Especially on the shared Earth of the CW wing of the DCTVU. After three weeks or more (I lose track) of no Arrow and the best cliffhanger of the bunch, Arrow has returned and done the unthinkable. Twice. They broke the rules of the template they have followed since Season 1 established them. But the reason for doing so is not whimsical nor is it frivolous desire of the creators it is because they have finally reached a point where the template wasn’t working to propel the narrative the series demanded be told from an artistic standpoint.
Episode 10 of Season 4 will be the episode remembered as “The episode that changed it all” in cliché speak. The reason is because it is here – where they could have safely reverted back to the template and the Batman-like darkness at the team’s darkest time – they doubled down in the light and focused on the Green in Green Arrow.
So like always I break it down below. Unlike always there is too much to catch it all but elements of this episode will resonate to the future.
So let’s get this monkey smoking…
Synopsis from TVGuide.com
Season 4, Episode 10
January 20, 2016
Oliver seeks revenge and goes on a brutal manhunt to find Dahrk, after dealing with the devastating consequences of Dahrk's latest attack.
What they didn’t say:
In order to find Damien Dahrk the team has to follow and apprehend Anarky, then release and apprehend him again. A move that nearly costs the lives of two seeming innocents.
The villain Thea created (she thinks) when she burned his face goes all romantic slobber over her while nearly killing Darhk’s family. As a reward for the rescue of his family Darhk promises a few weeks of truce until we discover the true evil of that family may reside in his wife who plans the destruction of the world in front of the kid…shame.
During the Anarky chase Diggle beats his brother in the hope of information but a talk from Lila helps him try love instead. A breakthrough ensues. Let’s see…anything else? Oh on the island a desperate move saves an innocent woman’s life and further risks a wounded Oliver’s life. What else?
OH YEAH?!!! In both the opening and closing credits three people are shown at cemeteries or graveside and Felicity is calling for murder. Barry agrees that this person also must die. It is a mystery and one of our few clues is that the deceased is a civil servant or military man… Diggle? Andy Diggle? Detective Lance? Felicity’s mom (if she marries Lance)? Someone major is going to die this season and they told us up front. Not from a flashback.
Also, Thea struggles with her blood lust and the level of acceptance and affection from Anarky. Then discovers a romance with the traitor campaign manager is the best thing.
Lastly, it is revealed that Felicity is paralyzed from the attack by Darhk and will never walk again. The moments they share are phenomenal and long overdue. But the fact remains this opens the door to long rumored speculation that a beloved character is coming to TV that has been gone since 2011 in any form. Glory day, she lived and I can go on smiling.
The greatest benefit of being first and being successful is that it allows you a vehicle to run experiments in, to break the rules you established. To wit, be the standard. Arrow is trying to reclaim its place as the best of the CW shows before next week’s debut of Legends of Tomorrow. They may have done it here. With episode 10 the creative team from catering to producer has flexed its muscles again.
Taking lessons shown by both Flash and Supergirl earlier this year the lighter and more hopeful tone and thematic narrative demanded the template be broken because the writing is risky and this is the result. Where they broke the template was in two areas.
First they started propelling the plot from the present not the past. Instead the flashbacks have become a vehicle for the lesson learned (much more like the Green Arrow comics) and how to make a different choice if necessary. No longer are characters and secrets from the island driving the entire show. The template for 3 seasons never veered from this as a result season 3 was more Batman than Arrow and Deathstroke the Terminator and Ollie are friends. What The Flash in particular has shown the team at Arrow is you don’t have to apologize for being a superhero show anymore and some origins are better left as is. But what this new approach from the present brings to the table is tone and a sense of freshness to the show long time viewers claimed it lacked as of late on the internet.
The reason it feels fresh is because the themes of blood, betrayal, turning to the light and most of all open exposed lives with few secrets and more trust has paved the way for the template to break. The risky part – follow the themes and be artistically honest while continuing the success.
The second place they broke the template was with Thea. She gets her redemption it appears. In all instances previous Thea never gets relief. Ever. But while her heart will be broken by her new flame it is for the first time possible he will reject Darhk and redemption for both leads to healing. It is what we all want and what thematically so far it indicates. When this happens it will be because here in episode 10 she quit running away, thus a major characterization change occurs as naturally as water and ducks. Or bananas and monkey.
Arrow is back in experimental mode and that has never hearkened as a better omen for any series than Arrow, Learning lessons from Flash, Gotham (did you see Barry agreeing to have someone killed?) and Supergirl to break the template where the themes demand. The result is that Arrow is becoming less Batman and more of an unapologetic superhero show lighter in tone and full of hope and redemption never before there. While it is possible they will utterly smash our hearts with an upcoming death remember this is comics TV no one stays dead. Ask Fish Mooney.
Tell the monkey to crush his butt…