The CW’s Arrow has been a little inconsistent in its storytelling in season three, relying on big gut punches to move the story along rather than an overall cohesive narrative. That’s not to say the hooded vigilante and his crimefighting team are running out of story – far from it – but rather that their focus might have been scattered a bit by the arrival of a certain speedster. Still, if you’re just now coming around to the excellent action/drama that is Arrow, it might be a bit daunting. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of ten things you need to know before Arrow returns for its mid-season premiere. Beware: spoilers follow.
Hit the jump for our Arrow season 3 recap.
The Death of Canary
Let’s get this big one out of the way first. I mentioned that the Arrow writers chose to pepper in some major moments throughout the first half of the season in order to anchor a somewhat wandering overall storyline. Look no further than the death of Sara Lance, aka Canary at the end of the season three premiere, “The Calm.” After Slade, the big bad of season two, was defeated, Sara more or less disappeared from the streets of Starling City, off to rejoin the League of Assassins. So it was a bit strange when the season three premiere introduced her as a deus ex machina who got the team out of a tight spot. Stranger still to have her assassinated (ironic) by a mysterious assailant, causing her to fall to her very certain (and gruesome) death in front of her sister. Obviously this moment has a huge impact on the team, not only for the lengths they’ll go to avenge her, but what her death will do to their already fragile psyches.
One Long Night in Hong Kong
Normally, Arrow’s flashback sequences are excellent asides that reveal a transformative moment in Oliver Queen’s life that ties into his contemporary conflict. This season, that tie-in has been a little looser. Oliver’s escapades in Hong Kong under the thumb of Amanda Waller, and the guiding hand of Maseo Yamashiro (Karl Yune) and his wife Tatsu (aka Katana) (Rila Fukushima), have served to illuminate Oliver’s increasing ruthlessness in dealing with criminals. He’s perfecting his torture techniques alongside his archery skills, but just what that has to do with his current quest to bring Sara’s killer to justice isn’t exactly clear. Sure, he’ll need a cold, calculating heart to defeat his greatest enemy yet, but as we saw at the end of the mid-season premiere, Ollie’s not quite there yet.
When last we left Roy, aka Red Arrow, aka Arsenal, he was dealing with his unfortunate dose of the Mirakuru serum. It gives the young man heightened abilities that serve him and his team quite well in battle, but its insanity-inducing side effects caused Roy to nearly go on a killing spree. An unnamed cop fell victim to his drug-induced rage, but the trauma of the event formed a block in Roy’s memory, that is until he started having nightmares that he was the one who actually killed Sara. After a bit of DNA evidence and herbal mind-tripping, it was revealed to Roy that he was innocent in Sara’s death, but still took the life of a good man. This is a revelation he’s grappling with to this day.
Roy’s not the only one going through some tough times. Perhaps the one hurt most of all by Sara’s death was her sister, Laurel. The writing for the elder Lance sister has been a dramatic rollercoaster through the first three seasons, and not always in the best of ways. She’s been a grieving girlfriend and family member multiple times, she’s been a successful lawyer and down-and-out addict at different points, and often alternated between helpless damsel in distress and unnecessary plot point. Finally, Laurel seems to be on track to do something useful, which is to channel her raw emotions into becoming a fighting machine like her late sister. Thankfully, boxing instructor and part-time crimefighter Ted Grant (J.R. Ramirez) has become smitten with Laurel and is currently training her up to take on Sara’s mantle.
Felicity Goes Goth
Okay, so here was one of the show’s weird asides this season. With all the dark and heavy moments early in the season, the writers had to find a way to lighten things up. While they were successful in some respects, what we got were a handful of odd episodes that seemed to deviate from the overall story simply as a change of pace. We see a glimpse into Felicity’s path as a Goth hacker who had a soft spot for rebellious boys. Not much has changed over the intervening years, but as Felicity shows in this episode, she can certainly handle herself if the situation demands it. And if you ever wanted to meet Felicity’s mother, well, this was the episode for you.