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The Return of the Queen. 

At long last we have reached the end of Season 3 of ‘Arrow,’ and though the season has proved to be uneven, at least we can always count on the show delivering a memorable finale that no one could have anticipated when this season began.

Picking up where last week left off (kind of, as Oliver did manage to find time to travel over to ‘The Flash’ to help Barry apprehend his big bad of the season in last night’s episode), Oliver, Ras, Nyssa and a group of League assassins are on a plane bound for Starling City, the vial of Alpha-Omega virus in hand. Ras awakens Oliver from a dream, and they discuss dreams in general right before engine trouble hits the plane.

arrow quiver crew in cellBack in the cell holding Team Arrow, everyone wakes up coughing, and Merlyn explains that Oliver used his inoculated blood to create more inoculations for the team, which Merlyn delivered to them shortly before they were exposed to the virus (which I did call in last week’s recap!). Merlyn is disappointed not to get a thank you from anyone on the team, as Felicity points out the flaw in the plan: they’re still locked up. Fortunately the thunder they hear in the distance heralds the next part of Oliver and Merlyn’s plan, the arrival of The Flash himself, who makes short work of the League goons and breaks open their cell. (also of note, Felicity calls him “Barry,” revealing, as Barry points out, his secret identity to super-villain Malcolm Merlyn). arrow felicity and the flashUnfortunately Barry has his own super-villain to deal with back home, so he cannot stick around to help the team, but he does give them all a pep talk, reminding them that despite everything, Oliver still needs his team. And with that, Barry runs off, back to his own show for what is sure to be an epic finale next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, on the doomed League plane, Ras accuses Nyssa of sabotaging the plane, not believing that Oliver would hinder his plans after he allowed his friends to die back in Nanda Parbat. Oliver corrects him, proudly announcing “My name is Oliver Queen,” as he and Nyssa attack the League, with Oliver and Ras battling for the virus. Though they manage to subdue the League goons, Ras escapes with the plane’s only parachute (convenient much?) as well as the virus, leaving Oliver and Nyssa to perform a controlled crash landing (luckily Oliver picked up piloting skills somewhere along the way).

arrow quiver crewThe Quiver Crew arrives back at Palmer Technologies, where Merlyn preps them as Plan B in case Oliver’s plan to crash the plane fails, the team reluctantly following his lead as they knew time is short if they are going to prevent the virus from wiping out Starling City. Nyssa and Oliver arrive, and Oliver does not get the friendly greeting he once would have, instead finding his friends pissed off that he trusted Merlyn instead of them. Diggle punches him in the face, while everyone else gives the core members, Oliver, Diggle and Felicity a moment to talk. It’s clear Diggle is not going to forgive Oliver anytime soon, while Felicity is hurt that Oliver’s plan was to die alongside Ras in order to stop the virus (I wonder how Nyssa felt about being forced into a suicide mission without anyone consulting her?). In the end, they all know they still have to stop Ras from releasing the virus, so they agree to table the argument for later. They begin hunting down Ras, finding it difficult as his old school means of remaining hidden stymie any efforts by Felicity to track him using technological means.

Laurel is given orders to speak to her father and get the police on the case, finding Captain Lance just as angry and stubborn as the last time she spoke to him. She tells him what’s going on, resulting in my favorite line of the night, uttered by Captain Lance. “City’s under attack? Must be May.” (I love the meta -ness of this statement) She realizes he’s been drinking, and despite her dad’s insistence that he has it under control, with only 2 drinks a day, Laurel calls him on his BS, and offers him a choice. Keep drinking and hating Oliver and her team and let the city perish, or lose the bottle and help them save the day.

Back at Palmer Technologies, the team learns that Damien Darhk is in Starling City, and Oliver surmises that Ras must have planned all along to unleash the virus on his arch-nemesis, killing two birds with one stone. The team heads out to capture Darhk, planning on trading his life for the virus, a plan just ruthless enough for Merlyn to approve of. Unfortunately, by the time Oliver arrives, Darhk has already fled Starling City, having realized that Ras was in town. He left behind an emissary to greet Ras and/or his minions, who is killed by an arrow ostensibly fired by Ras, which also delivers a phone where Ras informs Oliver he will be delivering the virus via 4 “instruments of death.”

arrow olive and felicity momentThe team proceeds to hunt down the four instruments, with Felicity using satellites to track the unique signature the virus has. While the computer does its work, Felicity and Oliver have a moment, where they talk about his plan to kill himself to stop Ras. Oliver tells her about a recurring dream he has where they leave Starling together after she asked him not to go after Ras around midseason, and Felicity points out that Oliver is a different man now, not Oliver Queen or the Arrow, but something new, and potentially better. She tells him to fight not to die, but rather to live, and says his ability to feel something is not a weakness, but a strength, something that will allow him to defeat Ras, something he could not do before. He sees her point, and we, the audience, are grateful to see one last Felicity pep talk before the showdown.

With the team splitting up and going after the four most likely areas, Oliver is confronted by a League member who says Ras is waiting for him at the local dam, where they can watch his city die together. Oliver leaves to confront Ras and end it once and for all, while Diggle encounters the first League “instrument,” a man in a trench coat holding a briefcase. He takes down the man, being saved at the last minute by 3 arrows fired from a red-suited archer, who we learn is Thea, all suited up in Roy’s re-tailored Arsenal costume. (hurray for Thea finally joining the team and having a costume!) Unfortunately, the briefcase is empty, and they learn the man himself is the carrier of the disease, his blood hitting the air causing the disease to spread. (no worries about Thea, in a throwaway line she explains that Merlyn inoculated her beforehand). While Felicity and Ray work on a method of dispersing the cure to the virus via his nanotech, Merlyn encounters another League agent and takes the man down bloodlessly, taking him away from populated areas, while Nyssa and Laurel (Black Canary) take down another. (I don’t recall see them nabbing the fourth guy, but it’s clear the team does).

arrow oliver and ras duelOliver arrives at the dam and faces off with Ras using the sword he was stabbed with midseason. While they battle, Captain Lance arrives at the dam and finds police there under the orders of the commissioner, being told to shoot both men when the opportunity presents itself, as they have guessed that one or both are responsible for the virus in Starling. Lance calls and warns Felicity, saying that whatever he feels about Oliver, he doesn’t want the man to die while trying to save the city. Felicity tries to get Ray to suit up to save Oliver, but he can’t afford to leave the nanotech when it’s almost ready to deliver the anti-dote and save thousands of people. Oliver defeats Ras at the last minute, stabbing him and then offering him the proper words of a League farewell, for all intents and purposes becoming the new Ras in that moment. The police open fire, and Oliver is hit and knocked off the dam. Fortunately the ATOM suit flashes over the dam, swooping down and saving Oliver before he hits the water. They land at yet another abandoned warehouse facility in Starling (apparently the city’s industries never recovered from the economic downturn in 2008), and we realize Felicity is wearing the suit. She quips that if she knew how to take the armor off she would kiss Oliver, and we breath a sigh of relief. The city is safe, and as we later learn, the League armor Oliver was wearing protected him from the gunshots.

In tonight’s final Hong Kong flashbacks, Oliver and Maseo take down Shrieve and his men, Oliver going into a type of berserker rage that showcases how far his combat abilities have come along. Akio is cremated, with Tatsu giving the ashes to Oliver, Maseo and herself in three containers, right before Oliver leaves. Tatsu and Maseo find him hours later standing over Shrieve’s bloodied and arrow studded body, Oliver clearly having tortured the man for all he did. Tatsu is horrified, while Maseo pulls out his gun and shoots Shrieve in the head, ending the man’s pain. Maseo leaves, saying he doesn’t deserve Tatsu, despite her pleas that she needs him. Afterwards, Tatsu tells Oliver she is going to a monastery near her home in Japan, while Oliver tells her he can’t go home yet, he needs to be alone. We last see him boarding a ship for Coast City, setting up (*sigh*) more flashbacks for next season. Here’s hoping they step it up next year, as this year’s flashbacks have been subpar, especially when compared to the flashbacks from Seasons 1 and 2.

arrow ollie nyssa and felicity endIn the episode aftermath, the reunited and expanded Quiver Crew reconvenes at Palmer Technologies, Oliver completing his journey of the season by admitting he could not have saved his city without all of their help, even giving his blessing to Thea joining the team, though they disagree about her name (Oliver wants to continue her nickname of Speedy, while she wants to be called the Red Arrow). He tells them that the city no longer needs him as the team is heroes enough for Starling, especially now that Ras took away the Arrow identity. He reveals that he and Felicity will be leaving, together, meaning Olicity is finally happening, and for the brief time between now and the beginning of Season 4, they will get a happy ending. Diggle at first does not want to stay with the team as one of Starling’s heroes, but Oliver follows him and they talk, with Diggle still unable to forgive his friend, but agreeing to think about staying on as one of the city’s protectors. Oliver does tell Diggle that if he continues, he should get a mask, and potentially a code-name, setting the stage for (hopefully) Diggle adopting his own costumed identity next season.

arrow merlyn and oliver endAt the Queen apartment, Merlyn and Thea converse briefly. She’s still angry at him, but admits he promised to make her strong, and she is now. Oliver enters and reaffirms that he will never forgive Merlyn for what he did to Sara and Thea (and Tommy! let’s not forget Merlyn caused his death too!), but that they will only be enemies if Merlyn uses his new status as Ras Al Ghul for evil purposes. (apparently that was what Merlyn wanted out of everything, to take Oliver’s place as the new Head of the League). In Nanda Parbat, we see Merlyn take his place as the new Ras, ordering all to kneel before him, including Nyssa, who says she will still find a way to make him pay for killing Sara, but kneels nonetheless.

Ray Palmer is running tests with his nanobots in Palmer Technologies, realizing that he could use them to shrink parts of his suit. When he activates the test, nothing happens, but then we cut to the outside of the building, where a massive explosion takes out the whole floor, ostensibly killing Ray. (unlikely, as he is coming back next year in ‘Legends of Tomorrow’)

The episode ends with shots of the police packing up evidence from the former Arrow Cave, while Oliver and Felicity drive off into the sunset, with Oliver narrating the following:

“My name is Oliver Queen. After five years in hell, I returned home with only one goal: to save my city. And I did. I became a hero who helped people. But, now it’s time for me to be someone else. It’s time for me to be something else.”

BOW-STRING THEORIES:

arrow oliver black arrow– I’m guessing Thea’s codename will always go back and forth between Speedy and Red Arrow, though her adoption of a color before “Arrow” might inspire Oliver to become “Green Arrow” next season when he inevitably returns to Starling City.

– Rumor is that Rip Hunter will appear to save Ray right before the explosion, and hopefully at least some of the suit. I can’t believe we were so close to Ray FINALLY using his shrinking abilities, only to have it end so tragically.

– Damien Darhk is mentioned, but still not seen on the show. I’m guessing he and his HIVE allies will be major players in ‘Arrow’ season 4

All in all, despite the admittedly low points, the season was still better than a lot of other shows on TV right now, and I applaud the show for always doing things differently, and throwing in many surprises and twists along the way. Here’s hoping next season the shows returns to some more solid ground, with a better villain that can really raise the stakes and expand on the story.

It’s been a pleasure recapping ‘Arrow’ Season 3, and I look forward to returning in the fall for Season 4!