Arrow: 302 “Sara” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
God damn it, Arrow.
Last year it took until the death of Moira for the show to really start throwing the emotional haymakers, and this time it has taken just two episodes, because “Sara” comes out swinging and never lets up. There was a moment towards the end of the episode where I genuinely teared up: this was supposed to be the Bonkers Superhero Hour, not the Emotionally Devastating Superhero Hour.
Following directly on from last week’s brutal ending, we see Team Arrow immediately receiving the news of Sara’s death by finding her body in the Arrowcave: it also immediately brings up the interesting question of what to do with the body of a masked vigilante killed in action, and forces Oliver to realise that Sara’s fate will ultimately, inevitably, be his fate as well. It’s a heart-wrenching moment as the entire team are faced with what the worst outcome of their decisions could be, and all of this on top of seeing the body of their friend, someone they loved, killed in a nasty and uncaring manner.
However, the time to grieve is limited, as they rush into action to try and catch the person who killed Sara. It doesn’t take long for a suspect to present themselves, in the form of Simon ‘Komodo’ LaCroix, an archer going around killing various seemingly unconnected people. Naturally, the people turn out to be a little more connected than everybody first assumed, and Team Arrow manage to work out who his next target is and stop him before he can kill them. However, as Oliver is about to start interrogating him, Laurel shows up with a gun and threatens to kill LaCroix for what he did; Oliver is none too pleased about this, and gives Laurel the usual superhero spiel of ‘killing him won’t bring her back’ and ‘if you do this it will start you on a path you won’t be able to return from’, only for LaCroix to interrupt and tell them that he was getting drunk in Bludhaven on the night of Sara’s death, and he would totally take credit for it if he had done it.
So, while they managed to stop some people from getting killed, Team Arrow effectively allowed the trail to go cold and are left nowhere closer to finding Sara’s killer. They are able to bury Sara’s body in her old grave (from when she died previously), and to say goodbye to her, and just when you thought the episode couldn’t get more emotional, Diggle tells everybody that he and Lyla are naming their newborn daughter Sara, and across the country everybody watching the show crumpled into a useless emotional heap. At least, they did if they’re anything like me.
Overall, the way the show handled Sara’s death is an interesting one: the emotional impact of the event on all the characters is shown in a fairly uncompromising manner, as the relatively happy and fulfilled Oliver from last week’s episode is torn to shreds, faced with the probability that his life will end just as suddenly and as brutally as Sara’s did, while Laurel is, if anything, becoming close to Oliver’s character in the first season, angry and vengeance-fuelled without much care for the lasting impact of her actions. But at the same time, it is dealt with in a very practical manner, as the difficulties in actually finding a way to deal with the body are gone through in some detail: particularly the decision to bury her in the grave that her ‘old self’ was memorialised in rather than digging her a new one to symbolise the person she was at the time of her death.
Not only that, but the mystery behind who it was that killed her looks to be set up as the driving force behind this season’s action, and that is something we have not yet seen in Arrow: previous seasons have very much dealt with a ‘villain of the week’ scenario before building up gradually to the reveal of the Big Bad and their plan, whereas season 3 already has a story arc to build upon.
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, Amanda Waller gives Oliver his first assassination target, and while he is not keen on carrying the deed out in the first place, his displeasure for it becomes even greater when he sees who the target is: none other than a young, floppy-haired Tommy Merlyn, come to Hong Kong to find Oliver after his email account was activated last episode. Naturally, having someone wandering around the city asking people if they’ve seen Oliver would compromise his ability to be a silent assassin, so Waller needs him gone. However, as we all know from watching season one, this isn’t Tommy’s time to die, so Oliver and Maseo, his new handler, find a way around it: they kidnap Tommy and trick him into thinking that the email account activating was a trick to get him to come out to Hong Kong so they could kidnap him and get a ransom from his father. So Tommy leaves Hong Kong still thinking his friend is dead, and Oliver loses just a little bit more of his soul.
Finally, as Oliver decides it’s time to bring Thea home, we see her training in martial arts in a fancy villa somewhere, and thoroughly whooping her opponents: then, to nobody’s surprise, we see her trainer is none other than Daddy himself, Malcolm Merlyn.
A solid, emotional gut-punch of an episode, but one in which relatively little actually happens. The set-up for the ongoing mystery of who killed Sara was interesting, and how it was actually handled in the episode itself was satisfying, but other elements of the episode didn’t work quite as well, particularly the re-appearance of Tommy Merlyn, which was hyped before the episode aired, but not really made much of in this context.