Thursday, December 12, 2013

Arrow S01 E09: "Three Ghosts"

This is it, the mid-season finale episode of "Arrow," and with a title like "Three Ghosts" so close to Christmas, it would seem that someone's life is going to change drastically. The pre-episode hype verifies that this one is definitely a game changer, and further speculation indicates that not everyone makes it through alive.

We begin moments after the end of our last episode as Central City CSI intern Barry Allen has been recruited by the Arrow team to save Oliver from an unknown drug he was injected with after getting his ass handed to him by the not-yet-Solomon-Grundy Cyrus Gold. Barry gets right to work. Rat poison sure has some interesting uses, doesn't it? Oliver is none too happy Barry knows his secret when he wakes up.

As anticipated, it's Christmas in the Queen mansion, but no party after Moira's disastrous 'coming out' event recently. Instead we have Roy, Thea, and Sin playing Scooby Gang (let's call them the Speedy Gang), and Oliver hallucinating Shado in the present. Well, there's one ghost perhaps. I have to wonder if Oliver actually woke up, or he's dreaming this while under the effects of the mystery drug.

Shado warns Oliver to put down the bow, take off her father's hood, and stop fighting - or everyone he loves will die. Even though Thea questions Oliver on who he's talking to, indicating there was no one there, we jump back to flashback island. Apparently, after obtaining the super-soldier serum, Ivo gave Oliver a choice - he could kill Shado or Sara or both. I think we know who he chose. Or do we? Ultimately he doesn't choose, and Shado dies at Ivo's hand.

This is just another example of what "Arrow" does best, the unexpected. One epic fail of "Smallville" is that while you had Easter eggs, you also knew essentially how the chips would fall. Here you don't. Does this mean Shado won't come back? No, not necessarily. Does it mean we'll never see Connor Hawke (in the comics, the grown son of Oliver and Shado, and the second Green Arrow)? Not necessarily either. Hell, we have both Speedies, yet haven't seen Speedy yet.

Speaking of the Speedy Gang, while watching, I finally remembered where I know Sin from. She's Bex Taylor-Klaus, the best thing about the last season of "The Killing," and pretty much the only reason to have watched. I like her, and hope we see a lot more of her.

In this episode there is a lot of naming names. For the first time on screen we hear that Oliver prefers the codename Arrow over The Hood or 'the vigilante.' Cyrus Gold's name as well as Solomon Grundy's are also checked. And even fanboy Barry gets to roll off a litany of Arrow's rogues gallery. Barry also indirectly references the potential Iris West by saying he has experience with someone who doesn't see him as he really is.

Brother Blood sics Cyrus Gold on the Starling City police. It's a trap set up by Blood and his plant in the department. In the middle of the episode as I watch Gold beating on Lance, I wonder if this might be the death rumored. As much as I would miss Paul Blackthorne, it would give Laurel a bit more angst, and almost seem fitting - after all, it would be a doomed Earth-Two character taken out by a major Earth-Two villain (Larry Lance and Solomon Grundy).

Oliver's second ghost is Slade Wilson, who shows up in the Arrowcave where the two fight, smashing everything except miraculously the blood test Barry is running. The results? Oliver is clean. If he's hallucinating, it's in his head, not in his blood. Hmmm... we did always know he was a sociopath, maybe Oliver is a psychopath too.

The Christmas theme seemed a bit forced at times, almost shoehorned in to coincide with the time the episode would air, and the three ghost vibe. I was pulled out of the story when Barry asks Felicity her plans for Christmas and she answers "Lighting my menorah." Any other year this would have been fine, and might give the episode a timeless quality in rerun syndication, but this year Hanukkah came at Thanksgiving. Tiny nit, and maybe time moves differently in the "Arrow" universe, but it knocked me off kilter.

Oliver's third ghost is Tommy, telling him he's not going to die, that he's going to fight. He's telling him what he's going to do. The tumblers click into place. If Tommy is the ghost of the future, and Shado perhaps represents sins of the past, does that put Slade in the present? Does that mean Deathstroke is alive in the present?

Tommy's appearance occurs after Roy is kidnapped and injected with serum by Brother Blood. When Arrow arrives there's a rematch with Gold, in which the villain gets doused with chemicals in derivative Two-Face style. Props to the "Arrow" folks for being unpredictable, but come on, I think we all wanted to see him thrown in a swamp not turned into yet another Batman reference.

The end of the episode is one of beginnings. It seems I was right on target (sorry, Arrow pun) with Slade Wilson. He's alive, and looking much more like his comics counterpart. And he's running Brother Blood. Looks like these Teen Titans villains stick together. And Barry left Oliver a present, finally a mask.

And Barry? He went home to Central City just in time (so unlike him) to see the particle accelerator blow up. Seconds afterward he's struck by lightning in his lab with a plethora of chemicals splashing on him. Sound familiar? Yeah, we've just seen the origin of the Flash. And was that Linda Park on the TV reporting the particle accelerator story?

There's no solid date for when the Flash pilot airs or when the series begins as of yet. They are apparently still casting for Iris West and someone referred to as Detective West, so it's a ways off. "Arrow" however returns on January 15th. See you in the New Year.

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