UK TV recap: Arrow Season 4, Episode 5
Mystical realm sequence6
Matthew Turner | On 13, Nov 2015
This week’s episode was something of an oddity, in that it featured a crossover with a cancelled TV show (from another network, no less – something of a rarity in US TV) for seemingly the sole purpose of setting up a future spin-off show. On the one hand, it felt like a cynical distraction while Arrow got on with its spin-off-ordained, really-rather-embarrassing-at-this-point business of getting Sara back to normal as quickly as possible. But on the other hand, Matt Ryan’s John Constantine proved a sparky and likeable presence on the show and was pretty much the episode’s saving grace. So, swings and roundabouts.
There is only one main plot this week: Sara gets loose from being chained up in Laurel’s less-than-sisterly basement and goes on a killing spree, causing Laurel and Thea to shamefacedly admit to Oliver that no, they weren’t actually on a spa weekend that time – they were in Nanda Parbat, chucking Sara in the Lazarus Pit.
Oliver, to his credit, doesn’t kick off – yet another sign of his continued character development on the show. He even has a touching moment with Thea where he apologises for not being someone she could trust, something you’d never have heard from the Oliver of Seasons 1, 2 or even 3.
Anyway, Oliver realises Sara has come back without her soul, which prompts him to go: “Without her soul, you say? I know what we need. Let me call my never-before-mentioned old friend John Constantine…” And sure enough, scruffy-looking, trenchcoat-wearing British magician John Constantine shows up and duly magics Oliver and Laurel into a mystical realm where they rescue Sara’s soul by, er, fighting some ninjas and pulling her out of the Lazarus Pit. Then he mutters some dark warnings about just how bad a dude Damien Darhk is, before disappearing, with the door left wide open for a possible future return, despite the networks saying that won’t happen.
It’s unlike Arrow to fumble its action sequences, but the mystical realm stuff is embarrassingly bad. They’d put no thought into what the realm might actually look like, so instead they just re-used the Nanda Parbat sets, complete with Lazarus Pit, plus all Oliver and Laurel have to do to SAVE SARA’S SOUL is just, er, lift her out of the pit. Shouldn’t it be a bit harder than that? Meanwhile, Constantine gets to show off with a sword against some ninjas, but even that isn’t as much fun as it should be.
On the plus side, at least the crossover means that the action on Flashback Island serves an actual purpose this week. Oliver meets Constantine for the first time when he’s dragged into the camp by one of Baron Reiter’s henchmen. Shortly afterwards, he leads Oliver into the jungle in pursuit of a mystic artefact, which he finds by – yes! – opening a hatch in the ground (surely a cheeky little nod to Lost) and entering a hidden cave with a very Indiana Jones-like object just waiting to be stolen. In the process, Oliver saves John’s life and – ta da! – he owes him a favour, just in case he ever has an ex-girlfriend that needs her soul restored at some point. Oh, and he also leaves Oliver a set of Mystical Tattoos that will no doubt be Important For Later.
The flashback sequences are actually pretty enjoyable this week, largely because Oliver and Constantine (and, by extension, Amell and Ryan) spark off each other so nicely. There are a couple of other revelations too: first, that Lian Yu is a danger nexus (or something), meaning that Bad Things are drawn to it. And second, that Baron Reiter isn’t just a drug baron – he’s involved in the Dark Arts. All of which means they’re really going full-on magic stuff this season. Where will it end? Zatanna guest appearance? It’s also worth noting that this is probably Oliver’s first experience of black magic, although he seems remarkably unfazed by it all.
(A few more stray Constantine points. 1) If you were wondering what that business with the peacock feather was all about, it was almost certainly a dig at Constantine’s former network, NBC, whose symbol is, yes, a peacock. 2) We did enjoy him simultaneously hitting on Laurel, Felicity and Thea, as well as Felicity’s line about just being glad that the latest figure from Oliver’s past wasn’t a beautiful woman. And 3) Let’s just gloss over the fact that the mystical realm somehow had the power to change Oliver and Laurel into their costumes, because, hey, Sara’s back now and she’s going to be okay in time for Legends of Tomorrow, so that’s good, right? Right?)
The show has other problems this week too, namely the continued clumsy writing of Laurel, given all the ridiculously selfish things she’s had to do to bring Sara back to life. This week she calls bull on Oliver’s hypocrisy, claiming that he never saw her as an equal and pointing out that he brought his sister back to life, so why can’t she do the same? To be fair, they might have been able to make this work with a bit more time, but as written, it comes across as petulance on her part and just more fuel for the Laurel-haters. Anyway, they hug and make up at the end of the argument (with Oliver once again being far more reasonable and level-headed than he’s ever been in the past), so hopefully that will signify a new direction in their relationship and the writing of Laurel’s character.
Thea’s main function this week is to serve as bait for Sara, once she points out to everyone that Sara was trying to kill her because that’s what the Lazarus Pit does: it makes you want to kill your murderer. This leads to a poorly directed sequence in the hospital that is meant to be Thea’s woozy point-of-view of Sara coming to get her, but it feels really half-hearted and doesn’t really work. It does make for yet more interesting writing on Thea, though – she understands Sara’s need for revenge and even seems willing to let Sara kill her, suggesting a death wish on her part. All of which makes her a very likely candidate for the person in the grave in the flash-forward, but we’re hoping against hope that that’s some narrative trickery.
Felicity’s spin-off-ordained sub-plot (Ray Palmer turning out to be alive after all) also took a step forward this week, with Curtis Holt (can we just go ahead and call him Mr Terrific already?) unscrambling Ray’s phone message to reveal that, yes, he’s still alive, and he’s in trouble.
(This week’s Fun Curtis Fact: he used to be an Olympic athlete, in accordance with his comics background.)
Say what you like about this season of Arrow, but they’re certainly packing a lot in each week. There was also a whole other sub-plot involving Diggle, Darhk and Lance, in which it was revealed that Diggle’s brother Andy was a drug dealer and all-around bad guy in Afghanistan, which is why Damien (and HIVE) ordered the hit on him. Hopefully, this whole HIVE thing will really kick into gear once the Legends of Tomorrow set-up stuff is all out of the way. At any rate, it did allow for two delightful Neal McDonough lines, first his response to Lance’s “What do you want?” – “Oh, a new beginning for the world, a nice glass of merlot. Not necessarily in that order…” – and second, his delivery of “Are you sticking around for a cupcake or something?”, as Lance was leaving his office.
Oh, right, Oliver’s Mayoral campaign. That appears to be ticking along nicely, and this week he got a new campaign manager in the form of Suburgatory’s Parker Young, who we’re going to guess is being lined up as a love interest for Thea, although he didn’t do much this week other than make a failed attempt to persuade Oliver to distance himself from Laurel.
All in all, this was one of the weaker episodes of the season in terms of plot, but plots were advanced, Matt Ryan made a fun guest appearance and we got more of the show’s excellent character work on Oliver and Thea, so it wasn’t totally bad.
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.