Outsider Review: Arrow Season 4 Overview

The following overview is written and edited by Zack Phillips. If there are any questions regarding the overview or anything that should be suggested, feel free to ask them on the Arrowverse Facebook page comments section, and I will try to get back to you as soon as possible. After writing the reviews for Arrow for the past five weeks, this overview is my thoughts of what needs to be changed in order for season 5 to succeed, and what worked and didn’t work during season 4.

The Arrow is dead. In his place stands the Green Arrow, a lighter hero using the exact same methods, the exact same voice, and the exact same sidekicks as earlier seasons. After facing villains as merciless and twisted as Malcolm Merlyn, Deathstroke and Ra’s Al Ghul, Oliver faces his toughest competitor yet; Damien Darhk. While Darhk should be a towering threat, he is teased for the majority of the season and doesn’t show his true abilities until the finale. With a season based on magic, an expanding universe of heroes, and a storyline finally delving into the Green Arrows comic book counterpart, it should have been Arrow’s best season yet. But after the first five episodes, only one thing was clear; Arrow has failed this city.

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Arrow’s fourth season started off with possibly the strongest first episode out of all four seasons. Unlike previous seasons, Season 4 not only hinted at the main villain for the year, it fully introduced him in an enormous way. Team Arrow watched Damien Darhk kill one of his ‘Ghosts’, before having Oliver and Diggle face off with Darhk on a train rigged to blow. The reason behind Damien being such a frightful and imminent villain is because the audience had heard of him before. He was everything that Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Assassins weren’t. Damien had been teased since as early as season 1, where Floyd Lawton admitted to Diggle that his brother was, in fact, the target when he was assassinated, with Diggle previously believing that Deadshot missed the intended target. In season 2, Floyd gave John a name; H.I.V.E, and in season 3, Lawton’s flashbacks revealed the moment H.I.V.E recruited him. Also during the events of season 3, Ra’s granted Oliver with the name of a man with, “A Hive of agents…”. Being teased for so long, fans were pleased to finally see who the man behind H.I.V.E was. While ‘4×01 Green Arrow’ built Darhk up to be an all-powerful tyrant, the rest of the season was sure to be a disappointment.

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Damien Darhk was not the only storyline that appealed to the fans. In only one episode, Arrow opened up possibilities for several storylines that should have strengthened the storyline and added to a compelling narrative; Thea’s bloodlust, Diggle’s distrust of Oliver, Laurel’s new position as District Attorney, Star City’s mayoral issue and Captain Lance working with Damien Darhk. The majority of these storylines weren’t explored for more than two episodes. With the exception of Thea’s bloodlust and the mayoral campaign, the other compelling storylines were sidelined for storylines that didn’t expand the plot at all. Storylines like Olicity and Felicity’s temporary paralysis.

But the storyline that grabbed fans attention the most came within the last three minutes of Green Arrow. Oliver knelt over a grave, wiping tears from his eyes, and Barry Allen races in, apologising for missing the funeral. The infamous ‘Grave Scene’ was set six months into the future, promising that someone important would die during the season. Fan theories went wild, with the most likely candidates being Felicity or Quentin Lance. Many fans, myself included, would never dream that the producers of such a popular comic book television program would dare kill of characters like Black Canary or Speedy. This proved to not be the case. While originally believing the writers had a plan for the season, the executive producer has since confirmed that they made the decision to kill the Black Canary off mere weeks before the scene was shot.

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Arrow’s flashbacks are a vital part of the show. From season one; it has been critical to the fans understanding of Oliver Queen, in asking, “How did Oliver Queen become the man he is today?” But ever since Manu Bennett left Arrow, and Oliver found himself in Hong Kong, the flashbacks haven’t quite been the same as they used to. Season Four is the only season of Arrow that hasn’t dedicated an entire episode to the flashbacks. The reasoning behind this is quite simple; there was not enough story to be told. Beginning with Amanda Waller recruiting, or more so, forcing Oliver onto a covert mission on Lian Yu, Oliver was forced to find out what exactly his mission was, along with where he was supposed to fit in. The storyline through the season could have been told in two or three episodes, but was expanded over a long period of time which caused the viewers to lose interest and forget what was happening the week before. The first thing the flashbacks did wrong was take away Oliver’s bow and arrows. Then they removed the flashback haircut, and it pretty much went downhill from there.

The flashbacks were more or less the same story each week. Conklin, an agent of whom is a part of Reiter’s crew, has a strong hatred for Oliver Queen, and for good reason. This is a man who just showed up on the island a year after them setting up camp, and claiming that he had been there the entire time. To prove he is dedicated to the cause, Oliver is ordered to kill a woman by the name of Taiana. Instead of killing her, however, Oliver hides her in Yao Fei’s cave, where he brings her food and water supplies until he is forced to bring her out of hiding.

When John Constantine makes an appearance on the island, he and Oliver discover a magical cavern, where John gives Oliver a tattoo that is supposed to protect him from the dark arts that Reiter searches for. This is the first time that suggests that Reiter is not up to any good on the island. When Reiter captures Oliver and Taiana later on in the season, he notices Oliver’s tattoo, which forces him to spare the pair so that he can use Oliver to get what he really wants. Ironically, the power that consumes Reiter, and eventually, Taiana, is the exact same power source that enables Damien Darhk to get his powers. There is no explanation on how the idol falls under Darhk’s possession after the events of the flashbacks, however. One of the problems with Arrow’s flashbacks is that they tie directly into the problem in the present day. This ultimately means that Oliver has had experience with each of these ‘major’ threats before, causing the threat to be nowhere near as bad as it should be. With the exception of season 1, the remaining three seasons have the exact same weapon on the island or Hong Kong that Oliver and Team Arrow faces in the present; Mirakuru, the Alpha and Omega, and now the idol.

This years flashbacks were the most disappointing the show has ever had, and makes fans cautious about next years. How is Oliver supposed to regrow his beard and hair as long as it was before he is rescued in the pilot? How does Oliver get from Russia to Lian Yu again, or better yet, why does he?

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In the second episode of the season, Oliver made the decision to run for mayor, taking inspiration from the ‘Mayor Queen’ storyline in the comic books. After Arrow’s third season, faith in the comic community had been restored! Marc Guggenheim looked to finally be taking inspiration to a well-received comic arc. And while the Mayor Queen Storyline was strong at first, it came to be incredibly slow-paced and uneventful. Up until Ruvee Adams entered the race, not a lot countered Oliver becoming mayor of Star City. However, upon realising that Ms Adams was in fact Darhk ‘s wife, the storyline heated up. While being an important plot during Arrow, as it was Oliver’s way of proving to Captain Lance that he was a changed man, the Mayoral Campaign plot was sidelined a good portion of the time. We didn’t even get to witness the debate between the two candidates; Oliver Queen and Ruvee Adams. The plot was sidelined due to an unnecessary Olicity scene. Unfortunately, Oliver was forced to drop out of the race, as Damien feared his wife would lose to Oliver, and he abducted his son. While Oliver could have just as easily re-entered the race after getting his son back, his forfeit guaranteed Adam’s win. The finale finally saw Oliver being sworn in as mayor of Star City.

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This season saw the introduction of many remarkable superheroes on the small screen, and the return of other deceased ones. John Constantine and Vixen finally debuted in the Arrowverse this season, each being summoned by Oliver to help against Darhk. Hawkman and Hawkgirl flew onto the screen during the Arrow/Flash Crossover, Starling appears briefly, Mr Terrific is teased throughout the entirety of the season, and Diggle even sports a costume of his own. Given the nickname, Spartan, Diggle wears a helmet resembling that of a Spartan and a leather jacket, allowing him to be out and helping Oliver, Laurel and Thea kick ass. Two heroes who died in the previous season were also resurrected. Sara Lance, Laurels younger sister and the first to wear the uniform of the Canary, was revived in the seasons third episode by Thea and Laurel in the Lazarus pit. Unfortunately, Nyssa Al Ghul does not approve of Malcolm taking advantage of the pit, and ultimately destroys it, to which she is punished for. In theory, this should stop Arrow from killing off characters and having them reappear not a season later. But this doesn’t stop the rebirth of Arrows greatest hits, as a mere four episodes later, Ray Palmer is found out to be alive. Instead of being blown up in the explosion inside Palmer Tech, Ray was simply shrunk down and kept inside Darhk ‘s base of operations. Later on in the season, Andy Diggle, who is John Diggle’s younger brother, is also revived, and in a shocking turn of events, it is revealed he has been playing double agent the entire time, working for H.I.V.E ever since his death and after Diggle learnt to trust him.

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Damien Darhk in himself proved to be a disappointing villain of the season. From the very first episode, it was obvious that his ‘ghosts’ were not the powerhouse that Arrow tried to make them out to be. They were terrible shots, and whenever given a job, failed almost immediately. Even without his supernatural abilities, Damien is an ex member of the League of Assassins, and has an entire organisation at his disposal. Yet, despite looking like a challenging and formidable opponent to Oliver on paper, Damien Darhk turned out to be a major dissatisfaction. The issue itself wasn’t Neal McDonough, as he portrayed an excellent super-villain, stealing whatever scene he happened to be in with his wit and smart comebacks. The issue was Damien wasn’t written to be the best and most opposing villain he could be. True, he was dark, kidnapping Oliver’s son and leaving Felicity paralysed for a mere six episodes, but Damien had the capability to be more than that. He lacked to be the badass that he should have been. Instead of just using his magic to counteract Oliver’s abilities or stop Arrows, he should have been using his fighting skills he possessed due to his time in the League of Assassins. And Genesis, while teased from episode one, should have felt like a more world-endangering event. Instead, it felt as though Star City was the only place being nuked, as there was no mention of it in Central City and no outside forces even attempted to help save the world. Darhk is a villain that would have been an excellent villain to revisit, had Oliver not killed him off in the finale.

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Arrow’s biggest issue is how much Marc Guggenheim is inspired by the fan base. Not the comic-based fans, but the fans who are interested in ‘shipping’ certain characters. As a result, Arrow suffers from ‘Olicity’. While it was tolerable during the first five episodes, as soon as Ray is discovered as being alive, the love triangle scenario is thrown back into the mix, and Olicity becomes unbearable once again. This only grows during the annual Arrow/Flash crossover, where Felicity discovers Oliver has hidden his biological son from her, and calls off her relationship with Oliver. Barry undoes these events by time travel, but instead of occurring then, the exact same plot is revisited less than ten episodes down the line. During the midseason finale, Oliver proposes to Felicity to which she accepts, before she and Oliver are attacked by ghosts and Felicity is shot through the spine, leaving her paralysed. This would have disastrous effects for her character and Team Arrow, if she wasn’t paralysed for only six episodes. After receiving a bio-chip implant in her spinal cord, Felicity is able to break up with Oliver and walk out of the room. Personally, this is the most ridiculous scene in this entire show, shortly followed by an exchange between Donna Smoak and Quentin Lance further on in the season regarding Laurel’s death and his position as captain of the SCPD. Eventually, Felicity quits Team Arrow, which would have ramifications had it not been for a mere three episodes. After returning, she is able to do the impossible, and take up the most screen time with irrelevant plots. Laurel’s death, which should never had happened, was used as a major ploy to better the Olicity fandom, with her last words being, “I’m glad you found Felicity, and I hope you get back to her. And I know that I am not the love of yout life, but you’ll always be the love of mine” to Oliver on her deathbed. At the end of the season, when everybody else leaves, Felicity is the only one who stays. Felicity has been thrust to the centre, and is now the star of Arrow unrightfully. Her character has been written so that she can accomplish anything, and that she has a reason to be in literally every scene. Her character is the reason that Arrow is a more romance driven show over a superhero show, which is why the Flash is a much better and more successful program.

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Malcolm Merlyn returned this season as a sometimes-hero sometimes-villain type of storyline. When he wasn’t leading the League of Assassins as Ra’s Al Ghul, he was working with Damien Darhk, and when he wasn’t working with Damien Darhk, he was on Team Arrow. As good as an actor that John Barrowman is, his character simply doesn’t work anymore. His characters storyline is the exact same each season, with him starting off on the side of the protagonist, followed by him betraying the hero and joining the antagonist, until the season finale where he works with the hero to undo the crimes that he and the villain of the season has committed. At this point, it is a wonder anyone on Team Arrow still accepts him. He is the main reason behind the majority of issues that goes on, and he played a large part in the Black Canary’s death.

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The star of the last two seasons has easily been Dinah Laurel Lance. Always trying to save the world, this season saw Laurel as a much better crime fighter than the year before, working closely with different members of Team Arrow to bring justice to Star City. Unfortunately, this season gave Laurel the least screen-time, and she was hardly ever on the seen or even referenced. She either had short plots, side plots that didn’t contribute to the overall story, or was just simply written out of scenes. Whenever there was an action scene, it was often Oliver and Diggle vs the enemy, or Oliver and Thea vs the enemy. It was a very rare occasion that Laurel was given much screen time in the Black Canary uniform, despite being the most developed character since the previous season. She was treated so badly, Laurel barely appeared in the Arrow/Flash crossover, with less than ten minutes screentime and maybe five lines. With the amount of scenes Katie Cassidy actually was in whilst on the air, it would be interesting to see how many deleted scenes her character will be in. Unfortunately, Laurel Lance was killed off in Arrows eighteenth episode of the forth season, Eleven Fifty Nine. Due to a great injustice, her characters existence is now to only add to the other character story as a plot device. Katie Cassidy didn’t deserve this. Perhaps she could be rewritten to be revived and go onto the Flash. The one episode that guest-starred Katie Cassidy as ‘The Black Siren’ proved they knew how to handle Laurel better then Arrow ever did.

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When season four was first teased, we were given the first look at the iconic Green Arrow costume from the comic books, and it looked phenomenal. A perfect transition between Oliver’s time as the Arrow and referencing the adjusting period between him becoming the Green Arrow. There was one problem with the suit, however; it wasn’t green. Or, it wasn’t green enough for the producers liking. So instead of someone up in the production office and deciding to do the logical thing and create a new suit that was coloured more to their liking, some genius decided to simply splash a green filter over the costume when it was on the screen. This wouldn’t be such an issue if it wasn’t completely noticeable, distracting, and inconsistent. In some scenes, the filter wasn’t even covering the entirety of the suit, just some parts of it. Diggle’s costume was another one which needed attention. When announced that David Ramsey was going to be sporting a costume this season, fans went wild, unable to contain their excitement that Diggle was finally going to be in the field with Team Arrow. But as soon as his look was revealed, a minority of people actually enjoyed it. The costume itself wasn’t bad, but the helmet was. The helmet didn’t cover the entire head, just the front of it, and looked too big for Ramsey’s head. When crossing over with ‘The Flash’, Cisco promised Diggle an upgraded costume, one which is still to be seen on either shows. While Laurel’s Black Canary costume and Thea’s Speedy costume were perfect, neither had been upgraded in any way from the following season. Perhaps a simple addition of a leather jacket to the Black Canary costume would have sufficed. The Speedy costume was in dire need of an upgrade, however, as the only difference between it and Colton Haynes’s Arsenal costume was the adjustments to better suit Willa Holland. And it is past time that Malcolm Merlyn received an upgraded look.

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After the disappointment that Season four turned out to be, the fans who remained to see the show out are eagerly awaiting to see what Arrow plans to do to fix what this season has done. The season finale itself, and the episodes leading up to the finale, further proved how low Arrow has sunk, with Laurel’s death being a continuous plot device, and Felicity’s family being the centre of attention. Many fans, myself included, hope Flash’s next seasons ‘Flashpoint’ event fixes what Arrow has become.

What now? With season five months away, fans of the show are eagerly awaiting what is to come next of Oliver’s adventures protecting Star City. With several unanswered questions remaining from season four, season five should be a hit. Unfortunately, it appears it will focus strongly around Olicity once more, but hopefully we get some answers to questions that we deserved this season. Which Wilson was Stephen Amell referring to when he teased one would appear this year? Was it Grant Wilson on Legends of Tomorrow? Or someone else? What happened to Damien Darhk ‘s daughter? Where is Diggle, Thea and Quentin off to and will they come back? Will Malcolm be killed off? Will Laurel be revived? Will Laurel’s last words be revealed? Is it possible a Justice League United spinoff show or team will exist within the Arrowverse, due to Supergirl now confirmed to exist within Oliver’s universe in their next seasons; with Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter, Supergirl, Vibe, Hawkman and Katana already established? With many questions like these still to be answered, Arrow will more than likely bring in strong ratings. Despite the quality of the show today, I look forward to season five to see what new storylines it will bring. Bring on Season Five, and hopefully, it is focused more on Oliver and less on romance!

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