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Arrow Ep. 3.02 “Sara” is one of the series’ most emotionally-charged hours

Arrow Ep. 3.02 “Sara” is one of the series’ most emotionally-charged hours

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Arrow Season 3, Episode 2 “Sara”
Written by Jake Coburn & Keto Shimizu
Directed by Wendey Stanzler
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm ET on The CW

Identity has always been a major theme of Arrow, particularly with its lead character, who has spent the better part of the first two seasons figuring out who he was. As everyone on Team Arrow (which it really is at this point, especially if Laurel’s on board) reflects on Sara’s death throughout the episode named after her, this idea of searching for one’s true identity comes to forefront and frames an otherwise melancholy episode with a few philosophic brush strokes, trying to dig beneath everyone’s pain about Sara’s death for deeper self-revelations.

Is it a success? When Oliver talks to Felicity about having to be the one person in the room who doesn’t grieve the death of a close friend, it certainly does, delivering one of the biggest emotional blows in the series. For the third season of Arrow to focus on the lives Oliver can and cannot live, it has to be able to find avenues like the ones in this episode, which give his character some traction in the fast-paced hour of “Sara”, rather than just the blank-eyed (former) billionaire trying to process seeing Sara dead for the first time with empty stares (when he tells Diggle he “doesn’t want to die down here”, it’s one of the single most powerful, gripping moments of the series).

Other characters aren’t so lucky:  trying to make Sara’s death feel significant through Laurel aren’t as effective, but that’s mostly the nature of the writers to write Laurel into an emotional tangle, able to only cry and make ridiculous statements (“nobody will know what she did!” something Diggle quickly points out is a false statement), a much less effective (and for the character, less engaging) way for her to mourn her sister. Seeing her smash a man’s broken arm on his bedtable may not be the right note to hit either, but it certainly doesn’t make the character feel as helpless as she does when she’s crying at Sara’s burial, or standing in Oliver’s basement, trying to run away with a gun that turns out not to be loaded (which: how stupid are you, Laurel? For fuck’s sake, make sure you brought bullets!).

That’s not say the episode is a wash when it’s not focused on Oliver: Felicity refusing to stand by and watch Oliver die next is a revealing moment for her character, one that shows the strength and resiliency that we all wish Laurel could display a fraction of. Instead of shutting down, Felicity performs a fucking autopsy through her tears, then decides that she needs more from life than hacking into government databases and dreading the moment when Oliver comes in bloodied and unresponsive: the depressing world of a dangerous, thankless job puts stress on one’s soul, and that weight is felt every time Smoak takes a look at Sara lying down on the gurney behind her desk of supercomputers. Where Laurel’s behavior fits more into Stock Sad Female Character book, there’s much-needed logic given to Felicity’s hasty decision to leave Oliver and take a job by Ray Palmer’s side that, and it works wonders to keep her character from feeling hysterical or nonsensical.

It’s still not clear where the flashbacks to Hong Kong are headed this season (though this week, we get a great Tommy cameo, with Oliver kidnapping him and scaring him into leaving), but the idea of a hero’s identity is already coming to the forefront in the present, from Oliver, to Thea (who has badass short hair, and appears to be thriving under Malcolm’s training, something I think will be the focus of next week’s episode), to Starling City itself, which is trying to reinvent itself with a new name (Star City) and image as a land of prosperity, not one where criminals and terrorists deliver some of their finest work. I don’t know how well this will work for 24 episodes, but as a precursor to whatever the show has planned this season (which I’m guessing involves A.R.G.U.S. and the League of Assassins, if not more), it does a great job paying its respects to a fallen comrade, as well as give context to the mental struggles each person on Team Arrow (again, transformation of identity: Arrow’s “mission” isn’t a solo one, not anymore) is struggling in the face of it. Plus, it’s got another kick-ass archer-on-archer fighting scene – what else could we ask for, from one of TV’s best (and right now, most underrated) dramas?

 

— Randy

 

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