Warning: This contains spoilers.
Now that Sara has been brought back to life and had her soul restored, this week’s episode of Arrow is free to concentrate on the other bit of setting-up it has to do for the Legends of Tomorrow spin-off, namely the bringing back to life (sort of) of Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh). It’s to Arrow’s credit that it makes this obvious spin-off-dictated plot work as well as it does, but you can’t help wondering what the season might have been like without all that heavy lifting to do.
The episode starts promisingly, with Ray finally getting a proper video message through to Felicity, revealing that he’s been trapped in his miniature form this entire time and that, what’s worse, he’s currently being held prisoner in a small glass box on somebody’s desk. There’s a glorious reveal at that point, as the camera pulls back to show that Ray’s captor is none other than – yes! – Damien Darhk, and that image of Darhk’s giant face looming over Tiny Ray is simultaneously the highpoint of the episode and the most comic book-like image the show has ever given us.
After collective gasps all round, Team Arrow spring into action, assisted by Mr. Terrific – sorry, we’re not allowed to call him that yet – assisted by Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum), who has knocked up an embiggening ray with which to restore Ray to his normal size. The ensuing rescue mission is an impressively sustained and pleasingly edited action sequence with plenty of nicely choreographed fight scenes – someone on the show has obviously ruled out choppy editing for punch-ups and that decision is paying off handsomely. The shot of the entire team punching and kicking a roomful of goons is particularly good.
One small issue, though. Damien Darhk is clearly super-powerful, so why does he consistently appear to give up so easily? Does he just get bored? We’ve seen that happen a few times now – someone on Team Arrow dishes out what is at best a minor setback (in this case, Oliver engineers a flashbulb effect that distracts him for about two seconds) and he mysteriously doesn’t go after them afterwards. Granted, he’s so powerful that he could take them all out with a snap of his fingers (he does that great thing where he dismissively waves Oliver’s arrows out of the air again here), and we appreciate that the show has to save the big confrontations for further down the line, but they could at least find better ways of distracting him. Still, he has a Mysterious Box now, so that’ll be fun. Whatever is inside his Mysterious Box? Something to be saved for after Legends of Tomorrow kicks off, no doubt.
Anyway, Ray gets rescued and immediately announces that because of the upcoming spin-off, he won’t be declaring himself officially alive and resuming his position as head of Palmer Industries, and will instead be heading off to find himself or something. On a not-unrelated note, Sara pipes up to say thanks for bringing her back to life and restoring my soul and everything, everyone, but she is also off to find herself and she’ll deal with her horrible bloodlust over on Legends of Tomorrow, if that’s alright with them. Which is fine, because we already have Thea dealing with her horrible bloodlust – it’s fine this week, thanks for asking – but it still seems a little ungrateful not to stick around after everything Laurel went through, not to mention all the anguish she caused Captain Lance. And he has a heart condition and everything.
The other main plot this week involves a relationship crisis for Oliver and Felicity. Ray being alive triggers intense feelings of guilt for Felicity, because she’d been too wrapped up in Oliver to realise that Ray might not be dead. She starts snapping at Oliver, who calls in Felicity’s not-quite-estranged mother Donna (Charlotte Ross), which, of course, only makes things worse, although it’s always a pleasure to see Mama Smoak on the show and we did briefly entertain the hope that Donna and Damien would meet and it would turn out that he is Felicity’s father after all. (Given that they don’t meet, that’s still a possibility, as far as we’re concerned, particularly now Donna’s sticking around for a bit, if her final scene where she picks up Captain Lance at a bar is anything to go by.)
Anyway, it is once again a credit to the writing, the acting and the established character dynamics that what could have been a whole episode of tedious relationship woes ends up as being a nicely thought out, surprisingly believable and ultimately rather sweet series of scenes where Oliver and Felicity actually talk to each other and work through their problems, emerging stronger as a result. There are a number of other intriguing elements at work here too, such as the fact that Felicity has evolved from essentially comic relief support-slash-love interest into a fully-fledged main character with thoughts, feelings and desires that are not wholly in the service of the main character, or the fact that Oliver continues to evolve, emotionally, in a very rewarding way and the lightening up of his character continues to pay dividends. (It’s worth noting that this kind of relationship is new territory for him too.)
On top of that, the relationship wobble gives us three other nice little moments: an exasperated Diggle getting caught in the middle of Felicity and Oliver arguing; Oliver and Diggle having some beers together and talking about relationships (which is good enough to let you ignore the fact that they’re back to this point rather quickly after their fall-out); and Felicity telling Oliver that “This is not the time for Cordon Bleu” after he offers to cook for her and Donna.
Meanwhile, on Flashback Island… not a lot happens. After the excitement with John Constantine last week, all we get is Oliver leading Baron Reiter to the Mysterious Cave, some symbols on a wall that look a bit like Oliver’s new tattoos and Conklin (the bearded henchman whose name we have now remembered) setting Oliver up by persuading one of the prisoners to try and kill him, forcing him to kill the prisoner in front of everyone. No doubt that will be Important For Later, but it feels like the island flashbacks are moving way too slowly, even if they’re not yet as bad as Flashback City last season.
This is a solid episode with superbly choreographed fight scenes and strong character interplay, but it will be a relief when the show no longer has to set up Legends of Tomorrow and can get on with whatever Damien Darhk is up to.
Arrow: Season 4 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
Where can I watch Arrow online on pay-per-view VOD?
Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.