Arrow 4.9: “Dark Waters” Review

NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of Arrow, including a possible major character death, are present in this review



Well… That happened.

Arrow’s midseason finale this week was quite the punch to the gut in the end, though it built up to such a powerful, and potentially game-changing moment beautifully. This was a sublime episode in all respects, and one of the best in an already standout season for the show. As the focus once again returns to the struggle for Star City’s livelihood between Oliver and Damien Darhk, just about everyone close to Oliver gets caught in the crossfire. Even then, right when Oliver thinks he’s won, Darhk still manages to strike a powerful blow against him. This is a formidable enemy indeed, and one that is about to start rivaling Deathstroke for the title of the show’s best bad guy yet!

Where does all this hullabaloo stem from though? Well, Oliver makes the controversial decision to publicly out Damien Darhk as the leader of H.I.V.E., after Darhk sends a machine gun-equipped drone to shoot at people Oliver rallied to clean up Star City Bay, thus identifying H.I.V.E. as the organization responsible for the Ghosts in turn. This naturally leads to a furious and even more vengeful Darhk, who attacks during Oliver’s mayoral Christmas party (sorry, holiday party), and knocks Oliver out, along with killing most of his security force. Darhk then makes off with Diggle, Thea and Felicity, with Captain Lance helpless to stop him. Good thing Laurel sat out the party, for, reasons.

Arrow - Footage 1

With Oliver backed into a corner, he decides that he has to do whatever it takes to get to Darhk. This naturally leads to another development much like the midseason finale of Season Three last year, which did not end well for Oliver, where Oliver decides that he needs to trade himself for his friends. He calls Darhk to Star City Bay, and goes to turn himself in. Fortunately though, it’s not that simple, as Laurel, Captain Lance and Malcolm Merlyn formulate a plan of their own. I guess Merlyn gets a lot of holidays, despite being the leader of the League of Assassins.

This gives us one of our most in-depth looks yet at what Darhk is up to, as he shows Oliver around his latest base of operations, and even demonstrates a gas chamber, where he executes a follower before Oliver’s eyes. Darhk is clearly up to something, though thankfully, the show is still keeping much of Darhk’s operation close to the vest. It’s not long however before Oliver’s friends are the ones thrown in the chamber, leading to Laurel and Merlyn (disguised as the Green Arrow, rather conveniently) fighting through the Ghosts as Darhk walks away (I guess he just didn’t feel like dealing with the Green Arrow today?), and Laurel uses her Canary Cry to rupture the glass around the chamber, and allow Oliver to break everyone out. No fatalities, phew!

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Merlyn however, gets overzealous, and chases after Darhk, nearly getting killed, before Oliver comes to his aid, as Captain Lance escorts everyone else out. As Darhk lays a beatdown on Oliver, Merlyn shoots him with a couple of arrows successfully, and plants an explosive arrow in front of him, which Darhk somehow avoids with some convenient magic voodoo, despite his whole base being blown up. He then does a presentation to some people in a mysterious location full of corn, which seems to be within some sort of sci-fi complex. Naturally, a ton of questions are raised about this, as is the reveal that Darhk somehow has a wife and daughter that never came up before now, but this just means more interesting story developments to look forward to in 2016.

Thinking he’s won, Oliver has a triumphant press release, talking about the future of Star City. It’s actually quite an uplifting moment, especially as Oliver proposes to Felicity in front of the adoring crowd, who responds with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” It’s a well-earned victory for these two… Which lasts for one short car ride, before Oliver’s limo is stopped by some Ghost vehicles, and filled with bullets! Oliver throws Felicity to the floor in an effort to protect her, and manages to get a short distance away, before coming back to pull out Felicity, who was hit a couple of times, and has blood dribbling out of her mouth. The episode then ends on this rather harrowing cliffhanger. It’s a fantastic cliffhanger, and one that is sure to have fans flying into a frenzy, given how beloved Felicity is on this show, and the knowledge that a major Arrow personality is going to die this season.

So, is Felicity dead then? It sure looks like that could be the case, and that the grave that Oliver was huddled over at the start of the season was indeed Felicity’s. Even the promo for the show’s return later in January merely seems to tease the fact that Felicity is probably going to die… But I don’t know.

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As much as I’d commend the creators for risking the fury of their fans by killing off one of Arrow’s most beloved personalities, if for no other reason than the big brass balls that would require, I’m wondering if this is a fake-out, and I know I’m not the only one that thinks the show is just trolling with this. There’s two major flaws with the theory that Felicity will be the one to die. The first is that, when Arrow wants to kill off a major character (i.e. Moira, Tommy, Sara, Maseo, etc..), it does so very quickly. It doesn’t drag out the death, especially not over a midseason break. Oliver’s, “Death” from last season was a midseason cliffhanger, and sure enough, it was a fake-out, albeit an obvious one, since there would be no show without Oliver. The second flaw with the theory is one I pointed out already earlier in the season; There’s no way in blue hell that Barry Allen would miss Felicity’s funeral, and not really be all that sad. Even Oliver seems like he’s broken up in that scene, but not shattered, you know? Felicity’s death would absolutely destroy him, and he’s way too collected to be putting his new fiancee in the ground. Whatever the case, we’ll have to see, I guess.

There were flashbacks in this episode as well, but they weren’t given much emphasis, and that’s probably for the best. All they involved was Oliver taking Diana to the site of Professor Ivo’s old ship from Season Two’s flashbacks, and having her quickly teach him how to dive for a better-charted map of Lian Yu. Oliver also barely escapes a shark, which explains another of the scars on his side that we saw from the very start of the series. Victory is short-lived though, as Conklin chances upon both of them, sees that Diana isn’t dead, and both Oliver and Diana are captured, and taken back to Reiter. Like I said, not much to the flashbacks, but they did what they needed to do, as well as provided another great cliffhanger to cap off Arrow’s 2015 run of episodes with.

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Overall, “Dark Waters” was the best midseason finale that we could have possibly asked for, taking the heated conflict between Oliver and Darhk to the logical next step, and beautifully demonstrating how Oliver’s campaign will no doubt lead to casualties, potentially even a lot of them. The battle against Darhk will not be easy, and the latest price exacted on Oliver with Felicity’s critical injuries are sure to send him on another fresh rage bender when the show returns in January. Whether Felicity lives or dies though, someone is going to answer for this, and if she dies especially, Oliver is definitely going to be out for blood!

Arrow delivered an excellent midseason finale, one that continued to brutally escalate the battle between Oliver and Damien Darhk, and see Oliver potentially suffer a very heartbreaking casualty!
Oliver's bold outing of Damien Darhk
Merlyn/Laurel team-up
Heart-stopping end cliffhanger