Kabooooom! Hangout: ARROW S03E01 “The Calm”

The Kabooooom crew may all love pop culture, but we all have different tastes. In Kabooooom! Hangouts, a new ongoing discussion feature, we bring together our different points of view and talk about today’s hottest comics, television shows and movies. The end result is an opinionated, informative, thought-provoking and – hopefully – amusing conversation. Enjoy.

[Warning – SPOILERS for ARROW Season 3, Episode 1 “The Calm”]

ARROW Season 3, Episode 1
ARROW Season 3, Episode 1 “THE CALM”/ Story by GREG BERLANTI & ANDREW KREISBERG/
Teleplay by MARC GUGGENHIEM & JAKE COBURN/ Directed by GLEN WINTER/ Starring STEPHEN AMELL, KATIE CASSIDY, DAVID RAMSEY, EMILY BETT RICKARDS, COLTON HAYNES & PAUL BLACKTHORNE/ Produced by BERLANTI PRODUCTIONS, DC ENTERTAINMENT & WARNER BROS. TELEVISION

Matt: Let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories about the death of kings.

Sarah: Aw man, right!? I not sure how I feel about that ending, it really depends where things go from here, but let’s not jump there just yet!

Matt: I know it’s good because I feel emotionally invested but… DAMN IT!

Sarah: I say we start with general impressions. Especially following The Flash‘s premiere. And here we plug our review, shamelessly.

Matt: Which I wrote, and am now writing an episode guide for (shameless plug and link here).

Sarah: [laughs]

Matt: Overall, I loved this premiere. They didn’t try to tackle everything at once – which is good considering how much is going on – but they didn’t leave all the subplots hanging. Just a quick acknowledgement and, “Yes, we’re getting to that.” In that respect, I think it was better than The Flash pilot which – for all it did right – did give the supporting cast the short shrift.

Sarah: I felt as if this was a far more light-hearted, more upbeat episode than typical Arrow. (Until the end that is.) And I wonder if we’ll see more of that going forward? More moments of levity.

Matt: Yeah. I wrote in my notes that I think Ollie smiles more in the first 10 minutes of this episode than he did in the entire first two series put together.

Sarah: Yes! That’s been the one thing that’s always irked me about Stephen Amell’s Oliver – he was so dour! – but I understand they needed him to start somewhere and then learn to lighten up a bit.

I also thought this episode did a great job of developing all the characters, and the villain was technically a ‘monster of the week’, but the reveal the Count Vertigo character will be a recurring mantle others will take up is a neat twist.

Matt: That’s true. Even the characters who don’t have much to do this episode get moments. Roy probably suffers the most in this regard, and that goes back to what I said earlier about subplots being acknowledged but not advanced. They mention Thea and there’s just this quick moment of pain on Roy’s face and he’s all, “I have to go.”

Sarah: Right, but since it’s Roy I’m okay with that. [laughs] That’s not really fair, but he’s my least favorite character. I’m just hoping he broods a little less this season. Or that Thea returns and gets to kick his ass or something.

Matt: But there’s still subtle acknowledgments of his change in status. From the costume to the fact that – after all the play last year about him not being able to use a bow – he’s making trick shots like a pro. See, I’m amazed that Roy’s your least favorite character and not Laurel.

Sarah: I did appreciate him finally displaying some competence in the field. Ooh… yeah, how can I forget about Laurel? I’m surely biased, but I’m more invested in hoping Laurel’s character gets better than I am Roy.

Matt: I think you forget about Laurel because most of the Arrow audience wishes we could forget Laurel after season 2. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the popular episodes from last year were the ones she wasn’t in. I do agree, though, that I hope they do something to redeem the character this year.

Sarah: Fact. And this episode’s shocking end might play in to that… but let’s see, before that – how about Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer?

arrow-season-3-premiere-brandon-routh-ray-palmer

Matt: I liked him, which is surprising given what a creep the character is. The show does seem to be awash with goofy, geek guys with a thing for Felicity, doesn’t it? The bit at the end where he admits he was cyber stalking Felicity? Of course, it’s made up for somewhat by the fact that Felicity knew and got back at him. (Bitch with Wi-Fi for the win!) Thankfully, he’s a different kind of character from Barry Allen. Barry is more the shy kind of social awkward. Ray seems to be the geeky guy who doesn’t know when to shut up.

Sarah: Oh yeah… he’s a little oily. But damn charming, and funny, and I think since most know Palmer is in the end a good guy he’ll get a pass. I’m not too familiar with how Palmer is characterized in the comics, but this character is their Tony Stark.

Matt: I haven’t read a lot of Atom stories, but most of the ones I had portrayed him as something like the

cool teacher/professor. He knows the smart stuff but he can go out for a beer with the guys at the end of the day.

There’s something of that vibe here with the way he handles his power points, but I didn’t get that Tony Stark vibe the way you did. That’s because I equate Tony with more arrogance than I read on Ray in this first episode.

Sarah: All right, so this is Palmer when he’s a little younger and a littler cockier because he must have some serious cash. I can dig it. And I’m sorry Olicity shippers, I’m already rooting for her and Ray. Their scenes were a lot of fun and I hope – and I kind of know we will – see them playing off each other more.

Matt: We also know she’ll be doing some cameos on The Flash so… romantic triangle there?

Sarah: Of course! That’s how the CW rolls. It’s all about the romantic tension.

Matt: We did get to see a lot of the season’s stated theme of identity in this episode, with most of the characters facing an identity crisis in some form or fashion.

Sarah: Yup. And there’s where Laurel got a bit more screen time than Roy, since she seems to being doing well as a lawyer again. Oliver and Felicity kind of figured out where they are… kind of. Diggle became a father. Detective Lance had to realize he’s not a young as he was.

Stephen Amell Arrow The Calm

Matt: And there’s Oliver facing his greatest enemy – himself. I remember someone once joked that the reason Ollie never had a big rogues gallery in the comics was because he was his own worst enemy, and you can make a case for that.

Sarah: Oh yeah, he’s good at sabotaging himself – in the field and in his personal life. Performance-wise, I thought Amell really nailed it this episode.

Matt: Oh, he’s always been on the top of his game. Early on he got a lot of flack for being Scowly McNeversmile, but he was recovering from PTSD and not rediscovering who he was while perusing his mission. After that, he was playing multiple versions of Ollie at different points in the timeline.

Early on, we see him almost being the old pre-island Ollie for a while, then toward the end of this episode, it’s like he’s almost regressed into his old ways. Except he hasn’t. Season 1 Ollie would never have admitted Diggle had a point so quickly when Diggle calls him on the hypocrisy of keeping him out of the field when his ex-wife is about to give birth. And a first for everything – Diggle even admits Ollie was right later.

Sarah: There has definitely been growth, for both of them. When Oliver initially banned Dig from the field I wasn’t sure it was the right call, but then later on I liked how it played out

Matt: Yeah. Ollie doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. Typical.

Sarah: I’ll be interested to see how much Diggle’s role will change this season. I’m also worried he’s on the chopping block, because he now has something worth living for.

Matt: That is a worrisome point. Especially given the ending that we’re dancing around until the end of this. Felicity has something of an identity crisis, too, but its a bit more subtle.

Sarah: She does, though it’s mostly defined by her relationship to Oliver. And I was actually concerned her injury was little bit of light-fridging, but then, y’know, the ending.

Matt: Yeah, I thought she seemed to recover from her injuries pretty quickly. Then again, maybe she just had a scalp wound and it bled to look worse than it was.

Sarah: I don’t think she will… but I do kind of want Felicity to keep working at that shop. It’s too funny. But maybe that gag would wear thin after a while.

Matt: Felicity’s gone from having a decent job in IT for a big company… to being a secretary…. to being on the Geek Squad at a Best Buy kind of big box store. And it doesn’t get much play, but that is incredibly frustrating for her – apart from the comedy of her trying to do that job and be the vigilante at the same time. You never see Barbara Gordon have to juggle reference questions at the GCPL. [laughs]

Sarah: Yeah! She’s playing Oracle and holding down a full-time retail job. That’s tough! And yet, for all the great developments there were: Olicity, Palmer introduced, Vertigo explained – that ending is the take away.

Matt: So yeah… the ending. The fridging we were all afraid would come last season and is apparently happening this season. Barring any sudden trips to a Lazarus Pit. *crosses fingers and prepares to offer first born to Geoff Johns to make that happen* And I praised last year’s finale for ending without fridging any of the female cast!

Sarah: Yeah… I really thought she’d make it after surving last season. Hey, as much as a Lazarus Pit wouldn’t really work in this universe… I want it. The more time that passes, the angrier I am.

Matt: Who says it wouldn’t work? We still don’t know how Merlyn is drawing breath again. And… well… you know who is supposed to be showing up later.

Caity Lotz Arrow The Calm

Sarah: Yes. I do know, and I’m sure he’s involved, but he wasn’t firing the arrows. So who do you think did it? I mean, a lot of what I think of them doing something as cheap as bringing back a character for a short cameo only to violently murder them will rely on where it goes from here.

Matt: The hell of it is, from a writing stand point, I can see why they did it. Tommy was the one character whose death would affect the greatest number of people in season 1, Sara is the one character whose death will cause the most drama for everyone now. And with Sara around it’s hard for them to push Laurel toward the goal of eventually making her… I don’t want to say it…. but this would be the boot in the ass to push her that direction.

Sarah: Which is again, exactly what many were predicting would have happened last season. So maybe we did it to our ourselves?

Matt: It’s to the credit of the writing team, though, that in spite of all this and the rage quit tweet I sent out earlier… I still trust them enough to see how this plays out.

Sarah: I do too, and a character death – especially one who was well developed and liked – can be a powerful narrative tool. I just worry Arrow will start using it too much. You’re not Game of Thrones, people.

Matt: Yeah. There’s not enough incest for this to be Game of Thrones and we’re all out of siblings. As for who did it… another League of Assassins member is rather obvious. Merlyn’s the most likely suspect, having a grudge against anyone helping Ollie and the League of Assassins.

Sarah: The voice is obviously meant to be misleading… but I almost wonder if it’s Thea, though that may be too dark for her too soon.

Matt: Too dark this soon, yes. Merlyn used a voice modulator too, for the record.

Sarah: Then I guess he’d be who I’m betting on. Maybe we’ll find out next week? But I could also see them dragging this one out, because you’re right, this is going to affect basically the entire main cast.

Matt: I’m hoping that it will turn out Sara was injured but they fake her death (again) so she can go into hiding.

Sarah: I’m crossing my fingers for that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the producers will comment soon on whether or not she’d really dead.

Matt: A quick comment on the flashbacks. I do like that the first thing they addressed is the question of why Ollie never tried calling home while he was in Hong Kong. He also pick-pocketd a cell phone and that was the ninth attempt in five month, which is why at the end we find out why Ollie didn’t keep trying. The one common thread to Ollie in every universe is that he won’t risk his neck doing something stupid if it will put innocents in jeopardy.

Sarah: So question… are we supposed to recognize the family he’s with in Hong Kong?

Matt: I haven’t checked the name on IMDB to see if it’s a reference or not. The Chinese/Japanese thing may have been a joke on how Shado was portrayed as Chinese in the show when she was Japanese in the comics and she had a Japanese name.  The Arrow web comic revealed she was half-Japanese, half-Chinese. Her mom was Japanese.

Sarah: Okay, I’m sure more will be revealed soon. I am happy he’s finally off the island. A new setting for the flashbacks is a good change of pace.

Devon Aoki Katana Arrow The Calm

Matt: Oh damn. Just looked it up and I’m amazed I didn’t spot this, but I’ve never been a big Outsiders buff. The thug is Maseo Yamashiro, his wife is Tatsu Yamashiro – it’s Katana and her husband!

Sarah: OH! Now you say that I do recall hearing they cast Katana for this season. Well now I’m waaaaay more excited.

Matt: Did you catch the song being whistled by the new Count Vertigo? It was “In The Hall of the Mountain King” and there’s a classic film noir movie – M – where a criminal is tracked by other criminals by his whistling that tune. No real connection to this episode, I think, but I thought it was interesting that was being whistled while they are trying to track The Arrow.

Sarah: Probably a little inside joke snuck in there. But I’m interested to see how often a new Count Vertigo will be brought in now.

Matt: Actually, themetically, it does sort of apply. The basic theme of M is that all people are equally corrupt and that vigilantism is pointless because it cannot bring back those who were harmed by evil acts. Which kind of could be the sort of cynical belief Ollie will be fighting all year.

Sarah: Huh. Well there you go. It’s pretty clear a big dilemma for him will be putting those he loves in danger. Well, that’s really been something he’s struggled with from the beginning.

Matt: And now, he’s still struggling, even though he’s lost almost everything except his identity as The Arrow. His mom is dead. Thea is gone. His company and family fortune are gone. All he has left are his friends and his name.

Sarah: Yeah… it’s going to a really hard season for him, isn’t it? I wouldn’t be surprised if we seem him crack, and perhaps badly. That could be where we’re left around midseason.

Matt: I disagree. He will be tested, yes, but at this point Ollie has weathered enough loss for ten lifetimes. The first season was about Ollie choosing justice over revenge. The second was about Ollie choosing to embrace the role of a protector over being a vigilante. This time, I think it’s going to be about him being tempted to abandon the quest for a variety of reasons, but concluding that The Arrow is who he is and not someone he becomes. He does not need to become someone else. He is someone else.

Sarah: Aw, but you know how the CW enjoys drama for drama’s sake!? I hope you’re right though. Any final thoughts?

Matt: I thought it was a strong opening as well but the ending has me worried/pissed off, and I am fully prepared to rage quit this series if I am not pleased wit the resolution.

Sarah: Here, here! All in all, I found it to be a really strong opener. I’m still reeling from the ending, but they definitely have me tuning in next week.

Matt: And I can’t think of anything better than what Stephen Amell tweeted about halfway through the episode:

Sarah: Ha! That’s great. Oh! And quickly,  I liked the name drop of Star City.

Matt: Yes. That was awesome. I also liked how they avoided the cliche of “cut the x” wire with the bomb.

Sarah: Oh yeah! I found that a little cheesy, but more believable than Roy actually disarming that bomb.

Matt: I thought it was rather realistic. Like actual criminals color code the bombs by the same blueprints?

Sarah: I meant the Freon, I’m not too sure if that would work. But I could be wrong.

Matt: Actually, you can use Freon to freeze a lock so you can break it…. so…. maybe?

Sarah: All right, like I said. I’m not scientist. [laughs]

Matt: I am. Information scientist.

Overall, we were very pleased with Arrow’s season 3 premiere and cannot wait to see where it goes next. What did you think of last night’s premiere? Let us hear from you in the comments below and let’s keep the discussion rolling!

Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8pm on the CW network.


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