Arrow – Season 4 Episode 9
Arrow closes out 2015 by publicly outing Damien Darhk in an attempt to bring him down by taking him out of the shadows that he so loves to hide in.
A few episodes ago, Oliver defied Darhk by refusing to cooperate with him on a project that he wanted to do and that put Oliver on his radar. Darhk’s interest in Oliver Queen has nothing to do with Green Arrow though Darhk has no time for that persona either. He doesn’t know the two are connected but is interested in both for different reasons. It’s an interesting dynamic to have a villain who can challenge the hero in both his civilian and costumed identities but have the two objectives be completely different. Considering how cavalier this show is with the notion of secret identities it’s refreshing to see that stories like this can still be told.
Oliver decides to take the fight to Darhk after he sends a remote control helicopter to gun people down at the event he is hosting at Star City Bay. He goes on TV to tell everyone that Damien Darhk is behind it all and is a villain who must be stopped. The interesting thing about this is that Oliver doesn’t simply decide that he’s going to do this. It’s a decision that Team Arrow make as a team which shows the trust they all have in one another that they are willing to put themselves in the line of fire as people who know Oliver Queen. It’s one thing for them to all suit up and fight Darhk that way but to make a choice to put themselves at risk like that is a really powerful statement about how united Team Arrow are.
The best comparison I can make for Darhk’s reaction is that he behaves like a cornered animal. With his name and face being public knowledge he doesn’t have an awful lot to lose in a lot of ways and can no longer fight a war of intimidation where he is this unseen figure pulling the strings. He shows up at Oliver’s holiday -not Christmas- part and makes a very theatrical display of how powerful he is as well as how easily he can get around even the tightest security. We as viewers know that beefing up security will do squat but all of the party guests who might have felt safe with this knowledge now know without a doubt that Damien Darhk is a force to be reckoned with. Darhk’s arrival at Oliver’s party was somewhat reminiscent of a similar scene from The Dark Knight but it played out differently enough for me to not mind the connection.
Kidnapping Thea, Diggle and Felicity counts as a personal attack against Oliver but it has the added advantage of being a blow to Team Arrow without Darhk knowing it. His plan to put them in a gas chamber and let Oliver watch them die is delightfully maniacal and Neil McDonough clearly has fun with playing Darhk in full villain mode. I like that he is someone who enjoys being the “bad guy” and has no problem with doing unspeakable things. His almost total lack of morality is a testament to his long life where things like that would certainly erode away. We have seen him be sympathetic to others in the past but on the whole there is no line he won’t cross.
Oliver’s reaction to the kidnapping is almost to fall back on old habits. The brief montage of a vengeful Green Arrow hunting down Ghosts in the hope that one of them will give him the information he wants to know was great and somewhat reminiscent of Oliver in the first season. Oliver has been really trying to change this season but old habits die hard especially when situations get this desperate for him.
The Ghosts refuse to talk so Oliver concludes that the only way to find Darhk is to turn himself in and have backup ready. All he currently has is Laurel but luckily Malcolm Merlyn shows up just when he’s needed and offers his assistance. Again this shows Oliver’s willingness to actively work on changing his old habits and accept help when he needs it. He’s thinking as the leader of a team rather than a solo act who works with others. It’s an important difference as the mentality associated with trusting others so completely isn’t the same as simply ordering others around.
Laurel’s contribution to the plan works really well as she appears in a support role that allows her to have meaningful interactions with both Oliver and her father. She finds out that Quentin is working with Damien Darhk and demands an explanation. Quentin explains the situation quickly and Laurel recognises that he did what he felt was necessary to protect her. Since he is a mole for Oliver it’s pretty hard for her to hold that against him as she ultimately knows that her father is a good man.
For Oliver, Laurel is backup in every sense of the word. She backs him up emotionally as well as being a resource for him in combat. It’s an important role to fill as Oliver needs support to stop him from going too far. She also has a personal stake in it as her friends are in danger too.
The rescue sequence was really cool but far from the best action sequence this show has offered. It’s not a criticism as there have been a lot of great action sequences. This one would fall somewhere in the middle as it was still entertaining but not especially dynamic. It was really cool to see Malcolm Merlyn wear the Green Arrow suit. it makes perfect sense as he is as good as Oliver with a bow and arrow as well as having the fighting prowess to match so it’s easy to believe that he’s the Green Arrow if you don’t know any better. It also prevents Darhk from connecting Green Arrow to Oliver.
This episode marks the first major defeat for Darhk in that his plan completely fails and everyone that he was intending to kill managed to escape as well as having one of his facilities destroyed. It’s about time that Team Arrow had a victory like this and it was made possible by publicly outing Darhk. It’s clear that he has plenty of other plans in the offing such as his “Genesis Project” which has him creating a breathable atmosphere underground for some reason. I’m not sure where he’s going with this but it definitely has something to do with his mention of needing to reset humanity.
Damien Darhk as a character has been really well handled throughout this season. He is the first villain that this show has had not completely focused on Oliver and Team Arrow. They serve as a nuisance for him but he has more on the go than dealing with them. He bears no real animosity towards them, at least no more than he does to anyone else who gets in his way. I like that his character has been set up as a villain who can spend his scenes focused on some other goal that doesn’t directly relate to Oliver at all. It also seems that he has a family which certainly came as a surprise to me. This is undoubtedly a weakness that Oliver will look to exploit at some stage.
Donna Smoak finding Oliver’s engagement ring and giving Felicity all the information she needs to work out when Oliver was actually planning to propose before they returned to Star City but the fact that they have a really dangerous life has put him off the idea slightly. Thankfully it doesn’t take long for Felicity to confront him about it as I hate when these things are drawn out. The conversation they have is actually pretty mature where they both put forward their points of view and identify that there was a lack of understanding between them of what they both want out of their relationship. We’re still awaiting the irrational argument from the deleted timeline but this was fine. It was good that it started off comedic and shifted naturally into drama. It’s fitting for Felicity to process things like that and worked really well.
Diggle had some interactions with his brother that allowed David Ramsey to stretch his dramatic muscles a little in ways that he normally doesn’t get to. The situation with Andy has both angered and hurt him in ways that he is having trouble dealing with but he seems to have accepted that his brother is essentially gone and will treat him as such. This could be an emotional reaction that he doesn’t mean but even saying it is really powerful stuff.
I’m less than enthusiastic about the use of flashbacks in this episode but that has been a running theme throughout this season. They are better than they were last year but still feel like they are being stretched out to manufacture a longer story than there actually is. This seems obvious since most flashback scenes last no more than a few seconds. It’s a shame that Oliver’s fight with a shark happened off screen as I would have really liked to have seen that.
Now onto that ending. The identity of the person in the grave has been a lingering question since the season started and this episode effectively teases that throughout. Diggle gets enough dramatic scenes to suggest that he might be on the way out, Laurel and Quentin talk about not wanting to lose each other which also suggests that either of them could be readying an exit. Felicity and Oliver’s potential engagement speaks for itself and even Malcolm Merlyn presents himself as a candidate by virtue of him being involved in rescuing Team Arrow. Malcolm was never an option as far as I was concerned as there is no way that his grave would be in Star City or that Barry would care enough to apologise for missing the funeral. They did meet during the crossover but Malcolm is hardly someone that he is close to. Diggle’s death would definitely be something that Barry would be invested in. Laurel or Quentin probably wouldn’t be quite as significant for him either.
I’m almost positive that Felicity’s apparent death is a red herring as it seems far too staged to be real. It comes immediately after a romantic proposal that has everyone deliriously happy and is left without a reaction that gives away whether she is dead or alive. All we know for sure is that she has been shot and is bleeding but it feels like the episode was trying too hard to convince us that she was dead. There’s also the fact that there’s a lot of unresolved drama between Oliver and Felicity that makes her death inconvenient at this point. For instance there is the aforementioned argument about Oliver’s son that they haven’t had in this timeline yet. I doubt she would be allowed to die without that level of angst being explored. I think it’s far more likely that he death would happen after they break up following a similar argument but I’m cynical about the use of relationship drama in this show.
Using a cliffhanger like this to manipulate audience emotions doesn’t really work for me as the intention of it is clearly to shock rather than making dramatic sense We’ll see if my theories are right in 2016 so I’ll see you all back here for more Arrow in January.