Arrow – Season 4 Episode 3
Arrow as a show and Oliver Queen as a character have almost the same objective this season. They are both trying to rehabilitate a reputation that was sullied by the events of last season. I definitely feel that the show is improving but there’s a lot holding it back from being as great as it was back in the second season.
Much of the focus of this episode was healing the rift between Oliver and Diggle who has resented Oliver since he kidnapped Lyla last season. The early scenes showed the rift between them really well by having the team only consist of Oliver, Diggle and Felicity like in the early days of Team Arrow. Having action scenes reminiscent of those in earlier seasons of the show without the rest of the team did a great job of showing how different the dynamic is now that Diggle has lost a lot of respect for Oliver.
Naturally Diggle’s reluctance to work for Oliver leads him to investigate H.I.V.E. on his own and leads to him almost getting killed. Oliver is placed in similar danger without someone to back him up which causes a very open and frank discussion where Felicity tells them both to basically stop being stupid and get over this rift they have. Emily Bett Rickards is always good at playing Felicity laying down the law as well as the childlike glee she feels at having the Original Team Arrow working together again.
I do think that Oliver and Diggle’s friendship was mended a little too quickly considering how deeply rooted the betrayal felt on Diggle’s end but Oliver taking a hit for him was a nice symbolic gesture of how much trust exists between then two men. It ties back to Diggle’s constant insistence that he would have taken a bullet for Oliver without hesitation. It remains to be seen if there is any lingering animosity or if it has been resolved. I would like to see Diggle still struggling to trust Oliver but with progress made on mending their friendship. If it’s a gradual healing process then it would feel more organic than simply getting it out of the way for the sake of the plot.
Felicity had some really great stuff to deal with this week. I’ve said before that she is branching out into stories of her own that don’t involve having a love interest and there is yet more evidence of that this week. The particular takeaway from her scenes this week is that she’s able to take care of herself without any need to be protected by anyone. She stands up to a metahuman confidently and shows just how resourceful she can be.
Curtis is a good character so far with an awkwardness and lack of self confidence about him that never comes across as pathetic despite how easily it could. He is a lot like season 1 Felicity and that’s something that she appears to recognise. Their scenes together make for some great TV and they make for a solid double act. I wonder how long it’ll take for him to be inventing stuff for Team Arrow. He could become their Cisco as evidenced by the various inventions he has on the go.
The villain Double Down (J.R. Bourne) was a great visual adversary for Team Arrow. His power was well realised and he never came across as anything less than a legitimate threat for the team. There was some clunky dialogue explaining how he got his powers but other than that I liked his presence on the show.
He was very underdeveloped but that feels like less of a problem when it is made clear that he’s a hired gun by Damien Darhk. When that is made clear the villain story becomes less about them and more about Darhk which works perfectly as a way to have different villains appearing on the show without worrying about having too many contrived back stories for them. This season is so far all about Darhk as an enemy for Team Arrow and his threat level is more than felt by how ruthless he is at going after what he wants.
Neil McDonough delivers another outstanding performance as Darhk. I find it interesting how he’s starting to unravel a little. Team Arrow are becoming more of a problem for him which puts more pressure on him to deal with them. If things keep going the way they are with him then he’ll easily be as good as Deathstroke as villains go. There’s certainly already more of a presence to him than Ra’s Al Ghul last season.
I have somewhat mixed feelings about Laurel and Thea in Nanda Parbat. The explanation for Thea’s bloodlust made some kind of sense and I liked that Malcolm’s first instinct was to make her embrace it as to his mind it was the only way to live with it. It makes sense for Malcolm to think that way as he has always had a lack of respect for human life. Thea’s disgust at her father casually condemning some of his men to death and the fact that she actually went through with it is excellently played by Willa Holland. She looks genuinely horrified when she realises what it is she has done.
Thea calling Malcolm out on the advice he gives her is a great touch as well. She is someone who values life and doesn’t want to be a slave to the urges she is having. Her demand for Malcolm to act like a father and help his daughter through the problem stops the scene from becoming far too mystically focused and grounds it in a very human idea of dysfunctional families. Thea and Malcolm’s emotional issues ground this whole part of the story in a way that makes it more acceptable.
Laurel doesn’t fare so well in this episode with her blind desire to resurrect Sara coming across as both naive and selfish. Nyssa in particular makes a reasonable argument against doing this as the consequences are sure to be dire. It’s repeatedly mentioned that what comes back isn’t the same person who died. Thea is a different case as she wasn’t dead so the effects aren’t as pronounced for her. Given how close Laurel and Nyssa were last season it would have made sense had Laurel at least considered what Nyssa was saying but her flat refusal to consider the facts made absolutely no sense even accounting for her grieving.
Sara’s return is in the very early stages of what is sure to be a tortured return for her. It is pointed out that there are similarities to how Thea was when she first came out of the pit but everyone is being very cautious and she is taking a lot longer to come to her senses. I’ll wait and see what is done with this but for now it could have been handled better. I definitely don’t buy Malcolm’s U-Turn on his position on using the pit with the shoddy justification that he doesn’t want to lose his daughter.
The destruction of the Lazarus Pit is both a good and bad thing. It makes sense for Nyssa to want to do this because it prevents it from being misused again. She has identified Malcolm’s hands as the wrong hands after he abandoned his duty to appease his daughter. It’s good that the stakes are raised to the point where people can stay dead now that the pit is out of commission but there is also a lot of potential to having something like that around. I wonder what the explanation will be for Ra’s Al Ghul being able to keep a lid on the rage that is associated with using the pit. I imagine John Constantine will help bring those answers.
Oliver being back on the island in the flashbacks is starting to build some momentum but there’s still a lot of questions around Oliver’s mission on there. I like seeing him struggle to maintain his cover while managing to not murder innocent people. Using his torture skills to do as little harm as possible while still being convincing works really well and there’s a tension around the potential to get caught.
A really solid episode that takes important steps towards Oliver and Diggle repairing their fractured friendship.
The episode does a good job of reminding viewers of season 1 with the Original Team Arrow working together but also makes it feel different by making the animosity Diggle feels for Oliver really obvious. The resolution of their rift felt a little bit rushed but Oliver taking a hit for Diggle was a fitting way to start that healing process.
Felicity had some really great moments as her love interest free part of the story shows how capable she is on her own and how little she needs to be protected. Her partnership with Curtis makes for a really fun pairing and Curtis is definitely a solid character to have on the show.
I liked the villain Double Down as he felt like a credible threat and his super power was really cool. He feels very underdeveloped but that’s less of an issue when he is a means to an end for Damien Darhk who is the real villain behind it all. The development of Darhk is excellent and McDonough does an amazing job playing this character. He could be as memorable a villain as Deathstroke if handled properly.
The Nanda Parbat part of the story was a little mixed. Parts of it were great such as the dynamic between Malcolm and Thea which helps to ground the mystical side of the story in something resembling reality but the way Laurel’s flat insistence on using the pit without even considering the advice she has been given makes absolutely no sense considering how she is written as a character and how close she was with Nyssa last season.
Oliver’s return on the island in the flashbacks is really interesting though lots of it are still unclear. I like how he is balancing maintaining his cover with trying to do as little harm to innocent people as possible. There’s a lot of tension to the fact that he could easily be discovered.