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Arrow Season 4 Review!

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MAJOR SPOILERS! 

There was a time when Arrow was the greatest comic book show on television. It was smart, suspenseful and actually pretty good, with the arc pitting Oliver against Slade in Season 2 being easily among the biggest highlight of the series so far following the exposition-heavy season one. However, it’s a pity that it couldn’t last, as the form quickly dipped in the third and fourth seasons, leaving the show in a fairly underwhelming place come the end of the most current season, which finished with a whimper rather than a bang.

Let’s start off with the big one first. Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance was great and we got to see her working together really well with the rest of the team. Of course, we know how that turned out and her death was a massive disappointment, but for the first half of the season at least the team was actually working together pretty well. Oliver was good and Thea played a key role in the team as well as Diggle and Felicity. Ultimately the show’s writers decided to effectively fridge the Black Canary in one of the most disrespectful ways ever to a character with history such as hers. Normally I don’t mind liberties taken with the source material, but it really didn’t work here; Laurel’s death was cheap and underserved. Right from the start we knew that somebody was going to die with the flash-forwards, but it felt like the writers just killed her off at random because she didn’t even get the sort of episode where you know a character’s going to die. They put a bigger focus on them than normal. She was just there, and then dead.

Matt Ryan's John Constantine makes the leap into the Arrowverse....

Matt Ryan’s John Constantine makes the leap into the Arrowverse….

Black Canary deserved better, especially with the manner of the death and the aftermath as well. She got taken out with an arrow to the chest during a failed attempt to stop Darhk, which felt really underwhelming and just could have been handled a lot more respectfully. But then Arrow has almost never done well with its many female characters that it’s killed off over the course of this season and Laurel’s was sadly, no exception. It did allow for a cool cameo where we got to see a villainous version of her on The Flash from Earth 2 though, meaning that Katie Cassidy can potentially return at some point in the future.

Now onto the rest of the season. Following the underwhelming Ra’s Al Ghul last season we got to see Neal McDonough as Damien Darhk, who reminded me a lot of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s antagonist from Mission Impossible III. He was clearly having loads of fun and although he was much like The Flash’s Jay Garrick, he never really quite felt threatening enough. It was great to see McDonough there because even an imperfect villain was still one of the best bits about this season, and Darhk handled his schemes well, including a payoff in the midseason finale Dark Waters. That episode ended on a cliffhanger that appeared to kill off Felicity and was one of the most tense hours of probably the whole season. It’s just a shame that not every episode coDaruld live up to that standard.

Other new characters that we saw introduced in this season included the likes of Curtis Holt, the future Mr. Terrific (Echo Kellum), who basically played a male version of what Felicity Smoak was like back in Season 1. And then there was Eugene Byrd as Andy Diggle, John’s brother, who had fallen on the wrong side of the tracks and this allowed John’s storyline to come to the forefront in a few solid but unspectacular episodes.

With the recent cancellation of NBC’s Constantine fans were hoping that Matt Ryan’s John Constantine could somehow make the jump across to Arrow and he did just that in the fifth episode, which dealt with the fallout of Sara Lance’s resurrection and the fact that she wasn’t exactly herself. The descent into magic helped the show a fair bit this season as Constantine felt right at home in the flashbacks and in the present day, but it was just a shame that they couldn’t bring him back for more because he would have been a great ally against either Vandal Savage in Legends of Tomorrow or Darhk in Arrow. Sadly, thanks to NBC, it was not to be.

The early season spent a lot of time setting up Legends of Tomorrow’s first season as it moved several pieces into place such as explaining Ray’s fate following the explosion of Palmer Tech when he was able to become the Atom, a journey that would lead him onto that show. The crossover with The Flash worked well to introduce the whole Vandal Savage plot and Hawkman & Hawkgirl, even if unfortunately, Carter Hall was underwhelming. It did give us a taste as to what a Justice League on The CW would look like and has potential to expand with next year’s crossover with Supergirl, now on the same network.

The continued focus on Felicity Smoak really doesn’t work, however, because she doesn’t really have the best storylines right now, and tends to work better in a supporting role rather than as someone who has as much as if not more screentime than the main character. The whole revelation about her father being a villain was weak and her mother’s expanded role just feels uninspired. The show didn’t really deal with the whole nuclear incident well towards the end of the season and sort of just shrugged off the fact that she was now going to have to live with the deaths of people in a less populated town than Monument Point. She was back to being the same old Felicity by the end of the season. The whole drama between her and Oliver’s relationship such as the revelation that Oliver had a son felt like it belonged on a soapier show than this, and never really worked at all; as a result, it was one of the season’s more frustrating character arcs.

It was cool seeing Lexi Alexander direct an episode of Arrow. Her work in the past has always been pretty good and this allowed for some of the best fight sequences yet in Beyond Redemption, the fourth episode, and it would be great to see her return for future episodes as that was another clear season highlight. But these good moments were unfortunately few and far between, leaving the season an underwhelming and mostly cluttered mess, with an unfocused storyline that was perhaps bogged down by the Legends of Tomorrow crossovers. While certainly cool, these crossovers didn’t really help that much in progressing the Darhk storyline forward. Had the writers been able to this season as focused as Season 2,  we might have had a better season, but I wasn’t overly keen on how things played out here.

All that said, I remain hopeful that the writers can turn the series around for Season 5, and it’ll be interesting to see where we take things going forward when the show returns in the Fall.

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