The CW’s Arrow returned last week and so far we’ve seen a tremendous change in the series that’s been on since before Man of Steel launched the DC Extended Universe in 2013. While season three took a critical beating from fans that shot more arrows into it than Green Arrow’s fired in his comic book career, we thought it was entertaining and each episode truly delivered an exciting reason to tune in the following week. After season three concluded with Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) taking over the League of Assassins and Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) driving off into the proverbial, albeit clichéd sunset with Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), he’s back in Star City and under a new, but familiar mantle to fans – The Green Arrow.
With the Green Arrow back in Star City and no longer jogging through his neighborhood while critiquing Felicity’s cooking skills, a new baddie has risen – Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough)! He was introduced last season in name only by Ra’s Al Ghul (Matt Nable) and we learned that he was his rival who stole some of the spring waters from the Lazarus Pit and formed his own League. Last episode, in its season four premiere “Green Arrow”, we see that Team Arrow has been busy combating Darhk’s “Ghosts.” They’ve infiltrated the very depths of Star City, a place “people don’t come to anymore, [one]they leave.” In an unsurprising turn, Oliver returns to Star City, rejoins his team, and renames himself the Green Arrow. We could all breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Arrow, in its fourth season, has become a significantly happier and more hopeful show. While it hasn’t bordered on The Flash‘s Superman level of optimism, Oliver definitely seems happier and more confident in his role as the city’s protector. The shift in emotion from brooding heroism to assured heroics makes for a great change in the way each story is approached. Stephen Amell is really very good and he’s made the DC Comics character Green Arrow his own. When we get scenes of Green Arrow jumping into a fight with his team, Black Canary (Katie Cassidy), Speedy (Willa Holland), and Diggle (David Ramsey), he’s more assured in his abilities and even, dare I say, jovial? I’ve greatly enjoyed Arrow over the years and season four does not look like it will disappoint anytime soon. Green Arrow and his brand of justice is just as entertaining as The Flash and while it does seem very Batman-lite in many moments, its connection with the DC Universe for this fan could not get any better.
Last night’s episode, “The Candidate” (10/14/2015), was an interesting episode to watch for a few reasons. Not only have writers Marc Guggenheim and Keto Shimizu taken the series in an unexpected direction, but director John Behring delivered a complimentary blend of action and drama that not once felt forced. We also got an appearance by Jeri Ryan, best known as Seven of Nine on Star Trek Voyager, as Jessica Danforth. She’s a character that, as of right now, seems to be an original creation. The talented and always fun to watch Jeri Ryan presents Danforth as someone who believes in hope and a belief in her city. The relationship between Danforth and Oliver echoes similarities between the confidence of Harvey Dent in 2008’s The Dark Knight. Of course, with this being DC, things do not play out well as Darhk tries to force her out of her bid for mayor by allowing Lonnie Machin (Alexander Calvert) to kidnap her daughter.
“Green Arrow” and “The Candidate” are both strikingly well done episodes of Arrow as a mystery seems to be developing and the writers are keeping us in the darhk (intentional pun) in regards to letting us understand that something bigger is happening, but not telling us what that something even is. Making things even weirder, but tying it so much closer to the DC Comics is that Damien Darhk has mystical powers and that HIVE is somehow involved. It’s pretty exciting to see in 2015 such established parts of the DC Universe being translated to the screen in such a respectful and exciting way. It was terrific seeing the Lazarus Pit given its first live action treatment during Arrow season three and it seems equally exciting to see the beginning of mysticism in the reality based world of Arrow, along with the organization HIVE.
Arrow season four has not only revealed that Captain Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) is in league with Damien Darhk, but that Thea Queen has started to change mentally after her resurrection at Nanda Parbat via the Lazarus Pit. “The Candidate” concludes with Thea and Laurel Lance planning a clandestine excursion to Nanda Parbat to visit Thea’s father Malcolm, along with the digging up of Laurel’s sister’s decomposing corpse! Yup, Sara (Caity Lotz) is coming back! And just in time for Matt Ryan to appear as Constantine, reprising his character from the damned too soon NBC series of the same name.
“The Candidate” was a solidly great episode while featuring the debut of Curtis Holt, who we know from the comics becomes Mister Terrific. He’s played by Echo Kellum and portrayed as an openly gay man. His debut is, well, terrific and he has a chemistry with Emily Bett Rickards’ Felicty that was fun to watch. We also saw the descent of Lonnie Machin turning into DC and Batman Arkham baddie, Anarky. He should be a villain to watch out for this season. However, Jeri Ryan’s turn as mayor hopeful Jessica Danforth concludes in a way that seems like it was nothing more than to usher a means to an end. She gets back her daughter and announces that she’s dropping out which, in turn, inspires Oliver to run for mayor. Jeri Ryan has too much talent and star power to be used in such a way. It would almost seem wasteful and a bit of a casting coup to have Ryan appear in only one episode so I’m hoping we see her again. I’d also like to mention that it’s already been two episodes without Rutina Wesley (True Blood) making her debut as Liza Warner aka Lady Cop. Hopefully, she’ll be appearing soon.
“The Candidate” receives four stars.
Arrow airs on Wednesdays at 8 pm on The CW. Check your local listings.