Arrow Says Goodbye Darkness, Hello Darhk
As Season Four of Arrow commences, Starling City has seen better days. Damien Darhk’s ghosts fill the streets, buildings crumble, and “the new tourism program” cannot manage to bring in the holiday seekers. Contrast the darkness of Star City with whatever Pleasantville Oliver and Felicity are playing house in. They bask in the sunshine and drink mimosas while their comrades back in Star City spend their time battling Darhk’s stormtroopers. Dig carries a chip on his shoulder worthy of his physique and Laurel works really hard to be Black Canary. Only adrenaline-junkie Thea appears to be having any fun. Oliver’s proposal soufflé falls flat when Thea and Laurel show up with a plea for the Arrow’s help. Felicity and Oliver return to piece the city and Team Arrow back together one hero at a time.
Last we saw Oliver and Felicity, they were jetting down the coastline ready for a long vacation. After they returned from their summer travels, the duo settled down and he spent a few months mastering the art of the omelet. For Oliver, domestic life fits like a cozy green sweatshirt that he reluctantly leaves behind when Thea and Laurel come calling.
Meanwhile, Felicity spent her time in the cul-de-sac yearning for a keyboard and a greater sense of purpose. She helped the team from afar without Oliver’s knowledge. The idea that Felicity would lie to Oliver about her involvement with the team and that he would believe for a second that his love alone could satisfy his genius-girlfriend feels like a stretch. Of course talk of slow-cookers makes her eyes glaze over. Oliver wants to stay away from Star City, but Felicity knows that he needs a larger purpose as much as she does. She convinces him to return to crime fighting and tosses in a new Arrow suit to sweeten the deal.
Diggle neglected to hang the “Welcome Home Oliver” banner in the lair. He cannot forgive Oliver for kidnapping Lyla, though she has. Lyla reminds John that he serves as Oliver’s conscience – “If Oliver Queen always made the right choice, he wouldn’t need you.” The two men are more than friends; they are brothers. Dig replaced Andy, the brother he lost to H.I.V.E., with Oliver. That is why Oliver’s crime against Lyla cut so deep. Dig cannot let his anger go and he shows its magnitude by throwing Oliver’s biggest fear in his face, “You don’t trust, you don’t love.” It does not matter that Dig’s assertion is untrue. This big brother knows exactly what to say to hurt Oliver, almost as much as Oliver hurt Dig when he kidnapped Lyla. Fortunately, Dig puts his love for the city ahead of his anger and later steps up to save Oliver from a lethal beating by a well-dressed Darhk.
By the look of Darhk’s suits, this season’s mayhem is sponsored by Tom Ford. Neil McDonough’s Damien Darhk glides into meetings uninvited and delivers speeches straight out of Ra’s al Guhl’s playbook. Dying cities beg to be “put down” and Darhk is just the man for the job. To prove he means business, Darhk knocks off city leaders one by one. In a V for Vendetta move, Darhk loads Star City’s new high speed train with explosives and sends it speeding toward the train station. Oliver cannot stop the train, so he opts to blow it up in what amounts to a terrible waste of energy-efficient mass transportation. Darhk exudes a whole new level of evil for Arrow. Dum Dum Dugan would not approve.
In other news, Lance and Laurel appear to have patched things up, though the revelation of Captain Lance as Darhk’s secret conspirator suggests that all is not well for her father. Laurel’s big-sister relationship with Thea sets up a brother-sister relationship for Oliver and Laurel by extension. In completely unrelated flashbacks, Oliver tangles with Amanda Waller, parachutes into Lian Yu, and does his best Andy Warhol impression wearing a wig the prop master found by the side of the road.
As the episode comes to a close, Oliver broadcasts a noble if corny speech to all of Star City in which he puts “that monster” the Arrow behind him and re-names himself the Green Arrow. It looks like Oliver can be a hero without the darkness, especially with Felicity by his side. Their happiness, however, appears too good to last. His plans to offer her Moira’s engagement ring and their decision to move into a loft paid for with Malcolm Merlyn’s money are harbingers of doom. The flash forward, complete with an appearance by Flash, does not surprise. We watch as Oliver sheds a lone tear over a fresh grave that can only be Felicity’s.
I suppose I should be outraged over Felicity Smoak’s impending demise. Instead, I fear that Arrow will introduce time travel and alternate universes, obstacles that keep me from writing about The Flash. As for Emily Bett Rickards, she isn’t going anywhere. Oliver might withstand the loss of Felicity, but Arrow won’t. I’m putting my money on a late spring wedding – Green Arrow mints and chocolate soufflés all around. Until then, buckle up. It’s going to be a fast and rocky ride.