Big changes on Arrow from last season to this one. Oliver and Felicity are playing house and the perfect little couple. Diggle, Laurel, and Thea are trying to hold “Star City” together while a literal army of “Ghosts” led by Damien Darhk are picking off members of the city government one at a time. Oliver plans to ask Felicity to marry him but the looming danger back home offers little solace. All this happens before the first commercial break.
The stakes are high and things seem bad. Worse than they’ve seemed in the past. The police are helpless –Team Arrow –or at this point, Team Diggle are in pretty much the same position. They are out of their league and have to turn to Oliver for help, much to Diggle’s dismay. From the ridiculous bucket he wears to the very, very bad and painfully obvious choreographed fight moves of Willa Holland, the first fifteen minutes of the episode are good, but hard to buy.
As already mentioned, Willa Holland as the new Red Arrow/Speedy leaves something to be desired. Her fight scenes are clumsy, awkward, and she does little to convince otherwise. Her presence on the show has always been more of a distraction than anything significant. Her character has never been interesting and Holland’s performance has been lacking.
Neal McDonough as Damien Darhk is delightfully devious and his mystical power no doubt learned from his days with the League of Assassins makes him one of the most dangerous villains the team has faced. In a unique twist, Darhk comes right out and announces his intentions (if not his plans) to kill Star City.
Laurel as Black Canary. It’s hard not to cheer for her, but she’s making it difficult. This is far from the Black Canary of the comic book universe. Katie Cassidy does a great job in and out of costume, but it is frustrating that her Black Canary is still struggling.
Again, what really ruins this episode as it does with nearly every episode are the “five years ago” flashbacks. Although they are meant to tie into each episode with life lessons Oliver learned during his time on the island. Stephen Amell wears too much eye liner and the flashback long hair wig is absurd. It would serve the series better to lessen the number of flashbacks.
Now enough of the bad, let’s talk about some of the good because there was some.
Oliver not being so gloomy and brooding was a nice change of pace . . . at least up until the end of the episode. The new costume looks amazing thanks to Cisco and Oliver finally adopts a new and less darker persona, Green Arrow.
One very meaningful and extremely cool thing about one of Oliver’s flashbacks . . . we get our first shot of Hal Jordan . . . THE Hal Jordan. It was quick and a little subtile, but there he was. So exciting to know he exists in this television universe, although he’s been mentioned before, but it was great to actually see him in the flesh.
Damien Darhk’s apparent magical and mystical powers are going to be a problem for Team Arrow, which will nicely explain the introduction of John Constantine to the series. Along those lines, it was nice to see that the vague mention of Hierarchy of International Vengeance and Extermination (H.I.V.E.) coming back into the series. Darhk had a connection to H.I.V.E. in the DC Comics universe as well as two other interesting characters, Talia al Ghul and Deathstroke. That could be a sign of things to come on Arrow in the future.
David Ramsey‘s John Diggle. In spite of the helmet he’s wearing this season, Diggle has gone through quite a change since last season. He’s darker and a lot less trusting of Oliver coming back. It is nice to see that he is capable of standing on his own outside the shadow of Oliver Queen.
The re-branding of Starling City to Star City. It was a rather touchy subject with fans from the beginning.
Ray Palmer . . . gone but not forgotten. Hopefully it is no spoiler to say that Ray Palmer is not dead and his role as a second-rate Iron Man on the show will finally change once he comes back.
Paul Blackthorne as Captain Quentin Lance. Much like Jim Gordon in the Batman universe, he’s had to tolerate the evil loose in Star City. His acceptance and cooperation with the masked vigilantes has made him reconsider his perception of right and wrong. And unlike Gordon, he can no longer live with himself for allowing Oliver and his team to run wild through the street. His alignment with Darhk could mean a major problem for Team Arrow, especially if he spills everything he knows about his own daughter and Oliver Queen.
In spite of some missteps, this first episode of season four wasn’t a complete disaster. There were moments that were amazing and moments that left you feeling flat. That isn’t to say that season four is off to a bad start. It could have been better and it could have been much worse. With at least twenty more episodes left in the season, it is best to just wait and see.