Arrow – “Haunted” – aired 11/4/2015 – ***** stars
Written by Brian Ford Sullivan & Oscar Balderrama
Directed by John Badham
*Spoilers are contained within.
This week’s Arrow was the episode we’ve all collectively been waiting for. “Haunted” is the episode fans have tweeted about, spoken of, and anticipated since a great announcement was made some time ago – Matt Ryan would be reprising his role as John Constantine! Audiences fell in love with Ryan’s portrayal of DC Vertigo’s Hellblazer last year on NBC, but when the show was cancelled, it seemed as if we’d never get to see him don the trench coat and light up another cigarette again. However, The CW and Stephen Amell decided to move Heaven and Earth to get Matt Ryan back; they successfully restored a beloved character and presented him in this week’s episode of Arrow entitled “Haunted.” Be damned, “Haunted” may just be the best episode yet in a fantastic fourth season.
Going into Arrow‘s episode “Haunted” I must admit there was a certain level of trepidation. Would Constantine (Matt Ryan) be utilized in a way that would make fans of the NBC series happy, or would it turn out to be nothing more than a glorified cameo such as this past season’s guests Jeri Ryan and Rutina Wesley, whom we wrote about last week here. Writers Brian Ford Sullivan and Oscar Balderrama delivered a truly great episode which displayed not only an engaging flashback story, but also a mightily fun episode. Fans of the exorcist, demonologist, and petty dabbler in the dark arts should be quite pleased with “Haunted” as we not only get Ryan as Constantine during the present story line, but we also have our most immediately resonant flashback story line as we see Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Constantine meet for the first time. Certain viewers have taken issue with Arrow still heavily employing flashback sequences and while I have not minded them as much, they don’t always tie in to the present story on a weekly basis. “Haunted” shows us eight months into Oliver’s third trip to the island and of how he learns that the “world is a much more complicated place.”
The world of The CW’s Arrow and The Flash is in fact a “much more complicated place” as the DC universe continue to build. We saw magic and mysticism introduced last season through Ra’s Al Ghul and the Lazarus Pit, but Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) has opened the Arrow-verse to magic in a way that was once only reserved for the comic books. Warner Bros and DC have done a magnificent job at using the Christopher Nolan approach to their iconic library of characters, but have now fully grown in such a way that has allowed them to delve into the more spectacular without worrying over jumping into the absurd.
“Haunted” opens with Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) killing two ruffians that are about to attack a woman. The unsuspecting woman believes that Sara was saving her, but she turns on her only to be scared away by the SCPD. We learn there have been a rash of murders in Penny Town and it’s eventually understood that the newly resurrected Sara is suffering from the “blood lust” that Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) warned his resurrected daughter Thea (Willa Holland) about earlier in season four. Because the Lazarus Pit wasn’t supposed to be used on dead people, Sara has now become deranged as her soul is no longer with her body. To prevent her from killing Thea (it was Thea who killed Sara during season three), Oliver calls in an old friend – John Constantine.
While there aren’t any direct plot references to the NBC series Constantine, composer Blake Neely does pay homage to Bear McReary‘s theme and it plays through several moments reminding us that the Constantine in existence on Arrow is very much the same one we last saw on the peacock. Speaking of the peacock, there’s a clever scene in which Constantine requests a dead peacock feather. Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) provides him with it only to be surprised that he just needs it to scratch an itch on his back. It may have meant nothing except for a quick laugh, but given Constantine’s history with NBC, I would not be surprised if this was intentional.
“Haunted” was a very entertaining episode that did not short the fans on any of the fun and thrills we’ve come to expect from the series. Was this a backdoor pilot for a newer, “restored” Constantine series on The CW? Probably not, but given the conclusion which sees Constantine fully restore Sara’s soul and warn Oliver to leave town after being asked about Darhk, I would not be surprised if we see our favorite Hellblazer again.
Arrow airs Wednesday nights on The CW at 8 pm ET. Check your local listings.