Arrow’ season 3 lets loose its 10th installment of the year with 2015 premiere “Left Behind,” as the team comes to grips with news of Oliver’s fate, Ray Palmer and Laurel suit up, and DC villain Brick (Vinnie Jones) begins an assault on the Glades.

Last year’s midseason finale “The Climb” saw Oliver face off with Ra’s al Ghul over the identity of Sara’s killer, while Laurel was forced to confront her family with the truth, and Felicity discovered the scope of Ray Palmer’s plans for Starling City, so what does the 10th episode of ‘Arrow’ season 3 bring? Can the team press on without its hooded leader?

Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about ‘Arrow’ season 3, episode 10, midseason premiere “Left Behind!”

Exciting though it was to have Oliver teaming up with ‘The Flash’ and subsequently dueling notorious Batman baddie Ra’s al Ghul atop a mountain, I don’t know that any ‘Arrow’ fan would necessarily deny that season 3’s former half has somewhat lacked the urgency of its predecessors. Whether by Merlyn or Slade Wilson’s personal connections before, we don’t yet know that Ra’s holds any larger plans for Starling City than a settled score with Oliver, and despite tonight’s revelations that Maseo seemingly broke ranks to help return his former partner to life, there isn’t yet any indication of an overarching threat.

That said, we’ve had a month to sit with knowledge and speculation of Oliver’s fate, readily building suspense and eagerness to pick up with the next chapter, and to that end at least, tonight’s 2015 premiere proved tremendously effective in running with the ball. Not only do both present and flashback timelines (thanks to Tatsu’s kidnapping) finally have the urgency that season 3 has lacked to date, but so too do the supporting characters of Team ‘Arrow’ get the spotlight they’ve richly deserved, particularly given how crowded the lair has become over the last year.

Felicity hasn’t exactly lacked for screentime or story beats, though “Left Behind” understandably gets the most mileage of Emily Bett Rickards’ myriad reactions to Oliver’s absence, whether by her apparent refusal to face the truth, seething agency against Malcolm Merlyn for precipitating Oliver’s ultimate fate, or her ultimate insistence on protecting the friends she has left. Say what you will about Felicity being only 25 (Rickards is in reality 23, so yeah, we’re all dinosaurs), it’s exceptionally effective to see the character taking such emotional command in the wake of Oliver’s apparent demise.

Also carrying plenty of the hour’s weight are Diggle and Roy, arguably two of the most shafted characters in season 3. Diggle even name-checks his season 1 role as Oliver’s bodyguard to remind us how far the characters have grown into their heroic roles, and while the former soldier has never failed to provide a voice of reason, Oliver’s removal justly keeps Diggle in the spotlight as an essential foundation to the now-rudderless team. Both he and Roy grapple with the bitter pill of Oliver’s work going down the toilet, and both former “sidekicks” ably rise to the task of steering the ship (or at least questioning the course) in the Arrow’s wake.

Brandon Routh has a lousy track record of taking over, anyway.

Granted, the notion I found rippling through my notes overall, was that while Oliver’s death instills a purpose to characters sorely lacking direction through the first nine episodes (the same way Tatsu’s kidnapping energizes the flashbacks), it can’t quite redeem the pacing issues ‘Arrow’’s third year has faced. “Left Behind” works tremendously as a reintroduction to the team’s desperate situation, providing a great deal to push on with as well, but benefits tremendously from the month-long gap we had to allow “The Climb”s resonance.

By the same token, Laurel’s costumed entry into the vigilante lifestyle can’t help but feel more rushed than usual, even balanced with courtroom scenes identifying the legal blockades that push her to seek an alternative justice. The same goes for Ray’s continued work in developing the ATOM suit, as ‘Arrow’ tends to inelegantly drop pathos primers, regardless of how well it utilizes them in subsequent weeks. We only just learned of this “Hannah” Ray lost to Slade’s riots, and despite how well Brandon Routh sells the anguished outrage of Felicity’s presumptions, or Laurel the desire to avenge Sara’s murder, strong character work can’t excuse the rushed narrative that got them there.

Really, the same could be said of Oliver’s speedy return, the audience having only just come to grips with the character’s potential absence, and even then only outside the flashbacks, though I suppose Tatsu’s presence and the unexplained nature of his resurrection leaves plenty of questions to be answered.

Still bringing up the rear this season are any and all scenes involving Thea, as despite her concern for Oliver’s whereabouts, continued secrecy from the Arrow’s identity strains credulity to the breaking point. Particulalry after identifying Roy as the red hood, or the team’s questions as to why Thea should remain ignorant of her brother’s demise, we’d hope the latter half of season 3 finds more for the character than to remain Malcolm’s dutiful puppet. If nothing else, considering how well our patience with season 3 paid off tonight overall, ‘Arrow’ has more than earned some additional credit.

AND ANOTHER THING…

  • Knowing the show’s propensity for variation, was the ‘Arrow’ title card notably lacking in green tonight?
  • One thing that should certainly be noted is Vinnie Jones’ charisma as the imposing “Brick,” the three-episode arc of which deftly sweeps aside ‘Arrow’’s usual issue with compelling one-off villains in midseason premieres. And for the record, shall we assume his gun has a curved barrel?
  • “I wonder what’s up with Thea’s DJ boyfriend,” said no one in history.
  • Great attention to detail tonight, whether by Diggle acknowledging reasons for ditching the ‘Arrow’ costume, or Merlyn anticipating the group’s accusation of faking Oliver’s death.
  • We may be lacking in Roy flips for the foreseeable future, though Arsenal at least seems plenty acrobatic.
  • I spent the break watching ‘The Wire’ for the first time, taking stock of its insight into how quickly criminal cases can fall apart in the real world. It didn’t up my appreciation for ‘Gotham’ any, but I can't help but note that Brick kept the SCPD evidence for himself, a likely payoff for returning Oliver’s 89% progress within a few episodes.
  • So, if not Lazarus pits, whaddaya got, folks?

Well, what say you? Did ‘Arrow’ hit the mark with its 10nth season 3 installment? How did you feel about Oliver’s absence, and/or return? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and check back next week for our review of ‘Arrow’ season 3’s latest, “Midnight City” on The CW!