Things continue to close in on Oliver and company on this week’s Arrow. Despite Roy’s “outing” as The Arrow in last week’s cliffhanger, Quentin Lance continues to believe that Oliver is the true person behind the mask and he’s on a warpath to prove his theory. As such, “Broken Arrow” is basically another Arrow episode without The Arrow, as Oliver is not able to make a public appearance as his alter ego without undermining Roy’s sacrifice. At first, this looks to be a thinly veiled attempt at crafting a proof-of-concept for the upcoming Atom spin-off as, naturally, Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer must step in to battle the bad guy in Oliver’s place. But, with Arrow being Arrow, there’s naturally a lot more to the hour than meets the eye.
Let’s dive into the Ray Palmer area first. Despite having officially become The Atom several weeks back, Palmer has yet to make a real lasting impression with his powered-up super-suit. During his first encounter with Oliver, for instance, his suit was disabled within seconds thanks to a few precise arrow hits. I’ve yet to see how Ray fared in the previous night’s crossover with The Flash, so perhaps that showed some growth on his part. For all intents and purposes, however, “Broken Arrow” seems designed to be his big, coming-out party. He certainly has his hands full since he must deal with what appears to be a meta-human capable of channeling radiation into deadly blasts, a villain more typical of The Flash than Arrow. After getting his butt handed to him in the first round, Oliver tries to impart the importance of instinct. Ray may have a brilliant mind and an advanced suit on his side, but it means nothing if he doesn’t have an innate sense of how to approach his enemies or how to improvise when the time arises.
In an attempt to solve this dilemma, the group outfits Ray’s suit with a neural connection to Oliver. Thus, Oliver can fight Ray’s battle for him. When the neural connection is predictably severed, Ray soon finds the strength within himself to fight his own battle. It’s definetely not the most fleshed-out or subtle execution one could hope for (why is Ray suddenly able to effortlessly block the man’s rays with his hand when he was thrown back by it earlier?) but it works well enough.
If this plotline does anything, it reiterates just how charming a presence Brandon Routh can be when given the chance. He’s certainly a much lighter presence than Oliver and, in a way, almost more geeky and excitable than Barry Allen. One of the episode’s best moments come when he high-fives Oliver in a moment of euphoria and we see the semi-disgusted look on Oliver’s face. Indeed, a good portion of the plotline finds Oliver rolling his eyes at Ray’s Boy Scout-like enthusiasm and his adorable chemistry with Felicity. Of course, Oliver is right on the money when he says they act like siblings and, in a way, that’s probably what may eventually push them apart. No one wants someone too close to themselves.
The plotline is an altogether light and breezy affair, which makes it somewhat clash with the much darker material around it. While Ray is learning how to be a superhero, Roy must try his best to survive his time in prison, where multiple inmates hold a grudge against The Arrow and his crime-fighting ways. Inevitably, Roy is stabbed and presumed dead. Oliver and Thea go into mourning for roughly two minutes before it’s swiftly revealed that the entire chain of events was a convoluted scam to get Oliver off the hook. Roy posed as The Arrow with the intention of getting thrown into jail and then Diggle hired a friend who would stage Roy’s “murder.” With The Arrow presumed dead, Oliver is now officially a free man. This, however, means that Roy cannot be seen again in Starling City and must depart.
And so the episode bids adieu to Colton Haynes’ Roy Harper. And while it’s sad to see such an iconic character as Red Arsenal leave the Arrow universe, I can’t honestly say it’s a massive loss. If anything, Season Three has seen Team Arrow feel a little stretched thin. Between the introduction of Atom and Laurel’s Black Canary, Roy often got the short end of the stick in terms of character development. The episode that did focus on him proved to be one of the season’s weaker entries and, without a relationship with Thea, there wasn’t a lot for him to do aside from act as Oliver’s wingman. All in all, the episode gives Roy a proper, organic send-off. Moreover, there’s a good chance we’ll probably be seeing him again in time for the season’s final big fight.
If Roy’s departure wasn’t a shock enough, the episode concludes with Ra’s al-Ghul invading Thea’s apartment and apparently killing her. Given Ra’s access to the Lazarus Pit, however, I think it’s safe to say that this is merely the culmination of his attempts to lure in Oliver. Certainly, there’s no quicker way to get Oliver Queen to buckle than holding his sister’s life on the line.
Like many episodes this season, “Broken Arrow” can’t help but feel a bit fragmented. Yet, ultimately, the fragments (mostly) work well enough that we’re willing to forgive the fact that they don’t always cohere. We only have a few episodes left, and Arrow looks as though it is taking the first big step towards setting the stage for one of its bombastic finales.
Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.