Arrow Season 2 Review “Three Ghosts”

I kind of don’t know what I want to say about the mid-season finale of Arrow. There were parts of it that I really enjoyed but some aspects felt slightly off. I can’t really put my finger on why though. Overall, I would say that the episode worked, but it just felt like the whole wasn’t necessarily greater than the sum of its parts.

Although, Arrow has certainly doubled down on the action this season, they’ve also taken more time to explore Oliver’s psyche. When Oliver first returned to Starling City, he was alone. Yes, he had his family and friends around him, but he kept them at arm’s length. He tried to pretend to be the Oliver that they remembered, but he never really let them see the Oliver that he had become. Part of that was a result of his desire to protect them from his mission, but part of it was also a result of his guilt about some of the things he’d done. The latter aspect wasn’t really explored too much during the first season, but this season most of Oliver’s story has been about his guilt. He feels guilty about not being able to save Tommy. He feels guilty about not being able to stop Malcolm from destroying The Glades. And now we find out that he feels guilty about the deaths of Shado and Slade back on the Island.

Much like Ebeneezer Scrooge, Oliver was visited by three ghosts at Christmastime. Except instead of showing up to encourage Oliver to have more Christmas spirit, these ghosts came to help Oliver work through some of his guilt. The first ghost was Shado. When Oliver was dying, she appeared to him and told him to stop fighting. She next appeared to him at the Queen Mansion and once again told him to stop fighting and come with her. It seemed that she represented the part of Oliver that was tired and wanted to quit. I can’t say I blame the guy. For the past 7 years he’s been fighting. He’s been fighting to survive. He’s been fighting to protect the ones he loves. He’s been fighting to save the city. Along the way, he’s lost most of the people he’s been trying to protect and a part of him feels like he needs to just let go.

The second ghost was Slade. Ghost Slade, much like Real Slade, beat Oliver down. He told Oliver that he was weak and a fraud. He told Oliver that he’s been lying to himself and everyone else about his reasons for trying to save the city. A part of Oliver believes that no matter how many lives he saves, he can never really make up for the deaths he feels like he’s caused. Ghost Slade showing up to basically tell Oliver that he’s a coward and a failure was designed to give him a kick in the pants to fight. Slade’s method of training Oliver on the Island consisted mostly of beating Oliver down physically and psychologically. He used verbal abuse to toughen Oliver up and turn him from a whiner into a fighter. That’s what Ghost Slade showed up to do now.

The final ghost was Tommy. Oliver went, once again, to face the supersoldier and he was getting beaten again. During that confrontation, Tommy’s ghost appeared to tell Oliver to fight. He told Oliver that his death wasn’t Oliver’s fault and that he knew Oliver was fighting to save him. That ghost visit meant the most to Oliver because I think he felt the most guilty about Tommy’s death. It’s not just that things were so acrimonious between him and Tommy when Tommy died. It’s not just that Tommy called Oliver a murderer. In Oliver’s mind, Tommy was an innocent person who got caught up in the whirlwind of Oliver’s mission and died because Oliver wasn’t good enough to save him. Tommy absolving Oliver of that guilt and telling him that he’s a hero gave Oliver what he needed to get his head back in the game.

These ghosts appeared thanks to Barry’s efforts to save Oliver’s life, or so Oliver thought. Apparently, whatever drug that was that Oliver got injected with during his first fight with the supersoldier, it was causing his blood to thicken into a syrup-like substance. Barry injected Oliver with a small amount of rat poison because (as I learned from Burn Notice) rat poison contains an anti-coagulant that would thin out Oliver’s blood enough so that it could once again move freely through his system. Barry’s quick thinking saved Oliver’s life, but Oliver was still furious that Felicity and Dig brought Barry to the secret lair. I’m not surprised Oliver was so upset, but he still didn’t need to be such a jerk to the guy who just saved his life. I like Barry, and I love how cute he and Felicity are together. Barry is back in Central City now, but when we last saw him, he was knocked unconscious after he was hit by lightening and particles from the accelerator. This episode also served as a sort of backdoor pilot for The Flash tv series, and I kind of like the way it was done. It fit into the Arrow story, but at the same time it introduced us to Barry so we don’t have to spend too much time on introductions when The Flash series premieres next season.

It would seem that Oliver needs to stop assuming that everyone who was on the Island with him is dead. Every time Oliver thinks someone is dead, they show up in Starling City. Last time it was Sarah Lance. This time, it was Slade Wilson. Not only is he alive, but he’s the one behind Sebastian Blood. He’s the one who gave Blood the means to recreate the supersoldier serum. Slade hasn’t revealed his presence to Oliver though because he doesn’t want Oliver to see him coming when he destroys Oliver. He wants to take away everything that Oliver holds dear, and when Oliver’s got nothing left, he wants to put an arrow through Oliver’s eye. The question is why? Oliver and Slade forged a bond and friendship on the Island. Even now, Slade claims that Oliver is his friend. If that’s the case, why does Slade want to destroy him? Does he want to punish Oliver for Shado’s death? Did the serum drive Slade to madness? Whatever happened that caused Slade to have such hatred for Oliver must’ve been huge. All I can say is Oliver better be glad he’s got help watching his back because Slade sounds like he has grand, horrible plans for Oliver.

Overall, not a bad episode. It just wasn’t great. I’ve been trying to place exactly what felt off for me, but I really can’t. I like that Team Arrow refers to Det. Lance as their backup. If he ever gets promoted again, then he can be even more useful to them than he is now. I’m concerned about Roy and the effects the serum is going to have on him. He didn’t tell Thea or Sin about what happened, but I have a feeling Oliver is going to have to bring Roy into the fold sooner rather than later. Especially if Slade and Sebastian rebuild their army. I like that Oliver FINALLY got a mask! I know in in the grand scheme of things it may not be a big deal, but it really bothered me that Oliver’s entire disguise consisted of green eye make-up and a voice modulator. So, yay mask! They thankfully kept Laurel’s participation to a minimum in this episode. I still feel like she’s pretty superfluous to the story though. Like I said, there were a lot of things I liked about the episode, but I didn’t love it. I guess maybe I was just expecting more than what I got. We’re on a break until January, and then we get to see what Slade and Sebastian have in store for Team Arrow. So what did y’all think of this week’s Arrow?