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Arrow Ep. 2.09 “Three Ghosts” sets the stage for what’s to come in exciting fashion

Arrow Ep. 2.09 “Three Ghosts” sets the stage for what’s to come in exciting fashion

Three Ghosts

Arrow Season 2, Episode 9 “Three Ghosts”
Written by Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg (story), Geoff Johns & Ben Sokolowski (teleplay)
Directed by John Behring
Airs Wednesday nights at 8pm ET on The CW

 

Like last week’s “The Scientist”, “Three Ghosts” is tasked with a lot of narrative groundwork, but unlike some of last week’s episode, “Three Ghosts” delivers on much of its set up, establishing the stakes and finally revealing the Big Bad of season two. An hour about helplessness, “Three Ghosts” may let the story of Arrow take the reins of its characters and their decisions – but all those plot machinations serve an important part in defining our characters, especially the two “heroes” at the center of the last two episodes, Oliver Queen and Barry Allen.

Most importantly, “Three Ghosts” finally accomplishes what I’ve been begging Arrow to do for two seasons: give the events on the island real meaning to Oliver Queen. Yes, it transformed him – but season one only wanted to show that it transformed him into a badass with shorter hair. Season two’s slowly taken a different approach, integrating Oliver’s activities in the past much more closely with those in the present, a path that comes full circle when it’s revealed who is giving Brother Blood his orders: an angry Slade Wilson, injected full of Mirakuru (courtesy of Oliver on the island) and sporting a dashing bit of gray hair behind his years.

Now, there’s only one problem with Slade and his vengeful mission to destroy everything Oliver loves: it comes out of the hokey love triangle plot Arrow’s stumbled around with for the last dozen episodes or so. There’s never a real emotional connection made between Slade and Shado – in fact, there isn’t a whole lot of definition given as to why Slade was so infatuated with her, beyond “she’s probably the only attractive woman he’s seen in years”. Regardless, it’s a chilling moment when everyone Oliver cares about is shown over Slade’s voice over promising to bring down everything he loves “before driving an arrow through his eye” (there’s a story behind this and Slade’s eyepatch, methinks). There’s even an argument to be made that Slade is a retread of season one’s big story (powerful man with a plan for the city, turns his attention to harming Oliver and his family in the process), but the friendship forged last season between Slade and Oliver make it a bit more than just the average “watch the world burn” plot line.

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What’s even more exciting is the thematic groundwork laid out for this showdown in “Three Ghosts”: from Roy to Barry and back to Oliver, everyone in “Three Ghosts” gets to feel helpless, regular citizen or not. Quentin leads his partner to his own death (the “I’ve got to take my kids Xmas shopping” with Det. Hilton was eye-rollingly obvious, by the way), Oliver can’t save Roy from being injected, and Barry learns of Oliver’s secret identity: all three decisions made with courageous intent, but met with grave consequences they might not have considered before. One of these is a bit of a mislead (we all know Barry isn’t going to blab about Arrow – he’s got his own problems now), but the idea behind them all is the same: what do we do when we try to fight something we can’t control?

As Arrow moves forward, it’s still got a few kinks to work out: Laurel’s starting to fall for Blood, a laughingly terrible subplot I hope gets cut off at the knees over the next few weeks (more expecting it to snowball into “Ollie saves Laurel” material, but we can hope, right?), and as I mentioned, the emotional undercurrent of Slade’s vengeance isn’t as strong as it could be (it still makes no sense why Dr. Ivo would stop just to make Oliver choose between one of them? I thought he was a crazed, homicidal scientist, not a manic, homicidal sociopath with a philosophically inquisitive style). But “Three Ghosts” shows Arrow‘s newfound ability to find narrative unity between its many flying parts, leaving us with some tasty reveals to chew on until the show returns in January.

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Other thoughts/observations:

– Arrow returns January 15th with an episode titled “Blast Radius” (fallout from Central City’s particle accelerator explosion? Will we see Barry Allen again before next fall?)

– spoiler: Arrow is my most-improved show of 2013 – and it’s not even a close competition.

– Roy is now injected with the powers of Mirakuru (great scene with Oliver bringing him back to life with lots of yelling).

– Barry leaves a little Christmas gift for Arrow before departing: a mask! Finally – no more terrible make-up jobs!

– Officer Daley? More like Officer Dirty, amirite?

– Nice little hints dropped about Brother Cyrus’ and his possible return as Solomon Grundy later this season: Oliver and Diggle both recite lines from the poem that bears his name.

– Slade rips a dude’s heart out minutes after taking Mirakuru, but Roy’s unable to do anything but weakly lie to Thea (who is pissed, and wants to do things “her way” from now on).

– speaking of Roy, he’s a character to watch in the back 13 of season two: will he become Arrow’s understudy – or will that arrow in the leg spurn him to become an enemy? Let’s hope for the former: I like the little guy who only owns one red hoodie.

– the episode ends with the catastrophic explosion that turns Barry Allen into the Flash. Will we see him again before the unannounced premiere of his show? I certainly hope so – they did a great job making him a quirky-but-charming little character, even if I could do without the murder mystery board in his office.

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– Great math by Felicity: Detective Hilton is in fact, 50% less alive.

– fingers crossed Blood injects Laurel with Mirakuru (which comes in unlimited supply now, thanks to the blood of Roy and Slade).