“Dark Waters” – aired 12/9/2015 – **** stars!
Written by Wendy Mericle & Ben Sokolowski
Directed by John Behring
*Spoilers are contained within.
Neal McDonough has sold us on the fact that Arrow season four’s Damien Darhk is the best villain the show has seen. “Uh, bad guy,” he says to Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen and it’s just that level of arrogance and charm that makes Darhk so much fun to watch. Following through on the threat of attacking Star City and everyone closest to Oliver, we see Darhk deliver on his promise in the wake of Oliver rejecting to support the HIVE leader and League of Assassins ex-patriot as he runs for mayor. In “Dark Waters”, fans are reminded that when it comes to mid-season finales, no one does it quite like The CW’s Arrow.
“Dark Waters” initially felt like it was going to be more of a cliched and under-performing follow-up to last week’s “Heroes Join Forces” crossover. With the threat looming over the episode that someone may die, at any moment it could have been anyone. When the episode concludes with Team Arrow defeating Darhk, the Ghosts, and HIVE, at least temporarily, Darhk retaliates with a Godfather part 1 styled attack on Oliver and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) that ends with her apparent death. The carnage on the streets that Oliver barely manages to drive away from all takes place while we realize that Darhk has a wife and child, a home, and a star to place on top of the Christmas tree. All while “Silent Night” plays.
Season four of The CW’s Arrow has spectacularly led to this moment where as much as we believe we know of what’s in store for Team Arrow, we really don’t. It was an initial complaint of mine in critiquing how under used Jeri Ryan and Rutina Wesley were on this current season, but now I no longer see that as necessarily a fault, but a well executed staging. There’s an overall sense of discomfort when it comes to Oliver, Diggle (David Ramsey), and Team Arrow dealing with HIVE. We know just as much about them as they do. With surprising us with the immediate and temporary writing off of Jeri Ryan’s mayor hopeful and Rutina Wesley’s Lady Cop, it seems as if anything goes.
A little more of HIVE’s very League of Assassins styled plot against the city is revealed during “Dark Waters.” Heading into phase 4 of their plan to reset the button on humanity with “The Bloom”, Oliver’s efforts to clean up Star City’s bay have, unbeknownst to him, really been aiding HIVE’s efforts to utilize the algae to create air in an underground area simulating earth. It’s just enough to warrant a head scratch and make fans wonder if the plot does seem like another one of Arrow’s tried and true villain efforts to destroy the city.
“Dark Waters” reminds us that Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) is the new Ra’s Al Ghul. Commanding his “minions”, even he acknowledges that there are “universal forces that [he]doesn’t understand yet.” It seems the viewers are in the same boat. It’ll be intriguing to see how the writers choose to follow this up when Arrow returns in January 2016. Let’s not forget that Merlyn also has the ashes of Vandal Savage. Could that be tied to DC’s Legends of Tomorrow?
Arrow returns January 20, 2016 at 8 PM ET on The CW. Check your local listings.