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.
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.
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.
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.