Sunday, June 5, 2016
"Arrow" Season 4 Review
Ah, Arrow. It's always the best time of the year when this show comes back, and the worst when it has to leave me for the summer to wallow in such thoughts as, "What happens next?" "What will the next flashback sequence entail?" and "Why did you waste the great potential of Komodo?" You know, the important questions. This season we get much more closure than I expected, and it does make this season, more than most others, feel like a pretty complete story...although that doesn't mean it was the best season of the series.Don't take that too negatively, though. Out of all the live-action super-hero shows we've gotten from the CW and the only season of Supergirl, Arrow Season 2 is easily the best. Those are some big shoes to fill, and once again this season, like the last, had all the right tools to accomplish this but failed to do so for one reason or another.
The linear parts of this story are what really help it stand out. The fact that from Episode 1 to the finale we knew exactly who the villains were helped out a ton and got us straight to the point, rather than have us sit on our hands for nine episodes watching filler villains terrorize our characters. It's something that these shows sort of lack. You could argue this is the case on The Flash, but the fact that the villains have been someone they already knew doesn't really count.
This season was the most outlandish for Arrow so far, though it was an area that I feel needed to be examined at some point by Arrow. Whereas The Flash deals with the strange and unordinary, there's always been this mysticism behind Arrow. Dealing with the League, the setting of Lian Yu, and the fact that most of Oliver's villains are often exceptional humans sort of speak to the fact that there has always been a greater work propelling them. After all, the most recurring villain of the show, Malcolm Merlyn, is known as "The Magician," to many members of the League of Assassins. If any of the shows were to cover magic, it would make sense that it would be Arrow. Plus, I don't think having a character like Constantine on The Flash would mix well, not to mention that having magic-ish characters like Vandal Savage on The Flash felt incredibly out of place, but fit much better on Arrow.
Magic isn't played up to the full potential here, but it at least established limits and boundaries. There were rules and thankfully this season didn't go the route of "they have magic so now they can make big giant ice castles." Instead, there was only one source of the magic and the user manipulated it based off of their own abilities. In this case, it was through an idol or talisman, which was where Darhk and then special guest Vixen drew their own power. I'm glad they didn't go the route of making one of our heroes all that magical and instead forced them to fight with the tools and wit they already had.
For me, the biggest failing point of the season was within the romance. I've been fairly vocal about my disdain for "Olicity" and this season only highlighted why they shouldn't end up together, and why Laurel would actually be a much better fit for Oliver. Laurel wasn't given all that much time to shine but when she did she stood out pretty well, save for one huge stupid moment in the early episodes that almost destroyed her whole character for me.
Felicity was probably the worst part of this season just in how in-the-way she was. One of the reasons that this finale didn't work was because there was too much interior character drama rather than dealing with the fight at hand and then squabbling and making small-talk. Felicity was probably the biggest sign of this same problem. She would always go on about this or that and make more drama than was necessary and was always in the way of solving a problem. Not that her character needs to have a lesser amount of screen-time, but she needs to be much less of a foil for Oliver and more of a supporting role for him, or try to fill the roles that he cannot. Felicity is at her best when she is focused on the task at hand and not worrying about the periphery.
One of the other bad parts of this season was probably a lack of actual consequences. Felicity sustains a major injury and just walks it off later on, and then a major catastrophe happens later and they just kinda brush it off. Events that would otherwise be the focus of a season just happen and the characters brush them off. It seems like the writers are trying to show the characters handling these burdens but it doesn't help that they don't talk about that they talk about their "darkness" or some crap like that. It gets so boring when they keep saying "meh I can't escape the dark I'm tortured meh" and they don't just punch their villain in the face and be the good guy!
The whole point of Oliver becoming the "Green" Arrow was to reinvigorate himself and provide hope in a city that otherwise lacked it. The "Arrow" was a vigilante but the Green Arrow could be a hero. This is played up sometimes but most of the time in the Arrow-cave Oliver just wallows in self-pity like he always does and it's getting annoying. Even The Flash has succumbed to this. Lighten up! Wasn't this supposed to be the "light-hearted" and "fun" season?
Well, it still had those elements. And again, this isn't a "bad' season. It's quite enjoyable. One of the main reasons for that is the new villain, Damien Darhk. He's delightfully evil and makes many fast quips and jokes to the heroes while still being incredibly menacing to watch. Every time he approaches the heroes in a fight it's pretty tense, since for a majority of the season he has a major advantage over them and they always seem to just barely get away from him. Slade Wilson had a similar feel but was just so gritty that we couldn't all that much fun with his character.
Another fun addition was Curtis Holt, the eventual Mr. Terrific. This was definitely his origin season, as we see him rise in the ranks of the newly established Palmer Tech and create the first model of what most of recognize as the T-Sphere. He was basically a male version of Felicity but seemed to inspire more hope in Oliver than Felicity did sometimes. I do hope he joins the team next season, too. Having two tech-people around seems like overkill but having Curtis around would just be a lot of fun.
Diggle and Thea also had their own arcs to go through with new characters, but Thea's was rather predictable and didn't really mean much by the end of the season. Diggle's stuck with him for the entire season and was probably the most emotional out of the bunch, considering how personal it was for him to have to deal with all of it. He finally got quite a bit of character development because of this, too.
This season had a few crossovers but only one of major import. The first was in Episode 5, where Constantine showed up to help them solve a demonic problem. His quick snark was just what the show needed and he was a great foil for Oliver, and I wish he could be around more in the CW-verse. The next was with The Flash where a plot-thread from Seasons 2 and 3 was finally followed-up on and lead a storyline with Felicity for Oliver. Then we had a Vixen crossover, which was cool but mostly served as a way to get viewers to watch the online Vixen series.
These were probably the weakest of all the flashbacks so far, given how quick they were in each episode and how little impact it seems they'll have on the show moving forward. Basically all they served to do was push Oliver toward the killer he would be by the time we meet up with him in the first season. And yeah it did deal with the whole "magic idol" thing going on in the present, but it wasn't all that exciting and they could have gone a different route with it rather than basically just copy and paste the same story as the one in the present.
Overall, Arrow Season 4 was good but was sprinkled with some bad parts to lessen the flavor of it. The does feel like it's headed in a new direction now given all the new/ revamped costumed vigilantes and it does feel like the world of just Arrow, let alone the CW, is growing quite a bit. The characters didn't progress all that much, but there are definitely elements from this season that will carry into stories for the next few seasons. Damien Darhk was a splendid new villain and we likely won't see one like him for a while, and Curtis Holt may prove an awesome addition to the team should they follow-up on him. All we can hope for now is that Arrow leaves behind its own inner-darkness and finally starts to spread smiles on the faces of our heroes, which it seems it just may.