‘Arrow’ Review: “Sara”
‘Arrow’ season 3 lets loose its second installment of the year with season premiere follow-up “Sara,” as the team grapples with Sara's death, and Roy is forced to reveal Thea's whereabouts, while in flashback Oliver acclimates to his new Hong Kong surroundings, and has a chance encounter with Tommy (Colin Donnell).
Last week's premiere installment “The Calm” saw Oliver's increased acclaim in Starling City threatened by a new Vertigo (Peter Stormare), while Queen Consolidated fell to billionaire Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh), so what does the second episode of ‘Arrow’ season 3 bring? Can Oliver be both himself and the 'Arrow' vigilante?
Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about ‘Arrow’ season 3, episode 2, “Sara!”
I wasn’t entirely crazy about last week’s premiere, or even the prospects of the season at large, given how showy all the promotional material has seemed of the “new day” dawning in Starling City, and a new chapter the series would undertake as a whole. Understandably worst of all was Sara’s ignominious end, which seemed like an exceptionally telegraphed and lazy way to kickstart the season’s plot, sacrificing a well-developed and beloved character for the pathos of another the series had never really done justice by.
If Sara had to go at least, in order to start Laurel down her own crucible toward the Canary role, I will say that tonight’s episode at least made pretty effective use of its inherent drama throughout. After all, if you’re going to kill such a noble creature, you’d better make sure to honor the sacrifice by using every part.
What “Sara” does well for Laurel is to provide Katie Cassidy with some strong emotional beats to play over the injustice of her sister’s death, particularly in smaller realizations like the reuse of Sara’s grave from 2007, or the uncertainty of what to tell Quentin about the news. Somewhat less effective were the more overt nods to Laurel’s future career in vigilantism, as her gruff interrogation of the Komodo witness proved a bit silly in context, and her eventual confrontation with the mercenary archer came to a fairly predictable end. You can see the wheels turning in the writers’ room, as Laurel’s grief-fueled rage will inevitably forge the character into someone with a cooler head and skills to match, though at least for the moment, Laurel’s journey more than literally jumped the gun.
Equally hit by Sarah’s death and the resultant pursuit was Stephen Amell’s Oliver, though the ex-billionaire archer had mostly to keep a lid on his grief for the sake of others. It’s especially impressive to remember how down on Amell critics could get for his often-stiff Oliver Queen persona, where smaller scenes tonight gave Amell so very much to say about Oliver with only a few words or gestures. Oliver articulates it nicely in conversation with Felicity that his vigilante lifestyle might one-day lead to the same anonymous death afforded to Sara, something he thought he’d come to terms with long ago, though that sentiment paid off thrice over in Amell’s weak delivery to Diggle that he didn’t want to end up dead in their basement.
The key thing to remember in the context of the series is that Sara’s death leaves almost no one in his inner circle to share a blood bond with, or at least someone to understand the horrors he’d been through in Lian Yu. Robert Queen died long ago, Moira fell victim to Slade’s revenge, and so too had Thea seemingly abandoned her brother for all his secrecy. Diggle, Felicity, Roy and Laurel all offer familial support in their own way, though Sara’s death hits hardest of all, simultaneously calling Oliver to tap into either side of himself, the stone-cold avenger, and the broken billionaire boy.
It’s also worth noting that because Oliver had so much to work through in the present day, the relatively minimal flashback sequences still manage to keep a quiet presence without detracting from the main storyline. Other than a quick return for Colin Donnell’s Tommy Merlyn, there isn’t much to see in Hong Kong this week than a snappy A to B to C plot of Oliver shedding hope to return from his odyssey, something the episode’s runtime doesn’t allow much time to resonate.
Felicity too got some strong moments to play this week, even if Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer doesn’t register much more beyond a persistently peppy force for change in "Star" City. Palmer managed to switch pretty effectively from charm to compassion upon seeing Felicity’s mysterious distress, though it’s Felicity’s ultimate decision to seek more from her life that really brings things full circle for the pair. Oliver made his decision last week to keep his identity fixated as the Arrow for the moment, and lacking any of the Amazon strength Felicity so admired Sara for, it feels right that the character would look for something beyond her dank basement role as the Arrow’s best gal.
It’s still unfortunate that we had to lose a great character like Sara to mine story for the third season, but the titular episode made some overall strong use of the resulting fallout. We’re still no closer to learning the truth behind her murder (Ra’s al Ghul still feels too obvious, but Oliver shooting the idea down on principle might be telling), though it made a degree of sense to have a more one-off villain like Komodo to act as a cipher for everyone’s grief. “Sara” felt more like the exceptional ‘Arrow’ we’d come to know than last week, and while a bit of the action and anger felt oddly on the nose, tonight’s installment had quite a bit to play with for only the second episode of the season.
AND ANOTHER THING...
- And yes, Thea Queen Merlyn pops up in Corto Maltese at the tag, now taking to calling her biological father Malcolm “dad,” though beyond the surface we’ve very little to make of the development. Especially effective however, was her reveal paralleling the season 1 reveal of John Barrowman as Tommy's father, down to the inflection. Symmetry!
- Did they add a new Middle Eastern-sounding music cue to the opening title? The logo is new, as it was last week, but nice touch.
- Given the secrets he himself keeps, I like that Oliver seemed almost understanding of Roy’s decision to keep Thea’s whereabouts a secret.
- Oliver may not have been thinking clearly, and sure it looks cool from a visual standpoint, but I wonder if either archer thought to take a stationary shot while the other charged on their motorcycle.
- I wonder if anyone’s kept a running tally of how many times the Arrow crashes through Queen Consolidated windows. Awkward party timing not withstanding.
- The series would do well to show its emotional moments more than tell. Consider how effective Laurel’s tag with the shark doll would be if we’d heard that story in another episode, or if we simply saw the name on Diggle’s daughter’s pajamas, rather than the awkward interjection at Sara’s funeral.
- And where 'Arrow' seems to have learned this particular lesson, 'The Flash' continues killing off its one-off villains.
Well, what say you? Did ‘Arrow’ hit the mark with its second season 3 installment? How did you feel about Sara's death and Oliver's Hong Kong encounter? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and check back next week for our review of ‘Arrow’ season 3′s latest, “Corto Maltese” on The CW!