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Arrow Ep. 3.19 “Broken Arrow” sees off a series regular in another overstuffed hour

Arrow Ep. 3.19 “Broken Arrow” sees off a series regular in another overstuffed hour

broken arrow

Arrow Season 3, Episode 19 “Broken Arrow”
Written by Jake Coburn (story), Ben Sokolowski & Brian Ford Sullivan (teleplay)
Directed by Doug Aarniokoski
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm ET on The CW

All season, Arrow has struggled to find balance – a fitting metaphor for its main character, who is now learning that when there are too many balls in the air, there is no such thing as balance. Hell, half of the season has been hijacked by the Tony Star- Ray Palmer story, which is basically Oliver’s story without all of the physical and emotional trauma that comes along with it, which has often left Oliver a reactionary character on his own freakin’ television show. Throw on top the show’s regression with characters like Quentin (who is back to season one levels of obsessed dickhead cop in recent weeks, as he hunts the Arrow), Diggle, and Nyssa, and it’s become clear that Arrow is way too crowded, both in terms of the pretty white faces we see every week, and the story lines accompanying them.

Nothing makes this more obvious than the “Broken Arrow”, which tries to shove three major stories into a single episode, with their effectiveness playing directly into the quality of each particular story’s delivery. Ray Palmer’s story, which already dominated The Flash this week? It’s given the large chunk of the hour, and it makes for some great material, despite how little I enjoy Ray’s naive confidence, which borderlines on idiot arrogance: this is mostly because it lets Oliver stew for more than half the episode, throwing looks and generally acting like a petulant asshole, which is really when Oliver Queen is at his best (at least in my humble opinion: sarcastic Oliver really is the best). Ray’s not all that interesting a character, but watching Oliver struggle with his sudden importance in Starling City is intriguing, if not consistently executed.

Oliver’s internal struggles are also front and center this episode, and once again continue to push the show forward in fascinating ways, particularly when everyone asserts to Oliver that the Arrow is no more, and can never be again, being turned into a public pariah for the violence in the city, by an increasingly thick-headed, annoying Quentin, who really doesn’t give a shit when he finds out that Roy Harper was killed in prison (maybe he shouldn’t have, given what he knew about the officer Roy killed last season – but has he really become this unempathetic?). When Quenin isn’t around being an unecessary thorn in Oliver’s side – you know, since he’s already trying to deal with a metahuman, a shady government organization whose importance keeps being suggested in the past (the weird general nearly killed Waller and took Alpha! Who really gives a flying shit!), the freaking League of Assassins, a girl who keeps telling him she loves him but hangs on another superhero’s arm (I’ve already written plenty about how they’re undermining Felicity’s character – I don’t need to do it again here), and now, the arrival of metahumans in Starling City. To say his plate is a little full is an understatement, and it robs Oliver of being active in his own stories: here, everyone is making decisions for him, curtailing him under some presumption that the Arrow can no longer exist, because there’s a manhunt going on for him and/or another person saying they are him sitting in prison. The underlying tenants of this story are interesting, but given how much material surrounds it, there’s not a lot of room for this to breathe.

Instead, Oliver’s frustrations manifest themselves in the episode’s other central story, which is Roy’s fake death and impending departure from the show. First of all, fuck Arrow for hitting the audience with a character death scene that isn’t real, and then forcing us to buy into it for five minutes, until it’s revealed that the rug has been pulled out from underneath Oliver, and Roy’s stabbing was just a painless, non-fatal one. Roy’s journey from jerk kid with frosted tips trying to get into fights to honorable sidekick has been a long, messy, underdeveloped story – and in the end, the show doesn’t even have time for him to have a meaningful scene with Oliver, or even say goodbye to the girl he supposedly loves more than anything (seriously: just lets her think he’s dead and bounces from the city). Though it wouldn’t have meant much more if he died (back to that in a second), Roy’s death would’ve at least given some of this season some weight – I think we all know that Oliver isn’t going to be the head of the League, or Arrow simply stops being Arrow, but Roy’s death would’ve certainly pushed Oliver to a different place – and at least let him leave the show in poignant fashion: instead, he drives off to nowhere in the car he magically just owned early this season, ready to appear again later this season (yup, he’s already coming back, further undercutting the supposed emotional component of him leaving).

Is “Broken Arrow” kinetic, emotional, and exciting? Sure, in the abstract (and it has a particularly terrific score, to boot): dig into the details, and a lot of what happens in “Broken Arrow” falls apart at the seams. Even the “shocking” ending fails to land: unlike the last time a Queen lady took a sword to the chest, we’ve all waited for the magical pool of the Lazarus Pit to come into play, so there’s really no such thing as permanent death anymore. More so, the fucking teaser that started playing three seconds after the episode ended gave away that this death isn’t going to be permanent – again, Arrow tries to have its cake and eat it to, and the thin threads holding all of these bits together is not only obvious, but flimsy, a turn of story that serves the season’s end game without really representing any kind of radical change at all. I suppose we still have a half-dozen hours left for Arrow to turn it around – but how all these stories were mangled together awkwardly during “Broken Arrow”, I’m a little hesitant to be excited about how they could all potentially end next month.