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The Arrow has become a hero to the citizens of Starling City - but that doesn't mean Oliver Queen can take his eye off the ball and lead a normal life in this spectacular third season of the hit series based on the DC Comics character.  A new wave of diabolical masterminds - from the homegrown terrors inflicted by the resurgent Vertigo, the deranged Cupid, the boomerang-wielding Digger Harkness and bloodthirsty Danny "Brick" Brickwell to the insidious and pervasive havoc wrought by Ra's Al Ghul and the League of Assassins - threatens all he holds dear.  Team Arrow has grown into a powerful force, but the dangers and secrets that hold them together often put them at odds with each other, as the shadows cast by Malcolm Merlyn and the invincible Ra's Al Ghul trigger shifts in loyalties and alliances that test them to their core.  (from CW's official synopsis)

Arrow: The Complete Third Season
Arrow had a rocky start during its initial season, but found its footing in the back half of its inaugural 23-episode run and managed to improve all throughout the second season.  While not perfect, it was an entertaining comic book-themed ride from start to finish during Season 2.  Fans, myself included, were excited at what Season 3 would hold, both based on the threads still left dangling at the end of Season 2 and the hints dropped by the show’s producers during last summer.  Did they deliver?  Yes and no.

What is it about third installments in a superhero series?  Why do they always seem to contain some wonderful concepts, but botch the overall execution?  Casting aside the Marvel Cinematic Universe, since they all play as part of one giant tapestry, you’d be hard pressed to find a third superhero outing on film that wasn’t viewed as a mixed bag.   Superman III, Batman Forever, Blade: Trinity, X-Men: The Last Stand, Spider-Man 3, The Dark Knight Rises, etc.  None are outright failures and all have their positive attributes (as well as fans), but very few would attempt to argue them as shining examples of their respective franchises.

Arrow: The Complete Third Season
Sometimes I wonder if it is the pressure of coming up with a trilogy-capping entry that causes these films to buckle under the weight of expectations, but even that doesn’t apply in most cases.  No one ever really positioned Batman Forever and Superman III as the final installments in their series’ and while Last Stand, Trinity, and Spidey 3 might have been considered culminations, there were never any definitive statements positing them as the last we’d see of their titular characters.   TDKR aside, these sagas were meant to continue beyond their third entry, so why the rush?  Why cram so much into one story?  A false assumption that more is better?  Sheer impatience on the part of the filmmakers?

Who knows, but Arrow: Season 3 suffers the same problems.  While the Batman-esque war with Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Assassins is the main arc and the most interesting storyline in this season, it is lost in a sea of wheel-spinning, bad storytelling choices, and pointless subplots.  Side stories are constantly started throughout the season, only to be anticlimactically dropped or outright ignored.  The best example of this is the vigilante Wildcat.  Introduced early on in the series as a trainer for Laurel Lance, Wildcat evolves both as a friend of Laurel and eventually trusted acquaintance of Oliver Queen.  Then, all of a sudden, he’s dropped.  He rears his head again a few episodes later to help “Team Arrow” take back Starling City from Brick and his army of thugs.  He squeezes in a couple one-liners and is unfortunately beaten unconscious.  His injuries look pretty bad, so naturally we are treated to a hospital visit scene or two, right?  Wrong.  He’s never seen nor spoken of again for the rest of the season.  We don’t even know if he is alive!

Arrow: The Complete Third Season
While this might seem like a minor gripe, especially since he is ultimately a minor character this season, it is a wonderful metaphor for the entire season as whole: constant narrative fumbles.  Vinnie Jones is a lot of fun as aforementioned gangster Brick, but the roadblock he poses doesn’t last for long and the battle that takes his regime down is both sloppy and mostly uneventful.  Laurel’s ascent to the Black Canary mantle also saw the writers tripping over their own feet.  The end result, Laurel on Team Arrow and fighting alongside her friends, is good, but the journey there is a mess.  Then we have Thea’s own journey.  Trained by her supervillain biological father, Malcolm Merlyn, Thea becomes a force to be reckoned and Willa Holland is finally given something to work with in the role.  Great, right?  Absolutely, until the ridiculous brainwashed assassin subplot that takes up the majority of her role for over half the season.  It’s overcomplicated and entirely unnecessary…something that can also be said about the entire flashback storyline this year.

I won’t harp on the flashback stuff too much, as a lot of the issues there were caused more by Warner Bros. film division than by problems with the writing.  With David Ayer’s Suicide Squad hitting theaters next year, at some point during production, Warner Bros. panicked.  They laid down a late-in-the-game edict that certain characters and groups that had previously been available to the series would now be off limits, at least for a while.  

Arrow: The Complete Third Season
This is why Amanda Waller is a main player in the flashback storyline for 2/3rds of the season and then is all of a sudden out of the picture.  This is why Deadshot was killed seemingly out of the blue and the show’s version of the Suicide Squad dissolved.  This is why a big deal is made of Captain Boomerang on both Arrow and The Flash during the first half of the season and he never rears his head again after that.  This is why Katana is sent off at the end of the season.  This is also why Slade “Deathstroke” Wilson is barely used.  Lucky for us, Slade is back on for Season 4, as his character was cut from the Suicide Squad script.  The rest, however, are unlikely to factor in much next year, if at all.  The perils of using characters and groups in two mediums in unconnected ways, I guess.  Let’s hope all become available for use again in time.

At the heart of the season is Oliver’s feud with Ra’s Al Ghul and thankfully that storyline still works.  There are some rough patches and well-spinning in effect here as well, but on the whole it is a very entertaining arc from start to finish, both in terms of the tale being told and the affect it has on Oliver himself.  While the goal with this series was always to have Oliver finally fully formed as Green Arrow (instead of The Hood or The Arrow) by the end of a fifth season, in many ways it feels like that result is closer now.  I suspect Berlanti’s five season journey remains mostly intact, but even in the midst of an incredibly rocky season, it feels like the show managed to take a large step towards that goal.  The fact that we now know he will finally go by the name Green Arrow next season only further cements that.

Arrow: The Complete Third Season
Some fans are doomsaying the series’ future after this lackluster season, but my faith remains.  Every show has a rough patch or two from time to time and I remain confident that Arrow will bounce back in the fourth season this fall, taking the series not only to the Season 5 goal, but beyond it.  With a wonderful cast, a talented producer, and an endless supply of material, there’s no reason not to assume that CW will double that goal before all is said and done.  

Is Season 3 a disappointment?  Yes.  Is it a waste of your time?  No.  It might seem like I have been dog-piling on the series, but it’s only because I like it so much.  There’s a lot of good in this season, from Matt Nable’s Ra’s to plenty of Barrowman’s Merlyn to Brandon Routh’s impossibly upbeat The Atom, some wonderful crossover moments with The Flash.  If you’re a fan of the series to date, you’ll still find plenty to enjoy here.

Arrow: The Complete Third Season
As with the first two season's home video releases, Arrow: The Complete Third Season looks fantastic in high definition.  There's nary an issue to be found and what few there are have more to do with the occasional TV-budgeted visual effect than the presentation itself.  The show’s greater use of different locales this season is a particular highlight, with these non-Star City locations looking great.  The mountain-top showdown during the mid-season finale stands out in particular.

Another top notch presentation across the board here.  The mix is well-balanced across all channels and thankfully isn't front-loaded.  From the dialogue to the effects to the music, everything works in conjunction with one another to dish out an immersive experience.

Arrow: The Complete Third Season
The usual refinements...

  • Featurette - Second Skins: Creating The Uniforms of Arrow
  • Featurette - Arrow at Comic-Con 2014
  • Featurette - Nanda Parbat: Constructing The Villain's Lair
  • Featurette - The Man Beneath the Suit - Atom's First Flight
  • Two Arrow Audio Commentaries
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Gag Reel

Arrow: The Complete Third Season
While not as good or consistent as the previous season, Arrow: The Complete Third Season is enjoyable and worth your time if you are a fan of the series.  The presentation here is top-notch, with the show looking and sounding better than it did as it aired.  On the extras front, it’s another typically-stacked CW release that should please fans of the show.

* Note: The above images are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.