When Arrow started off on The CW, the showrunners, writers, and cast were fully committed to bringing about a show that was grounded in reality but just happened to have masked vigilantes defending the otherwise realistic city. After the success The Flash had in introducing bigger-than-life superpowers, Team Arrow has now inextricably become part of that world. So what’s a former billionaire and his buddies to do with a little bit of leather and a lot of arrows against metahumans and other superbeings? Time for a little magic!
Once Ra’s al Ghul was introduced last season, along with the mystical Lazarus Pit that’s linked to his longevity in the comic books, it became clear that Arrow was ready to embrace the supernatural. Sure, they dabbled in pseudoscience with the Mirakuru drug and its ability-enhancing effects (and more or less created a zombie in Cyrus Gold/Solomon Grundy), but that’s about as far as it went. With the introduction of Season 4’s Big Bad, Damien Darhk, things are about to get much more interesting.
As those of you who have been following my recaps the last few years know, I like to start with the episode’s flashback sequences before jumping into the main plot. This season, it should be a little easier to keep track of those flashbacks since the writers have drastically cut back on non-Oliver retrospective scenes. For tonight’s premiere, we meet Ollie five years ago as he’s chasing a drug dealer across a rooftop, but manages to lose this battle by being thrown off said roof. Luckily, some electrical wires are there to break his fall, and Amanda Waller is waiting to buy him a drink and give him a job. (It’s worth noting that this takes place in Coast City, but they don’t do much with that reveal in this hour.) Before long, Oliver is on a plane headed back to, you guessed it, his favorite island getaway: Lian Yu. He’s tasked with infiltrating the island, assessing the threat, and reporting back, but since he’s knocked down by an armed guard as soon as he lands, Ollie’s mission isn’t off to the best start. Hope you guys are anxious to spend five minutes of each episode back here again!
Now, back in the main storyline, it seems like Oliver is up to his old tricks as he runs through the woods in a green hoodie. But wait! He’s actually just out for a morning jog in the quiet suburb of Ivy Town. I really enjoyed the opening few moments of “Green Arrow” since it shows Ollie and Felicity enjoying each other’s company in domestic bliss. This is really the only time we get a bit of humor and some light-hearted moments in the episode because things get really dark and violent from here on out.
Team Arrow, composed of Laurel as Canary and Thea as Speedy/Red Arrow with Diggle and his new helmet as their de factor leader, has their hands full in Starling City. A well-organized gang of criminals called Ghosts have been hijacking military-grade weapons and armor, the audacity of their thefts increasing each time. It soon becomes apparent that they’re simply too much for the remaining trio of masked vigilantes, and more than a match for the beleaguered (and consistently overwhelmed) Starling City Police Department. While I fully expected Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) to remain in the … well, dark for at least a few episodes, instead he comes right out and introduces himself to the committee of city leaders – a foursome that includes Quentin Lance – as leader of the Ghosts.
Let’s talk about Darhk for a second. How great was McDonough? He not only owned the Starling City committee from the time he set foot in the room, his performance told you exactly who this character was: bold, assertive, ruthless, and a little bit insane. Darhk doesn’t relegate himself to a far-flung locale while his minions do the work, he’s down in it. And while we soon learn that his recruited soldiers are tasked with essentially burning Starling City to the ground on behalf of his mysterious associates, Darhk saves the reveal of his supernatural powers for conflicts with Team Arrow, and the Green Arrow himself.
That’s right! Ollie and Felicity have been pulled back into the fight (even if Felicity has been assisting the team behind Oliver’s back the entire time). There’s a lot of tension between Oliver and Diggle (Reminder: Oliver endangered Diggle’s wife and child as the Heir to the Demon last season), and it isn’t resolved in this first hour. (Diggle also has as score to settle with Darhk’s organization, the H.I.V.E., which hired Deadshot to kill his brother Andy.) Another little seed of conflict that’s sown in the premiere is Thea’s overly aggressive fighting tactics, suggesting she’s on some kind of drug/Mirakuru addiction or some other issue that Big Brother Ollie will have to sort out. Luckily, Laurel and Ollie seem totally fine, so that’s a relief.
Now that Team Arrow is reunited in earnest – along with Ollie’s new Cisco-designed suit and message to Starling City that he’s their symbol of hope, the Green Arrow – they can take the fight to the Ghosts. The action sequences are surprisingly brief but brutal in this episode. After the Ghosts, on the orders of Darhk, assassinate the city leaders and mow down the police department, Team Arrow tracks them to their hideout. It’s here that Darhk calls out one of his underperforming soldiers and basically kills him simply by touch – and through the guy’s body armor, no less. Darhk reveals more of his powers when Green Arrow attempts to stop him from driving a train full of high explosives into the city’s new station during its opening ceremony. With a flick of his wrist, Darhk repels the point-blank arrows back toward the Emerald Archer, and then soundly defeats him in hand-to-hand combat. Darhk is a beast, and I have only the faintest idea of how Green Arrow and Company are going to defeat him.
So while Darhk didn’t exactly win this round since the train station wasn’t destroyed (thanks to a well-aimed explosive arrow), he hasn’t lost the war. It seems that the source of his power is due to some sort of blood ritual he performs at a spooky-looking altar, but the source of his connections in the city comes through a partnership with Quentin Lance himself. Yes, the remaining leader in the city and the man who’s bent on destroying it are working together! Clearly Quentin is in over his head here, but as a man of high moral standing who has failed to keep Oliver Queen from causing trouble, perhaps he has reached out to a man he does not completely understand. (This episode was chock full of Batman references, what with Quentin acting as a Jim Gordon surrogate and blaming Oliver Queen for his mask, which merely brought more masked menaces into the city. Arrow: Batman Jr.)
Now, the main plot and its issues aside, we need to talk about that final scene. Six months later, we see Oliver Queen standing over a gravesite; the engraved name is obscured from our view. Barry Allen, aka The Flash, shows up and apologizes for missing the funeral; he’s kinda busy dealing with Zoom in Central City, so he zips away as quickly as he came. So while we have no idea who the deceased is (or will be), Oliver promises to kill the person responsible for their death (Darhk?). Who’s in the grave? It could literally be anyone at this point because we’re all being set up to fall hard when we find out who it is: Thea’s doing fine but might be battling addiction again, Laurel’s finally come into her own, Quentin is in bed with the devil but is a good man at his core, Diggle is a family man focused on protecting his city and getting vengeance for his brother, and Felicity … Felicity is the woman that Ollie is desperately trying to propose too. There are no good outcomes here (unless it’s someone we haven’t met yet, in which case, well okay, sorry new guy).
As for this episode overall, it really didn’t reach out and grab me like I expected a season premiere to do. It served to make the Ollicity fandom happy, which is fine; their relationship is really the only bright spot in this dark, violent city. The flashback plot that has Oliver traveling back to Lian Yu is not interesting just yet. The tension between the team members is fine, but much like Lian Yu, feels like the writers are treading over old ground again. The good: Damien Darhk and, surprisingly, Diggle’s battle suit; it’s pretty badass in action. The ugly? Using that presumably season-long cliffhanger ending as a way to hook viewers into sticking around for the payoff, rather than letting the high stakes of the threat to Starling City and its citizens do the work. It feels cheap, and though I’m intrigued, I expect better.
Rating: ★★★ Good
(Editor’s Note: You can now vote in our “Who’s in the Grave?” poll here).
For those of you wondering why The Flash jumped ahead to six months after the events of the season one-ending singularity, it looks like it might have been to keep in lock step with sister series Arrow, or vice versa.
Oliver: “Felicity Smoak, you have failed this omelette.”
Speedy: “I told you guys to call me Red Arrow!”
Kord Industries is run by Ted Kord, aka Blue Beetle. It was also mentioned in Season 2 episodes “The Scientist” and “Time of Death.”
Quentin: “Maybe we can have a ‘Flash Day’ … just like [Central City].”
Damien Darhk: “Cities are like puppies: You see them writhing on the street in agony, you put them down.” What…
Quentin: “It’s just a flesh wound.”
Thea: “Come help us stop these guys, then you can come back to your domestic life of tranquility and soufflés.”
Thea: “Oliver, what that man did wasn’t natural.” Oliver: “No. It was mystical.” Oh boy…
Quentin: “Prodigal Arrow returns.”
Oliver: “The only way I know to fight the darkness is to be darkness. I don’t want to be that person anymore.”
Oliver: “Ra’s actually stabbed Thea right over there.” Felicity: “Oh.” Oliver: “We can get a rug.”
Next week, Anarky is coming!
Update: As commenter T. Mapps pointed out, when Ollie was in the Coast City bar, a man in a bomber jacket with a very familiar name walked by the camera. Take a look below:
It’s a nice Easter egg for Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, but that’s all it is at the moment. Though if you asked me whether or not I’d be excited for a Green Lantern series on The CW, I would say, “Hell yes!”