I’m not going to lie, for a season premiere not a lot happens here. Our heroes spend most of the episode operating like it’s business as usual but to be fair that probably should have been expected from an episode titled ‘The Calm.” The general purpose of the episode is to lay some of the groundwork for the obstacles Oliver will be facing this season. There’s nothing particularly horrible about this episode but until the last two minutes or so there really isn’t anything to get too excited about either.
Return of Count Vertigo (Sort of)
Several months after the season 2 finale, Starling City is still struggling to recover from yet another terrorist attack. Luckily, thanks to the efforts of Oliver, Felicity, Diggle, and Roy, the city’s crime rate has reached an all-time low. We get to see that proof first-hand in the opening scene as our heroes are now operating like a well oiled machine. The team takes down a local crime boss almost effortlessly driving a truck full of illegal weapons.
As the team is celebrating the easy victory, Diggle encourages Oliver to make a little more time for his personal life and take a chance with Felicity since he now seems to have his Arrow persona down to a science. Oliver understandably points out that his love life has invariably led to disaster since his tenure as the Arrow (“My last girlfriend. she’s in the League of Assassins. Girlfriend before that shot my girlfriend before that.”). Despite Oliver bringing up this legitimate point, he takes Diggle’s advice anyway and asks Felicity out on a date.
As if to prove Oliver’s point, his date with Felicity goes south almost instantly after finding himself targeted by a new mobster calling himself the new Count Vertigo (Peter Stormare). He has quickly taken over one of the crime families in Starling City thanks to a new and improved version of the Vertigo drug that shows people their worst fear (which I’m sure is totally different from Scarecrow somehow). His first act as crime boss is to plant a GPS on the Arrow and then fire a rocket launcher at his location. Though they eventually catch Vertigo at the local stadium thanks to some unexpected last minute assistance from Black Canary (more on her later), the whole thing leaves Oliver shaken up and he decides to cool things off with Felicity.
Detective Lance probably won’t be a very fitting name to Quentin anymore since he has apparently moved up in the world between seasons. Presumably thanks to his heroics in last season’s finale, he has now been promoted to Captain Lance. This delights Laurel for a couple of reasons. The first being that his new promotion has effectively taken him out of field work which is probably good since his heart condition seems to be taking a toll him for the past few months. Even with his heart condition however, he’s still can’t resist going out to where the action is anyway because after working as a cop so long he doesn’t know how to do anything else. The second reason is that Lance has used his new found power to call a press conference and formally announce the disbandment of the anti-vigilante task force assigned to catching the Arrow. While it’s hard not to compare him to Commissioner Gordon at this point, it’s actually a pretty nice moment to watch him publicly announce his support for our favorite hooded hero.
As Diggle is preparing himself for fatherhood, Oliver begins to feel guilty for constantly putting him in harm’s way so he decides to severely cut back his time in the field. This doesn’t go unnoticed by Diggle who quickly gets aggravated at Oliver and tells him that it should be his choice whether or not he risks his life but Oliver doesn’t budge on the matter. However, Diggle quickly changes his tune once his daughter is actually born and when Oliver meets him at the hospital, he admits that Oliver probably made the right call.
As we see Felicity at her new job for the first time, which comes off like a slightly remodeled Buy More, in walks a mysterious new customer (Brandon Routh) looking for some pointers on some hacking software. The scene is altogether pretty brief but the previously mentioned Buy More-esque setting and the presence of Routh gave me some serious Chuck flashbacks.
The next day as Oliver prepares his presentation to convince the Queen Consolidated board to let him back on as head of the company, Oliver learns that he’s got some competition. The competition is none other than Felicity’s mysterious customer who introduces himself as Ray Palmer.
Oliver gives the board a speech about how important the company is to his family and that he will do anything to turn it around. Palmer on the other hand gives a much more impressive proposal by reasonably pointing out that Oliver’s tenure has run the company into the ground. He also theorizes the company’s woes are just a symptom of the problems of Starling City (two terrorist attacks in two years can be pretty damaging to tourism). Unsurprisingly, the board sides with Palmer.
This reveal might have worked better if Routh’s casting hadn’t been so highly publicized leading up to the premiere but the former Man of Steel nevertheless gives an entertaining debut.
For the first time in Oliver’s flashbacks, he’s not on the island but his situation hasn’t improved. He’s being held prisoner by Amanda Waller in Hong Kong and despite his numerous attempts to escape is always caught quickly afterward. Initially, Waller threatens him with death if he tries to escape again but Oliver is unfazed so instead she threatens the family of his handler both to motivate the handler from preventing him from escaping again and to keep Oliver in line.
Now to address the unexpected appearance of Black Canary. While Sara doesn’t give an explanation as to how or why she’s back in town, for a moment it does appear that she’s back on the team. The writers then pull the rug right out from under by having an unknown archer shoot her three times and then have her fall off a building to her death (having her body fall right in front of Laurel no less). Admittedly I didn’t see this coming though the sudden change of tone from the rest of the episode was a little disorienting. This might also signal the beginning of Laurel assuming the Black Canary mantle but I’m probably getting ahead of myself.