Last season saw Oliver Queen go through Hell and back, his life torn to pieces and his family ripped apart. Season 3 will no doubt continue that trend eventually. But, the premiere episode takes a step back to show us that things have cooled off and how Team Arrow plans on balancing their masked heroics with the simpler things in life, like fatherhood and dating.
After fighting an army of murderous superhumans and saving the city where do you go from there? You make things more intimate, forget the bombast and bring things right back home. That is exactly what “The Calm” has done. Right off the bat we are treated to Team Arrow working in unison like we have never seen before. Oliver has a fancy new high-tech bow, Felicity has set up shop with all new equipment in the basement of Verdant, Roy is in full affect as Arsenal (or Red Arrow, or Speedy…) and Diggle is going to be a father. In the midst of all of their “heroing” Oliver decides it is time to move on with his personal life and attempts to kick things off with Felicity, it seems like that “I love you” speech from last season had a little more meaning behind it than we thought. In sticking with that more intimate tone, it is clear the running theme of this season will be balance. How is it possible for a masked hero to live a normal life and keep the city safe? The same question is posed for Diggle and Detective Lance. They both want to be out in the field but, whether it be familial duty, physical debilitation or both, something keeps them away. It will be interesting to see how things play out and whether or not we see an eventual shake up in the ranks of Team Arrow.
In the absence of Deathstroke Oliver and company have been hard at work ridding the streets of any and all criminal activity. This leads us to our first villain of the season, a new and improved Count Vertigo. Peter Stormare does a great job showing how demented the city has become in the wake of supervillains but, yet again, the villains feel too underwhelming. Sure he held his own in a fight against the Arrow but we never had any time to get to know the new Vertigo and by killing him off so quickly ensures we never will. It is a problem the series has dealt with since its inception, at least the casting has improved.
Alongside the new Vertigo came a few other big DC names. We caught a quick glimpse at Wildcat during the boxing match and the eventual Katana was featured in one of Oliver’s flashbacks to Hong Kong. Even The Flash himself made a quick cameo to help give us a sense of where events fall in terms of continuity. It was a cool little nod to their coexistence and I hope we see more of it, though handled a bit better.
Perhaps the biggest of all DC names is Ray Palmer or The Atom. Brandon Routh does a tremendous job as the cocky billionaire. The character could have easily come off as obnoxious and douche but Routh keeps things on the right side of the equation. Palmer is charming, intelligent and ruthless when it comes to business. It’s clear he will be a major obstacle for Oliver Queen, whether that translates into an obstacle for Arrow is yet to be determined. It’s also evident that Palmer will act as a love interest for Felicity. It provides an interesting dynamic now that ‘Olicity’ is kind of a thing. Routh will definitely be one to keep an eye on in future episodes.
The biggest twist of the episode also happened to be the worst part of the episode in my opinion. Sara makes a sudden and random return from the League of Assassins just in time to help Oliver take down Vertigo and his goons. No explanation for her appearance is given, literally no context for how she knew Oliver would be there and to top it all off she *SPOILERS* gets killed off to end the episode *SPOILERS*. The entire sequence plays out over the course of 2 minutes and it feels extremely shoehorned in. It does set things up for interesting stories down the road but the execution was way off. It all happened too suddenly for it to garner the expected response. Had they chosen to dedicate the episode to her return and then kill her off or postpone it till next episode, once the Oliver/Felicity romance had time to sink in, the twist would have been much more impactful. Instead it seemed like a random and poorly conceived way to introduce a new story arc.
It was a solid way to start things off, had they dedicated more time to Sara it could have been great.
Overall this episode gets 7/10