Warning: This contains spoilers.
Say what you like about this episode’s various flaws (and there are many), at least this season of Arrow has learned from the mistakes of Season 3 and is barrelling ahead like nobody’s business, plot-wise. Hopefully, this momentum will also enable them to quickly distance themselves from some of the more troubling moments when the main story kicks into high gear.
If you’ve seen the trailer for spin-off show Legends of Tomorrow (due to air in the States in December), then you’ll already know that Sara Lance is back on full-time superhero duty, this time playing the White Canary. With that in mind, Arrow wastes no time in chucking her in the Lazarus Pit this week, although the collateral damage of that decision is considerable.
Last week ended with Laurel digging up Sara’s body (again, ewww) and telling Thea that they were off to Nanda Parbat (in secret) to resurrect Sara and to get answers from Malcolm about Thea’s RAGE problems. So this week they duly waltz into Nanda Parbat and demand that Malcolm brings Sara back to life. (How exactly DO they get to Nanda Parbat anyway? And with a coffin in tow, no less? Probably best not to ask.)
Malcolm, quite rightly, refuses, until Thea basically guilts him into it, although not, as you might expect, by reminding him that the pair of them killed her in the first place, and that they need to right that wrong. Malcolm’s actual reasons are rather confusing and have more to do with not wanting to upset Thea more than he has already, as well as easing her conscience… except that by this point, he’s explained what is likely in store for Sara, and so Thea wanting to bring her back seems particularly cruel.
Still, at least we get a clear answer on Thea’s RAGE problem. Yes, it’s officially good old-fashioned bloodlust, which can only be slaked by, oh yes, killing people. Essentially, Thea has become a vampire, which is rather a neat turn of events and will no doubt lead to fun times ahead. Perhaps Thea and Sara will bond over their mutual bloodlust woes?
Malcolm’s attempt to deal with Thea’s problem is classic Merlyn – first, he gives her false hope, telling her that they’ll find a cure. Then, he sends two of his ninja minions to attack her in the night, knowing that she’ll kill them, after which he tells her that no, there is no cure, but the two guys she’s just killed should keep the bloodlust at bay for a couple of months at least. Father of the Year, right there. At least Thea has the sense to call him on his ridiculous solution, essentially saying: “So your advice is to go on a bi-monthly killing spree? Thanks, dad.”
The LOLs keep on coming. First, we are introduced to Malcolm and Nyssa playfully trying to kill each other, something they apparently do every day now. That throwaway scene is the most fun Katrina Law has been in a while, so that’s nice. Then, we get Sara taking a dip in the Lazarus Pit, for which someone has thoughtfully dressed her corpse in a black bustier she could conveniently resurrect into and fill out. (It’s what she would have wanted, etc.)
As if that wasn’t bad enough, we then get Laurel (whose bad decisions in this episode almost single-handedly undo all the good character work Arrow has done on her since her disastrous Season 1 incarnation) burbling something about how happy Quentin would be to see his daughter alive again. Um… don’t bet on it, Laurel. This is capped by the hilarious moment when Nyssa sabotages the Lazarus Pit by… er… pouring in some sort of sticky concoction (Eau de Plot Contrivance, no doubt). We guess it makes sense to remove the Lazarus Pit as a possibility in the world of Arrow (especially with a SIGNIFICANT DEATH coming up), but if Nyssa cared that much about leaving Sara dead, wouldn’t she sabotage the pit before that could happen?
We have to admit, we’re torn. On the one hand, it’s great to have Sara (and Caity Lotz) back and they really shouldn’t have killed her off in the first place. On the other hand, her presence in the upcoming spin-off show completely removes any sense of tension for her character, since we know she’ll have recovered in time to join a super-team in December. Ah well.
Anyway, enough about Nanda Parbat, although we will say that the place works much better as a permanent home for Malcolm and Nyssa, now that the annoying mystical mythology of the League of Assassins has been dialled down.
The other main plot this week involves Oliver and Diggle finally repairing their relationship, while taking on new supervillain Double Down, whose meta-human power involves, um, peeling fleshy tattoos of playing cards off his arms and throwing them. After getting shouted at by a pining-for-the-old-days Felicity (a great scene for her and a nice callback to the show’s S1 set-up), they have a heart to heart with Diggle lamenting, “I would have taken a bullet for you, man.” This sets up Oliver taking “a bullet” for Diggle towards the end of the episode, although “taking a fleshy flying playing card tattoo for you” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
You could argue that the show should have spent more time repairing this relationship, and maybe put some more emotion into it, but let’s face it, it had to happen eventually, so it might as well happen sooner rather than later. Also, it’s fun to see “Original Team Arrow” (as Felicity calls them) back together again and we enjoy their reminiscing about Season 1 villains (“Remember those bomb collars that Dodger had? Oh, how we laughed”, etc).
Another thing the show has going for it this week is the impressive cutting together of the two central action sequences (both excitingly staged), with both Diggle and Oliver ultimately failing in their respective missions because they don’t have each others’ backs.
As for Double Down, he may be a bit rubbish (and, try as he might, J.R. Bourne just can’t make throwing those cards look cool) but at least he points out just how effortlessly evil Neal McDonough’s Damien Darhk is, in the scene where he mentally uses Double Down’s own cards to kill someone. We’re no closer to discovering what “Phase Three of Genesis” (Darhk’s master plan) might involve, or to discovering who his faceless partners might be, or to the sinister significance of HIVE, but we’re enjoying the ongoing mystery.
The other significant development this week is the character of Curtis Holt, who takes a big step towards his future Mr. Terrific identity by accidentally inventing his exploding T-spheres, although it’s disappointing that he doesn’t get to use them. Last week, we said he’d be hanging out in the Arrow Cave by Episode 12 and it’s a sign of just how fast the show is moving that he’s already there this week, albeit unaware of Oliver’s secret identity and without the other members of Team Arrow present. Still, Echo Kellum is doing great work as Holt and he sparks brilliantly off Emily Bett Rickards, so their scenes together are a lot of fun. It’ll be interesting to see how he fits into things now that he’s aware of Felicity’s Green Arrow connection. Speaking of which, Oliver mentions that he has an idea for a new Arrow Cave. Predictions, anyone?
No prizes for guessing who’s trying to contact Felicity on her phone – that’s surely a microscopic Ray Palmer, right? Another mystery significantly compromised by the fact that he’s starring in Legends of Tomorrow in December.
Meanwhile, on Flashback Island… Oliver does a bit of torturing and secretly saves a woman who has been helping the dying prisoners. Wherever this is going, it can’t possibly be as dull as Flashback City last season, so fingers crossed.
One weird thing about this episode os that there is no mention at all of Oliver’s stated plan to run for Mayor, which is odd considering the pace at which everything else is moving. Maybe it’s slipped his mind? Okay, so maybe he hasn’t officially announced anything yet, but you would think someone would at least mention it, no?
Frustrating, spin-off-dictated plot contrivances aside, this is still a very entertaining episode, not least because of the show’s newfound willingness to embrace the nonsense and actually have fun with it. In that light, even the Lazarus Pit shenanigans are forgiveable – better than the endless moping and agonising of last season, anyway.
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.