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Thursday, 14 May 2015

Arrow S3 (Second Half)

Series 3 (Second Half)

Unlike with Agents of SHIELD and Once Upon A Time, I had in fact realised that this series of Arrow would be ending this week, so I wasn't quite so horrendously caught unawares as I was by the other two. I also have reviewed the first half of this series already, and that can be found over here.

Picking up where the first half of the series left off, Ollie recovers from having been 'killed' by Ra's al Ghul in the care of his old friend Tatsu. It isn't long until Ra's learns of Ollie's survival, prompting him to make an offer: Ollie can either become the new Ra's al Ghul, or Ra's will destroy his life and wreak havoc upon Starling City.

I said in my last review of Arrow that the first half of the series was slow, meandering, that it struggled with concluding its plot, and that Ra's did not at that point make as intimidating a villain as Slade Wilson, but that I had high hopes for the latter half of the series. Well, there is an improvement there, but not nearly as much as I had hoped for.

A lot of that can be put down to it trying to juggle too many balls, trying to balance arcs with Ra's and Ollie, Nyssa, Detective Lance and Laurel, Ray and Felicity, Thea and Roy and Merlyn, and so on, with the result being a narrative that is constantly seeing people getting on planes and shuttling back and forth between League of Assassin's stronghold Nanda Parbat as if it were a trip to the shops. Throw into the mix several crossovers with The Flash and you have a series that feels clumsy, overly busy, unfocused.

Here we see the Atom, who doesn't have the signature powers of the Atom and
is instead more of a Blue Beetle type schtick. Which is who he was meant to be,

A lot of that can also be put down to Ra's al Ghul not being a compelling villain. Last series we had Slade, who was both intellectually and physically intimidating, who had a strong emotional tie to Ollie, and who felt like a very real and present threat. Ra's - who being a fairly well known DC figure and one very well-foreshadowed prior to his appearance should have had all of the advantages in the world as far as being an effective villain goes - feels weak in comparison. He doesn't feel like an intellectual match for the heroes (nor for either of our two previous main villains), and he doesn't give the impression of being much of a physical threat either. 

Not helping that fact is that Arrow is running alongside The Flash, which absolutely does have a villain who could rival Slade Wilson for how effective he is. Ra's is undermined not only by the impression that the last series' villain could eat him for breakfast, but also by the impression that just a short train journey away is another villain who could eat him for breakfast.

So, here's my suggestions for how Ra's could be improved as a character. 

For starters, don't make him a slightly pudgy Australian man with bad hair. Just don't do that. The League of Assassins are influenced by India, China, and the Middle East in Arrow, so make him Indian, Chinese, or Middle Eastern, and make him - well, either visibly old or visibly young. Since the Lazarus Pits are a plot point, it might be an effectively shocking contrast if Ra's old personality is contrasted by his being outwardly youthful - if he was seemingly the same age as Ollie, then there would be a parallel between them.

Look, not for nothing, but the baby boomers are the least intimidating age

Secondly, have Ollie be incidental to his plans, at least at first. Instead of him targeting Ollie specifically, have him have come to the same conclusion that Ollie and Malcolm both did: That Starling City is rotten and needs change. Have him begin a campaign of assassinations against key figures in Starling City, and while he has no issue with Ollie, he cannot allow Ollie as the Arrow to interfere with his plans. Since the Lazarus Pits do cause mental instability, he could become more and more obsessed with both purging Starling City entirely and with making Ollie his heir as time went by.

(This would also handily tie in with his characterisation in the second series, where he is meant to be so repulsed by Malcolm's indiscriminate killing that he desires to see the man punished for it.)

Thirdly, have him be Sara's murderer, and instead of a murder mystery plot, have everyone know about it. Instead of having him disapprove of Sara and Nyssa's relationship, have him approve deeply, make it clear that he absolutely adores Sara as a second daughter. Come the mid-season finale, have Ra's and Ollie have their first clash in Starling City, and when Ollie seems beaten, Sara could step in and challenge Ra's instead. The resulting duel would end in Sara's death, after which Ra's would kill Ollie. In maybe ten minutes of screentime you would then establish Ra's as stopping at nothing to achieve his goals, set Laurel up to become the Black Canary, laid the groundwork for a rift between Nyssa and Ra's, given Ra's a nudge along the path to madness, and then when Ollie returns, you have bitterness that it was him who returned and not Sara.

I could probably add two more items to this list, but for the sake of saving wordage, let's not. 

Ollie in his league gear.

The character writing in general isn't great this series either. Felicity is too often reduced to being a weepy mess, Diggle seems to barely do anything, Ollie seems to be entirely static as a character. Detective Lance has probably the most character development of the bunch, but it seems off somehow, like flying off the rails and deciding that Ollie is his arch-nemesis was somehow the wrong route for the character to go down. Perhaps that's because that subplot never really gets a conclusion - it's not deliberately left hanging for the next series or anything, it's more like the writers just forgot about it.

I did enjoy this series, and in all honesty, it probably is an improvement over the first series - but it's a pale shadow of the second series, and I do wonder if this is the start of a decline for the show, and if we're going to be seeing a fourth series where the quality drops even more. That concerns me a little. 

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