Oliver has come a long way since he got off of that island two years ago. He’s descended into murderous vigilantism, dealt with the loss of his best friend, risen from the ashes to be a more virtuous hero, dealt with loss again in his mother, and faced off against his most dangerous foe Deathstroke. He’s got a team this time, with Roy, John, and Felicity at his side, Roy literally so in the streets of crime. Starling City is different, too. It’s safe for once, thanks to the Arrow and his gang. But as Marvel’s Hydra likes to say, cut one head off . . .
The way that the show finds conflict is interesting. The first two seasons were dominated by Oliver’s internal conflicts, whether he’s conflicted about his role as a killer and vigilante, or he’s consumed with guilt about the long-since-passed death of Deathstroke’s girlfriend.
The third season is different. Having moved past the “Man versus Himself” narrative, we’re moving into a different kind of conflict: how will Oliver react when his oldest enemy comes back, with Oliver’s sister Thea at his side, how will the hero react? Will he be able to remain true to his commitments?
Early in the show, Oliver shows great restraint in ceasing to seek after revenge for a major character who dies, despite pressure from one of his friends and allies to do just that. He also displays growing amounts of selflessness, encouraging Felicity to be with her family and advocating for safe and responsible methods of crime-fighting. Oliver has finally arrived, but his sister, on the other hand, is on the autobahn to villainry.
This season features a returning cast character: Malcolm Merlyn. Responsible for the deaths of more than 200 people in Starling City (from the end of Season One), Merlyn is alive and well, and has returned for who knows why to do who knows what. But the third season does a phenomenal job of building up his appearance and his charismatic ways with his daughter, turning her into a villain as well. It may not have the same aura of the unknown as previous villains have, but John Barrowman’s Merlyn is an unmistakably charismatic villain, capable of creating an epic struggle with Oliver. But even with John Barrowman’s phenomenal acting, the conflict won’t primarily be between Oliver and Malcolm, but Oliver and Thea.
Some might have mixed feelings about that plot device, but I think it’s a phenomenal opportunity for the show to explore some deep and practical concepts. Our culture is basked in the philosophy that in order to love someone, you must implicitly, if not explicitly, condone their actions. If not, the person in question is labeled as “judgmental,” “hateful,” and “patriarchal.” But in this narrative, it’s Thea, the one on the path to becoming a villain, who throws out the term “judgmental,” and we all know that if she continues down that path and becomes the sidekick her biological father envisions her being, Oliver will never approve.
In this sense, it creates a very compelling conflict with a very scriptural application. Even as God loved us, He never condoned our actions. The course of action I expect Oliver to take with Thea is similar to the action that David took with his son Absalom; he did what he needed to stop his son’s evil, but also did his best to save his son, asking his men to refrain from killing him. That’s the Biblical way to deal with someone pursuing a course of evil while retaining love for that person.
In that manner, Arrow would continue its pattern of exploring worthwhile themes. For a CW drama especially, it has minimal sexual content, while taking on ideas that we as Christians can get behind, without the bold-faced lies of Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy or the sexuality of Watchmen. There are far fewer morally gray areas, and that makes Arrow a show worth indulging in.