For anyone claiming that a comics related property can’t have the “realism”(even though it wasn’t really film realism in the first place) of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the powers and fun of Marvel, show them Arrow and in particular “Three Ghosts”. An episode that featured Oliver dealing with survivors guilt, a deep-seated psychological issue, and the birth of The Flash in typical contrived comic book fashion. Arrow might actually be able to have its cake AND eat it to, but not too much cake, think of the abs.
Knowledge is power in Arrow and Ollie understands that better than most, making him less than grateful to Barry for saving his life. Barry now knows one of Oliver’s most intimate secretes, he’s seen his true face. Not even Felicity, adorable object of internet adulation is free of Oliver’s scorn.
Bringing Barry in to the Arrow Cave (aka The Quiver) does sideline him a bit but allows the writers to show a different side of Barry besides the awkward affable CSI. Barry Allen is a total Arrow fanboy! Grant Gustin can’t stop moving around the cave as he congratulates himself on being right about how the Hood had to have partners, casually dropping the comic book names of Arrow’s more seasoned villains. This Barry Allen defiantly feels like the type who would build a Flash museum after awhile.
Being “mostly dead” has thrown Oliver for a loop. In Christmas Carol fashion, he is visited by three ghosts: Shado, Slade, and Tommy, all beseeching him to action or attacking his character. Shado appears in his house and asks him to take off the hood and actually live. Tommy appears to him with some much needed words of encouragement: that Oliver can be the hero Starling City deserves. Ghost Slade does neither of these things, instead attacking his old friend for the hypocrisy he wraps himself in. All of this to honor his father? Poppycock, the Hood is Oliver’s attempts to atone for the sins real or imagined he has committed just as much as it is for the sins of the father. “Three Ghosts” was a nice return to the damaged psyche of Oliver Queen, something the show hasn’t really hit on since the back half of season 1. It also makes for a nice counter balance for the more sci-fi craziness that occurs towards the end.
As stated above, “Three Ghosts” features both the “dark and gritty” and fantastical elements of a comic adaptation. Arrow pulls these two threads together like taffy sweet green taffy. What is the key to Arrow’s success? By correctly stealing the fundamental things that made both the Dark Knight Trilogy and Marvel’s Phase 1 films great and sticking them together with duct tape (the real secrete in all this).
On the Marvel side of things, Arrow has put its focus on its cast of characters, what makes them tick and the emotional truths they feel even when they are in some convoluted stupid plots. It’s the instance on character that turned Arrow from a guilty pleasure novelty in the first half of season 1 into a legitimately good television series. Marvel in Phase 1 focused their efforts on explaining the characters and showing what made them fun and interesting, so that when they got zapped with gamma rays or chemical X, we were even more along for the ride. Great character work is the key, but being able to have visually interesting action sequences doesn’t hurt either.
From the Dark Knight Trilogy, Arrow has lifted both the visual language of the show and the understanding that Nolan didn’t make Batman “realistic”, he just explained how Batman would function both psychologically and functionally. Batman Begins features terrorist ninjas for crying out loud! Arrow season 2 episodes 9 and 10 (“The Scientist” and “Three Ghosts”) do all the leg work introducing us to Barry Allen, showing us what makes him tick. So that, when, the particle accelerator explodes and Barry gets dosed in chemicals and struck by lightning, were totally on board for a Flash series. The convoluted nature of how he got his powers doesn’t matter; it’s a dumb plot point, what matters is that we want to see more of Barry Allen. Arrow proves that you it can hang in both the Dark Knight Universe and Man of Steel.
So than, lets get into some more plotty reveal fan service moments of “Three Ghosts”. I’ll admit Brother Blood not cutting Roy’s arm off was a bit of a bummer, but hey robo arms are just a bit too much at this point. Injecting him with Mirakuro(that’s how you spell it right?) seems like the best way to turn him into an Arsenal of destruction. Now all that is missing is a child out of wedlock with a Ninja and a crippling drug addiction.
Props to Arrow for not going halfway and only shooting Manu Bennett from behind, not fully revealing that he is the “man of means” Count Vertigo spoke of. They still took their sweet time revealing him, hanging in tight onto his beard and his graying hair. But it was all build up to reveal Slade Wilson in all his glory, eye patch and all. It was a surprisingly effective reveal, since it devolves into a pulpy mustachioed twirling villain monologue
“I will tear everything he cares about away from him, I will destroy those who choose to follow him, corrupt those he loves. And when I have taken everything away from him, I will stick an arrow in his eye.”
Bennett’s delivery the righteousness he has in his voice completely sells that moment.
Bringing Slade Wilson to Starling City also underscores another improvement I’ve yet to really mention, the Island flashbacks have gotten way better. At first Arrow treated these flashbacks as separate plots but with thematic resonance to present day Oliver Queen. The thematic connections are still there but now they are having a very real effect on the present day plot which makes them more interesting, even if we already know how it all ends.
Bits At The End
- · Arrow is set to return Wednesday January 15 with “Blast Radius”
- · I’d highly recommend reading Carrie Raisler’s review essay on Arrow, it goes to show just how much this show has grown.