Arrow: 3.23 My Name Is Oliver Queen
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Sometimes a season finale can end with an almighty cliffhanger, leaving audiences desperate to see what happens next and sometimes a season finale can also serve as the show's finale, wrapping everything up with only a handful of questions unanswered. My Name Is Oliver Queen kind of served as both - but more the latter in style. Has this been the end of Arrow, as a culmination of three season's worth of storytelling it would have served as a satisfactory ending.
Arguably the second season was probably the strongest; if you look online you'll find that season three has become a little marmite - some reviewers love it, some hate it and it is easy to see why. The dynamic was irreversibly changed that moment Ra's Al Ghul 'killed' Oliver in the mid-season finale. A character - Roy - left the show. The hero turned villain. Enemies like Malcolm became allies. Allies like Quentin Lance became the antagonist. Characters were killed and resurrected. New heroes like Laurel as the second Black Canary and Ray as Atom have emerged and the flashbacks in Hong Kong went in a new but ultimately weary direction only having a connection to the present at the very end. Arrow is such a very different show from the one season three began with.
The season finale had a lot to resolve and the episode did this at astonishing rate, sometimes almost too fast. Barry Allen speeding up in Nanda Parbat to rescue team Arrow was a fun connection to spin-off show The Flash and only serves to prove how successful both shows have been in sharing the universe without making each crossover a huge event. Oliver secretly inoculating everyone against the Alpha Omega seemed like the most obvious way to get out the whole 'he watched his friends die' shock ending of This Is Your Sword. There was a certain amount of fun as Barry exclaimed with awe that they were in a 'real' dungeon and his line "Thank you, Felicity. You just outed my secret identity to a super villain." after Felicity called out his name to Malcolm Merlyn and the whole on Nanda Parbat was genius.
Talking of Malcolm, his double / triple / quadruple crossing left no one sure of his allegiance, though given his position at the end of the episode it is obvious it has always been to himself.
With everyone alive, the shift focused to Ra's Al Ghul, Oliver/Al Sah-Him and Nyssa on the plane bound for Starling City. Oliver's real plan came into action as he and Nyssa turned on her father and the league during an attempt to sabotage the plane's engines. His triumphant "My name is Oliver Queen", giving the episode title it's purpose, led to the first of two final battles between the hero and villain before Ra's Al Ghul escaped with the - ONLY??? - parachute on the plane.
I both loved and found myself frustrated with Oliver's plan. Apparently it all goes back to the moment he asked Malcolm to train and fight Ra's, which may make the third season in need of another rewatch just to see if it all made sense. There was certainly a great deal of 'assumptions' in play. Oliver assumed his friends wouldn't just be killed by the League in Nanda Parbat when they were discovered to be inoculated. Or was Barry Allen always in on the plan - for that matter, how did he get word to him? He assumed he would die in the plane explosion, which was very risky considering he was putting his entire city at risk from the Alpha Omega. Malcolm had apparently told Oliver that Ra's would demand Starling City's destruction and yet led him to the very city before he 'attempted' to kill them both. It was a very large fire he was playing with, a lot of assuming that Malcolm wouldn't betray him and a huge risk to his friends and family as the loss of Roy and the death / resurrection of Thea proved.
Still, it was proven to be successful in the end, though there is a certain amount of trouble with these kind of scenarios on TV. We have seen it in everything from the Silence / Trenzalore arc in Doctor Who to the Beast / Jasmine 'everything was planned' twist in season four of Angel. It may seem rather cool, if it is planned meticulously and if the revelation is suitably jaw-dropping, but it can also raise a few eyebrows, particularly when it puts the heroes you know and love out of character. I get that hard decisions had to be made but I'm not sure Oliver would be so cold as to risk the destruction of everything he knew and loved to defeat Ra's Al Ghul. Also, if Nyssa did steal the vial weeks ago, why didn't she just destroy it then? It would have reduced the risk significantly.
Once the action returned to Starling City, it was a race to stop Ra's Al Ghul from unleashing the Alpha Omega in retribution for Oliver's betrayal. Oliver and Nyssa joined the gang - though they were hardly welcomed - and his plan was revealed before they split up to take out the four vials of the bio weapon from being unleashed. Nyssa and Laurel got to team up once more, with the former remarking how well the new Black Canary had come in her training, while Diggle teamed up with the surprise reveal of Thea as the new Red Arrow. It was a welcome fruition of her story this season as she stepped up to become the latest masked hero in Starling City.
Ra's men using themselves as the carrier of the Alpha Omega was a nice twist; how do you kill the enemy when their blood will infect everyone around them? It wasn't quite the bloodbath we saw in the Hong Kong flashbacks and compared to the Reckoning and Slade's super solider army, the final battle didn't have quite the same impact, even if the stakes were ultimately higher. As for the final battle between Oliver and Ra's Al Ghul, the outcome was very different this time. Ra's training had inadvertently made his foe all the more stronger and it was a satisfying - if a little too quick - to Matt Nable's time as Ra's Al Ghul. Felicity saving Oliver in the Atom suit was a nice final twist, while Ray Palmer got the credit he deserved for creating and dispersing the antidote.
The season ended in a very different place. Laurel and Thea had risen to become the two new heroes of Starling City as Black Canary and Speedy while Diggle's friendship with Oliver looked set to be truly over. I'm glad they didn't gloss over the whole Oliver kidnapping Lyla issue and Diggle leaving the fight behind (at least for now) seemed quite natural. Poor Ray had his suit and his company but not the woman he loved (though he does have an exciting spin off show on its way) while Malcolm got perhaps the most intriguing development by taking on the mantle of Ra's Al Ghul himself with poor Nyssa having to kneel before him. As for Oliver and Felicity, they literally got to drive off into the sunset together.
Had this been the finale, it would have been a good ending to the show. But with season four on its way, The Flash and its many crossovers coming for a second season and the Atom-led DC's Legends Of Tomorrow arriving in 2016, this is far from over. We have already been teased the arrival of Damien Dark in the show, will he be the big bad for the fourth year? Because it is going to take something big to bring Oliver back into the fold.