Five months have passed since Oliver Queen saved his city from Deathstroke and things have only gotten better since that night. Crime is down across the board. The public at large love their city's superhero. Roy Harper is now a full partner in Ollie's nightly activities as The Arrow. John Diggle has a baby on the way with his ex-wife Lyla. And a newly promoted Captain Lance has disbanded the SCPD's Anti-Vigilante Task Force. Throw in the fact that Oliver and Laurel have come up with a plan to bring Queen Consolidated under Oliver's control and everything's coming up roses... until a new scientist/businessman comes to town with his own designs on Ollie's old company.
Still, things have calmed down to the point where Oliver feels that he can balance a relationship with the other aspects of his life. And that leads to him asking Felicity out on a date. But the past few months have just been the calm before the storm. A new Count Vertigo is in town and he has designs on bringing down The Arrow. And another tragic death will soon shake the lives of everyone in Team Arrow.
The New 52 Justice League of America (The Ollie Queen/Amanda Waller relationship) and the Mike Grell run on Green Arrow (the theme of Oliver Queen being his own worst enemy)
Felicity seems to recover quickly from her injuries after the restaurant explosion given how much blood she seemed to have lost. (She had a scalp wound, which always look worse than they truly are)
As always, the show's ensemble cast is so good that it is difficult to single any one actor out for the quality of their performance. But it must be noted that I think Stephen Amell smiles more in the first half hour of this episode than he did in all 46 hours of the first two seasons of Arrow. That as much as anything else shows how much Oliver Queen has changed in five months.
Brandon Routh does a marvelous job of establishing Ray Palmer's character. In contrast to Grant Gustin's Barry Allen, who is more of a shy, awkward geek, Ray Palmer seems to be the other extreme - a brilliant man who doesn't know when to shut up. Despite this, Routh manages to play Palmer with just enough charm that his admission of tracking Felicity down by hacking her phone's GPS doesn't come off as creepy. The chemistry between Routh and Emily Bett Rickards is immediately apparent and promises to be fun to watch in coming episodes.
It's been said that the theme for this season will be Identity and that certainly is the dominant theme of this episode's script. Oliver's worries about having a life outside his role as The Arrow, John's discomfort with being pushed out of the role of a soldier now that he's becoming a father and Quentin struggling with not being a beat cop anymore take up much of the episode but these are far from the only examples. Roy seems to have thrown himself into the role of Oliver's partner and has shown visible improvement in his combat skills since the last time we saw him. Felicity's discomfort throughout the episode seems to be born, in part, because her identity has become so tied up in serving Oliver's mission that being forced out of that role is painful. And then there's the ending, which will apparently be kicking off Laurel's transformation into someone else.... or something else.
The fight between Ollie and himself is handled incredibly well and the editing does a lot to mask that The Hood 's back is to the camera whenever wee see Ollie's face.
In the comics, Roy Harper adopted the identity of Red Arrow and wore a color-swapped version of Oliver Queen's classic Green Arrow costume.
The new Count Vertigo - Werner Zytle - shares a name with The New 52 version of Count Vertigo from the comics but that is all they have in common apart from apparently both being from Eastern Europe. The new Count Vertigo on the show maintains the same MO as the first Arrow version of The Count, being a drug dealer who uses a heightened version of the Vertigo drug to cause his enemies to visualize their worst fears.
In the comics, Ray Palmer is the secret identity of the size-shifting superhero The Atom. While Ray Palmer in the comics was an academic with little interest in business, the basic personality of a talkative, wise-cracking geek presented here is true to the original character.
Ollie orders a Scotch-neat while he's at dinner with Felicity. This was his preferred drink in the comics, as well.
The tune Count Vertigo whistles while launching a rocket and wiring a bomb is In The Hall Of The Mountain King by Edvard Grieg. This may, in itself, be a reference to the 1931 film M, which involved a gang of criminals working to stop a killer after the police turn a blind eye to the activities of said killer since it gives them an excuse to go after lesser criminals with greater force, not unlike what the SCPD seems to be doing in regard to The Arrow.
The joke Ray Palmer makes about validating his parking when he rode in a helicopter is similar to an exchange between Oliver Queen and Bruce Wayne in Green Arrow #35 - the first Green Arrow comic written by Arrow Executive Producer Andrew Kreisberg and Producer Ben Sokolowski. This comic came out one week before this episode originally aired.
The idea that Oliver Queen is his own worst enemy was a recurring theme in the Green Arrow books written by Mike Grell.
Ray Palmer's proposal is named Star City - a reference to the original name of Oliver Queen's home town in the comics.
According to the jackets worn by one of the ring teams at the boxing match, one of the fighters is Ted "The Wildcat" Grant. In the comics, Wildcat was a boxer turned superhero who had a hand in training Dinah Lance to become The Black Canary.
There is a Ferris Air banner visible at ringside. Ferris Air is the employer of Hal Jordan aka The Green Lantern in the comics.
The agent in Amanda Waller's employ who informs Oliver that his family will be killed if Oliver successfully escapes is named Masseo Yamashiro. His wife, Tatsu, is well known to comic fans as the super heroine Katana.
Oliver has a new toy - a collapsible bow that expands outward from the grip.
We see Oliver make use of an explosive arrow, a zip-line arrow and an arrow that creates a trip wire.
Oliver: Last girlfriend? She's in the League of Assassins. My girlfriend before that? She shot my girlfriend before that. It's - I'm not exactly a catch at the moment
John: Maybe Felicity will change it all around?
Oliver: It's not the right time.
John: Things are as good now as they're they ever will be, Oliver. I mean, you love her. You even told her so.
Oliver: I was trying to fool Slade.
John: Yes. Except now the only person you're fooling is yourself.
(In the office of Lyla's OB-GYN)
Lyla: I feel like an M1A1.
(Her Doctor looks confused)
John: It's a tank! Think a big, big tank!
Oliver: The entire time that I was gone I could never... completely trust someone. And when that goes on for so long you stop ...seeing people for people. You see.. threats. Or targets. And when I decided to come home, I... I just didn't know how to turn that part of me off. Then I walked into your office. You were the first person I could see as a... person. There was just something about you.
Felicity: I was chewing on a pen.
Oliver: It was red.
Ollie: People need to realize I don't speak Chinese.
Ollie: You speak English!
Tatsu: Better than you speak Chinese.
Ray: Science. Numbers. I like numbers. These numbers show QC's performance under Mister Queen's management. I'm using that term extremely loosely, BTW....
John: Oliver, I gave the last three years of my life to your crusade, Now, I don't know what that's supposed to earn me but it earns me at least the right to make my own choices.
Oliver: No, it doesn't.
John: Dammit, Oliver you would be dead ten-times-over if it wasn't for me!
Oliver: You're right. But this is my crusade. Which makes this my decision.
And the whole exchange between Felicity and Ray in the hospital. But especially...
Ray: Seems somebody hacked my cel phone. And my laptop. And my desktop.
Felicity: (sarcastically) Gee. That's too bad.
Ray: All my data's been replaced by audio files of porcupine flatulence. So I was hoping that maybe whoever did it might be willing to undo it if I apologized for misleading them in any way.
Felicity: That would probably work. Oh! Unless you, of course, you did all that to steal that person's friend's company, in which case, I would suggest getting used to the sound of spiky rodents farting!
Masseo: One man cannot live by two names.
Oliver: What does that mean?
Masseo: In your case, I believe it means not having any choice.
The show's opening "Previously on Arrow" montage shows Roy being recruited into Team Arrow and being given a mask, Sara Lance rejoining the League of Assassins, Quentin Lance having collapsing, Moira Queen's death, Oliver's fake-out of Slade where he claimed Felicity was the woman he loved instead of Laurel and Oliver telling John Diggle that he didn't spend all five of his years in exile on The Island.
Roy's archery has improved visibly since that last time we saw him use a bow in A223. He now wears a costume like Ollie's, but in dark red rather than green.
Oliver is still living in the Arrow Cave.
Thea is apparently texting Oliver. Little is made of this beyond it upsetting Roy, who announces his intent to go on patrol and clear his head.
Oliver makes John's daughter an arrowhead necklace.
Oliver makes reference to the events of A217 and The Huntress shooting Laurel.
Quentin Lance is promoted to Captain. As a result of his injuries in A223, he now walks with a cane.
Felicity is now working in sales/tech support at Tech Villa - a big box-style electronic shop that seems to be partly inspired by Best Buy.
Ray Palmer's company apparently makes smart watches and he's rich enough to own his own helicopter.
Oliver is able to overcome the effects of Vertigo through sheer force of will.
Felicity says "Mazel Tov" upon the birth of John's daughter - a reminder of Felicity's Jewish heritage, which was first revealed back in A209.
Oliver receives a phone call from Barry Allen, which sets up his appearance in The Flash pilot.
Sara Lance returns to Starling City for reasons she doesn't want her father to be made aware of. She meets with Laurel on a rooftop before being shot three times in the stomach with arrows by someone she recognized who was using a voice modulator and knew her secret identity.
According to Amanda Waller, Ollie tried to escape from custody nine times over five months. During the ninth attempt, he pick-pocketed a cellular phone and attempted to use a computer in an Internet cafe to e-mail his mother.
As of the third year of his exile, Oliver could not speak Chinese or Japanese.
Hong Kong, where Oliver was apparently taken by Amanda Waller during the third year of his exile.
The Fridge Factor
Sara Lance is shot multiple times by an unseen archer. The show creators have already confessed this is intended to drive much of the plot of the third season and to cause more grief for Oliver and Laurel, as the later is pushed to become the new Black Canary.
The Bottom Line
A powerful start for the third season and a wonderful episode... right up until the last minute, which will leave you wailing and gnashing your teeth. Only my confidence in the creative team - and the fact that Lazarus Pits might exist in this reality - are keeping me from rage quitting this series in spite of everything else being so good. It will take a hell of a lot for them to start turning Laurel Lance into any kind of character worth of the legacy of Black Canary but I am willing to give them that chance.