Arrow returns to screens and brings a whole load of questions with it; mainly, just how can the show function after the death of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell). With the Emerald Archer presumed dead after being ran through and kicked off a cliff courtesy of Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable), it’s down to those “left behind” to pick up the job of protecting Starling City.
And so Left Behind opens, as is often the case with Arrow, mid-crime. Whilst Arsenal (Colton Haynes) is in the thick of the action, his green hooded companion is Diggle (David Ramsey) rather than the familiar Ollie. This initial hijinks is quickly expanded to centre on Vinnie Jones’ Danny Brickwell, aka Brick, who is a character pulled from the pages of DC’s comic book world. With his sights set on taking over The Glades and causing chaos in Starling City, Brick is in the midst of amassing his own army to assist his quest for supremacy. But whilst it is Brick that is the supposed main threat of this episode, not to mention the next few episodes, it’s the personal trauma of those left behind in the aftermath of Oliver Queen’s death that is the most engaging and interesting facet of this outing.
In the early moments of Left Behind, Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) is in major denial, Diggle is looking realistically at all outcomes, and Roy is just, well, Roy. When Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) ventures into the Arrowcave to break the news of Oliver’s death to the team, feelings change amongst Team Arrow. Whereas Roy seeks solace at the bottom of a glass, Diggle is adamant to take down Brick and his plans to erase the evidence stacked up against so many of Starling’s wrongdoers, but it’s with Felicity that the episode’s emotional core resides. As a strong believer in Oliver Queen doing what Oliver Queen does best and overcoming all of the odds, she is left in ruins when the acceptance finally comes that the untouchable object of her affection is no more. It’s with her arc that the shocking conclusion to the mid-season finale hits home hardest. So much so, she eventually decides to give up the whole hero gig, largely after a rabbit-in-headlights moment involving Roy and Diggle battling Brick and his crew, and she even comes to heated words with Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) over his Atom-in-waiting ideals. With Digg a realist and Roy in mourning over the death of his mentor (here’s hoping that one shot of alcohol doesn’t lead to another one of those horrendous “they’re an alcoholic!” arcs that plagued Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) last season), the only person who shares some of Felicity’s feelings, as in the ones on Ollie not being dead, are Laurel. After all, this is the man who was presumed dead for 5 years and then turned up in Starling City once more. Also, this is a show based on a comic book hero. We all know that by this point in the game that nobody really stays dead. We can thank Superman for that.
And now to address the elephant in the room: Oliver Queen is not dead. In case you were in any doubt whatsoever on that topic, the final moments of Left Behind reveal Ollie to have been brought back to life thanks to the combined efforts of Maseo (Karl Rune) and Tatsu (Rila Fukushima). That action itself sits fine with us – we even called something similar happening – but it’s the timing that feels uneasy. Make no mistake, Arrow has delivered so much so well throughout its run, but this episode, or more specifically its final moments, just felt bogus; something we didn’t expect to be saying about the show.
The apparent death of Oliver Queen in the penultimate moments of The Climb, even though it was clearly not going to be a permanent arrangement, to us by shock. Massive shock. As in mouths agape to the extent of a particularly peckish Hungry-Hungry-Hippo. We expected the second half of Season 3 to address Oliver’s resurrection and return, but not now; not the first episode back. Yes, there’s potentially brilliant moments ahead that surround the actual journey of Oliver Queen to get back to Starling City and to once more become The Arrow. But we wanted the reveal of his next breath to be drawn out, to be milked a bit more. For a show that has made so many right moves and choices during its run, the revival of Oliver Queen so soon just felt like a massive misstep. Granted, we don’t know exactly how Tatsu managed to save Oliver, but the initial payoff for such a huge event of the death of The Arrow, as in he’s alive, felt like it should’ve been dragged out for at least another few episodes. In reality, Oliver Queen’s death was always going to be as real as Katie Price’s chest, but it would’ve been nice for the show to try and keep the charade going for just a little while longer. But it is what is; we know Ollie is alive. Now the key is how the show plays out not only the return of Oliver to Starling City, which itself will hopefully take several episodes, but how things progress amongst Team Arrow and the newly suited-up Black Canary now that they are all under the impression that Oliver actually is dead. Whilst we may not have liked how quickly Arrow got over the first hurdle of Oliver Queen’s death, there’s still plenty of potential ahead for some fantastic storytelling if handled correctly.
Now we mentioned Black Canary there, and Laurel Lance’s ascension to becoming her own heroine has been something that has been underway seemingly since Arrow began its third season. It’s been said by executive producer Andrew Kreisberg how Laurel’s taking of the Black Canary moniker willbe centre-stage for the first three episodes of the show’s return from its mid-season break. Here we got a glimpse of her in action, with seemingly a lot more to come over the next two episodes and beyond.
Elsewhere, we got to see a major change in dynamic for the relationship of Oliver and Maseo during the flashback moments, which tied in well to what we were seeing during the finale of Left Behind. It was also good to see the genuine concern of Thea Queen/Merlyn (*delete as applicable) at the absence of brother Ollie. And tied to that, of course, is the whole situation of Malcolm Merlyn, who himself is now back to fearing for his own life after setting up Oliver Queen to be drawn into battle against The Demon’s Head in an act of desperation that was hoped to neutralise the death sentence on Merlyn’s head.
It would be remiss of us, though, to not address something that felt so bad in this episode: Vinnie Jones. Whilst his delivery was just about okay, it was the early fight scenes – the ones which were clearly him and not a stunt double – that were absolutely horrible to watch. His initial throw-down with one of his own men saw Jones’ movements as slow and plodding as a constipated toddler. To contract this, some of the stunt choreography and action involving Diggle and Arsenal was brilliantly done. Oh, and did anybody take issue with how it seemingly took Malcolm Merlyn the time that it took Team Arrow to move from one side of the Arrowcave to the other for him to get to the scene of Oliver’s apparent demise and back again? This is a location that apparently took Ollie the majority of The Climb to get to himself.
All in all, Left Behind was definitely a mixed bag, which is a strange thing to be saying about Arrow. The death of Oliver Queen hit hard and Emily Bett Rickards did a stupendous job in showing Felicity’s grief and denial at the whole matter. So much of the next few episodes hinge on how things play out for the rest of Team Arrow and Black Canary now that they are under the belief that Oliver is dead. But really, couldn’t the audience be left to believe that Ollie was dead, or at least unaccounted for, for just a little while longer?
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