Less than 5 – Skip it, 6 – OK, 7 – Good, 8 – Great, 9 – Phenomenal, 10 – You owe it to yourself to watch this episode!
Arrow has seen a number of status quo shifts throughout its 3 seasons on the air. Coming into the 4th it was tough to get overly excited. Ra’s Al Ghul and his League of Assassins were underwhelming when expectations for the series were at an all time high, especially with The Flash premiering to such acclaim. Thankfully, Arrow seems to have learned a thing or two from its sibling series and is off to a great start.
There are two things that will immediately stand out to long time viewers: 1. Oliver Queen is not the dark and depressed vigilante we remember him to be. And 2. We have a badass and layered villain (I’m most excited about this shocking development)! However, before we get into the good stuff allow me to paint you a picture.
Starling City, now Star City, is in shambles. Crime is at an all time high, buildings are in ruins and the police are tripping over themselves trying to keep up with the rampant corruption. Cue Team Arrow (sans The Arrow). Thea has become a full-fledged member of the team donning a modified version of Roy’s outfit. Laurel has honed her combat skills and can safely hold her own in the thick of things. Leading this rag tag group of heroes is Diggle (he now has a mask!). The Arrow-less archers (my poor attempt at being hilarious) do an admirable job defending the city from wrongdoers of all types, but without their humble leader they too fall short of their goals.
Which leads us to the 2 (even more) awesome things I mentioned in the beginning. Damien Darhk makes his grand entrance and Oliver Queen returns to save his city.
After putting an end to Ra’s and The League Oliver left Starling to live a quaint and normal life with Felicity. This episode picks up with them engaged in cute banter over how poorly adjusted Felicity is to the simple life and how quickly Oliver took to the changes. It made for a fun dynamic which was made even more enjoyable thanks to the strong rapport between Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards.
While on the topic of the duo, the team behind Arrow has definitely been listening as they have seemingly addressed every issue fans had with them. Oliver is no longer the mopey anti-hero from the first 3 seasons. Instead he is a fun and witty hero that enjoys what he does (akin to Barry Allen as The Flash). Ever since the very first episode I have been of the mind that Amell could play one part of his dual personalities a lot better than the other. His demeanor as the Arrow never felt genuine to me, but the playboy Ollie was a natural fit. Here Amell adopts pieces of that playboy persona resulting in an infinitely more likeable and better-acted character.
And before I forget, He goes by Green Arrow now (it’s about damn time!).
Oliver Queen may be a happier man these days but his return to Star City is not all sunshine and rainbows. Diggle is still irate about Ollie’s decision to use his family as a distraction in his strategy against Ra’s. The David Ramsey and Stephen Amell play up the damaged relationship well adding yet another check on the “things Arrow did right this time” list.
Thea and Oliver fall right back into their usual groove, which isn’t a bad thing. I’m glad they acknowledge her unstable nature following her resurrection. With White Canary right around the corner the Lazarus Pit and their mystical nature are sure to come into play.
Overall everyone hit a great balance between the new humor and the classic dreary tone Arrow has always been known for. There were moments where a joke failed (“you have failed this omelette!”) to land but that’s normal for any TV show. As long as the show stays this course I can see big things ahead.
Moving on from our band of heroes, let’s talk about the bad guys. With the exception of Deathstroke, Arrow has suffered from a severe lack of antagonists. Every week a new threat pops up and just as quickly they are defeated, never to be heard from again. And then comes Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough). In a single scene McDonough imbues more menace and charisma in his villain than 3 seasons worth of thugs, met-humans and monsters combined.
Mentioned in passing a few times last season, Damien Darhk is a former member of the League of Assassins and head of the enigmatic operation known as HIVE. He is the man responsible for Star Cities recent descent into madness. He has a bone to pick with the city and is putting all of his power towards seeing the city fall. And what power it is! Epic martial arts on par or superior to Green Arrow’s, a seemingly endless supply of thugs at his disposal and to top it all off he has telekinesis (or something like it).
Seeing him stop arrows mid flight by pointing at them and throwing them away with the flick of his wrist is something unseen on the show before and poses a major new challenge for Oliver and company to overcome. His motivations aren’t entirely known but already I am more invested in his nefarious plot than anything the other nameless schmoes could come up with.
The Green Arrow poses a major shift in the fabric of the Arrow-verse. More humor and witty banter can easily turn to awkward and annoying, but the writers have pulled it off. Oliver is a much more complete character now and Damien Darhk feels like a true threat (Neal McDonough is always a blast). With season 4 fixing a number of the issues fans had with the series thus far, I can’t help but feel hopeful for the rest of the season.
Overall The Green Arrow gets an 8.5/10.