Arrow – Season 4 Episode 2
Green Arrow runs for Mayor…or more accurately, Green Arrow eventually decides to run for Mayor after a series of contrived plot points.
There have been lots of promises of making changes to things to the show. The producers have said that it’s going in a different direction with a lighter tone and renewed focus, the characters are talking about doing things differently and the villains are talking about stepping up their game but as yet there is very little evidence to support any of these things.
Oliver proclaimed loudly last week that he was going to fight for his city as a symbol of hope as the Green Arrow. That’s great in theory but the opening of the episode felt like it was from any other season of Arrow with an action sequence taking place at night featuring Team Arrow squaring off against a group of anonymous henchmen in an industrial location somewhere in the city. I’m not hating on the action sequence because it was great. It was well choreographed, the team seemed tightly knit with them all working together and there were some amazing visual touches such as Laurel ziplining over the ensuing battle to give a real idea of the scope of the Team working together.
One definitive way to show that the show is changing and that Oliver’s methods are changing would be to have that same fight sequence but set it during the day. I would think that Green Arrow could only be a true symbol of hope if he could actually be seen to be doing things when the sun is up. Maybe that will come in time but it would have sent a powerful message to have this attempted so early on.
Oliver’s character still comes across as more at peace with himself and his different attitude works well for him. He and Felicity still feel like a realistic couple and their relationship is so far completely free of angst which is still very refreshing. Like last week he seems more lost and angry in the flashbacks which creates an effective contrast between the two time periods.
On the subject of the flashbacks I’m glad that he is back on the island as I feel that he should never have left it. There is the potential for this to feel like a retread of the first two seasons but for now the difference in Stephen Amell’s performance to characterise Oliver Queen at two very different stages in his life is enough to carry it. I also like Jimmy Akingbola’s Baron Reiter as a warlord character. I’ve heard that he is going to be Arrow‘s version of Baron Blitzkrieg but I doubt he’ll bear much resemblance to his comic book counterpart. I do have to question him casually offering Oliver a chance to work for him without knowing anything about him. Maybe future episodes will have him keeping a close eye on his new recruit.
In the present, there was a difference in Oliver’s methods when he and Thea went looking for information later in the episode. Oliver as Green Arrow simply asked questions of people but Thea became very violent and broke a man’s arm when he was less than forthcoming with answers. This is reminiscent of the way that Oliver used to behave back in season 1 but in this case it is supposed to show that Thea is becoming more unhinged despite her insistence that she knows where the line is.
I really liked the scene where Oliver deliberately antagonises her to prove his point. Thea becomes almost feral when Oliver gets under her skin which illustrates his fears perfectly. It also pays off when Thea almost kills her opponent by attempting to burn him alive in the final action scene of the episode.
Thea’s increased aggression is being developed a little too quickly to feel organic but it is working very well. I am reminded of Roy’s similar issues with the Mirakuru in season 2 but generally speaking it is being handled quite well. I’m glad that it is being addressed as there were plenty of warning surrounding her resurrection last season but it seemed relatively consequence free until now. Of course this only serves as a means to an end to set up Sara’s return so that she can be featured in Legends of Tomorrow but it’s good that her return can be tied to something that proves relevant in this show otherwise it would feel like extraneous material.
Laurel’s ignorance as to what happened to Thea in Nanda Parbat worked really well as there was no visible indications that she knew what was really going on at the end of last season where Thea was concerned. She points out that Oliver didn’t tell her anything because that’s the sort of guy he was at that point. I also liked that knowing what the Lazarus Pit is capable off makes her instantly think about her sister and come up with an immediate plan to bring her back. Laurel doesn’t know what the consequences of this could be and is only motivated by a selfish desire to have her sister back in her life. I can’t wait to see how this all pans out as this will create an opportunity for Nyssa to feed into the discussion. I’d like to see Nyssa warning her against this and some real conflict come out of that. I imagine the arrival of John Constantine will ground a lot of these discussions with some hard facts. As a side note was it really necessary to show that disturbing image of Sara’s corpse? I found it more than a little unnerving and wonder what the rationale was for showing it.
Jeri Ryan’s Jessica Danforth is the candidate that the title refers to. She comes across as almost hopefully idealistic and her dialogue seems specifically crafted to get Oliver to feel that he should be doing more to inspire the city. As Green Arrow he risks his life to protect the city but as yet he doesn’t really inspire people. According to Jessica they need someone to rally behind who can represent them in a way that gives them a city to be proud of. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Harvey Dent’s role in The Dark Knight. In that film it was mentioned that Gotham need a hero with a face because Batman isn’t enough and it’s a very similar concept here. It seems that 4 seasons in and Arrow is still taking inspiration from Nolan’s Batman trilogy. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I’d think by now it wouldn’t need to.
Jessica Danforth is a good character despite her clunky dialogue. Jeri Ryan delivers it with sincerity and manages to make the transition from her idealistic tendencies to dispirited mother very organically. It will be a shame if she will only turn up for this episode as she was a good addition and her implied history with the Queen family added some weight to her arrival.
The villain of the week wasn’t all that inspiring despite the fact that he is a big deal in the comic books. Lonnie Machin (Alexander Calvert) aka Anarky who so far seems nothing like any version of that character I have seen. He does have a maniacal energy that is quite fun to watch and he is memorable in the sense that he stands up to Damien Darhk despite how intimidating that guy can seem. He does come across as a capable foe to Oliver and Thea as he is more than able to handle them in a fight. Maybe his character will get better in further appearances but it feels like this character would be much better if he was called something else and created specifically for this show.
I continue to be impressed with Darhk who has a very defined agenda and is not afraid of anyone. His very deliberate way of conducting himself was an excellent contrast with Lonnie’s twisted charisma and their interactions helped to define Darhk as a man who has personal limits and adheres to his own code of conduct. Neal McDonough still remains excellent in this role and I like that he will casually appear throughout the season to help flesh out his character.
Another strong part of the episode is the changed relationship between Oliver and Quentin. For whatever reason Quentin accepts that Oliver is active as Green Arrow but does nothing about it. Oliver doesn’t even try to deny that he is back as a costumed vigilante so the fact that Quentin dislikes him but leaves him to it is confusing. My thinking is that the court of public opinion wouldn’t look upon this favourably and as a community Star City needs all the help it can get. As always Paul Blackthorne sells all of his scenes perfectly and plays up the animosity he feels for Oliver whenever they share scenes. I like that he puts Oliver in his place for Thea nearly burning Anarky alive and reminds him how lucky he is that he’s not being done for murder. There is a line to be crossed that will cause Quentin to act. The scene he shares with Darhk further shows his discomfort at the arrangement they have as well as the lack of fear he has despite Darhk’s abilities.
Lastly Felicity had her own story in this episode. She returns to Palmer Tech as the CEO and finds out that she has to fire a bunch of people to keep the company out of bankruptcy. This doesn’t sit right with her and she finds another way out of it. The details are very boring and corporate but the point is that Felicity is someone who doesn’t like to compromise in ways that affect others negatively. Many of her scenes involve her interacting with Curtis Holt (c) who is destined to one day become the hero Mr. Terrific despite the slight name change. He makes for an entertaining partner for Felicity and acts in a way that is reminiscent of her character in season 1. They already make a fun team and I’m glad that the episode made a point of mentioning his husband as it completely removes the possibility of a romantic edge to their relationship. I’m glad that Felicity is being treated as a character who has agency within her own stories rather than serving as the love interest for whatever superhero the show is trying to develop. It’s a step in the right direction for her and I’m interested to see how it pans out.
As I mentioned above, Oliver decides that he’s going to run for Mayor at the end of this episode. It all feels a bit sudden and it doesn’t really make sense for his character at this stage of his development. Oliver Queen has been Mayor of Star City in the comics but it’s far too soon for this version. It would be stronger if the first half of the season would build up to that decision but it may pan out better than I expect.
An uneven episode that had a lot of good points but some very strange decisions that don’t quite work for the characters at this early point in the season.
Any promises of changes made to the show have yet to properly manifest themselves. The opening action sequence was excellently choreographed but it would have made a more impact to stage it during the day in order to cement that things are being done differently now.
Oliver’s character still comes across as more at peace with himself which provides an effective contrast to the angrier, tortured version in the flashbacks. I’m glad that Oliver is back on the island in the flashbacks as I feel that he should never have left it. I did like that he makes it clear to Oliver that he’s very lucky that he isn’t being done for murder due to Anarky almost being burned alive. It’s clear that there is a line to be crossed that will make Quentin act. His scene with Darhk was interesting as he shows no fear despite Darhk’s abilities and general sinister demeanour. It’s clear that Quentin is uncomfortable with the arrangement.
There are some differences to Oliver’s methods shown by him asking questions of people as Green Arrow instead of threatening them. To counter that Thea becomes violent and breaks a man’s arm in order to get some information out of him showing her growing aggression as a result of her resurrection. The scene where Oliver deliberately antagonises her to prove his point is well done and illustrates what is happening to Thea in a way that she will understand.
Laurel’s reaction to finally finding out what happened to Thea in Nanda Parbat works really well as her knowledge of the situation was never properly addressed last season. Apparently Oliver never bothered to explain it to her which makes sense given how secretive his character was at that point. Her knowledge of the capabilities of the Lazarus Pit leads her to immediately think of bringing Sara back. I like where this is going but I’m not sure why we had to see the unnerving shot of Sara’s corpse.
Jeri Ryan’s Jessica Danforth is a good character despite the clunky dialogue that she has. Her role seems to be as a motivator to help Oliver arrive at the decision to run for Mayor. Something that I feel is too early for Oliver at this stage. Ryan plays Jessica well managing to transition from political idealist to dispirited mother organically.
The villain Lonnie Machin aka Anarky doesn’t really work as an adaptation of that particular character. If he had been an original creation then he would have fared much better. He did have an infectious maniacal energy and was an able match for both Oliver and Thea in a fight.
He provides an interesting contrast with the more calculating nature of Damien Darhk who is further developed as being very much the opposite of Lonnie. We learn that Darhk has a code of conduct that he adheres while using extreme methods. I like that he will be developed throughout the season.
The changed relationship between Oliver and Quentin works really well. I like the animosity that Paul Blackthorne puts across in the scenes they share but I’m left wondering why he puts up with the Green Arrow at all since Oliver makes no effort to deny it to Quentin.
Felicity’s return to Palmer Tech was really well done as it allowed the character to branch out on her own without being defined as the love interest of whatever superhero the show is setting up at that point. Her partnership with Curtis Holt is a lot of fun and the mention of his husband immediately removes the possibility of a romantic edge to their interactions. It’s a much better use of her character and I look forward to seeing how this develops.