Warning: This contains spoilers.
It goes without saying that there will be some pretty hefty spoilers this week, so if you’re an Arrow fan and you’ve somehow made it this far without knowing who gets killed off, then continue at your own risk. Still here? Okay, then. Arrow began Season 4 with a flash-forward that saw Oliver and Barry standing by a grave, with Oliver vowing to kill someone. The identity of who was in the grave has been a season-long tease, something that was rather undermined when the show-runners admitted they didn’t know who would be in the grave when they wrote that opening. That worrying niggle aside, the show finally makes good on its promise and the result is one of the strongest episodes of the season so far.
The episode starts with Oliver getting deeply suspicious about Andy, who seems rather too concerned about the missing piece of Damien Darhk’s idol and also stages a laughably unconvincing fake-out, where he leads them into a trap and then takes an arrow for Oliver (making a giant leap across the room to do so) to prove he’s on Team Arrow. Naturally, Oliver’s distrust really annoys Diggle, who is convinced that Andy’s now one of the good guys and he lectures Oliver on how his own self-pity and self-righteousness have blinded him to what’s in front of him or something. Oliver isn’t put off, however, and tails Andy, catching him in the act of looking for the missing piece of the idol, only for Diggle to show up and angrily point a gun at Oliver. Since we already know Andy’s a wrong’un, this is basically the show setting up Diggle up for one hell of a fall later in the episode.
In fact, let’s cut to the chase. Eventually, Team Arrow realise that Damien Darhk is planning a prison break, having already instigated a riot (I don’t know about you, but I felt a sharp pang at the sight of all those books having been ruined for the purpose of hiding weapons). So they suit up and head to the prison (sans Felicity, who’s making good on her promise to leave Team Arrow and barely appears this week), only for Andy to reveal his treachery (Diggle: “D’oh!”) and Damien to get his superpowers back, at which point he makes good on his promise to Quentin that he would kill Laurel and, well, kills Laurel. With one of Oliver’s arrows, no less.
Except Laurel doesn’t die straight away and the show does an odd bit of business with her at the hospital that feels very suspicious. First, the doctor tells all of Team Arrow that Laurel will basically be fine, she’s just weak after losing a lot of blood. Oliver and Laurel have time for a powerful scene, where they lay out exactly how much they mean to each other (and Katie Cassidy sells the hell out of that scene). She asks Oliver to promise her something, which we don’t hear. Then, there’s a cut to Thea in the hospital corridor and we go back to Laurel suddenly in the midst of a seizure and she dies. So what did she ask Oliver to do? Surely not fake her death, given that would mean Oliver pretending to Quentin and the rest of Team Arrow that she’s dead – but if not that, then what? Promise he won’t put her in the Lazarus Pit? Does Laurel even know she’s dying when she asks him to promise her whatever it is? Damn you, Arrow – even when you solve your main mystery, there are still so many questions.
The show does make a decent stab at putting all three of Quentin, Diggle and Thea in the frame for the Mystery Death, although they went so hard on foreshadowing that it would be Laurel that you could be forgiven for thinking it was an elaborate bluff. First, she gets offered a big promotion, then Damien threatens her life (even before he gets his powers back), then she has a lovely heart-to-heart with Quentin where he tells her how proud he is that she’s the Black Canary, then Oliver tells her she doesn’t need to be the Black Canary – she can do good as Laurel Lance: District Attorney, and finally she actually says “One last time, then…” as she suits up to go to the prison. I mean, come on!
So, where does this leave us? It’s going to be agony seeing what this does to Quentin, and Diggle is now in a very dark place, having lost his friend because of his brother’s betrayal. We know it sharpens Oliver’s resolve, because we’ve already seen his graveside vow to kill “him” (now confirmed as Damien Darhk) – which has the unfortunate effect of making it feel like Laurel’s death is a textbook fridging (Google it) of a female character, but let’s not get into that right now – and even, sort of, brings Oliver and Felicity closer again, since we’ve seen them in the car together in the flash-forward. Meanwhile, Thea has lost a friend and confidante and she’s sure to be even angrier with Malcolm, given his part in the whole thing. And I don’t even want to think about how they’re going to tell Sara and what it will do to her, when she eventually finds out.
As for Darhk himself, he’ll be even more formidable now he’s got his powers back, so he should be putting the whole Genesis thing (whatever that is) into gear fairly soon now, seeing as there are only five more episodes left in the season. Add that to whatever Malcolm’s got up his sleeve (and knowing him, there’s bound to be something) and the season is set for a pretty exciting final few episodes.
Meanwhile, on Flashback Island, things actually tie into the main action this week, with Taina and Oliver sharing photos of their loved ones (Oliver’s photo of Laurel later resurfaces, when she reveals she’s kept it with her all this time on her soon-to-be-deathbed) and promising to visit each other’s nearest-and-dearest, should one of them not make it. All in all, this is a powerful, emotional, action-packed episode that delivers on its season-long promise and upsthe stakes for Team Arrow, as Season 4 heads towards its finale. Good work, Arrow.
– “I’m going to hit the streets. “Thea, no one is going to give up Merlyn.” “Then I’m going to hit people on the streets.” Thea is rapidly becoming the show’s MVP. Hopefully, she’ll pick up some of Felicity’s slack in the wisecrack department, if Felicity really is done with the Arrow Cave.
– The action sequence in the prison was proper heart-in-mouth stuff, because you knew that someone wasn’t making out of that prison alive, but it was also excitingly directed in its own right.
– One small mis-step: having Diggle wear that ridiculous helmet meant that we didn’t get to see his expression once Andy was revealed as a traitor. D’oh!
– It turns out Damien now knows that Oliver Queen is the Green Arrow. Apparently, he worked it out, after connecting Andy to Diggle. Slow clap for Darhk, there. Only took him 18 episodes.
Arrow: Season 4 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.