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Midseason Check in: FOX and ABC

As the TV season turns from fall to spring, some shows have become huge successes, some have failed miserably, and others are just meandering along. Here are my midseason thoughts on the new shows of 2014-2015.

FOX

Gotham

I was eagerly anticipating this show, but with some trepidation. But the pilot was fantastic, and the show has continued to be excellent, but for fans and for FOX. I expect this one will be around for at least a few seasons and I can’t wait.

Gracepoint

I was so disappointed in this. Though I still haven’t seen Broadchurch, I just could not get into this show. It lacked good pacing, interesting characters, or a compelling story, which is disappointing on many levels. Others had the same reaction, and FOX has canceled the show.

Mulaney

I predicted failure, and I was right. It was one of the first to go.

Red Band Society

I took a pass on this show and I was right to. Though there was quite a lot of buzz about it, it has been canceled.

Utopia

Another failure for FOX. As predicted.

Out of the seven shows slated for spring, five are continuing. There has been no press about the animated series Bordertown, and Heiroglyph was shut down, which is a shame: I was looking forward to that one. Of the five remaining, I’ll be skipping four: Backstrom, Wayward Pines, Weird Loners, and The Last Man on Earth. I am however looking forward to Empire more than almost any other spring show, and the buzz around it is already good.

As for shows I was already watching, I gave up on the 10th season of Bones, but I’m still enjoying The Mindy Project even though it’s hit or miss week to week. Chances are good for both shows to get renewed, though. Glee also returns for a shortened final season. The premise of the final season, a return to the high school, sounds wretched, so I’ll only be watching to see how it ends.

 

ABC

This is the channel that gets the most from me, so this is a big one.

Selfie

I was really excited about this, but it wasn’t really doing it for me. Or for most people. It’s been canceled.

Manhattan Love Story

I knew from the trailer that this wouldn’t last, and I was right. It was the first to go.

Forever

I was intrigued by this one, and it kept me interested for a little bit, but ultimately I decided there wasn’t room for it on my schedule. It got a full season, but could go either way for a renewal or cancelation.

Black-ish

I went back and forth on this so many times. Premise: bad. Trailer: good. Pilot: Meh. But I stuck it out and now this is one of my favorite new comedies. Every week it is laugh out loud funny, and I expect that to continue.

How to Get Away with Murder

I can’t say enough good things about this show. It was probably the show I was most excited for in the fall, and it did not disappoint. It’s a short season, but I’m 100% positive it will see a second season.

Cristela

It’s not the best comedy, but it’s pretty funny. It got a full season, and I’ll keep watching it until it gets renewed or canceled.

Galavant and Agent Carter premiere in January to bridge the hiatuses for Once Upon a Time and Agents of SHIELD, respectively, and I’m really excited for both. I’ll also be checking out Secrets and Lies. Still passing on American Crime, Fresh Off the Boat, The Astronaut Wives Club, and The Whispers.

In terms of returning shows, I’ve been meh on Once Upon a Time, disappointed in Revenge, and dropped Resurrection after one episode of season two. Sunday nights feel like obligation more than anything else at this point. Most other shows, however, continue to impress. Agents of SHIELD is doing great things, Scandal has redeemed itself from last season for me and I can’t wait for it every week, and Grey’s Anatomy has done enough good stuff to keep me satisfied.

Midseason Check in: NBC, CBS, The CW

As the TV season turns from fall to spring, some shows have become huge successes, some have failed miserably, and others are just meandering along. Here are my midseason thoughts on the new shows of 2014-2015.

NBC

State of Affairs

It’s really too early to tell with this show. Katherine Heigl’s lead character isn’t particularly likeable, but there’s a procedural element to go along with the conspiracy element that might see this show find enough support for a second season. I only got through two episodes. The show focuses far too heavily on Heigl and not nearly enough on its other outstanding players: Aflre Woodard and James Remar.

Marry Me

I passed on the premise of this one, and it looks like America did too. Nothing official, but its future doesn’t look good.

The Mysteries of Laura

No one expected this to do well. Critics hated. I hated it. It looked awful. But it seems to be doing alright for NBC on Wednesday nights. I’ve heard from some people that it isn’t terrible, but it’s too early to call whether or not it’ll get a second season.

Bad Judge

This was one of the first to go, as I predicted.

Constantine

I was really excited for this, but a really rocky pilot set the show off to a bad start. It got better with some restructuring and the replacement of a main character, but given that NBC is limiting the first season to 13 episodes, a second season is unlikely.

A to Z

I was initially apprehensive about this show, though excited about the cast, but my apprehension was dead on. The pilot was a dud for me, and it was canceled fairly quickly.

Of the eight shows slated for the spring, three will not be happening. Mission Control and Emerald City were scrapped altogether, and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was sold to Netflix. Of the remaining five shows (Aquarius, Allegiance, One Big Happy, Mr. Robinson, Odyssey), the only one I’m excited about is Aquarius, which has no current release date, though I will be watching at least the pilot of One Big Happy out of LGBTQ obligation.

NBC also added two new shows to their lineup: AD, a follow up to the hit miniseries The Bible, and limited series The Slap, which sounds like it’s based on the play God of Carnage, so I may check that one out.

The only other show on NBC that I watch is The Blacklist, which is not as compelling in its second season, but is still one of the best shows on TV.

 

The CW

The Flash

As expected, this spin off from Arrow has been stellar from the start. There was only episode in the first half of the season that felt off to me, and the crossover between the two shows was epic and incredibly well done. The CW has another bona fide hit on their hands, and this show will be in my watchlist for as long as it runs (pun intended).

Speaking of Arrow, the show remains in my top three TV shows on the air right now, and will probably go down as one of my favorite shows of all time, especially with what they’ve been doing with season three. I am more excited for this show to return than any other.

Jane the Virgin

This show ended up being not for me. Originally, it sounded terrible to me, but the more buzz that surrounded it and the more previews I saw, the more interesting it looked. So I checked it out. It is certainly entertaining. But it sticks to its telenovela roots hardcore, and so there are far too many twists and ridiculous turns for me. For a brief time, it appeared as though its ratings would doom it to cancelation, but star Gina Rodriquez (who is really quite excellent) was nominated for a Golden Globe, so I think it will at least be around for a second season.

The Messengers and iZombie are still scheduled to premiere in the spring. I won’t be watching either, but I will be continuing to watch Supernatural, which looks as though it may go for season eleven, quite a feat for a CW show.

 

CBS

Madam Secretary

This is one of the best new shows of the season and quite a surprise for me. I didn’t think I’d be into it, but I eagerly anticipate this show every week.

The McCarthys

I was delightfully surprised by this show, as my expectations were low. However, ratings for it aren’t great, so I expect it won’t survive the season, especially since it wasn’t mentioned when the debut of The Odd Couple was announced.

NCIS: New Orleans

People love NCIS, so it’s no surprise that this version of it is doing well for CBS. With the impending end of CSI, look for this franchise to continue for a while.

Stalker

There remains almost no buzz about this show. It was renewed for a full season, but it looks like it won’t continue after that.

Scorpion

I was really excited for this show, but extremely disappointed by the pilot. Somehow, though, it seems to be doing really well, so expect a second season.

CSI: Cyber, The Odd Couple, and Battle Creek will still be premiering in the spring, but I don’t actually expect any of them to do well.

In terms of shows on CBS I watch, The Big Bang Theory doesn’t seem as fun or funny to me as it did in previous seasons, which is a little surprising considering that it just got a 3 year pickup from the network. Similarly, Mom, while still delightfully funny, has had some very dark moments, and some very strange ones this season. I’m still watching, but I don’t love it as much the second time around.

Appointment TV: For or Against?

For the last year, my roommate Adam Cobb and I have had an ongoing debate: appointment television vs. non-appointment television. I am someone who loves to watch a show live and I always have. Adam is staunchly against this. I asked him to write his thoughts on the matter, and I am doing the same.  Here are the arguments.

The Cast AGAINST Appointment Television

Digital Video Revolution

by Adam Cobb

It’s Tuesday night. I’m watching one of my favorite superhero shows. It’s nearing the climax where we’ll discover which one of our intrepid heroes will meet their untimely demise.

Bad news: I have to pee.

I’ve already had three glasses of water while watching this episode. I missed my opportunity to make night water during the last commercial break (a scant four minutes ago) because I was tweeting a snarky complisult at the writers of the show. #typicalmillenial

So what do I do? Do I miss the moment the whole episode has been building to by hitting the head? Or do I hold it in, only half paying attention to the show because I’m trying to focus mostly on not wetting myself like some kind of Zen Bladder Control Master?

Neither. Secret Third Option – Pee in my water glass.

I pee. Can’t wash my hands. The reveal is coming. Roommate walks in and starts talking. I shush her. She glares at me. I stare at the TV. She says, “Ooh, apple juice!” and reaches for the glass. I say, “Stop!” to both her and the TV. Neither listens and OH GOD EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE!

All of this nonsense could have been avoided had I simply invested in a DVR (see what I did with the title up there?) or a Hulu Plus subscription.

Essentially, I’m advocating that you (gasp!) delay your viewing until after the episode has aired. That may even put your viewing of it into the next day. But there is one thing I can promise you: you’re going to be okay. We’ll get through this together.

Here’s what’s up, kids (I say as I sit down in a backward chair in a very Dangerous Minds/Gangsta’s Paradise-esque moment): appointment television sucks.

The first reason is in the name itself – you have to make an appointment. Just try saying to someone, “I’m sorry I can’t do (fill in awesome activity here) because I have to watch Once Upon a Time at 8 pm eastern/7 central.” Notice the judgey look in their eyes, which will swiftly be followed by confusion.

“But, Hulu exists!” they’ll say, as they desperately try to claw their friendship with you from the brink of obsolescence. “You can watch the show the next day. And it’s free! What could you possibly miss by viewing it a day later?”

“Twitter followers,” you whisper, as your friend slowly fades into the background, never to be seen again (let’s face it – you’ve had poor taste in friends as of late).

Which brings me to my second point: social media surrounding the viewing of television shows can be terrible.

Say, for instance, you live on the west coast of the US (as so many do). If a show airs at 8 pm on the east coast, it more than likely airs at 8 on the west coast. That gives someone in New York three hours to spoil a show for a social media obsessed viewer in Oregon. However, based purely on anecdotal evidence, I feel that most people will have stopped posting about a show by the following day. So, by simply staying away from Twitter and Facebook, you can have a (potentially) productive evening and an unspoiled viewing experience.

Lastly, let’s return to my experience at the top. You know what could have eliminated the whole embarrassing, plot point missing, potential pee drinking fiasco?

A pause button.

Pausing is freaking fantastic. Need to go to the bathroom? Pause. Need a refill on that Diet Coke? Pause. Missed something because your kid suddenly felt the need to bombard you with questions about the origins of babies? Pause. Then rewind.

There are many positives to watching your shows on a streaming service or with a DVR. Think of the time you’ll save, the friends you’ll keep, and the pee you’ll be able to safely flush down a toilet.

 

The Case FOR Appointment Television

The Social Network

by Mike Bowers

It’s Thursday night. #TGIT on ABC with Shonda Rhimes’ lineup of television: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. I sit down with some food and my glass (or should I say bottle) of wine ready for my night of excellent television. My computer sits at the ready to live tweet the shows with the rest of everyone watching, and to see what the stars have to say as they tweet along with their shows. By the end of the night, I’ve enjoyed some stellar acting and writing, learned some tidbits about the show, and feel glad knowing that I’m not behind on anything.

Admittedly, I’m a little (ok, a lot) OCD about my TV watching. I like it when my Hulu queue has 0 items in it. When I watch a show live, I can automatically delete it from my queue the next day, which has the satisfying feeling of crossing something off of a to-do list. That frees up my time to watch other show I may have missed because they air the same time as the show I watched live, or because I wasn’t able to be at home in time to watch them. Additionally, if I know other people who watch the show, I am able to talk at length about my thoughts about the episode as soon as I see them, since I’m not behind on episodes.

Nowadays, we are moving increasingly away from the idea of appointment television. With DVR, Hulu, and myriad streaming sites, we are able to watch shows pretty much anytime we want to. However, for me, and I’m sure for others as well, there is something nice about coming home from work (or wherever), turning on the TV at 8pm, and watching something. I’m a very social person, and at least at the moment, I’m in a position where I’m not able to be as social as I would like. Except for work, I don’t really have anywhere to be at a given time. Having a TV show that starts at a certain time gives me a structure and a place to be, appeasing my need to have a full schedule.

And speaking of being social, when I watch a show live, I’m able to chat about it on Twitter and Facebook with friends and strangers alike, becoming part of a global (I use the term colloquially) conversation about whatever show I’m watching. I can engage with other fans, get behind the scenes info from any of the actors or writers who may be live tweeting the episode, and enjoy the show on a completely interactive level that I can’t get the next day. Sure, I can live tweet while I’m watching, but the conversation is over by that point.

While it certainly won’t last forever (fingers crossed I’ll soon be too busy to watch much TV at all, let alone schedule my life around when shows are on), for the time being, watching TV when it airs live makes me feel social, connected, and ahead of the game. And that’s a great feeling.

 

What are your thoughts? Are you pro or con appointment television?

You can follow Adam Cobb on Twitter @TheAdamCobb

Once Upon a Time: Frozen in Review

once-upon-a-time-frozen

At the end of the last season of Once Upon a Time, they revealed that they were going to do a Frozen storyline. My initial reaction (found here) was one of outrage. It was too soon to do Frozen, it didn’t fit the world, it was too commercial. These fears were somewhat assuaged when season four premiered (see my thoughts here), and it seemed that they weren’t going to neglect the major storylines in order to accommodate the Frozen characters and story arc.

That turned out to be largely incorrect. The Frozen storyline wasn’t necessarily bad, but it wasn’t great either. It was, by and large, mediocre . Major plotlines, like Regina’s (Lana Parrilla) and Robin Hood’s (Sean Maguire) relationship, Regina’s search for the author of the storybook with Henry (Jared Gilmore), Emma’s (Jennifer Morrison) and Hook’s (Colin O’Donoghue) furthering romance, and Gold’s (Robert Carlyle) deception with Belle (Emilie de Ravin) went by the wayside.

Once upon a time (pun intended), the main villains were Regina and Gold, so the world was fairly contained and all major storylines were touched upon regularly. However, starting with last season, the stories have centered around major guest stars: Peter Pan (Robbie Kay), Zalina the Wicked Witch (Rebecca Mader), and now the Frozen cast. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Major plotlines did move forward during the Pan arc, especially the romantic ones. And Zalina gave us a glimpse into Regina’s and Gold’s backstories. But Frozen was too focused on Elsa (Georgina Haig), Anna (Elizabeth Lail) and the Snow Queen (Elizabeth Mitchell) to give us any new information about our main characters, and their plotlines didn’t move forward until the very last episode.

I do have to give credit where it is due: Haig, Lail and Scott Michael Foster as Krystoff were excellent, taking hugely popular characters and playing them in a way that felt true to the already iconic original while breathing new life into them. Lail especially was a delight to watch and I expect we will see a great deal more of her in the future.

Sadly though, they were not enough to distract from the convoluted storytelling thoughout this half of the season. Pan and Zalina were in some way related to one or two of our main characters, but somehow Anna managed to meet half the cast during flashbacks that took place far more in Arendelle than in the Enchanted Forest, making it almost feel like a different show altogether. It just seemed like the writers were trying too hard to weave the Frozen world into the Once world, and it felt very forced.

Speaking of forced, the last two episodes wrapped things up in very sudden ways. While they did set up the key to defeating the Snow Queen in the first scene of the season, it still felt very sudden and unlikely when a simple letter made 30 years of a rage-filled evil quest come to an end all at once. Perhaps it’s because Mitchell portrayed the Snow Queen too cool (again, pun intended), so a sudden reverse felt out of character, but I really feel that the writing is more to blame. The phrase “deus ex machina” came to mind, and not just then.

In the final episode of the arc, Anna is about to walk through the door to Arendelle (which conveniently appeared suddenly) when she reveals what she knows about Gold, another deus ex machina moment that felt too convenient, as it gave our heroes the clue that Gold was up to no good as usual. The only good thing that came out of that was that Belle finally figured out that Gold was lying to her and grew a backbone at last, banishing him from the town.

That was about the only real character moment in the finale, with the possible exception of Regina telling Robin he had to go with Marian (Christie Laing) and their son into the real world to save Marian’s life. But even that felt like a convenient device to further Regina’s quest to find the author of the book, a storyline that had barely been mentioned all season but is apparently now extremely important again.

Overall, the Frozen arc was unsatisfying, and the midseason finale was all fluff and setup for the second half of the season, where we will be dealing with Ursula (Merrin Dungey), Cruella de Vil (Victoria Smurfit) and Maleficent (Kristin Bauer van Straten). While I have low expectations for these so-called “Queens of Darkness”, at least they are from the Enchanted Forest and we’ve seen two of them before.

One can only hope that OUAT gets better from here, and they use the new villains to further the plot and character development of our main characters instead of taking over the story.

Once Upon a Time returns Sunday, March 1st at 8pm on ABC.

When to Stop Watching a Show

Anyone that knows me knows that I have a hard time giving up a show, even if it’s only mediocre. I watch roughly 20 shows in a week and I look forward to watching most of them every week. But this week, I decided that there were two that I just didn’t care about anymore. What made it hard to make this decision is that one of those shows is in its tenth season. There’s a certain amount of loyalty I feel to a show that I’ve been watching that long.

However, it was time to cut the cord. As a friend reminded me: if the show gets good again, I can always catch back up on it later. So, with that in mind, I bid adieu to two shows in my rotation, both with the same problem: Forever and Bones.

forever-5378c60c2a7d8

At the beginning of the season, I thought that Forever had promise. There was a huge mystery that they teased for a few episodes, there was always the chance that Henry (Ioan Gruffudd) would have to reveal his secret to Jo (Alana De La Garza), and the dialogue between Henry and Judd Hirsch was often charming. Unfortunately, as the show has progressed, we’ve seen very little of the ongoing storyline and instead every episode has felt like an average procedural, with the exception that Henry has flashbacks that help him solve the murders. There doesn’t even seem to be any chemistry between him and Jo anymore, which was another factor drawing me in, especially since she has a mystery of her own that needs solving: the death of her husband.

Ultimately, the show got stale. While there are several things that could entice me to watch further, the writers have decided to save those elements for special episodes, probably in hopes of drawing out the story longer. But for me, it’s not worth it. I’m not a huge procedural fan to begin with, and the supernatural element was what had me excited initially, but frankly, week to week, I’ve been bored.

Bones_Season_7_Cast-5172-590-700-80

As I said, Bones is having a similar problem. Over the course of the last nine seasons, there have been many things that have kept me engaged with the show: Booth (David Boreanaz) and Brennan’s (Emily Deschanel) relationship, Hodgins (TJ Thyne) and Angela’s (Michaela Conlin) relationship, the rotating wheel of interns, and the occasional ongoing storyline with a masterful killer.

Right from the beginning, you knew that something was going to happen between Booth and Brennan, and it took seven seasons to get there. Once they did, the question was whether or not they’d get married, especially as Brennan was in staunch opposition to the institution. Last season, they did, and it was delightful. With that will-they-or-won’t-they storyline over, the show had to find another reason to keep fans interested, and they resorted to a device they’d used a few times before: a major villain. From Gormogon to Howard Epps to The Grave Digger to Pelant, the show has had a number of memorable adversaries to test the Smithsonian team.

At the end of last season, we had a new villain: the FBI. There was a conspiracy afoot and Booth ended up in prison over it. I was excited to see how that would play out over the course of this season, but it really hasn’t. Booth got out, Sweets (John Francis Daley) got dead, and we got a new cast member, John Boyd, who is distinctly out of place. My thought was that he was going to be part of the conspiracy, but they haven’t even touched on that storyline since the beginning of the season. In fact, there hasn’t been any storyline that’s moved forward since then. It’s just been week in, week out, typical procedural fare. And in the tenth season, that’s just not good enough.

So, even though the 200th episode of Bones is approaching, I won’t be sticking around to see it. Sometimes, a show just loses what made it great.

Scandal Making Bold Statements About Women

Scandal is making bold statements about women on season four of the hit ABC show from Shondaland, and it is magnificent to behold.

The show has never shied away from sex, but much of the series has dealt with Olivia’s (Kerry Washington) inability to extract herself from her highly emotional and sexual relationship with the President, Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn). This season starts off in a different context, with Olivia and Jake (Scott Foley) on a deserted island beach, where it’s pretty clear that he fingers her. This sexual dynamic continues throughout the season (at least until Jake gets thrown in prison by Fitz), with sex being used playfully and as a powerful tool between the two. There is one moment where Jake balks at the idea of being summoned by Olivia, so she shows up wearing only a trenchcoat and tell him that if she wants to summon him, then she will. She then takes off her coat, standing naked before him and tells him: “Come here.” He does, and it’s amazing.

Sex is power, and even though Olivia stands firm with Jake instead of Fitz, last week’s episode gave us a hint of hers and Fitz’s chemistry as he teases her over the phone. He tells her that he would take off her clothes so that he can see her, then start from the bottom, working his way up until she’s begging to be kissed, and only then would he kiss her, so she could taste herself. It’s incredibly graphic, and incredibly hot, and Olivia feels it too as Fitz essentially leaves her with blue balls when he hangs up on her shortly thereafter.

What is fascinating to me about this is the contrast between women’s sexual issues on the show vs. women’s social issues. In the season premiere, Olivia chose to stay in DC so that she could fight for a woman who was about to be vilified for fighting off her sexual attacker, a senator, starting off the season with a strong statement about what is important to her.

o-MELLIE-GRANT-facebook

Then we get to Mellie (Bellamy Young), the First Lady who is doing nothing but walking around in sweatpants, eating cereal and drinking because she’s in mourning. But being the First Lady, it doesn’t take long for the media to start calling her crazy and trying to make her look like she’s lost it. The show makes a great statement about her deserving to grieve in whatever way she sees fit, as she has lost a son. Over the course of the season thus far, several moments lead her back to who she was, including a potential scandal concerning her daughter and the revelation that her son was murdered. The Mellie we knew and loved is back, but while she was “Smelly Mellie”, we got to see a side of her we’ve never seen, an all too honest representation of what grief looks like.

Speaking of her daughter and grief, in the show’s fourth episode of the season, Olivia is called to shut down a scandal involving the First Daughter, Karen (Mary Mouser), who has been filmed having a drunken threesome with two young men after ditching her boarding school. Olivia manages to get the video shut down, but the great conversation that comes out of the situation is that if Karen were a man, people would be congratulating her on having a sex tape with two women, but because she is a woman with two men, she is slut-shamed and chastised. This is a hot button issue in the country right now, as more and more women are speaking out against catcalling and slut-shaming in general, especially surrounding the subject of rape. And it nicely contrasts Olivia’s own experiences on the show, given her very sexually charged relationships with the two men in her life.

Back to Mellie, she is visited by a former First Lady, who complains that while her husband was screwing his secretary for eight years, she was actually the one running the country, but will never be recognized for it. This is yet another step on the road to recovery for Mellie, as she continues to get her fight back, and who knows? Maybe we’ll see Mellie run for the highest office in the land if the show continues long enough to see the end of Fitz’s second term.

scandal-3-1-abby

Meanwhile, Abby (Darby Stanchfield) is the Press Secretary for the White House now, but thanks in part to Olivia, she can’t seem to get any respect from her Commander in Chief. He repeatedly calls her Gabby and doesn’t really take anything that she has to say into account. When she confronts him about the Jake Ballard situation, he goes to Olivia about it and calls Abby a bitch. In a moment that could have been hokey but gets turned around really beautifully, Olivia calls him out on it, making a outright statement about the terms used to refer to women. When she gets him all riled up, he asks her, “Why are you being such-” and she cuts him off with: “A bitch?” And then he leaves. Point to Olivia.

But Abby’s story doesn’t stop there. Her ex-husband, Chip (Michael Trucco) gets an endorsement for the Senate from the President, and it nearly shuts Abby down. She vomits on herself, pulls a gun on Chip when he tries to intimidate her, and generally freaks out. When Olivia tells her to tell her story from the White House Press podium, Abby brings up an amazing and articulate point: Then what? She’d become Linda Tripp or Monica Lewinski or any of the dozens of women that have spoken out against men in power, then disappeared forever.

Whether it’s sex, politics, power, abuse, rape, Scandal is speaking out about women’s issues and it is exciting and compelling to watch. Even though the winter hiatus will be soon upon us, I can’t wait to see what other issues show creater Shonda Rhimes is going to tackle as the season continues.

Scandal airs on Thursdays at 9pm on ABC.

Arrow is Not Holding Back in Season 3

Arrow is one of my favorite shows on the air right now, and America agrees: it’s the top show for The CW Network, and two years in a row, it was one of the first shows of the season to be renewed. The past two seasons have been a lot about Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and his journey to become a hero, but season three is opening up the world a little bit and allowing a few other characters to step into the hero spotlight, much like Smallville did starting in season four of that show.

So far this season, we’ve seen flashbacks, formerly reserved solely for Oliver, for both Thea Queen (Willa Holland) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), giving us insight and history for those two characters while also furthering the plot in the present day storyline. Last night’s episode, entitled “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak”, in particular, shed light on a fan favorite character and gave Rickards an opportunity to bring some serious acting chops to the screen in a more emotional and powerful way than we’ve seen her before.

Arrow-Season-3-Episode-5-Felicity-Smoak-Nolan-Funk

In general, last night’s episode was one of the best the series has done to date. The opening montage shows Ollie and Roy (Colton Haynes) training, Laurel (Katie Cassidy) boxing, and Thea sword fighting with her father, Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), all with various results before cutting to Felicity struggling with situps, a great contrast. Soon her new boss, Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) and her mother, Donna (Charlotte Ross) show up, and her world starts going haywire when a new villain calling himself Brother Eye (a distinct Batman reference) starts wreaking havoc on the city when he begins a digital assault with a virus that Felicity herself had written five years before. It turns out to be the ex-boyfriend Cooper (Nolan Gerard Funk), that she thought was dead, who kidnaps her and her mother in order to make Felicity write a program that will bring millions of dollars in cash to his doorstep. A clever device that was setup in the first ten minutes of the episode enables Felicity to alert Oliver to her predicament and though he does show up to save her, ultimately, Felicity is the one that disarms her kidnapper/former lover and takes him down. Guess she’s picked up a few tricks from Ollie over the last couple years.

From a writing standpoint, the episode is stellar. It sets things up and pays them off flawlessly, without the audience even realizing that things are being set up at all, thanks also to the excellent acting talent on the show. The episode gives us a viewpoint of the world through Felicity’s eyes, showing that it’s not just muscle and deadly accuracy with a bow and arrow that can make someone a hero. All the while, the main storylines of Laurel’s pain, Thea’s training, Oliver and Thea’s relationship, and the mystery of Sara’s (Caity Lotz) murder remain in play.

Speaking of Sara’s murder, the final moments of the episode finally revealed who the murderer was, and to say it was shocking is an extreme understatement. It would appear that Roy, in a mirakuru blackout rage, threw the arrows at Sara. He remembers this as he wakes up sweating from a dream. First, this is a huge moment for the show. We’ve been led down several paths about who could have killed Sara, from a league assassin, to Merlyn, to Ra’s Al Ghul (Matt Nable) himself. But to reveal that it was one of the family all along is an incredible revelation that will have repercussions throughout the entire season.

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This is something the show has been doing lately that is new. In previous seasons, the show would always end on a dramatic, tense moment, but it was usually just part of the story. This season, every episode has ended with something similar to a “tag”, where the episode wraps up, then the last scene brings in a new element: Sara’s death, the revelation of Thea training with Merlyn, Nyssa (Katrina Law) showing up, the reveal of Ra’s al Ghul, and now Roy’s involvement in Sara’s murder. Not only is this excellent storytelling and compelling television, it is also a gimmick of comic book movies/shows that Arrow is putting it’s own spin on. The “post credits scene” in big budget movies like The Avengers, Iron Man, and Thor is a staple for the genre now, a staple that was continued on television with the debut of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD last season, where they have a “post credits scene” at the end of every episode that teases something for the major story arc. The Arrow spin-off, The Flash, is doing the same thing, so it’s only natural that Arrow would start doing it too. What makes Arrow different, however, is that they are adding the scene before the show logo as opposed to after it, like the other two shows, and the extra scene isn’t so much a glimpse into the major arc of the story as it is a lead in to the next episode. It’s a great way to add the device while remaining true to the show’s own style.

The show is, and continues to be, excellent in all areas: writing, direction, acting, action, and story arc, while continuing to introduce iconic characters from the comics, whether they are villains or heroes. This season is bigger than ever and it shows no signs of slowing down. It remains the best comic book show on TV, and will likely go down as one of the best shows the CW has ever aired.

Arrow airs on Wednesday nights at 8pm on The CW.