Arrow "S3E19 Broken Arrow" - Review: Death and metahumans come to Starling

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Arrow "S3E19 Broken Arrow" - Review: Death and metahumans come to Starling

“There is only one god and his name is Death, and there is only one thing we say to Death: not today". Well sadly for the heroes of Starling City, death has something very different in mind for them. For many weeks now, the showrunners have been teasing us that this week, a significant character will die and when you consider the big faces Arrow has already despatched over the last 3 years, many beloved characters feel more threatened than we’d prefer. So who’s it gonna be? Or more importantly how will it happen? It’s time to find out as one arrow in the quiver breaks for good.

Broken Arrow – An archer is behind bars but not the one Quentin lance wants as Roy takes the fall for Oliver, but the Police Captain is still determined to prove Oliver guilty. With The Arrow behind bars, Oliver turns to The ATOM to deal with Starling City’s first metahuman criminal, Deathbolt, but is Ray ready for such a challenge?

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This is officially the first metahuman on Arrow, who's quite a big deal. It’s a firm change on their longstanding “no superpowers” principles. However, the successful transition of The Flash onto Arrow during last December’s epic crossover changed Greg Berlanti’s mind, and now, Deathbolt becomes the first prove he was right. It doesn’t waste any time beating around the meta-bush either, as mere seconds in and security guards are getting a cold fatal stare complete with rather corny sound effects that make us wonder if this was the right decision. Thankfully, the villain’s performance is carried by the ever reliable Doug Jones (a veteran of many comic and creature characters, most famously Abe Sapien in Hellboy), who brings some real guile to his performance. Yet the real masterstroke was benching The Arrow and pitting against The ATOM. As soon as the pair meets, their battles have a wonderful old school comic feel to them, from exchanging quips to the frantic fist-fighting intertwined with power blasts. With Oliver in the field, this would have felt too dumb but as a more comic character, Ray Parker makes it work perfectly. Arrow gives us something it often struggles to achieve: a genuine underdog hero. We know Ray is tech glad but nothing so far has shown him as any kind of fighter (including getting owned by Brick’s thugs in Midnight City). The episode effectively recaps that as Ray gets his shiny metal arse handed to him in round 1 before seeing him rally like a demented “Rock ‘em Sock ‘em” robot in the rematch. It’s excellent balance of punishment and reward to emphasise with his character who will actually have you cheering him on like you’ve slipped into a Rocky movie.

This story also offers some much needed hero development for Ray Parker. The season has focused heavily on developing in the super suit but less so the man inside it. Arguably, it is getting to it a bit too late, considering Ray’s imminent spin-off departure but that takes nothing away from the episode in isolation. There’s some clear and very enjoyable comparables between Oliver’s lessons to Ray and those to Barry in Flash Vs Arrow. He puts the same, superior but mildly exhausted voice on, and his lessons have the same focus, that just having power is not enough, he has to learn how to use it. The tech link up provides a nice ATOM twist on that as Oliver takes the fighting reins, and there’s no shortage of great laughs between this polar opposite pairing. From Ray’s high fiving obsession and Oliver’s frustration over calling it a team up (a good nod to his Flash appearance), to heaps of wonderful awkward moments from Felicity as her love and double work lives have regrettably merged together. Despite being more an ATOM central episode (a nucleus?), writer Jake Coburn does a great job of still giving Oliver relevant story as he must learn let others help him. It links well to the supporting resurgence from his near death sabbatical and reinforces the belief in Oliver and the rest becoming stronger as result of their season’s ordeals.

Despite all the meta-tech mash-ups, the real star of this episode is Colton Hayes. Roy’s character has taken more of a back seat this season due to overcrowding, so it’s great to see him getting some greater focus as he takes one for the team. There’s an interesting feel of The Watchmen to many of his scenes. From the anti-mask/vigilante protest signs as Roy’s brought in to the police station, to his Rorschach-like entrance into Iron Heights Prison with the many out to kill him. Over the last two seasons, Roy has delivered no shortage of acrobatic action but his prison sequence here is his best by an absolute mile as he beats off multiple hulking thugs while handcuffed. The choreography is fast and furious and makes great use of the conveniently spacious prison area. Roy also gets some great dramatic moments as all around him question his sacrifice play. The best come from a genuinely empathising Quentin and the touching visitation by Thea (set up wonderfully with that long tracking shot from corridors to booth).

Finally there’s the aforementioned show runners prophecy that does indeed come true. There is death and a series regular status is revoked. The episode does well to play with our preconceptions of this and the ultimate play out is immensely satisfying. The departing character is given a worthy send off and the death is far from idle, having drastic plot consequence that will be explored in next week’s “The Fallen”. It adds a sudden and immediate heightening of events going into the final few episodes and some major changes that will roll into season 4. Ever since Ra’s al Ghul made “the offer”, Arrow has been on absolute fire and Broken Arrow shows it has no signs of slowing down as it takes vital plot developments in its stride. The Ray/Cisco “other metahumans?” tease raises some interesting questions that will likely develop into the still untitled spin-off (come on, give us a name!). This week, a character may have fallen but it will take a lot more to break this Arrow.