'Arrow' Midseason Finale Review: "Three Ghosts"

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The CW

Arrow’ season 2 lets loose its ninth episode of the year with midseason finale “Three Ghosts,” as a weakened and hallucinating Oliver is forced to confront the super-strong Cyrus Gold once more, as a deeper player in Brother Blood’s plan is revealed, and Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) returns to Central City and his date with destiny.

Previous ‘Arrow’ episode “The Scientist” saw Oliver reluctantly enlisting Allen’s aid to investigate a super-powered heist with ties to his past, while Moira found herself confronted by an old enemy, so what does the ninth episode of ‘Arrow’ season 2 bring?  Will Oliver finally become the hooded hero we know from DC comics, or will Barry Allen beat him to it?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Arrow’ season 2′s super-powered midseason finale “Three Ghosts”!

Oliver begins convulsing, for which Barry manages to identify his symptoms and use rat-poison in a last-ditch effort to save his life. When Oliver finally awakens, berates Felicity for divulging his secret to someone he doesn’t fully trust, before Moira texts him to return to the mansion. By the time he does, Oliver realizes it to be near Christmas, while Thea supposedly won’t come out of her room.

Oliver finds Thea and Sin treating Roy’s arrow wound without wanting to worry Moira, for which Oliver pulls the arrow out and calls Diggle for help patching Roy up, suggesting that the trio stay away from the vigilante. Outside in the hall, Oliver encounters a vision of Shado who urges him to stop fighting and live, before Thea interrupts. Meanwhile back in the past, Oliver remembers how Ivo and his men led he, Shado and Sarah out into the jungle, beore forcing Oliver to choose between the lives of the two women.

Back in the present, Barry geeks out at the various equipment present around Oliver’s lair, suggesting he try an actual mask to hide his identity, before Oliver reveals the hallucinations as a side effect of the poison. Felicity manages to locate Cyrus Gold, but given Oliver’s condition, Diggle insists on taking point. Across town, Laurel receives flowers from Alderman Blood, before Thea and Sin arrive to enlist her help in finding out who killed her friend Max.

While Oliver waits in the car, Diggle enters Gold’s hotel room (finding the famous Solomon Grundy poem) before Gold attacks, forcing he and Oliver to make a hasty retreat. Awhile later, Oliver meets with Office Lance and hands over the info on Cyrus Gold, urging them to use whatever force in bringing him down. Oliver sees a vision of Slade on the roof, before returning to the memory of Ivo on the island, in which Ivo shoots Shado dead when Oliver fails to make a choice in time.

Laurel arrives to the Queen home to inform Thea and Sin that they’d need a warrant to find out if Max had indeed been using drugs before the blood drive, which they lack. Elsewhere, Barry admits to Felicity that whatever she says about Oliver, he understands how it feels to like someone who doesn’t see them the way they want. Over at the police station, Quentin convinces Lucas and a small squadron to take down Gold, though Officer Daly quickly phones Sebastian Blood to warn him.

Felicity and Barry leave Oliver alone in the lair, during which Oliver experiences another vision of Slade, leading the two to brawl it out as Slade insists the island revealed Oliver’s weaknesses. Elsewhere, Lance and his squadron enter the warehouse to confront Gold, though the villain quickly overpowers them all, leaving Lance unconscious, and Lucas dead. A short while later out shopping with Blood, Laurel learns of her father’s fate in the ICU, and rushes off to the hospital.

Felicity and Barry return to find Oliver cleaning up, as analysis of Oliver’s blood surprisingly reveals him to be free of any hallucination-causing poison. Later, Blood visits Laurel at the hospital, while Oliver meets with Lance, and learns that the officer managed to retrieve a key from Gold before being knocked unconscious. Felicity finds that the key belongs to a warehouse in the Glades, while Diggle explains to Oliver that he too used to see ghosts, who only disappeared after delivering their ultimate message. Still weakened, Oliver heads off to confront Gold, while Felicity fears for his safety.

Elsewhere, Roy breaks into Alderman Blood’s headquarters to find Max’s chart, but quickly ends up cornered by the arrival of Blood’s men, and knocked out by Cyrus Gold. Roy awakens strapped to a chair, as a masked Brother Blood injects him with the serum. Oliver arrives too late to save Roy, though during the fight with gold, a vision of Tommy Merlyn appears and reminds Oliver that he’s a hero who never stops fighting. Oliver manages to defeat Gold by destroying the centrifuge behind him, after which Brother Blood flees, and Oliver manages to resuscitate Roy.

While Roy awakens in the Queen mansion healed, Blood visits his benefactor, who sits watching a video of Blood’s recent mayoral announcement. The figure is revealed as none other than a one-eyed Slade, who provided his blood as the source of Blood’s original experiment, and vows to destroy everything Oliver loves before long. In the past, we see that Slade revived in the submarine and raced out into the jungle, tearing through Ivo’s men and finding Shado’s lifeless body, before vowing vengeance on those who caused her death.

Oliver returns to the lair to update Felicity and Diggle on their new masked enemy, Barry having returned to Central City to catch the particle accelerator activation. Barry then calls Felicity, having missed the activation, and returned to his lab in Central City. Assuring her that he’d be on time should she ever want to date someone other than Oliver, Barry returns to his work identifying his mother’s killer, before news arrives that the thunderstorm has caused a power failure at the particle accelerator. Barry watches as the distant facility erupts in an energy shockwave that reaches his lab, aggravating the nearby chemicals. Barry goes to investigate, when a bolt of lightning strikes a nearby chain, shooting him backward into the chemicals, which absorb into his skin with an electric red glow.

Back in Starling City, Oliver finds a Christmas present from Barry in the form of his new domino mask, which Felicity believes to make him appear as a true hero.

OUR REVIEW:

Well, that was certainly some stuff! It’d be unfair to grade ‘Arrow’s midseason finale against that of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,’ which once again failed to deliver on its potential in its own 2013 climax, but between all that we’ve witnessed tonight, is there any doubt which series masterfully maintains a balance of its out-there comic-book elements with actual character and emotional response. We think not. We merely offer a chance to reflect on how refreshing ‘Arrow’ can prove, zigging when you’d expect a zag, and twisting on its own mythology in a manner which almost never feels unearned.

Blood puns notwithstanding, “Three Ghosts” finally affords a chance for the various storylines to bleed together into a stronger narrative core, revealing that Brother Blood’s super-powered experiments originate with a very-much presently alive Slade Wilson, who vows revenge on Oliver for the loss of Shado, and their ultimate island conflict. Utilizing the titular ghosts proves a bit appropriately jarring at first, placing Shado and Slade into contexts we’d never seen them before, though the idea of Oliver’s internal torment pays off in real life with Slade’s true appearance. 'Arrow' season 2 had already offered improvement in tying its flashbacks more closely with the present story at hand, something the "Three Ghosts" wrinkle nicely capitalizes on.

The same goes for Colin Donnell’s return as Tommy, the subject broached earlier in the hour as Laurel mentions the Christmas party a year earlier, before paying off as the third of Oliver’s ghosts. We won’t bother to question the plausibility of Oliver sharing a full conversation with the character in the midst of his fight with Cyrus Gold, as the emotional core of Oliver’s relationship with Tommy has never decayed in the time since the previous season finale, Tommy’s memory lingering both in Oliver’s creedo, and the opening credits, for our benefit. Earning Tommy’s forgiveness opens up an entirely new chapter in Oliver’s turn as a vigilante hero, and speaks volumes toward ‘Arrow’’s quality as a whole, never forgetting its history and strong characterizations, even as it speeds off in exciting new directions.

As if that transition hadn’t proved obvious enough, Barry Allen’s return steals a bit less focus this time around, even as Gustin seems much more comfortable in the role, and much more of an active agent in the story than his somewhat clumsy integration last week. Relatively little can be said of Barry’s ultimate and fateful accident by the hour’s end, more of an inexorably exciting moment for comic book fans than anything that will have any real impact on ‘Arrow’ itself, but between Slade’s survival, references to Solomon Grundy and his future beyond, we needn’t look very far for the repeated rewards ‘Arrow’ offers its DC fanbase.

If anything, “Three Ghosts” offers almost too much to take in, excluding Moira or Malcolm Merlyn, Isabel Rochev, the League of Assassins and more, though we can hardly blame ‘Arrow’ for dividing its attention between all the shiny new toys, given that it so effectively strummed the emotional threads for a satisfying close to 2013. We’ll deal with Slade’s ultimate endgame, Roy’s apparent empowerment, and whatever else 2014 brings in due time. For now, we’re content to marvel over how deftly “Three Ghosts” manages to accomplish its Dickensian feats of exploring past, present and future, without skimping on the shiny explosions. And hey, they even found something for Laurel to do!

Well, what say you?  Did you feel that ‘Arrow’ hit the mark with its second year’s midseason finale? Were you as shocked by the “Three Ghosts” as the reveal of Slade’s survival, and Barry’s flashy accident? Give us your reactions in the comments, and join us in January for another all-new ‘Arrow’ recap of season 2, episode 10, midseason premiere “Blast Radius” on The CW!

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