn't mean she's gone. Well I hope she isn't gone, I like her a lot. If she is gone for good, that's a horrible way to go. Far too real, abrupt and brutal for my tastes. Ivo is a bastard putting Oliver through a Sophie's choice like that. I'm not sure Oliver was intentionally shielding Sara, or was just trying to get Ivo to shoot him instead, but it was an impossible moment.

Then when Slade came and rescued them, Sara covered for Oliver. It doesn't take much to figure out that Shado is one of the reasons for their eventual falling out. Yet however it does end with Slade on the Island, they clearly didn't end things on good terms -- which was confirmed by the marvelous reveal at the end. Slade being the puppet master for Brother Blood is totally cool, and also a bit sad. He knows exactly who Oliver is, and has a long drawn-out plan for revenge. He's being set up as a big arch-nemesis, and that's kinda awesome.

Comic Book Bits:

I didn't think they were going to do the Flash origin in this episode. It was a pretty traditional one too, with the lightning and the chemicals. The addition of the Particle accelerator malfunctioning was a nice touch. It added some satisfaction to the ongoing plot line about S.T.A.R. Labs starting the thing all season.

Cyrus Gold's disfigurement and apparent death sets up the character for an eventual return as the super villain Solomon Grundy. They even mentioned his name directly while Diggle was investigating Gold's apartment.

Bits:

So Barry made Arrow's mask out of compressible micro fabric. Wanna bet that becomes important in the upcoming Flash series?

Laurel is getting flowers from Alderman Blood? I guess they need to work her into the ongoing story somehow.

Harrison Wells, S.T.A.R. Labs founder? There's no comic correlation that I could find, however there is a Garrison Slate that was the founder in the comics.

Roy got injected with Mirakuru, and Oliver helped Roy twice (of course the first time was because of an arrow he shot Roy with). Does this mean Roy is going to have superpowers? That might jumpstart his training quite a bit.

Quotes:

Laurel: "I noticed on the drive up that your house wasn't festooned with Christmas decorations."
Oliver: "Well, we didn't feel very much like festooning this year."

Barry: "Don't worry. I'll figure out what's wrong with Oliver."
Felicity: "You'd be the first."

Felicity: "Shado. Sara. How many women were you marooned with? Are you sure this wasn't Fantasy Island?"

Oliver: "This is gonna hurt."
Roy: "My anger is dulling the pain."

Felicity: "Never meet your heroes, right?"

There was an awful lot to like in this episode. From the stuff about Oliver's emotional struggles, to the massive reveals, I loved pretty much every minute. For me it was definitely the best of the season so far.

4 out of 4 Ghosts of Christmas Past.
---
J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related. He reviews Arrow, The Originals and Farscape and cool new movies that strike his fancy.

12 comments:

Freeman said...

This show man. This episode had me grinning like a moron the whole time. Especially the reveal with one-eyed Slade. I knew they wouldn't let us down with the arrow to the eye. It'll be interesting to see how Ollie will go toe-to-toe with a dude who by all accounts was already a killing machine before he became a heart-ripping superhuman.

I still can't believe Shado is dead man, but I can't think of any plausible way for her to be alive. Unless Lazarus Pits are still on the table. Both Shado and her dad basically went out the same way. Harsh dude.

Quentin's a straight shooter. I'm glad he didn't turn on The Arrow after losing his partner. The really should've been better prepared for Cyrus though. At least Quentin only has one death on his conscience now that he knows Sarah's alive.

The way Cyrus went down certainly seems like we'll be seeing more of him in a more inhuman Grundy-like state. With Roy getting injected it'll definitely be more sensible when he inevitably takes a bow. I mean he could fight, but he was nowhere on the level of any of the real villains. I guess if he has the Mirakuru powers it'll be a replacement for Arsenal's love of heavy weaponry.

I was surprised they kept the Flash transformation so close to basics. It just makes me love this show more and more. Apparently Geoff Johns had a hand in these last two episodes so. Smart move on their part. I love that guy's stuff.

Billie Doux said...

Yes, I agree. I was mostly freaked by what happened to Roy! I'm a fan of the actor after the interesting work he did on Teen Wolf and I've been waiting for something major to happen with him -- but I wasn't expecting this.

I was also surprised and pleased with the Slade reveal. I've been expecting the "best friend turns into arch villain enemy" thing, but for a long time I was expecting it to be Tommy. Slade is much better. And I liked what they did with Tommy this time.

And in the last two episodes, they got me interested in the Flash spinoff. How about that? Arrow is a show I thought I'd drop after a few episodes, and instead it's season two and I'm still into it. Someone at the helm knows what they're doing.

percysowner said...

Although Shado looked dead it doesn't quite jibe with Sara asking about both her and Slade when she talked to Oliver. It seems odd that since Sara saw Shado get shot, she would have anyone to ask about. It isn't like Ivo grabbed her and ran. So Shado may have survived this, but die later. Or they forgot what they wrote just a few scripts ago.

Patrick said...

Actually, I don't remember Sara asking Oliver where Shado is now, I only remember her asking about Slade. She may have mentioned Shado in other conversations, though. I loved the Slade reveal at the end with the eyepatch, though I kinda wish they'd found a way to give him white hair :)

And I must say, this comic nerd was giggling like an 8-year old when they referenced the Solomon Grundy poem, and the idea that we might actually be turning Gold into Grundy? *squeeeeee*

Loved the way they did the Flash origin at the end, updated yet classic. I'm very curious to see how the Flash series develops, specifically with regard to the costume. I'm not sure how they'd create a less comic book-y version of it.

Freeman said...

Well to be fair, they gave Slade the grey on the sides of his head. And I feel like I've seen some incarnations of him with that going on. He'd probably look pretty awkward with the full on silver fox going on, haha. Not to mention we already have China White with the white hair.

Bea said...

I'm loving this show more and more as it goes on. This episode pretty much deserves the word EPIC.

I loved Slade's reveal, specially how before his speech of revenge and doom he called The Arrow his friend. Villains are always better when there's an emotional connection to their heroes, and I can tell this is gonna be awesome. Loving Manu Bennett in the role, by the way. He's so rough, and has a feeling of invincivility about him that suits the role perfectly.

I really like the way Oliver's hero persona is building up from bits and pieces adquired from everyone around him. He got the hood and the arrow persona from Shado and Yao Fei, his humanity from his collaboration with Felicity and Diggle, his new purpose from Tommy, his name from Lance and now his mask from Barry. It really gives him a sense of him not being a lonely hero, but one with a lot of back-up.

I'm uber excited about The Flash spin-off, and not just because I have heaps and heaps of love for Grant Gustin. There was enough adorkability in the Barry character to like him from the get go, and I liked how his character was a counterpoint to Oliver's alpha man-ish stoicism. I think we got enough back story and a good idea of what the show may tackle in its first season(board with newspaper cuts, anyone?) to be expectant. Also, that last scene with Barry's accident and Oliver's mask was the definition of epic. Or maybe it was just the music.

Now, some of the problems I have with this show:

1. Laurel... what are you going to do with her? She needs an interesting plot because she's already starting to feel unneccesary. I just don't see how she's ever going to inherit the mantle of Black Canary at this point.

2. The Oliver/Felicity romance. Look, I get it, the fandom is in love with "Olicity" and the rise of her character has been one of the best things of the show for me. But don't push it. The scenes they got in these past couple of episodes felt a little bit forced for my liking. They're not there yet. I think Felicity needs more of a background, and that they need some simple scenes together. It doesn't always have to be about her being in trouble and him rescuing her; I want to see them have a burger and talk about something that's not that serious. Or maybe they should just let that go and give me some Diggle/Felicity. No?

All in all, though, this is still a fantastic show.

Austin said...

The past few episodes have shown me something: Laurel is a completely pointless character. They need to do something with her or get rid of her.

J.D. Balthazar said...

I totally agree with everyone about Laurel being a waste of time and energy at this point. She's been so underutilized/misused that she's become essentially superfluous. That's not good for someone who is supposed to be a main character.

That being said, I think the actress is capable of doing more. There's no reason to believe if she is given the chance she couldn't pull it off. I think the big issue is that she's so far away from where she needs to be to become an equal to Oliver in the superhero department. So I wonder, is that really the right path for the character?

They'll probably have to take a short cut with her, like they have with Roy to make it fit. Of course in the comic she was supernatural, so maybe her getting the voice will be the catalyst for her transformation. Either way, the producers really need to do something with her that's interesting and fast or the audience won't care if she does become a superhero, because it'll be too late to become invested in her.

Bea, I ship Olicity and while I agree that the last few episodes have pushed them closer, a bit artificially. I'm not sure how else they can make this couple work. That is until Oliver notices her in that way. Perhaps it'll always be pretty one sided, but I'd prefer them not to pull a Chloe (ala Smallville). I do hope that we learn more about Felicity. She's probably my favorite character, but we know next to nothing about her. We've gotten a couple of good background episodes on Diggle, but none with Felicity.

Same thing with Roy, we know very little about his past. I hope the back 11 episodes will cover some of that. Actually I'd love for them to cover everything I've mentioned above. What's encouraging is that it very well could happen. This show does tend to do the unexpected and cool.

Freeman said...

At this rate it certainly seems like Laurel is on her way out. Unless they have something big planned for her in the second half. And it better not just be her getting upset that Blood is a villain cuz that would be pretty weaksauce. They set her up for so much in the first season but now it just kinda seems like they're not quite sure what they're doing with her. Heck, they didn't even show her during Slade's villainous monologue montage. They gave the "those he loves" slot to Felicity.

They at least showed that Laurel knows how to give a dude a proper beatdown. But everyone and their dog is learning Ollie's identity and like you said J.D. she just keeps drifting further and further away from the scene.

And I agree with both of you that the Olicity pairing has been jumpstarted rather suddenly. I preferred it when it was moving slower and subtler. That don't mean it ain't puttin' a big smile on my face every time it's shown though.

ChrisB said...

Simply wonderful episode! I loved the use of the three "ghosts" and, like you, loved the bit with Tommy. You're completely right about the show's lack of subtlety, but it worked this time around.

Bea's comment about Oliver's persona is a great one. I hadn't thought of it in those terms, but it really adds to the depth of the character.

Like Billie, I never expected to get so involved in this show. I genuinely thought it would get an hour or two of my time, and then I would move on. But, even for a comic book know nothing like myself, there is so much to enjoy.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised if Shado turns up alive somehow..
Wow that was intense. Great episode and stunning reveal of Slade at the end..He's really becoming like comic book Slade/Deathstroke now.

Laurel and Blood huh? Well in comic canon Black Canary dated R'as al Ghul without knowing who he was..so it's not that strange..
Loved Barry's accident that will turn him into the Flash..so cheesy yet right.
Anna

Josie Kafka said...

Two episodes in a row made me laugh! And it's Oliver who did; I loved the scene when he's talking to Roy about how the vigilante shot him.

If these two episodes were any indication of the Flash series, I'm excited for it.