Arrow’ season 3 lets loose its 11th installment of the year with “Midnight City,” as the team reluctantly accepts Laurel’s help as Black Canary in bringing down Brick (Vinnie Jones), while Malcolm urges Thea to flee town with him for fear of Ra’s al Ghul.

Last week’s midseason premiere “Left Behind” saw Team Arrow coming to grips with Oliver’s apparent fate, Ray Palmer and Laurel suiting up, and DC villain Brick beginning an assault on the Glades, so what does the 11th episode of ‘Arrow’ season 3 bring? Can the team still press on without its hooded leader? Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about ‘Arrow’ season 3, episode 11, “Midnight City!”

Last week’s ‘Arrow’ premiere definitely took the ball and ran with Oliver’s apparent fate, even if the much-needed urgency didn’t quite illuminate season 3’s overall focus or endgame. If anything, the only real complaints the previous hour drew came from the rushed developments of Laurel’s ascension to the Canary mantle, or Oliver’s apparent return, where it previously seemed like producers had set us up for an absence of at least a few episodes. Tonight’s “Midnight City” at least felt like a much more nuanced hour, allowing some of the ideas of its predecessor to percolate, and live in the new Staring City dynamic.

A show called ‘Arrow’ obviously isn’t going to spend very long with its titular character out of the limelight, though given all that Laurel’s early crimefighting efforts left us to explore in Starling, we needn’t necessarily have pulled out of the story so often to check in with Oliver’s recovery, or inch along Maseo’s motivations in flashback. However implausible Brick’s criminal antics may have become back in the Glades, “Left Behind” made a strong point of showing the team struggle in Oliver’s absence, while tonight utilized Laurel’s multiple failures to galvanize the team into carrying on regardless.

And whether or not you’ve grown past Laurel’s less interesting arcs over the prior two seasons, at least enough to accept her joining team vigilante full-time, “Midnight City” very much gave the ADA her due in beatings and bitter failures. I’m less convinced on continually keeping Quentin in the dark on Sara’s death, considering how heavily season 3 has tread on the point to date, though Laurel makes a good point early on about criminals fearing the Canary by reputation. Roy’s limited skills and presence would only keep the bad guys running for so long, and it makes a higher degree of sense that Laurel would need to pose as her sister, lest Quentin quickly deduce that Laurel took over for a murdered Sara.

Another thing “Midnight City” did well in Oliver’s absence was to experiment with a few rare character pairings, notably Laurel and Roy. Not only do the two team up on their own, but so too does Laurel’s defeat help Felicity realize the value of carrying on their crusade, strengthening hers and Laurel’s relationship as well. Even Roy got to put in some strong work in facing down Malcolm Merlyn, dropping truth bombs of his experience with Thea, rather than attempt any physical defeat. We can only hope that Oliver’s inevitable return doesn’t stifle opportunities for such unexplored character dynamics, especially given the valuable lessons learned on protecting family and keeping hope alive.

Hope for some characters' usefulness is admittedly harder than others.

Elsewhere, I’m still not entirely certain what to do with Ray or his potential romantic pairing with Felicity, though the two certainly got in some adorkable banter between helicopters and lasers. Ray scenes and stalled development on the ATOM suit seem a million miles away from the Glades at this point, though I appreciated Ray’s selflessness in wanting to protect Felicity moreso than the city itself. As Oliver’s dream showed early on, a part of him laments not choosing Felicity over Ra’s al Ghul, where Ray makes little hesitation in choosing Felicity above all. That, and her decision to join Ray’s quest by helping him not die was just plain cute.

Still somewhat dragging are scenes between Thea and Merlyn, as it remains difficult to get a bead on the latter’s motivations. We’re meant to assume that Malcolm is genuine in wishing to protect his only living family, even going so far as to admit a portion of the truth about Ra’s al Ghul, though it doesn’t 100% track that Thea’s resolve would convince Merlyn to stay and take on the League of Assassins, considering his earlier fear of it. Like Quentin, Thea’s incorporation into the narrative can’t help but suffer by the character being kept in the dark for so long, but hey, at least we know her DJ boyfriend isn’t completely boring anymore!

The first two hours of ‘Arrow’’s 2015 run have definitely ratcheted up season 3 overall, especially given how long it usually takes the DC drama to find its feet after winter breaks, and it’s nice to see the writers taking Laurel’s stumbles and Starling’s dire need for a hero so seriously. Oliver will surely return before very long, and I’ll admit to some worry over losing progress characters like Laurel and Roy have made in his absence, but thus far Brick’s assault on Starling City has been thoroughly entertaining to watch. Whether or not Ra’s al Ghul returns with some clearer endgame remains to be seen, but for now Team ‘Arrow’ seems to be thriving on their own.

AND ANOTHER THING…

  • Was that ‘Arrow’’s first real dream sequence? And are we really to believe that Oliver’s wounds were healed by nothing more than timing, temperature and penicillin? That’s the pits.
  • I made a point of highlighting Malcolm’s respect for his daughter’s wishes, otherwise, why not just knock her out, or brainwash her into following him out of town again?
  • Oh come on, someone arrest Brick! He’s right there, hostages or no!
  • How often are Team Arrow finding themselves on tape, or are we meant to assume they’re still sloppy enough without Oliver?
  • Colton Haynes really deserves accolades for showing Roy step up as his own man, particularly with Laurel and Merlyn. It’s almost enough to forgive FlipGate.
  • “What does that mean?” “I have no earthly idea.”
  • The flashbacks suffered a bit without actually clarifying what turned Maseo into such a cold-blooded Leaguer (presumably losing his son?). Also, what side is he really on, to be working Thea’s boyfriend for Ra’s?
  • There was literally no other way to make that character interesting by the way, so thank goodness for the League of Shadows.

Well, what say you? Did ‘Arrow’ hit the mark with its 11th season 3 installment? How did you feel about Laurel’s new identity? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and check back next week for our review of ‘Arrow’ season 3’s latest, “Uprising” on The CW!