Arrow 2-09: “Three Ghosts”
‘Tis the holiday season, so Arrow has added some Dickensian flavor with this A Christmas Carol-infused episode. It’s the midseason finale, which means: a) no new episodes until mid-January, and b) lots of exciting and game-changing stuff happens. Let’s hit it:
We pick up where we left off last episode, with Barry Allen racing to save Oliver’s life. Oliver’s blood has coagulated dangerously, so Barry injects him with a syringe full of rat poison to thin it out. “You’re lucky you guys have a rat problem,” Barry chirps to Felicity and Digg. Barry’s fun. As Oliver gradually returns to consciousness, he sees a vision of Shado, his own personal Ghost of Christmas Past, beaming at him benevolently while extending her hands to him.
Upon waking up, Oliver tries to strangle Barry, then threatens to put an arrow in him, then rips Felicity a new one for revealing his secret identity to Barry, even though it was necessary to save his life. “You should thank her instead of being kind of a jerk,” Barry tells Oliver. I like you, Barry. Feel free to stick around this show as long as you want, provided you call Oliver out for being a jerk at least once an episode.
Back at the Queen mansion, Oliver finds Thea and Sin fussing over a badly-wounded Roy, whom Oliver shot in the leg last episode. Because Team Awesome—that’d be Roy, Thea and Sin—is also occasionally Team Marshmallow Fluff For Brains, nobody has bothered to seek medical treatment for Roy, or to at least remove the enormous arrow sticking out of his thigh. While Thea mutters darkly about how the Arrow is a big old jerkass (got it in one, Thea!) and Sin plies Roy with booze to distract him from the pain, Oliver yanks out the arrow, stops the bleeding, and calls Digg to fill him in on the situation: “Roy’s been shot.” Pause. “With an arrow.” Pause. “It’s a long story.”
Heh. Oliver spends much of the series being a humorless dick, and, not coincidentally, I spend much of the series not liking Oliver very much. But in scenes like this one, where he’s being a hilarious dick, I start to develop warm and fuzzy feelings toward him. Keep it up, Oliver.
In the hallway outside Thea’s room, Oliver again sees a vision of Shado, who gently urges him to put down his bow and stop being a vigilante before everyone he loves ends up dead. So… it’s kind of obvious from Oliver’s hallucinations that Shado dies at some point on the island, right? Let’s head over to the island flashbacks to see how that goes down:
With Slade apparently dead from the injection of the mirakuru serum, Ivo and his thugs capture Oliver, Shado and Sara. Ivo gives Oliver a choice of saving either Shado or Sara. Oliver moves to protect Sara, and Ivo shoots Shado in the head.
So… yet again, a male character murders a female character for the sole purpose of making another male character really mad. Great, Arrow. Here’s my homework for the creative staff over the holiday break: Bone up on the “Women in Refrigerators” trope, figure out why it’s offensive and alienating to a goodly chunk of your viewership, and take pains to avoid it for the rest of the series. It’s the kind of thing you can probably get away with once on a show like this, but Arrow, you’re starting to make this a pattern. Especially when you factor in all the times Shado—a formidable martial-arts expert who trained Oliver in many of his fighting skills, including his archery—was captured by the bad guys and used as bait to lure out Oliver or her father, killing her off in this manner leaves a sour taste.
Female characters: Not there just to provide the male characters with motivation.
Anyway, a not-really-dead Slade revives and charges into the fray. All super-juiced up from the serum, he punches straight through the chest of one of Ivo’s goons and sends the rest scurrying away in terror. At the sight of Shado’s corpse, he swears vengeance on her killers.
Hey, speaking of female characters who exist solely to provide male characters with motivation, let’s check in with poor miserable Laurel, who, now that Oliver is no longer warring with Tommy for her affections, has had precious little to do and indeed has been outright MIA for a healthy chunk of this season. Laurel, who’s been carrying on a wan little romance with evil Alderman Blood, is approached by Thea and Sin, who want her to take a close look at the blood drive that Sin’s friend Max attended before his murder. Laurel assures them that the Blood-sponsored blood drive was legitimate, though there’s one weird fact: All the participants were required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before donating.
At the lair, Barry tells Oliver his hallucinations might be an aftereffect of the injection of rat poison (another common aftereffect of an injection of rat poison: death). Barry, who is a total Arrow groupie, urges Oliver to reconsider the greasepaint he uses to disguise his eyes when he’s wearing his costume—per Barry, a mask made of compressible microfabric would work much better. Barry and Felicity have identified Oliver’s super-powered masked attacker from a fingerprint left on Oliver’s neck: His name is Cyrus Gold, and they’ve traced him to a seedy hotel.
Still feeling some bad side effects from his near-death experience, Oliver waits outside while Digg prowls around Cyrus’s hotel room in search of information about him. Cyrus arrives and viciously attacks; overwhelmed, Digg barely escapes with his life.
Since his team hasn’t had much luck against Cyrus, Oliver hands the investigation off to Quentin Lance. Quentin assembles a team of heavily-armed cops, including his former partner, Lucas, and heads out to arrest Cyrus. In the ensuing skirmish, Cyrus badly injuries Quentin and kills all the other cops, Lucas included.
Back at the lair, Oliver hallucinates his Ghost of Christmas Present: Slade. (If we continue the Dickens theme, long-suffering and loyal Digg must be Bob Cratchit, Thea is Fan, and injured-but-plucky Roy can only be Tiny Tim). Ghost Slade is furious over some past betrayal—Shado’s death, presumably—and beats the stuffing out of Oliver. Following this, Barry cheerfully informs Oliver that his blood is entirely rat poison-free, meaning there’s no medical cause for his hallucinations, meaning Oliver has been battling phantoms and flinging himself into glass display cases entirely on his own. Oliver isn’t terribly reassured by this news.
Dressed as the Arrow, a morose Oliver visits Quentin in the ICU. Quentin assures him his injuries and the deaths of his fellow officers weren’t his fault—“I hate to disappoint you, but not every death in this city is on you.” Quentin has been damn strong this season, what with being competent and reasonable and generally seeming like a pretty decent cop. He gives Oliver a key he swiped from Cyrus Gold during their battle.
Roy breaks into the offices of the psychiatrist who conducted the evaluations of the blood donors and steals Max’s file. He’s caught by Cyrus, who takes him to Alderman Blood. Blood, wearing his creepy skull mask, straps Roy down and injects him with the mirakuru serum.
Oliver, who has used Quentin’s key to locate Alderman Blood’s lair, crashes through the ceiling and attacks Cyrus, who once again easily defeats him. While semi-conscious, Oliver hallucinates his Ghost of Christmas Future…
…And hey, it’s Tommy! Smart move, Arrow, with not putting Colin Donnell’s name in the front credits; his appearance here came as a complete surprise. Ghost Tommy gives Oliver a rousing pep talk, reassuring him he’s doing the right thing and urging him not to give up.
Spurred to action, Oliver jumps back into the fight, wreaking a whole lot of havoc and killing Cyrus at last. As Alderman Blood flees, Oliver tries to revive Roy, who lies dead from the effects of the serum, blood streaming out of his eyes. Because death tends not to be terribly permanent in the Arrow universe, Oliver thumps on his chest and yells at him for a while, and Roy comes back to life.
Defeated, Alderman Blood slinks off to a fancy office somewhere, where he tells an unseen figure that the industrial centrifuge he stole last episode was destroyed in the battle with the Arrow, thus ruining their diabolical plan to mass-produce the serum and create an army of super-powered humans. Blood’s boss reveals himself: It’s Slade, dressed in a snazzy suit with an even snazzier patch over one eye. It’s his own super-powered blood, naturally, that Alderman Blood has been using as the basis for the serum. Slade scowls and snarls and swears dark vengeance on Oliver: first he’s going to kill everyone Oliver loves, then he’s going to shoot an arrow right through his eyeball.
Curiously, during Slade’s cool “I shall destroy everyone Oliver holds dear in this world!” speech, we get a montage of the following three characters: Quentin, Roy, and Felicity. I would’ve thought showing, say, Thea, Moira, and Laurel would have been more appropriate, but what do I know? Also curiously—yet delightfully—we’re treated to a long, slow pan up Roy’s bare thigh during Slade’s speech. I was baffled (yet pleased) by this, until I realized it was meant to show how the arrow wound has already healed, indicating the serum has indeed given Roy superhuman abilities. Or maybe it was just meant to show off Roy’s sexy legs. Either works.
Barry returns to Central City. A bad thunderstorm knocks out the power right before the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator is activated. In his laboratory, Barry simultaneously: a) stands in a puddle of water, b) grips onto a heavy metal chain dangling from the skylight, and c) gets hit by a bolt of lightning, which d) sends him flying into a shelf filled with beakers of chemicals. Short of getting bitten by a radioactive spider, this is pretty much an unbeatable set of circumstances for developing a cool superpower. As Barry lies unconscious, red electrical currents zip around under his skin.
And at the very close of the episode, Oliver opens up a gift Barry left for him—a microfabric mask, which he dons in place of his usual greasepaint.
Okay! Apart from the mishandling of Shado’s death (why couldn’t she die while, say, trying to protect Oliver from Ivo?) and the show’s continued inability to do anything worthwhile with Laurel, that was pretty solid! Looking forward to the second half of the season when new episodes resume in January.