Arrow is dead. Long live the Green Arrow.
Yes, along with a shiny new title card, Oliver Queen took on a new moniker as he found the siren call of saving Star City too alluring to keep him away from home. And with the new, immediate threat of Damien Darhk, it’s not a moment too soon.
“Green Arrow” has a lot of ground to cover, tracing the ways Team Arrow has changed since the climactic fallout of season 3 and sowing the seeds of that team coming back together, if not to be the same as it once was, then to be something better. The road there will be a tough one, however, and “Green Arrow” makes no effort to hide the trials and tribulations that await, including an episode-ending tease promising devastation in the months to come.
But that graveside scene is set months in the future. Let’s first focus on the present (and the show’s new flashback plans) because you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. (Unless you’re on The Flash, then time travel and alternate realities makes that less true. That’s a discussion for another recap, though.)
“Green Arrow” opens up on a relatively familiar image: Oliver sprinting through the brush, donning a green hood (this one attached to a sweatshirt. And as he leaves the greenery around him, he bursts out onto…a suburban road? Yes, Ollie has been domesticated, living a docile life with the love of his life, Felicity. (It is absolutely wonderful to see Emily Bett Rickards smiling so often during this episode. After a dark season for Felicity, she deserves to be actually happy about things.)
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Life in this little corner of the world is bright, cheerful, and free of assassins, the only real threat being Felicity’s cooking. I don’t think I could have ever imagined the Oliver of seasons’ past unironically saying, “I have to get some stuff from the farmers market for brunch tomorrow,” yet here he is, doing just that, free to spend his time not traipsing around a city looking for criminals to stop.
So in his stead, Diggle, now with some headgear of his own, Laurel as the Canary, and Thea as Speedy (she’d prefer Red Arrow, of course) are keeping Star City safe. (ASIDE: I totally understand what Ray Palmer wanted to do with the renaming last year, but wouldn’t having to dismantle, repaint, or alter every piece of iconography with “Starling” written on it been just a bit of an extraneous cost? END ASIDE)
Specifically, “Green Arrow” shows them fighting off a group, which has become known in Star City as the Ghosts, as they’re hijacking a truck. While everyone is more than up to the task, the Ghosts come with so much firepower and backup that the heroes are forced to retreat.
And the man behind the Ghosts, Damien Darhk, isn’t content to operate in the shadows. Neal McDonough’s big bad reveals himself within minutes of the episode’s start. Arrow is not looking to gradually introduce the team or the viewers to this year’s big threat. He comes out swinging, cocky, and confident as he barges in on a private meeting held among the few remaining leaders in Star. He’s first revealed in reflection — surrounded by the dark reflection of the table in the room, his surprisingly serene and even happy visage looms large over his audience. He has one simple request of them: Let Star City die, because only in death can something new grow. He suggests they all say goodbye to the crumbling husk of a city they’re clinging to and prepare for what’s to come.
NEXT: What’s to come? More murder, of course.[pagebreak]
The Ghosts target and, in many cases, kill the members of that meeting, among them Quentin Lance, who survives with an assist from his daughter (but not without a bullet wound to the arm). Star is at risk, and though Diggle is content with the new team to handling it, Laurel and Thea have another option in mind. And he just so happens to be ready to propose to the love of his life.
Oliver and Felicity have slid into the comforts of low-key living, and Oliver sees this new way of life as the way in life. He wants to make this world, the one he shares with Felicity, permanent, so he prepares a fancy, romantic dinner to propose. A surprise visit from Laurel and Thea smashes like a wrecking ball into Oliver’s plans. After showing him what’s happened to the city he fought so long not to fail, and with Felicity wanting to do nothing but help, Ollie decides to head back into the belly of the beast.
Diggle doesn’t welcome them back with open arms when the duo appears back at the new base with Thea and Laurel. Well, most of his derision is directed at Oliver for that whole kidnapping-his-wife thing last season. (Weird what a spousal abduction will do to a friendship, huh?)
But when Felicity discovers what’s at stake, namely explosives that could pose a serious threat to the city, Diggle is willing to work alongside the man he doesn’t trust if that’s what it takes to save the city. It doesn’t help that Oliver immediately kicks back into his leadership habits, giving everyone certain directives.
They do follow them, however, and they’re better for it, but a new problem crops up for Oliver when he realizes how willing and easy it is for Felicity to slip back into the swing of things. She never lost her groove because she’s been helping the Star City crew behind Oliver’s back. While they’ve been galavanting around the world, a few well-timed lies have allowed her to lend her skills to them, which concerns Oliver, knowing the love of his life was bored in their fairytale life.
It’s a smart reversal of what some viewers may have expected. Sure, Oliver ended season 3 with a smile plastered on his face, excited to escape the life he knew. But it’s easy to assume he would be the one who missed the life they left behind, when in fact it’s Felicity who’s kept one virtual toe in the Star City waters.
But the talk is tabled when Felicity’s hacking discovers a GPS tracking system in the equipment the Ghosts were amassing that leads them to an abandoned facility. (Comic book universe real estate must be a nightmare when seemingly every other building has been abandoned or repurposed as a criminal hideout.) The team assembles at the scene, where Damien has a platoon of Ghosts lined up in orderly fashion. He’s there to make an example of the soldier who let the robbery earlier in the episode be attacked. He’s going to demonstrate “the manipulation of primordial energies,” which is a fancy way of saying he’s going to use the five-point-palm-exploding-heart technique to drain the life out of this guy.
Ollie and the rest ambush the attack mid-magical mystery tour, dispatching a few of Damien’s men but letting the head honcho escape. And in the attack, Oliver notices that Thea has gone all-out aggro in her fighting style, pummeling a foe into submission with deadly intent until the police crash the party. (Note: The producers told EW’s Natalie Abrams that Thea’s acting up for a reason, and it’s one they tend to explore as the season goes on.)
And with a concerned-brother speech out of the way, Oliver also has to manage his strained friendship with Diggle, his also-strained relationship with Quentin, and now a foe he knows is not a metahuman, but something…mystical.
NEXT: The might of Damien’s mysticism (and his surprise ally) is revealed [pagebreak]
It’s all a lot for someone to handle within hours of returning home, and Oliver questions whether he and Felicity should get the hell outta Star. She says she’s willing, but Felicity loves it now that they’re back, and she knows Ollie does too. He doesn’t have to worry about being the person he was, the person Diggle can’t trust and Quentin is disappointed in. He can focus on being someone, something, better.
And so he does, in his brand new threads, as the crew hones in on what they suspect is Damien’s plan. Quentin mentioned to Laurel that a new railroad line was opening, and the first high-speed train from Central City just so happens to be arriving that night.
Expecting the station as a prime target, Thea and Laurel are on crowd control duty with Quentin while Oliver hitches a ride on the Central City Express. Once inside, he finds Damien, clearly a hands-on type of villain, and tries to stop him with a couple arrows to the chest. But Damien’s gifts allow him to stop all of Oliver’s arrows mid-flight and send them spinning back. He’s also got some surprising strength underneath that dapper suit, taking Oliver on in hand-to-hand combat with ease. It takes a dart from Diggle, who arrives a little late to the party, to distract Damien but not subdue him. As Diggle helps Oliver to his feet, Darhk disappears into the…well, dark of night, while Oliver and Diggle detonate the on-board explosives safely away from the blast zone.
The threat of Damien still out there encourages Oliver to stay in town (he and Felicity move into Thea’s apartment while she’s crashing with Laurel) with the goal of stopping this new foe. Oliver knows Damien has a hive of operatives (or should that be H.I.V.E. perhaps?), and though Diggle recognizes the term from when Deadshot said it to him, he remains silent. He doesn’t want to drag Oliver, especially when he can’t stand being near the man, into the case of his brother’s death.
Diggle begins to see the light of forgiveness earlier in the episode, when Lyla tells him he’ll have to move on eventually. Oliver needs him after all. But it’s still tough for Diggle to accept what happened. (Understandably, of course. Kidnapping your best friend’s wife for any reason is definitely frowned upon.) So for now, he begrudgingly accepts Oliver’s return.
And with that return comes the need for a new codename. The Arrow died months ago, after all, and so Oliver hijacks the airwaves to make an announcement.
“I am the Green Arrow,” he tells the city, wanting to be the symbol of hope the city needs and deserves, the beacon of hope the Arrow never quite was. And with the Arrow now assumed dead by the city, maybe something new and improved can grow from that death, just as Damien said.
Speaking of the Darhk lord of Star City, it appears he has an unexpected ally on his side. While performing a ritual at his hideout, who but Quentin Lance comes to visit Darhk. Damien wants anything and everything on this Green Arrow and to stop him before he becomes any more of an obstacle. Otherwise, Quentin’s future isn’t looking too bright.
And there is definitely one future with a time limit on it, but that remains a mystery for now. In the ending teaser, six months later, Oliver is standing by a freshly filled-in grave, Barry Allen visiting briefly by his side. Who is in the ground remains a mystery to everyone, but it’s a death that propels Oliver to declare his own deadly intentions. This doesn’t look like a loss even the Lazarus Pits will be circumventing this time around.
We gotta go back, Amanda.
The flashbacks setting up another year in Oliver’s past reveal a fledgling Arrow. He’s attempting to fight crime in Coast City, but he’s honestly quite terrible at it. And who finds him but Amanda Waller, who takes Oliver to a bar only to drug his drink.
He awakens in an already in-flight plane with two agents holding him at gunpoint. He’s being kicked out of the plane with a parachute on a mission for Palmer, and the plane just so happens to be flying over Lian Yu. Oliver descends to its shores, only to be met by an armed soldier, and presumably, many more problems.
What did you think of Damien Darhk’s introduction? Who do you think will end up in the grave? And how happy were you to see Felicity smiling so much again? Let me know on Twitter @jmdornbush.