Arrow has some built in advantages as the template show for the DCTVU (DC Comics Television Universe) and one of those it that because it is the template it gets to destroy the rules if it suits the storytelling device and the thematic narrative when it does so.
While for the entire season we have been teased about an upcoming death of a major character and in episode 18 it appears that the cat is out of the bag and the reveal has finally happened. But this is Arrow and it bears repeating that deception is a cornerstone of the show. I took a closer look, continuing the examination of the tropes, themes and devices of the season as well as the series.
So let’s get this monkey smoking…
***SPOILERS LIKE LAXATIVES IN THE CHOCOLATE SAUCE********************WARNING!!***
The SYNOPSIS from TVGuide.com
April 6, 2016
Oliver and Diggle learn that Merlyn plans to break Darhk out of prison. Meanwhile, Laurel gets a surprising offer; and Felicity has a heart-to-heart talk with Curtis.
What They Didn’t Tell You
Andy Diggle was revealed in the last episode to be working with Malcom Merlyn under the command of the still imprisoned Damian Dahrk. With suspicious behavior and a checkered past Oliver spends a good deal of time threatening and eventually torturing Andy for his real motivations when he conveniently lets them in on Darhk’s plan, sets them up for a distraction that enables the idol of Darhk’s power to be stolen from the Bunker and smuggled by Malcom inside. Laurel, as assistant district attorney searches the entire tier of the prison for the idol but Darhk has emissaries inside and out, including Murmur, the sewn lipped psychopath now in Damian Darhk’s thrall.
On the island Oliver and his companion free the captives and kill all the soldiers but the ones Ryder kills. The final showdown is coming they plan to seal him in the tunnels.
The new Mayor – Darhk’s wife – offers Laurel a job as DA. She contemplates, her dad says no but Oliver tells her to take it. Tensions between HIVE and Darhk escalate as do the tensions between Merlyn and Darhk.
While the search is going on John reveals to Andy the statue is incomplete and needs another piece to work. It is when Oliver finds him looking for the gem to activate it that Oliver snaps and tortures Andy for the truth. When John walks in on him he blows his top and tells Oliver to stay out of his family life. A rift between them is now growing. When it is revealed the gem is stolen and Dahrk is now breaking from prison the team arrives to see Detective Lance punch out his boss and get arrested so the team (including Andy who John brought against Oliver’s wishes) can get into the prison to stop them. Inside Damian uses the statue to power up. He kills his own men to do so. And while the team begins to fight Andy betrays them all as Oliver suspected. As a result, Laurel gets gravely injured. Canary is down. The team abandons the prison and takes Canary to the hospital, Dahrk escapes.
At the police station Detective Lance hears of Canary’s grave injuries and begs to be released for an hour to go see his daughter in the hospital. The request is granted. At the hospital after surgery it appears that Laurel will live and after seeing the team she speaks privately to Oliver and goes into cardiac arrest. She dies after making Oliver promise something and telling her love for him. Detective Lance arrives too late to see Laurel. The team is fractured. Andy is a traitor, Oliver and John a mess. Felicity, Thea and the entire team broken.
How do you cling to the good in the light when at every turn the darkness has decided to engulf you? This is the current angle to the current seasons running theme of light is right. From the engagement of Felicity and Oliver ending, to the traitor brother, to the paralysis, to the current death of Black Canary the creative team has rocked the life of Oliver Queen and all he holds dearest. Yet, throughout they have used a clear narrative with logical progressions and stayed consistent to three seasons of characterizations and in doing so have continued to double down on hope.
As we have seen for all four seasons, Oliver is blind to his family and now we see Diggle is too. We have watched Laurel finally find herself only to end up lost once again in death (real or swerved) and we have seen that Detective Lance is the toughest son of a gun in the DC television universe.
Knowing what we do about the characters it may be safe to assume this is what is going on; Oliver promised Laurel to fake her death in order to protect Detective Lance. Oliver keeps secret and fakes death. It is what he does. While the creators often threaten to change the whole show’s format – more than any show since X-Files I think – they always find a way to remain true to the template that made their universe so wonderful. I said in the intro, this is ability to sell a swerve is what makes the show fun and nearly impossible to predict. While we know an Earth 2 Laurel is coming to Flash whether or not it is her in the grave we have watched all year or an elaborate ruse woven in the fabric of seasons to come is at this point irrelevant.
Arrow continues to propel the season 4 narrative of overcoming adversity, clinging to the light and the evolution of a family concept with deft skill and clear thematic exposition. By far it is the best of the 4 seasons and the characters have taken on new dimensions. When looking back on the whole series in ten years Eleven Fifty-Nine will be considered a lynchpin for the entire run. Watch Arrow. Be Happy.