Too Far Gone Is Relative: Arrow Season 4, Episode 4 Review
Dear Emmy Nomination Committee: Do not make me come over there.
If Paul Blackthorne and Stephen Amell don't get Emmy nominations for the scene in Captain Lance's apartment in which Oliver Queen confronts Captain Lance about his involvement with Damian Darhk, I'm gonna fly to Los Angeles and yell at some people.
In my loud Felicity voice. You can avoid all this by giving credit where it's due.
That scene was 4 years in the making, since the very first encounter between the Queen family and the police, at the Queen Mansion in the pilot, after Oliver was kidnapped, which we later found out was orchestrated by none other than Oliver's mother Moira.
Officer - his rank back then - Lance's obvious pain and disdain for Oliver over his daughter Sara's death, not to mention his other daughter Laurel's broken heart, resonated with the audience, since we knew nothing about what happened on Lian Yu.
We could even sympathize with Captain Lance's agony in the season 3 premiere over Sara dying (for real this time), until it became an obsession to blame Oliver Queen for every bad thing that ever happened in the Lance family.
Now the roles are reversed.
Oliver's brutal disappointment over Lance going over to the dark side is palpable. Oliver Queen, the grown-up, level-headed, in-love Oliver, just conducted a one-man intervention of an alcoholic who, as addicts do when backed into a corner, just replaced drinking with something else destructive.
There are two important admissions in this scene that will define their relationship throughout season 4.
Captain Lance admits he needed the Arrow, and that he turned to Damian Darhk for help because - with his head in his hands - "you weren't here." Oliver admits he decided to run for mayor so that Lance would be proud of him, and that it's Oliver the surrogate son who feels so crushed.
Oliver offering Lance the opportunity to play double-agent with Team Arrow against Damian Darhk will either help him realign with True North, or get him killed. Or both. I hope this doesn't mean what I worry it means regarding the season premiere flash-forward in the cemetery.
Although his code name is "Detective," a demotion from his day job, he has visiting privileges to the incredible new Arrow lair.
(Just for fun, check out Lair 1.0 in the pilot, when Oliver was knocking down walls with a sledgehammer, and then the vastly improved Lair 2.0 in the season 2 premiere. Team Arrow has made it to the big leagues, thanks to Sugar Mama Smoak.)
Stephen Amell says even his toddler daughter recognizes him on TV in his Arrow costume. Lance got along with the Hood/Vigilante/Arrow during seasons 1 and 2 as long as he didn't admit he knew it was Oliver Queen behind the mask.
Part of Oliver Queen has always wanted Captain Lance's approval. When Lance had Oliver in the back of a police van at the end of season 3, Oliver said, "I love your family." He meant it.
Lance punched him in the face.
Somebody should do that to Laurel Lance for being the reason I can't give this episode top marks. She swung the ratings so much, I made her her own category.
Laurel continues to be the dead weight of the show. Her self-centered incompetence is a liability to Original Team Arrow + Thea, not to mention she's the worst sister and daughter on Planet Earth. Even Damian Darhk, the villain of season 4, isn't bringing people back to life and chaining them up in basements.
If Laurel isn't the one in that grave, I'm begging you: find some other way to put that character in the ground.
Lexi Alexander says she directs by listening, not watching, which is a novel approach for a stunts-intensive superhero show. The fight scenes are stylish, rather than forceful, and she nails the emotional material. Her direction is right up there with the best of season 3: the mid-season finale, "The Climb," directed by Thor Freudenthal, and "The Fallen," directed by Antonio Negret.
(Lexi also live-tweeted the episode, and answered fan questions. Class act.)
Between crazy Sara trying to strangle her sister - being forced to look at old family photos can have that effect - and Ray's old-school SOS to Felicity (and only #Olicity lights up the screen more than #TerrificSmoak), there was still significant screen time devoted to the Legends of Tomorrow set-up. But for once it didn't feel quite so oppressive.
Sara's feral state is only slightly easier to take knowing mystic demon-hunter John Constantine is coming to the rescue in episode 5.
Meanwhile, a political star is born, as the Queen family - Thea and Felicity, I mean, although I was hoping to see Walter Steele, too - and Oliver's best friend (again) John Diggle look on proudly. Hearing Oliver use the series intro as his Star City mayoral candidacy speech - that he returned from 5 years in hell with only one goal: to save his city - was the best callback in the history of Arrow.
But in reality it took him 3 more years of evolution from the Hood to the Green Arrow, a brother-in-arms John Diggle to aspire to, and love of his life Felicity Smoak's support to transform from self-destructive brooder to inspiring city leader.
Unity is the theme of his campaign. And, in many ways, of his new life.
Oliver, you have my vote. Thea already put me to work at the Queen for Mayor campaign headquarters. I know people in a certain fandom who are good at trending stuff on Twitter.
Meantime, I'll try not to think about Sebastian Blood's dead body draped over that desk over there.
The little sister with the big mouth is the perfect campaign manager, although she's better at writing speeches than keeping secrets. It wasn't enough to barge in on the original marriage proposal; now she almost blew the surprise in front of God and everybody?
Thea, if I didn't love you so much, I'd strangle you with my bare hands.
Strangulation is more Damian Darhk's MO, but in this episode I saw a side of Damian that took me completely by surprise. That Neal McDonough can downshift the larger-than-life Darhk to that level of subtlety is impressive.
The fact that Captain Lance goes to him for advice, not as criminal conspirators but as one father to another, about Sara's post-Lazarus Pit state (and Damian's advice isn't all that off-base, to be honest), is super interesting.
So is his choice of words. "The most loving act you can commit is to return Sara to her final rest." Has he ever had to do this to someone he loved? Is he admitting his own soul is lost?
The fandom just learned from the showrunners that Damian is NOT Felicity's father. That's disappointing on one level, but intriguing on others. Who are the Darhk children, and do we know them on the show already? Is Damian's boss, the presumed head of HIVE, Felicity's father?
My favorite fandom theory so far: could Donna Smoak be Damian's daughter (since Damian is a lot older than he looks, thanks to his stash of Lazarus Pit water), and Felicity his granddaughter?
Coming up, episode 5 "Haunted," with guest star John Constantine