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ARROW Season Premiere Review: Season 4 Opens to a Lighter Tone

By on October 8, 2015

Pictured: Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen -- Photo: Dean Buscher /The CW

By Justin Carter

“You can’t change who you are in your bones.”

It’s a line spoken by Amanda Waller to Oliver Queen in the flashbacks, and while it perfectly applies to him trying at the vigilante game in China, it also works for his current situation. Now that he’s hung up his hood and taken up a relationship with Felicity, living a domestic life, can he really escape being the Arrow? Is that possible for someone who’s gone through nearly a decade of consistent fighting and death?

This is supposed to be the central dilemma in the season opener, but just as with Team Flash coming together after six months of being apart, it’s a foregone conclusion that they’ll all be back together by the time the credits roll. No, the real dilemma here is if Team Arrow can put the baggage of the last season behind them; for all of them to come back alive.

Meanwhile, Diggle’s still pissed at Oliver for endangering his wife and kid, which is enough to create tension for the entire episode. Those who thought that Oliver sort of left things too cleanly at the end of the last season will find that Diggle calling him out on his crap is refreshing, even if it does sometimes get to be a tad grating. That conflict isn’t over yet, but it at least shows signs of finally winding down.

The new purpose behind Oliver’s return to the fold is a paramilitary group (a “hive,” if you remember previous episodes) led by Damien Darhk, and if that name sounds familiar, it’s because he was the guy Ra’s al Ghul claimed to have a serious beef with. Compared to Slade and Ra’s, Neal McDonough is hamming it up from the moment he arrives on screen, taking fourth wall potshots and casually threatening city officials. The first show of his mystic powers is kind of lame in a “Kalima!” way, but it also makes for a more effective villain that could challenge the team in a way previous bad guys couldn’t.

With Darhk, Arrow has officially gone into full comic book territory in the same spectrum that Flash and Agents of SHIELD have been occupying. There’s a decidedly lighter tone around the show, that even seems to lift Oliver’s gravelly voice a couple of octaves. It’s all a welcome change that addresses the criticism of the previous seasons while still helping it and Flash keep their respective identities. It’s even in Oliver’s new code name, where he finally adopts the moniker of “Green Arrow” as he declares himself to the rest of his team. Last season struggled to blend the fantastical elements that come with the League and Ra’s, but so far, it seems like the crew has a better idea of what they want to do.

Over the summer, DC Comics got rid of the New 52 branding and instead launched DC You, which aims to tell more diverse stories and have a lighter tone compared to what came before. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Arrow has taken notice, and it couldn’t be more of a smart move. “Green Arrow” is the show embracing the material it’s based off of while still keeping the core of what worked. With a new costume (!), a new tone, and a new baddie, things can only go up from here.

Additional Notes

  • “Felicity Smoak, you have failed this omelette.” That made me roll my eyes much harder than the writers probably intended.
  • I know we’ve all had months to just live with it, but Diggle’s helmet still makes him look like Magneto, and it just feels weird to see.
  • Oliver and Felicity’s domestic life scene with their neighbors was just painful to watch. It just feels like it was pulled from the nightmares everyone has about that kind of lifestyle.
  • Seriously, how cool is that new costume?
  • Lance is working with Darhk, so I’m going to assume that he’s the one six feet under in the flash forward. Felicity and Thea feel too obvious. They already killed off one Canary. Diggle is a close second, maybe Lyla if they bring her around in the show more?
  • Darhk’s heart sucking ability will always get me to think “Kalimaaaaaa, KALIMAAAAAAA!”

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