Of all the returning shows, Arrow was the one with the most to do to re-establish itself. Season 3 was a mess and came close to busting the show apart. And with The Flash outdoing its parent by presenting a much more upbeat tone, changes were going to be needed. Happily, season 4 got off to a good start in resetting things.
Needless to say things haven’t changed all that much. This is still going to be a grim series, with grim themes: there are limits to how much a show can seriously change its spots, especially overnight, as Gotham demonstrated last week. Oliver and Felicity may have ridden off into the sunrise to Ivy Town (a nod to Ray Palmer’s comic book base) where the only running through woods in a green hood that Oliver’s doing is his morning jog, and they’re so happy Ollie can actually joke “Felicity Smoak, you have failed this omelette,” but back home, Team Arrow is up against it, and you know it’s not going to last.
In fact, overall the episode was like yesterday’s season-opener on The Flash: five months have passed and the status quo needs resetting.
Team Arrow, consisting of Laurel (Black Canary) Lance, Thea (Red Arrow but everyone still calls her Speedy) Queen and John (no code name but now wearing a very dubious black helmet) Diggle, is up against it. Star City, now officially rebranded in memory of Ray Palmer, is dying. It hasn’t got a Mayor, people and businesses are leaving in droves and it’s afflicted with Ghosts, aka armed bands that appear and disappear at will, leaving neither the Police nor Team Arrow with the slightest clue.
Except for the tall, burly, blond guy who walks into a meeting of the four officials who are running Star City, claiming responsibility for the Ghosts and promising to kill Star City. This is season 4’s bad guy, Damian Darhk, and Neal McDonough is already killing it in the role.
Three of the Committee subsequently die quickly, whilst the fourth, our old friend Captain Quentin Lance, is merely shot in the shoulder, thanks to Black Canary’s intervention. Though, in a neat twist at episode’s end, it turns out that Lance is working for Dhark. That’s going to be very interesting.
Needless to say, in all of this, Team Arrow turns to their exiled leader and begs him to return. Or two-thirds of them do, since Diggle can’t forgive, or trust, Ollie, not after Ollie had his wife and baby kidnapped last season. You can see his point.
Ollie’s unwilling, but Felicity (who’s been helping Team Arrow out all along) is all for it. She loves him, she loves their life, but she’s getting bored without the adrenaline and the do-gooding. So too is Ollie, once he admits it, and he’s eager to try to build a more positive role for himself, in the face of both Captain Lance and Diggle accusing him to his face of being a monster with nothing but darkness in him.
So, in a neat counterpart to the opening with its Welcome to Star City, Ollie takes to the airwaves to promise the citizens hope. The Arrow is dead, but a new figure has arisen to inherit his mantle. And his name is… Green Arrow. Yaaaayyy!!
Two other things remain to be mentioned. We have another year of flashbacks, covering year 4 of Ollie’s exile prior to his appearance as The Hood in season 1. His arrival in Coast City, home of Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan turns out to be either a massive fake-out or a drastic change of plan as, after a complete balls-up of a debut as The Hood, Ollie is drugged by Amanda Waller in a bar (camera pan across the chest of an airman whose name-tag reads ‘Jordan’ and, the next thing you know, he’s being kicked out of an aircraft, with parachute, to carry out a mystery mission on, guess where, Lian Yu.
The other is a flash-forward. All episode, we have Ollie planning to propose to Felicity, and leaving his mother’s engagement ring in all sorts of cutesy-pie places for her to discover (but not yet). Then we jump to six months later, to Ollie with black-tie in a graveyard, kneeling by a freshly-dug plot. Barry Allen appears, apologising that he couldn’t make the funeral, due to Zoom. Ollie swears he will kill the man who has done this.
We don’t see the headstone but the inference is very strong that it is Felicity that they are both mourning. It may be that such a bold, striking step is being planned, but right here, right now, I am willing to bet it’s a fake-out, and that it’s not Felicity who is going to be killed (and I’m also guessing that, whilst we’re equally being tipped to expecting Darhk to be the murderer, there’s at least a 50% chance it’ll be Captain Lance, in which case the body is likely to turn out to be Laurel’s…).
Then again, since we viewers are such sophisticated creatures these days, maybe it really is going to be Felicity, and the joke’s on me for being so clever-clever. I think finding out exactly what’s going to happen is going to be much more enjoyable than season 3.