UK TV recap: Arrow Season 4, Episode 4
Quartet of quality Quentin moments8.5
Perfectly pitched pacing7.5
Matthew Turner | On 06, Nov 2015
This week’s episode was all about Captain Lance, which essentially meant it was a welcome showcase for the great Paul Blackthorne. As such, it offered some compelling emotional moments and, in true Arrow fashion, addressed a couple of lingering issues in satisfactory fashion, while still delivering the standard of superhero action we’ve come to expect. It’s just a shame about, you know, Sara.
The episode opened with Oliver giving Team Arrow a tour of their new headquarters (Sebastian Blood’s campaign headquarters from Season 2 – a nice touch) and belatedly announcing his candidacy for Mayor after completely failing to even mention it last week. The distinctly underwhelmed reactions from Diggle and Laurel were priceless, but at least Thea seemed excited. Then, we got another nice moment – hinted at last week – with Oliver revealing that their campaign HQ was also a front for the all-new, all-improved Arrow Cave, complete with costume display cases for everyone and – yes! – even the Salmon Ladder. How did they manage to get it all tricked out so quickly? Easy: “Cisco and STAR labs did it.” Oh. Okay, then.
Oliver then faced the task of breaking the news to Captain Lance, although he undercut Lance’s predictably not-all-that-impressed reaction by revealing that he knew about Lance being in cahoots with Damien Darhk. Oliver essentially gave Lance the I’m-not-angry-just-disappointed speech, which was a bit rich, considering that Oliver was doing exactly the same thing last season, in terms of getting into bed with the enemy, and arguably worse, given that Lance hadn’t yet done the equivalent of kidnapping his best friend’s wife and child without telling them what he was up to.
That was just one of several great scenes for Blackthorne this week, as he broke down and faced up to the reality of his alliance with Darhk, acknowledging that he made a bad decision in a moment of weakness and that it’s eating him up inside. Given Lance’s history with alcohol abuse, this played nicely into what we know of the character – we particularly liked Oliver cutting him off when he attempted to explain that he was doing it for the safety of his daughter/the city. At the very least, it promptly addressed the lingering issue of Lance’s motivation for allying with Darhk, something that fans had written off as an unconvincing shock value plot twist in the early episodes. There was also a lovely moment where Oliver told Lance that he always tried to be the man Lance wanted him to be – Amell, to his credit, really sold that moment and it was genuinely moving.
It was also another great example of how fast Arrow is moving its plots along this season – we’ve gone from Oliver finding out about Lance and Darhk to Lance being back on side and working undercover in the space of two episodes. This was a welcome development, especially when you consider how long it took for the main plot to kick in last season.
That wasn’t the only great Lance scene this week, though. There were at least three others, starting with the deeply weird scene between Darhk and Lance, in which Damien quietly and compassionately advised Quentin that the best thing all round was for him to kill Sara, because she’s essentially no longer his daughter. Neal McDonough brilliantly underplayed it, making it all the more effective and adding extra, intriguing layers to Damien at the same time.
Another of Lance’s great scenes came at the conclusion of the Villain of the Week plot, which this week involved some renegade cops led by True Blood’s Rutina Wesley, who hopefully won’t be confined to a single appearance. The cops didn’t have superpowers (they weren’t meta-cops), but they were tooled up with anti-superhero weapons thanks to raiding a stash Quentin had squirrelled away for a vigilante task force last season. Arrow has never been shy about having its subplots echo or comment on its main themes for the episode and the obvious counterpoint to Quentin going to the bad here was as in-your-face as it gets, matched only by Blackthorne’s wonderfully shouty scene where he told them off for dishonouring the badge or whatever. Arguably, the writers were more focused on this aspect than on making their story convincing and their whole thing about protecting the city by robbing it blind didn’t really work, but no matter, because it led to some quality shouting.
(As a side note, it’s great to have Lance back on Team Arrow and we enjoyed the throwaway joke when he sarcastically asked if he got a code name and Oliver called him Detective – a nice reference to the fact that no-one, characters, script-writers, show-runners, episode reviewers, ever remembers that he was made Captain.)
The final great Lance moments this week came in the Sara subplot, firstly in his gamut of confused reactions when he discovered she’s still alive, and then later, when he couldn’t bring himself to follow Damien’s advice and shoot her. But let’s back up here – if you thought the Sara subplot couldn’t get any more ridiculous after last week, you’re in for a treat. Not only was Laurel keeping her beloved back-from-the-dead sister chained up in the basement, she hadn’t even bothered changing her out of the clothes she was buried in. That basement looked pretty cold and damp, but Laurel hadn’t even given Sara a nice jumper, so she was still in that revealing bustier thing. Not very sisterly, Laurel! How about giving her a blanket and a hot lemon drink?
The writing of Laurel at this point was painfully embarrassing, making her both insanely selfish and maybe even on the verge of cracking up, as evidenced by her attempts at sing-song baby-talk this week and her speech about how happy daddy will be to see his baby daughter again last week. We’ve already seen Laurel hit rock bottom in Season 2, though (and look how that turned out), so we doubt they’ll go there again. Also, to be fair, Katie Cassidy really went for it and did the best she could with the Legends-Of-Tomorrow-dictated material she’s been handed this season, and at least there was a measure of tension in wondering how Oliver will react when he discovers what she’s done. As for Sara, she managed a word or two this week, so no doubt she’ll be back to her old self soon enough. Maybe the chained-up-in-the-basement treatment works after all?
That left Felicity and Thea, both of whom took something of a back seat. Felicity continued to get Mysterious Messages on her phone and Curtis worked out that they’re coming from Ray Palmer’s computer and that he left Felicity a final message or something, only she didn’t want to hear it because there simply wasn’t enough time in the episode. Was Shrunken Ray also responsible for all the power outages in the new, improved Arrow Cave? Either way, she hadn’t quite worked out that Ray is still alive, so this plot (again dictated by Legends of Tomorrow) was held over for at least another week.
On Flashback Island, um… Oliver saved the lady from last week again (by faking her death) and the bearded mercenary discovered Oliver’s radio transmitter thingy. Ruh roh!
Oh yeah, Thea? Well, nothing was really going on with Thea. Her Lazarus Pit bloodlust was in check for a bit, as Malcolm helpfully explained last week – indeed, he might as well have said, “That should tide you over till at least the mid-season break”. It was fun seeing her throw herself into Oliver’s Mayoral campaign, though.
Speaking of which, despite the fact that Oliver is currently running unopposed, he made a damn fine announcing-his-candidacy speech and we enjoyed the cheeky little steal from the show’s opening narration for Season 1 (“After five years in hell, I have returned to save this city…”).
It’s also worth pointing out that the show has successfully brought Oliver to a point where this seems like a logical move for him, both in terms of character development and the lighter, more positive atmosphere for this season. The doom and gloom of previous seasons have been replaced with a forward-looking optimism and so far, it’s working.
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.