The Arrow fights Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins with new DC comic book heroes by his side

When Arrow is going good like it was for last year’s epic season two, it is the best comic book show going. Season two was all about the Arrow and his growing support team facing off with Deathstroke to save his beloved Starling City. This season three tries to up the ante by bringing a Batman villain in as his nemesis. Familiar to anyone that has seen Batman Begins, Oliver Queen squares off with the legendary Ra’s al Ghul and his League of Assassins. Fan reaction was split over Arrow’s inconsistent season three as sister show The Flash took all of its buzz and critical acclaim.

Fans have been clamoring for the burgeoning romance between lovable tech genius Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) and Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) since season one. That is explored off and on in season three by introducing a third party to complete the love triangle. DC fans will instantly recognize the name of Ray Palmer, the shrinking hero better known as the Atom. Played by Brandon Routh as a genius goofball with an eccentric sense of humor, Ray Palmer is the new addition that plays a pivotal role in season three. Ray’s chemistry with Felicity introduces a love triangle as Oliver feels a dating life involving Felicity is not in his immediate plans.

Arrow began with just Oliver running around playing superhero, but we now have a full cadre of superheroes and masked people running around playing hero in the Arrowverse. The Flash even makes a few brief appearances in Arrow’s season three, including a cool crossover episode where the Scarlet Speedster and the Arrow have to team up to take down Captain Boomerang. What was once a very grounded show has evolved into a full-blown comic book adventure with colorful costumes. The tone remains as grim as ever, one of the bigger complaints about season three in the fan community. Due to plot circumstances for much of the season, Felicity’s normally reliable one-liners are kept in check. The writers struggle to make Ray Palmer the comedic character, but long-time fans don’t have the same kind of investment in his new character.

The other big development of season three is the transitioning of Laurel (Katie Cassidy) from an alcoholic lawyer to the crime-fighting Black Canary. One of the big elephants in the room for season three is the loss of Caity Lotz from Arrow. She played Laurel’s sister Sara in season two to perfection, becoming a fan favorite as the first Black Canary and Oliver’s girlfriend. For unfathomable reasons but likely money, Sara was written out of Arrow’s season three early on. It leaves a gaping hole in the show that the producers struggle to fill all season. It all works out in the end as Caity Lotz has been signed up for DC’s next spin-off series on the CW.

Arrow’s producers say each season is plotted out beforehand as one long movie. That tight serialization can be fantastic when things are clicking but can muddle things up when the unexpected happens. Familiar DC comic book character Ted Grant is introduced, only to be forgotten when the actor suddenly got another gig. That arc also hurts Laurel’s development into a replacement for her sister as the Black Canary.

Arrow still remains superb comic book television entertainment most of the time, only failing to meet the lofty standards it set in season two…

The other thing dragging season three down from the heights of season two are the endless Hong Kong flashbacks. It was revealed that Oliver wasn’t always stuck on the island for his missing five years at the end of season two. Arrow as a show has always been told through the prism of Oliver’s flashbacks. Season three is poorly constructed around Oliver’s missing time in Hong Kong before he came back to Starling City. His Hong Kong flashbacks eventually figure in with his confrontation against Ra’s al Ghul, introducing a couple of new allies. I don’t think the new characters are necessarily that boring, but the flashbacks produce needless tedium as they drag on with Stephen Amell running around in ridiculously poor wigs to make him look younger.

Some fans were greatly disappointed by season three of Arrow as The Flash concurrently ran to new heights of comic book storytelling. Arrow still remains superb comic book television entertainment most of the time, only failing to meet the lofty standards it set in season two with some questionable story arcs. Anyone interested in superhero entertainment should continue watching Arrow, the linchpin of the burgeoning DC television universe.


The Arrow Season 3 Blu-ray screen shot 12

The third season of Arrow, all twenty-three episodes, arrives on Blu-ray in four BD-50s. While the show retains its trademark gritty appearance in the action sequences when Arrow and gang are saving the day, there is a noticeable uptick in picture quality in the exterior shots. This set is presented at 1080P resolution preserving its broadcast 1.78:1 aspect ratio from the CW. The video is encoded in AVC at slightly sub-par compression parameters, typically averaging 15 Mbps per episode.

This third season shows improved picture quality on Blu-ray compared to the past two seasons. Close-ups exhibit remarkable sharpness and definition, highlighted by revealing detail. That level of texture and detail declines in medium-range and more distant shots, producing a softer appearance. Arrow’s flashbacks are also softer in appearance, featuring darker black levels and more noisy video.

Most of the show revolves around the dual identity of Oliver Queen and his alter-ego, the Arrow. Oliver’s rich lifestyle is filmed in perfect clarity with depth and dimensionality, exuding clean Hi-Def quality. When costumed heroes like the Arrow and Black Canary take on villains, the show’s entire aesthetic becomes darker and grittier. Black levels start getting crushed and overall brightness takes a major hit. Some of that is likely to cover for the VFX and stunt work being used, but it works in the context of the show well.

WB does a terrific job translating the show’s video with a flawless digital transfer. The compression holds up surprisingly well, though a few hints of artifacts creep into the toughest material. When the show is hanging out at Oliver’s underground hideout, his Arrow Cave if you will, everything is nicely lit and looks perfect. It is the scenes when the Arrow is fighting off Count Vertigo and other villains, shrouded in darkness, where picture quality takes a drop from pristine HD video. Some of the worst-looking moments are establishing shots, which resemble much cheaper video.

Video ★★★★☆

The action of Arrow sounds great in this excellent 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. It features immersive surround action with a bevy of powerful LFE moments. This is a modern, intense sound mix with excellent audio design. Dialogue is crystal-clear and intelligible, balanced with an active soundfield that engages the listener. You will believe you are in Starling City as each punch and kick lands on screen. It falls short of the best theatrical mixes but remains one of the better television mixes heard in recent memory.

WB includes a number of dubs and optional subtitles for a global audience. The following subtitles display in a white font: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Norwegian, Swedish.

Audio ★★★★☆

As other Hollywood studios abandon television product on Blu-ray, WB continues to plug along providing a fine assortment of special features. Season three does mark the first Arrow season to drop the Blu-ray and DVD package, dropping the DVD versions. This four-disc Blu-ray set comes in a slim case with a slipcase. Best Buy has a retail exclusive edition that includes an Arrow comic book. Included in the set is an UltraViolet digital copy redeemable on VUDU and other UV providers in HDX.

A handy episode guide is included with recaps for each episode. Be warned, the booklet is replete with spoilers and should be avoided if you haven’t seen the season. Executive producer Marc Guggenheim and star Stephen Amell are all over the special features, though most of the cast make brief appearances.

Second Skins: Creating the Uniforms of Arrow (17:13 in HD) – A neat documentary featurette covering the costume design process by the show’s designer, Maya Mani. This behind-the-scenes look actually encompasses far more than costumes as both cast and crew are interviewed. The primary points of focus are on Arrow’s costume, Black Canary’s costume, and Ra’s al Ghul’s appearance. This is a well-made, concise exploration of the show’s various costumes, comparing and contrasting them with their comic book counterparts.

Nanda Parbat: Constructing The Villain’s Lair (22:49 in HD) – A very thorough behind-the-scenes documentary about bringing Ra’s al Ghul’s mountain hideout to life. Production designer Richard Hudolin explains his inspiration for the lair. The second half covers the digital compositing that finishes off the lair for television. This has far more depth and insight than most fluffy featurettes. Another excellent featurette with cast and crew interviews.

Arrow at Comic-Con 2014 (28:55 in HD) – Producers Andrew Kreisberg, Marc Guggenheim, and Greg Berlanti join most of the primary cast on stage in this light discussion with a panel moderator. A lot of little jokes are tossed around but this was filmed before the season had aired, so everyone has to avoid spoiler discussion. The producers confirm that they asked DC to use Ted Kord and were denied, then switching to Ray Palmer.

Gag Reel (03:58 in HD) – A running clip of bloopers, gaffs and generally the actors hamming it up when they mess their lines up.

Two Audio Commentaries – Executive producers Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle offer joint commentary on two critical episodes, The Calm (1) and The Climb (9). These discussions cover themes for the entire season, though much of them are specific to each episode. We get some insight into the creative process behind Arrow from a writing and production standpoint. They aren’t the world’s best commentaries but the easygoing chat is a decent listen.

Extras ★★★★★


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. The 1080P images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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