In my review for Arrow, the Berlanti-DC series that launched the whole trend, I said that the fourth season had looked like it was possibly going to be lighter in tone than the very dark third season. I should’ve known better. Last season was so dark — or should I said, Darhk, eventually involving the death of an original cast member, Laurel Lance that it practically made the third season seem cheerful in comparison. By the end of the season, which nearly ended with an apocalypse instead of just a threat to the city, even the remaining member of Oliver Queen’s team had gotten to the point where they couldn’t handle being vigilantes anymore. Thea Queen gave up her cape, John Diggle reenlisted, and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards, by far the heart of the show) officially broke up with Oliver.
It’s small wonder that Oliver, who ended up being sworn in as mayor in the season finale, has begun to feel the darkness closing in. In addition to going equally hard as the Green Arrow, he has been very reluctant to take on help. And God knows he needs it. Still trying to take on the duties as mayor, he is now dealing with a gang-runner who seems determined to take over the criminal enterprises (Chad L. Coleman, familiar to those of us who watched The Wire). Add to that a more deadly archer only given the code name ‘Prometheus’, and you can see why Oliver is finally giving into the need to get help. It’s taken him four years, but he finally seems to realize that his going it alone approach isn’t going to work. The fact that he’s finally willing to admit his failings, albeit to another vigilante who was enpowered by the critical failings of last season, makes you realize that there is at last some hope for progress. And given his final willing to trust his new team, including tech Curtis, a science geek, who as Oliver puts it “speaks Felicity”, there may be some hope that he’s about to get himself pointed in the right direction.
It’s a good thing, too, because some of his other friends desperately need the help. Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne, still this series secret weapon), who took some of the most driving blows last season, has lost his job, his girlfriend, and his battle with the bottle, trying instead to face up to the duty of being deputy mayor. (Considering that Oliver’s admitted he got the majority of his political experience by binge watching The West Wing, I have a feeling this could be a full-time job.) And Diggle has run into major trouble in the army -framed for trying to steal a nuclear weapon by a superior officer, he now faces a court-martial and prison, a fate he somehow thinks he deserves because of how he killed his brother late last year.
Admittedly, Arrow remains the darkest series of all of Berlanti’s work. But the show is starting to fire on all cylinders. Even the flashbacks, which have been a weakness of the series for the past two seasons, have begun to seem more like they are relevant. Dealing with his time in Russia, a plot point that has been discussed but never fully explored, they actually seem relevant. It’s something of a pity that this will be the last season where they take place, as this is the final year before his time away from Star City ended.
It’s not a perfect series, and its still a little dark than all but the most fervent Arrow enthusiasts might be willing to tolerate. But it remains one of the real winners on TV. Makes you wait for the inevitable crossover between all four series due to come in November. I know I’ll be waiting with breathless anticipation.
My score: 4 stars.