Arrow Season Four GIF Review: For Better or Worse

Arrow season four starts off strong with an effective flash-forward to an unknown grave, but then magically falls apart during the final third act.  Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) finally begins to embrace a team dynamic amongst his fellow masked heroes, Speedy (Willa Holland), Spartan (David Ramsey), and Black Canary (Katie Cassidy).  Even Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) gets her own codename “Overwatch” and a side story that includes a terrific introduction to Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum).  This is no longer a series about one man’s mission to save his city, but a vigilante family.  The Arrow writers also attempt to introduce mysticism into the DCTV universe through the Lian Yu flashbacks and new big bad, Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough); for better or worse.  Don’t forget that the magic allowed for some pretty great DC character crossovers to occur with Vixen (Megalyn Echiunwoke) and John Constantine (Matt Ryan).  Star City has about ninety-nine problems, but a hero doesn’t appear to be one; considering who is still standing in the bunker during the season’s final scene.  “Look… living in Star City requires a special kind of tenacity.  A sane person wouldn’t live here,” the same can be said for a hero trying to save a place that continues to get destroyed every May.

After continuing to expand the Team Arrow lineup, the Arrow writers remove one vigilante from the lineup all together.  Ironically before the final grave reveal, the writers use the Lance Family to resurrect Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) from the dead in “Restoration”, “Beyond Redemption”, and “Haunted”.  Meanwhile Detective Lance (Paul Blackthrone) takes a page from Oliver’s playbook and attempts to serve as a mole in HIVE’s organization for Team Arrow.  In retrospect there are multiple points where the writers parallel Detective Lance’s desire to protect Laurel, with Oliver’s attempt to do the same for Felicity.  A consequence for Detective Lance trying to take on Darhk in the shadows.  In “Eleven Fifty-Nine” during Damien Darhk’s jail break he stabs Laurel Lance in the chest with an arrow from Oliver’s own quiver.  Even though at this point Darhk is aware of everyone’s civilian identities, this act isn’t against Oliver, but payback for Detective Lance (Paul Blackthrone) selling him out in court.  Following this tragedy, the writers parallel the differences between present day Oliver Queen with the man from season one.  In “Canary Cry” the flashbacks explain to viewers Oliver’s decision to leave Starling City following Tommy’s death.  My biggest issue with this arc is that Laurel didn’t die under very heroic circumstances, instead she’s merely used as a pawn in the long game.  After Katie Cassidy’s exit from Arrow she went on to appear as Black Siren on The Flash.  This increases the likelihood that she’ll appear sporadically in later seasons of the series.  The writers needed to reaffirm the stakes of being a vigilante in Star City, too bad the plot point served more as a consequence for a decision Detective Lance made, not Oliver.

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Granted this show has always been about the “Sins of My Father”, even if Robert Queen is not the dad in question.  Between Detective Lance taking a more active role in Team arrow, and the introduction of Felicity’s father, Noah Kuttler (Tom Amandes), and don’t forget Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman); there is never a shortage of daddy issues in this series.  In terms of Thea Queen’s character, I hope that her relationship with Malcolm evolves next season.  After he kidnaps and brainwashes her in “Lost in the Flood” this relationship has been played out.  Especially since in the very same episode Thea interacts with her own wildcard progeny, Anarky (Alexander Calvert).  A character full of surprises after his initial transformation in “The Candidate”, after Thea allows her bloodlust to get the best of her.  Really, Thea’s journey is about dealing with the Lazarus Pit repercussions and Lonnie’s turn into Anarky is a byproduct.  She may have received the Lotus elixir to deter her bloodlust, but Lonnie’s the embodiment of her own darkness.  His appearance during the final episode stretch factors into Thea’s decision to leave Star City.  This minor arc is really effective, especially considering Anarky’s murder of Ruve Adams, allows Oliver to be sworn in as interim mayor.  My Arrow season five prediction for Thea Queen is that she goes off to find Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) and Lonnie causes some more trouble in her search for happiness.

John Diggle comes to a similar decision in the season finale, “Schism”, only he returns to life in the army.  A very similar decision to the one Oliver makes all the way back in season one, as he returns to Lian Yu.  Both John and Oliver are motivated by guilt for a fallen brother.  Initially I wasn’t on board with the Diggle family drama after Andy Diggle (Eugene Byrd) appeared as one of Darhk’s ghosts in “Brotherhood”.  This is put on the back burner until our annual Diggle centric episode, “AWOL” includes flashbacks to the Diggle brothers time in the army.  This episode also includes our first Shadowspire tie-in and the mention of Rubicon.  Important plot points in terms of Darhk’s overall plan to enact Genesis.  Diggle’s miss-placed trust in Andy leads to a very predictable, brotherly betrayal that costs Laurel Lance her life.  David Ramsey really delivers a stellar performance in “Genesis” after his brother threatens Lyla and Sara, forcing Diggle make the ultimate decision.  During the remaining episodes the writers add small mentions about Diggle’s newfound PTSD from killing his own brother.  Again, this season long arc found Diggle dealing with his own, personal darkness and deciding to return to a simpler time.  Now that Lyla is head of ARGUS, a mission gone wrong in her position will trigger Diggle to return home to his family.

After riding off into the sunset during the season three finale, Oliver and Felicity return to the vigilante fold in an established, healthy relationship.  Initially the Arrow writers put this romance on the back burner in an effort to focus more on the budding hero relationships within the team.  “Lost Souls” is really the first episode that moves their relationship to the forefront and I still praise the showrunners for showcasing female commitment issues.  Due to the tragic events in “Dark Waters” the couple remains in the spotlight for the remainder of the season.  Balanced episodes like “Blood Debts” and “AWOL” gave me hope that the writers would not allow the relationship angst to distract from Oliver’s hero journey.  After the midseason break the couple both struggled with consequences for returning to Star City and some secret-keeping.  Then episodes such as “Taken” and “Broken Hearts” aired and left me noticing more weaknesses then strengths in #Olicity.   The angst worked well with the overall theme of trying to have it all in Star City, until the breakup and Felicity’s sudden recovery from her paralysis.  Don’t undo the sacrifices our heroes have to make along the way, this type of storytelling has diminishing viewers interest.  I mean, we all understand that their love story is far from over, as shown during their re-established “working” partnership in “Genesis”, “Lost in the Flood”, and “Schism”; but the happily ever after needs to be “unthinkable“.  Although, I do appreciate the symmetry behind having the two who previously left in search of happiness being the ones who remain to help rebuild.

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“What you’re feeling isn’t darkness, it’s a schism.  You’re at war with two sides of yourself,” explains Felicity to Oliver as they visit Laurel’s grave following Darhk’s demise.  During the over hyped final showdown between Oliver and Darhk the “no kill” vow is cast aside for the sake of justice.  Maybe viewers wouldn’t have been underwhelmed with this outcome if the previous finale didn’t play out in a similar manner.  This is a great time for Oliver to be informed that he’ll become the interim mayor for Star City.  While, in the flashbacks Oliver heads over to Russia to fulfill the promise he made to Taiana.  Wait… was this season just a bridge to season five?  Arguably season three is about Oliver transforming the Arrow persona from a vigilante assassin into a hero.  In this season Oliver learns about his ability to lead and inspire Star City citizens without a mask. Now in season five Oliver will balance being a public persona with his Green Arrow alter ego.  Plus, the creators are currently working on casting both a new adversary, without super powers, and a new ex-marine vigilante to bring into the fold. Really all I ask is that these new characters tie back into Oliver’s history with the Bravta. Let the speculation begin, I remain a Team Arrow fan; for better or worse.  Stay tuned.

Tweet me your Arrow season five predictions @sjbelmont  

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