Arrow Season 3, Episode 22 “This Is Your Sword”
Written by Erik Oleson (story), Ben Sokolowski & Brian Ford Sullivan (teleplay)
Directed by Wendey Stanzler
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm ET on The CW
I’m struggling to find a place to start with Arrow at this point in the season. Everything’s so convoluted and undercooked, plot points and conversations are flying by at a rapid pace, and as the show increasingly fractures itself between Starling City and Nanda Parbat in this back half, the less any of it feels like its hitting a meaningful place. The climatic moments of “This Is Your Sword” are perfect examples: one features Oliver poisoning the entire crew, even though the entire episode preceding it establishes that Oliver’s been faking it the last few weeks, and the whole opening line with “I was Oliver Queen” is just Arrow having some fun. The other is a wedding between Nyssa and Oliver that still makes absolutely no sense to me – and unfortunately, there’s not much preceding it to slow the show’s massive tumble into mediocrity this season.
The real problem is how underdeveloped everything is, burning through characters and story lines in an attempt to give everyone a story. Everyone’s getting a mask and an origin story, and it’s making things too crowded: its left out huge bits of story, like how Black Canary 2.0 can easily take down members of the fucking League of Assassins, even though she’s only been training for a few months, none since her new milkshaking loving buddy got shipped home to be betrothed in the silliest looking ceremony a bunch of assassins ever had (the sword raising and exaggerated spiritual member? What is this, a Game of Thrones parody?). Or how Thea isn’t pissed that Roy had sex with her, only to disappear again and leave her with his costume in the place most likely to get a vigilante’s secret identity stolen (“Red’s not even my color” says the OPEN letter she’s given with an OPEN bag…. UGH, fuck you Arrow).
There’s just so much BS piled on top of the succession of exposition scenes that is “This Is Your Sword”, that it all falls apart. I’ve been saying this for weeks now, but Arrow‘s shown none of the skill setting up and executing a long-term story that it did last season – at this point, I don’t even understand what Ra’s is trying to accomplish, if he’s wasting his city-murdering toxins (or so he thinks) on a group of people that supposedly don’t matter, or on an entire city that he condemned another man for trying to destroy two years ago. He’s a man of threats – and his one significant action was erased moments after it happened, in a moment that brings us to the other troublesome part of the season: Maseo.
What is the point of Maseo’s character? He’s like Merlyn, in that he has no true allegiances, and spouts off at the mouth with some shit about honor and pain and family, while his flashbacks just show a guy who got the short end of the story stick (in this episode, his son, already cured from the virus, dies from the virus. Again: are you kidding me, Arrow? Really?), next to a woman who finally puts on a kick ass mask so… she can fight her husband, not even giving her a full episode of awesomeness before bringing her back to her weak stereotypes, a character that exists in her own story as a reactionary device, undefined outside of her connections to Maseo and the ridiculously contrived tragedy they share.
Once Oliver’s time as Heir to the Demon is revealed to be a ruse, there isn’t much point to “This Is Your Sword”, all a long, overwrought charade of characters being emotional about a situation the viewers know isn’t the true reality. It doesn’t have fun with this ruse, either – and ultimately, it’s that lack of personality that’s driven Arrow back to such low places. None of this is any fun: it’s dourness without the show’s usual snark, as exciting as Oliver’s blank stare through much of the episode – and as the characters struggle to twist and shape the plot to fit the twisted, convoluted and inconsistent logic its created this season, it’s ripped the life out of its characters, and the proceedings. What is left is a well-costumed mess of cool (though nonsensical) action scenes and melodramatic, pandering moments (“Oliver – we trusted you!”), leaving the season finale with a huge uphill battle before going on break for the summer (and returning in the fall to a more crowded landscape of quality comic shows, a list that now includes the superior The Flash and Daredevil).