Arrow: Left Behind — review

Screenplay by Marc Guggenheim and Eric Oleson.

The season three mid-season opener of Arrow follows the open ending of the mid-season finale, in-which Oliver Queen was defeated by the leader of the League of Assassins, Ra’s al Ghul, and left to die. Contrary to popular jokes/rumours/beliefs, the show was not renamed Canary, but instead revealed Queen to be alive. Whereas most “everyone thinks I’m dead” narratives, Queen chose not to reveal his survival to the other characters, and instead remained absent for the majority of the episode.

Which is my biggest problem with it.

The faked-death narrative is one of the most unoriginal, but I don’t care. It’s one of the most commonly used, but is so simple that it can be reimagined by lots of writers: how is the character going to be apparently killed? How will (s)he survive? Who’ll know this? How will that character reveal their survival? Will it be to everyone at once, or one-by-one? It’s an exciting formula, and the best part of the storyline is where the truth is revealed – each character will react in a different way. But instead, by the end of this episode, nobody discovers Queen’s alive. They wonder if he is, not actually knowing for sure, but Malcolm Merlyn presents to them the alleged murder weapon, which Ghul left at the scene of the duel to mark what he thought was Queen’s death. So now, everyone believes that Oliver Queen is no more. Which is all very well, this episode being the aftermath, and therefore showing each character dealing with the outcome of the mid-season finale. Fine. But what’s the point of a gap of several months between these two parts if the return isn’t going to do what everyone knows should happen? It left the episode feeling completely pointless, almost like a prolonged mini-episode set between the half seasons to promote the end of the hiatus.

Instead, we get Vinnie Jones developing his plan to “take over the Glades”, and the remaining characters attempting to stop him. It’s almost like a spin-off for literally every character except the protagonist. These characters just don’t connect. That could be because Queen’s absence isn’t binding them together, or whether he’s the only one who’s interesting enough to deserve an entire show, but it was strange that the episode only showed its own titular protagonist in fleeting moments. Those few scenes, in-which he’s dragged through the snow to refuge was far more interesting because of the setting and the atmosphere. What was wrong with making that the main story, and instead showing it from Queen’s own perspective, leading to him returning to Starling City and then discovering what’s happened in his absence?

Hopefully, everything will be back to normal with the next episode.

Arrow: Left Behind — unnecessary narrative tangent resembling filler 2/10.