#Arrow Season 3 Review: A Bumpy Ride with a Satisfying Payoff

Coming off what was an incredible second season, there was a lot of hype heading into Arrow’s third season. With a big bad like the infamous DC Comics antagonist Ra’s al Ghul and the show finally going there with Oliver and Felicity, there was high expectations for the season.

I’m going to be honest; it was a rough ride through the season. The first half proved to be solid in most areas, including an unforgettable midseason finale that ended with Oliver Queen’s “death.” But the second half of the season proved to be more problematic, with the introduction of Laurel’s Black Canary arc, the handling of the Ray Palmer character and the seeming delay of the League of Assassins storyline until the final episodes. Basically, they tried to do too much in the latter half of the season.

It was rough in a lot of ways throughout the season, be it characterization-wise or story-wise in terms of consistency, but it redeemed itself in the final episodes and proved that this will be a season we look back on as a defining one in Oliver Queen’s journey to becoming the Green Arrow.

Overall Impression

While Arrow’s third season was better than its first, it failed to match the overall success of season 2. Part of this had to do with the inconsistency of some storylines and the main villain. While season 2 had its issues with inconsistency in the beginning of the second half of the season, it gained new momentum around episode 18. In season 3, Arrow relied too heavily on Ra’s al Ghul’s reputation rather than fully utilizing him in the latter part of the season. But one of the strengths of the season came in the writers developing Oliver and Felicity’s relationship. While it was painful as a shipper to watch, that just proved how important this relationship is and will always be to Oliver Queen in regards to his journey toward becoming the Green Arrow. It’s always darkest before the dawn, as Stephen Amell said.

What Worked

Oliver’s Identity Crisis

Season 3 of Arrow was all about identity; for not only Oliver, but Diggle, Felicity, Thea, Roy and Laurel. But the main identity storyline rightfully focused on our titular hero, Oliver Queen. Throughout the season, Oliver struggled with his dual identities: could he be Oliver Queen and the Arrow? His answer was no, which provided the motive for Oliver to push Felicity away, as well as fall victim to Ra’s al Ghul. In the end, Oliver realized that he couldn’t be Oliver Queen and the Arrow because he had become someone else; and that person was someone that was both Oliver Queen and the Arrow.

Oliver and Felicity

While it might’ve felt like it was too soon in the season 3 premiere, we tend to forget that we lost five months; five months where these two were growing closer. It made sense when Oliver finally decided to go for it – at a time where he had felt his happiest – until one tragedy jump-started Oliver’s identity crisis that would carry through the season. It was an emotionally traumatizing season for Oliver and Felicity – and Olicity shippers alike –

Thea and Malcolm

While Malcolm Merlyn is a poor excuse of a man, the dysfunctional relationship between Daddy Merlyn and Thea was one of the most compelling storylines of season 3. It began with a trusting relationship that us as an audience questioned and slowly became one in which Thea took charge of herself and disowned her father. We watched Thea mature before our eyes as she learned the truth about the selfish man Malcolm is. But more surprisingly, we learned that despite his terrible intentions and actions that Malcolm truly does love Thea.

What Didn’t Work

The League of Assassins

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Ra’s as a villain – especially as a threat in the midseason finale – but it felt like the show never really took the time to explore him as a person and the whole League of Assassins storyline as a whole. While there was Ra’s in the midseason finale and the threat of him thereafter, we didn’t really explore the League storyline until after episode 19, when Oliver visited the League and pretended to be a part of it to protect those he loves. Oliver was only in the League for two episodes of a 23-episode season. It just seemed like it could’ve been longer.

The Black Canary

I will say that Laurel is slowly growing on me as Black Canary, but Sara will always be my Black Canary. Anyway, initially I was dead set against Laurel becoming Black Canary because it was far too soon – just because you have a costume and a mask doesn’t make you a hero. And thankfully the show illustrated that. They showed Laurel’s struggles, which I was thankful for. But then the show abandoned that when suddenly Laurel was going toe-to-toe with League of Assassins members and not getting her ass handed to her. The storyline also pushed other characters aside to give reason for Laurel as Black Canary to shine, most notably Diggle. Diggle the two-tour army vet who has actual combat training and years experience in the army and working with Oliver. And yet he was sidelined for an untrained person wearing a costume. There had to be a better way to guide Laurel on her Black Canary path than to push other characters aside. The whole storyline was inconsistent and felt a bit rushed. I wish they’d taken their time with it instead of had their minds set with Laurel becoming Black Canary – and being referred to as – by season’s end.

Ray Palmer

If you want to know my problem with Ray Palmer on Arrow, then look no further than this article. The thing about Ray is that he never really found his footing on Arrow until the final few episodes when his character was acting like, well, the character we thought we were getting from the start. Despite the obvious parallel as a lesser version of Oliver Queen and an obstacle to Olicity, Ray’s characterization was inconsistent and, honestly, downright offensive earlier in the season. But I will say that the Ray we saw near season’s end is one that I don’t hate and might actually root for in Legends of Tomorrow.

What We Wanted to See More Of

Original Team Arrow

The reason I fell in love with and am so emotionally invested in Arrow is because of Original Team Arrow; Oliver, Diggle and Felicity. While the trio shined in season 2, there was not nearly enough of the holy trinity in a crowded Arrow cave, that welcomed Roy, Laurel and eventually Thea. Hopefully season 4 will provide ample time to get back to the beauty that is Original Team Arrow with the theme of family next season.

Diggle in the field

This was my problem with the whole Black Canary storyline; it essentially put significant characters on the backburner to give substance to another. Why was Diggle sidelined during Oliver’s absence and an untrained civilian dressed in black going up against the evil of Starling City? It didn’t make sense. If the writers were to argue that Diggle sidelined himself because of his new daughter, then it would’ve been nice for them to have had Diggle have said something about it. Instead, he simply remained in the Foundry while Laurel and Roy did all the fieldwork.

What We Wanted to See Less Of

Focus on other heroes that weren’t the Arrow

Not to say that I didn’t want to see other heroes like Black Canary or the Atom, but it felt like Oliver – our show’s titular hero – was sometimes pushed aside to make room for them and their storylines.

Preconception that someone is a hero only if they wear a mask

This is something that goes both for the show itself as well as the marketing for the show. It seemed as if the existing, un-costumed heroes, like John Diggle and Felicity Smoak, weren’t acknowledged as the heroes they are, but then newcomers – who hadn’t earned their hero status yet – like Laurel and Ray earned that moniker simply because they wore a suit. A costume doesn’t make a hero, actions do.

Favorite Episodes

“The Fallen”

“The Climb”

“The Brave and the Bold”

“The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak”

“The Calm”

Least Favorite Episodes

“Midnight City”

“Nanda Parbat”


Season Finale Impression

“My Name Is Oliver Queen” was a solid finale that took care of not only the issue with Oliver Queen vs. Ra’s al Ghul but serviced the storyline of Oliver and his relationships with Team Arrow and how they’ve been stressed this season, specifically with Diggle and Felicity. It was a fast-paced episode that featured the new Team Arrow working in unison and set-up season 4’s big bad in Damien Darhk. The hour also offered up a shocking conclusion: Oliver retired as the Arrow and left Starling City with Felicity leaving the new-look Team Arrow to watch over the city. The season finale really did feel like the end of the chapter that had been seasons 1, 2 and 3. While the season as a whole was rocky, the final hour was able to deliver the payoff we were hoping for.

Next Season Speculation

The season finale set up what’s sure to be an intriguing season as we speculate why Oliver and Felicity return to Starling City after a five-month break and what Oliver does when he returns? The Arrow is dead and gone – the name and the suit. So what’s next for Oliver Queen? Could this be the season where Oliver finally takes up his destined identity of the Green Arrow?

Teacher by day, writer by every other free moment | Obsessed with sports, TV, books, movies, and superheroes | Proud shipper and supporter of strong female characters | Co-executive Editor for Fangirlish | Contributor for Bears Wire at USA Today SMG | Producer/Co-Host of Buffone 55 for Bears Barroom Radio Network | Contact: alyssa@fangirlish.com.