NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of Arrow are present in this review
Arrow’s brooding, angsty third season was ultimately pretty hit-or-miss. Some episodes were fantastic, while others were rather sub-par, culminating in a season finale that sadly ended up being one of the most frustrating and poorly executed episodes of the lot. Even beyond the flaws though, Arrow had also started to become very suffocatingly dark in Season Three, to the point where the show was trying so hard to separate itself from its bright and chipper companion series, The Flash by instead becoming as dramatic and depressing as possible. Needless to say, that made the show far less entertaining, particularly after a standout Season Two the previous year.
Fortunately, Season Four is aiming to lighten up a bit, and, rather than actively run the other way from The Flash and how it does things, Arrow is now going to adopt some elements that really worked on its companion series, without betraying the core of what makes Arrow what it is in contrast to The Flash. Fortunately, this seems to be a good direction too, since the fourth season premiere of Arrow started the season off strong with a more light-hearted touch that effectively expands the scope of the show, by allowing it to relax more, and start bringing in more ambitious and fantastical elements of the wider DC Universe.
This is best displayed through the flashbacks, which are immediately more striking and enjoyable than they were throughout most of Season Three. Apparently, Oliver didn’t get his start as a vigilante in Starling City! Instead, he tried his hand at rudimentary crimefighting in his original Arrow outfit from Season One, within Coast City, a location that has been mentioned several times on both Arrow and The Flash, and was even visited on a couple of brief occasions on The Flash last season. Of course, as I’ve mentioned more than once in my previous reviews of Arrow and The Flash from last season, DC fans would also know Coast City as the home of Hal Jordan, the original Green Lantern superhero as we know him from DC lore (if you don’t count radically different Golden Age forerunner, Alan Scott), with Arrow continuing to pile on Green Lantern teases, namely with Coast City’s tourist slogan blatantly taking a few lines from the Green Lantern oath that is famously recited amongst the DC faithful.
Naturally, Oliver isn’t quite a pro at taking down criminals yet, with Amanda Waller catching him after an embarrassing screw-up that occurs when Oliver tries to round up a drug dealer on a rooftop, and taking him to a nearby bar to talk business. Apparently, Waller has another assignment in mind for Oliver, and predictably, he has no choice in the matter. After he’s drugged, he’s forcibly thrown out of a plane on to… Lian Yu?! Yep, we knew that Oliver would end up back on that island somehow, in the lead-in to Season One’s events that kick off the show’s present day timeline, though I do sort of wish that his early vigilante career in Coast City was covered in a bit more detail. Still, the tease that some sort of occupying force is on the island, and Oliver is about to run afoul of them, nicely set up flashback sequences for future episodes.
In the present however, Oliver and Felicity have settled in to a mundane existence in suburban Ivy Town. I’m sure there’s no irony whatsoever in them settling into the hometown and stomping grounds of The Atom from DC lore, given how Season Three ended. Speaking of, Felicity has inherited Ray’s fortune and Palmer Technologies (and is one of those special CEO’s that somehow doesn’t have to do very much), and Oliver appears to be a stay-at-home boyfriend. The guy’s probably earned some R&R though, after his long crusade as The Arrow.
Things haven’t stopped over in Starling City however, or should I say, Star City. Yes, the show has finally renamed its main setting to ‘Star City’, now perfectly sharing a name with its DC Comics counterpart, and justifying the change by making it a memorial gesture for Ray, who is believed to be dead after the explosion that we last saw him engulfed in at the end of Season Three. I’m not sure if that’s totally how municipal branding works, but whatever, this is the DC Television Universe, so we’ll let that slide. Anyway, a group of high-powered criminals informally referred to as ‘The Ghosts’ are terrorizing Starling City with a wave of robberies, hijackings and killings, with Laurel, Thea and Diggle managing to make contact with them during a hijacking, though they fail to stop them. Diggle finally has his own costume though, and fortunately, it looks better in motion than it did in some of those dicey publicity shots that The CW had circulating around before Season Four got started.
With Laurel and Thea feeling that they’re in a corner, they go behind Diggle’s back, with Diggle still being angry at Oliver’s actions under false loyalty to Ra’s Al Ghul last season, and visit Oliver and Felicity to try and get help with The Ghosts. This comes at a rather inconvenient time, since Oliver is planning to propose to Felicity, and was interrupted mere moments before. The two are coaxed back to Star City, where it comes out that Felicity was secretly helping the team behind Oliver’s back. The list of fibs that Felicity gives to confirm this was pretty funny, not to mention ironic, given some of the ridiculous fibs that Oliver told her before she was aware of his secret identity as The Arrow!
Trouble with The Ghosts is just getting started though, as their leader bursts in on a City Hall meeting, complete with Captain Lance in attendance, and identifies himself as Damien Darhk. Yep, meet the apparent big bad of Season Four! He postures for a bit, then says he’ll be in touch. Not long after, most of the city officials at the meeting begin dying from apparent poisoning, though Lance seems to be safe, for now.
After learning that Damien Darhk is behind The Ghosts, Oliver’s concern rises, since he previously learned from Ra’s Al Ghul that Darhk was formerly affiliated with the League of Assassins last season. If Darhk is back in Star City, that definitely means that trouble is ahead! Diggle also implies some knowledge of Darhk’s affairs, when it comes out that Ra’s Al Ghul used the term, “Hive of Agents” to describe Darhk’s new dealings, blatantly teasing DC villain organization, H.I.V.E., which we already learned from Deadshot in Season Two was responsible for the assassination of Diggle’s brother. Diggle declines to share this connection with the rest of the group though.
The team decides to spy on Darhk upon meeting with The Ghosts, and it’s here that we get our first taste of Darhk’s ability to use magic, as he sucks the life out of the soldier that was in charge of the hijacking that Laurel, Thea and Diggle interrupted. Team Arrow crashes the meeting, followed shortly after by the SCPD, though Darhk gets away. Thea also takes the opportunity to somehow suddenly show symptoms of aggression from her revival in the Lazarus Pit from last season, which felt a bit random and tossed in. Maybe the show is going somewhere with this, but it was the one element of the story that felt a bit forced, if I’m being honest.
Anyway, after some more digging, the group learns that Darhk’s next attack will be to bomb the first train that arrives on the new high-speed train line that runs between Star City and The Flash’s Central City, and they work with Captain Lance (who is less than thrilled at Oliver’s return) to get everyone out safely. Oliver tries to stop Darhk directly, but Darhk merely uses telekinesis to stop and deflect Oliver’s arrows. Diggle manages to knock him out with a stun round however, and Oliver uses an explosive arrow to blow up the train at a safe distance, with Darhk inside. Boy, Oliver’s explosive arrows sure pack a wallop, eh?! Yes, that train was loaded with explosives, but those are some pretty unstable explosives to carry on a high-speed train if all it took was one well-placed arrow to set them off, even an explosive one!
Of course, Darhk survives, in time to do more creepy magic rituals, and it’s here that we learn that he actually has an inside man amongst the city officials, that being… Captain Lance?! Yep, this was quite the bomb to drop on audiences, as the once uncompromising and morally strict Captain Lance is now seen working for the bad guys. Lance nonetheless yells at Darhk over threatening innocent lives, and implies that he’s working under some measure of duress, but it seems that, whatever his reasons, Lance is complicit in the total destruction of Star City. It’s probably only a matter of time before Laurel finds out too, and you know that’s not going to end well.
The episode winds down with Oliver, in his new vigilante garb (which The Flash’s Cisco Ramon apparently put together for him off-screen), telling the city that The Arrow is dead, but a new hero will rise to take his place, one that can inspire hope that The Arrow never could. He then tells everyone to call him, “Green Arrow”, again, perfectly lining up his vigilante identity with that of his DC Comics counterpart for the first time. It’s satisfying for DC fans to finally see the show shedding the rest of its efforts to rename DC identities from Green Arrow lore for its own sake, even if there’s probably no re-naming of Laurel to Dinah or Thea to Mia at this point. Oh well. We’ll take what we can get!
This is before the episode ends on another big curveball however, which flashes forward by six months, and has Oliver standing over the grave of an unknown person, saying that he now knows that he didn’t bring trouble to Star City, but understands that the loss of this person cements his responsibility to be a protector. We then get a special cameo from The Flash, who missed the funeral on account of fighting Zoom, the big bad of The Flash’s new season that was established during that show’s season premiere yesterday, but is still here to show support to Oliver. The episode then ends with the two heroes looking down in reflection at the grave.
Obviously, this is a big shocker that the showrunners are teasing for later in the season, and they obviously aren’t revealing when it will take place either. Looking at the scene though, we can probably make some safe assumptions. First, as much as the show would like you to think that Felicity will be the one to die, this is honestly not likely when you look at Oliver and Barry. Both men are not nearly broken up enough, and if Felicity was ever killed, they’d both be crushed, given how much she means to both of them,plus, Zoom be damned, there’s no way in Hell that Barry would miss Felicity’s funeral! Honestly, Captain Lance or even Lyla Diggle feel like more likely suspects, since it’s unlikely that the show would fully kill off a character like Thea or Laurel, as they’re DC personalities. Diggle also seems too integral to the show and its diversity to kill off (and was recently inducted into the DC Comics Universe himself), so he’s not a likely suspect either. Barring a very bold move for the series, Captain Lance is probably the most likely to be the one in the grave, especially since Barry is barely bothered, as if he didn’t even know the person that well, which would line up for Captain Lance. It’s also likely that we’ll see this death some time around midseason, not towards the end of the current season, since Barry clearly established that he’s still fighting Zoom, yet still has time to take a break long enough to mourn with Oliver.
Whatever the case though, and putting aside whether the showrunners are willing to risk a future fan riot over that big death to come (which the loss of Felicity, Diggle, Thea or Laurel would all definitely ensure), “Green Arrow” was a strong season premiere for Arrow that had a good mix of everything, from action, to humour, to suspense, to drama, and best of all, an increased commitment to rooting the show more proudly in the fantastical conventions of the DC Universe. The show is effectively lightening up more, and is already demonstrating that it’s working to fix some of the bigger issues of Season Three. Even beyond that though, it’s just good to finally hear Oliver call himself, “Green Arrow” at long last!
- Damien Darhk's introduction is great
- Lightens up the series' tone nicely
- Captain Lance working for the bad guys
- Thea suddenly having Lazarus Pit issues feels random