Here’s what you need to know about Arrow 3.04 “The Magician”: Thea is reopening Verdant with the help of Merlyn Merlyn is alive (we know) and back in Star City (surprise?). Thea and Ollie pretty much keep their pact of “no more secrets” by keeping a lot of secrets. Sara was in Star City tracking down Merlyn’s whereabouts on behalf of the League of Assassins. Nyssa came back looking for Sara and is ready to pass judgment on Merlyn. Oliver embraced killing as a means to an end while in Waller’s service, uncovering her role in the events on the island in the first season. Ra’s Al Ghul is here! Assuming that the title was meant to refer to Malcolm Merlyn, then his greatest trick appears to be the ability to walk around the city he tried to destroy without being recognized. I’ll grant that his decision to meet Oliver in the open, amongst a crowd, seemed strategically wise. But, I’m at a loss as to how he did so without anyone confronting him, calling the police, etc… How do entire groups of people walk by two of the most famous, and one of the most notorious, faces in the history of Star City and no one thinks something is amiss? Arrow is no stranger to hand-waving, but this might be the waviest (sic) moment yet. This episode felt very much like a minor reset. It seems like the writers wanted to start the season with a few big events, notably the death of Sara and the “rescue” of Thea, and then slow things down a bit to set the stage for the next act. The second season ended with a big win, and the end of a major threat. However, that victory also spread out a few key players. Merlyn had gone off the radar with Thea in tow, Sara had returned to the League and Oliver was left carrying the burden of being a hero, but lacking a clear direction for where to go next. Taking a broad view, each season has built on the one before. The theme of the first season was revenge. Oliver’s vigilantism was focused on righting the wrongs of those whom he -or his father – accused of failing the city (including Merlyn). He was prepared to be the judge, jury and executioner However, as that season drew to a close Oliver began to question whether the ends justified the means. In the second season the theme turned to redemption. Oliver faced both the figurative and literal demons of his past, coming to terms with being a hero, not just a vigilante. Ultimately that led to the showdown with Slade and the Siege on Starling. As I’ve noted before, Slade represents what Jung would refer to as the “Shadow” personality. Usually, this kind of struggle tends to be internal, but because this is a television show based on a comic book, these kinds of things usually play out as a literal battle. Oliver was victorious over Slade, the embodiment of the type of person Oliver chose not to become. Unfortunately for Oliver the hero’s journey is exactly that, a journey. It’s a circular path, not a straight line. For the hero, there isn’t a destination, just another journey. The first three episodes were setting things in place, connecting disparate dots that form the big picture. This episode was the Campbellian “Call to Adventure.” Sara’s death has become the epicenter of the struggle, bringing all players to Star City. We learned that Sara was tracking Merlyn and, as a result, her murder has the attention of the Ra’s Al Ghul. Although, that interest is due more to the role Merlyn might have played than any concern Ra’s had for Sara. Regardless of reason, Merlyn’s return and Ra’s involvement is setting the stage for perhaps the biggest battle we’ve seen on this show. It would be an epic battle if it were just Ollie, Merlyn and Ra’s, but when you include the League (or, at least, Nyssa), Diggle, Felicity, Laurel, Quentin, Roy and Thea, it grows exponentially in importance and difficulty. Taking into consideration the reveal that Waller and ARGUS were behind Fyer’s mission suddenly puts ARGUS into the mix as well. I could very easily see more than a few people switching sides multiple times, and being logically justified in doing so, during this struggle. For instance, there was a lot of moral handringing with regards to how far is too far with regards to action and justice. Laurel and Oliver have essentially reversed their roles from the first season. Laurel, consumed by vengeance, is out for blood. Oliver knows the depths of that rage and learned that no amount of death can fill the void. As a result, his attempts at protecting Laurel put him squarely at odds with her. This not only pushes her away, but makes the League of Assassins seem like the better choice. In her mind killing Malcolm Merlyn is the only just response, and she will align herself with anyone who is willing to make that happen. Laurel also hasn’t told her father about Sara, which is clearly going to put her at odds with Quentin at some point, which in turn will put Quentin at odds with Oliver. Thea’s allegiance to Merlyn, Roy’s feelings for Thea and Diggle’s association with ARGUS only makes things that much more complicated. Seeds of a civil war being sown, and Oliver is at the center being pulled by all sides. The hero’s journey doesn’t end, it only escalates. I know I give Katie Cassidy a hard time, but I lay the blame at the feet of the writers. Laurel’s character has been extremely under developed. The variety of crises have all been so quickly resolved, or relegated to the background, that it’s very hard to take the character seriously or find Cassidy’s depiction to be convincing. However, in this episode, and this season in general, we’ve started to see Laurel’s character become more prominent. I still contend that her character changes seem to come out of nowhere, but at least the most recent changes have some roots. So, for this episode I actually have nothing bad to say about Laurel. Overall the episode did what it was designed to do: it slowed things down long enough to get all the players in the same place. Now that the characters all seem to have taken their places I’m anxious to see how it all plays out. We’re only four episodes in, so I expect that there’s a lot more on the horizon, particularly given this show’s penchant for doing BIG season finales. The Good: Everything about John Barrowman is great. He chews through scenery like nobody’s business and does it was style and ease. I hope they never truly kill off Malcolm Merlyn. Oliver’s struggle with doing what he wants to do versus what is A hero takes the moral high road, even when it’s the most difficult. It’s a distinction that defines what it means to be a hero. The Might Be Good: Ra’s Al Ghul. David Warner from Batman: The Animated Series is the voice I hear when I think of Ra’s. Liam Neeson was passable, but only barely. I’m interested to see where they go with this incarnation and how Matt Nable interprets the character. Ra’s versus Merlyn versus Oliver has the potential to be the longest and biggest struggle we’ve seen from this show. Ra’s might have just stepped out of a Lazarus Pit. That could either be very good or very bad to have around as a plot device. The Bad: The citizens’ apparent inability to recognize the guy who tried to destroy the city. The show still has a distinct lack of CCH Pounder.  I’m not sure if the city is Star City or still Starling, but I’m calling it Star City.  First she’s a community servant providing free legal advice, then she’s a hot-shot DA, then she’s suddenly a drug addict, a couple weeks later she’s sober and now she’s training to be a vigilante. She’s changed more in a single season than Oliver has in three.  That’s not entirely true. I have one complaint; she really doesn’t know how to throw a punch. I train at a boxing gym and, while I’m not an expert, it’s pretty obvious that she’s never really done any boxing before. Hopefully Ted Grant will fix that ASAP. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response Arrow 3.09 "The Climb" - Psycho Drive-In January 21, 2015 […] my review for The Magician I tried to map this out a […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.