Ghosts of the past are haunting Star City on Arrow, one actually back from the dead and another a seeming message from beyond confirming another lost loved one is not so lost. Sara makes her presence known more forcefully by killing Star City citizens in her quest to find and murder Thea, the one who killed her. And while Felicity has decided to listen to Ray’s supposed dying message, there’s some artifacting on the file preventing her from hearing the full thing.
The former return offers a much more immediate threat, and it takes the assistance of one Mr. John Constantine to fully reclaim Sara’s soul. But before diving into the call to everyone’s favorite recently canceled hero, let’s take a look at how problematic things had to become for John’s particular set of skills to be required.
At the start of “Haunted,” Oliver’s primary concern is his mayoral campaign. Thea has hired a new political strategist, Alex Davis (Enlisted’s Parker Young), who wants Oliver to distance himself from Laurel. The Lances are a political storm just waiting offshore for the opportune moment to hurt him, and any signs of the Queen’s Gambit wreck or his continued friendship with Laurel could only do him harm.
Even though Thea hired the guy, she’s not so sure about Alex’s advice. While she and Ollie spar in the Arrow cave, she notes that ignoring his closest friends would sure go against his “United” campaign slogan. (In the moment, Oliver also notices Thea’s fighting seems more focused after that spa weekend.) But their talk is interrupted when Felicity acts like the Voice of God over the lair’s PA system to alert them to an attack at a club. Seems this blond woman terrorizing the town is striking again.
They arrive on the scene only to find Laurel in Canary mode fighting with the assailant. Oliver prepares to strike…until he sees that it’s Sara, who uses his moment of hesitation to flee.
Oliver wastes no time in seeing through the spa-weekend lie, realizing the Lazarus Pit has been used to revive Sara. Laurel is angry that he’s judging her, but if Oliver is judging, it’s because she’s been meddling with forces she has little comprehension of. (Try getting stuck on and off an island for five years, Laurel, and then you’re allowed to raise the dead.)
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While questioning what to do later on, Quentin stops by to ask for the team’s help — but not in regard to Sara. Damien Darhk has tasked him with breaking into a government facility and plugging in a handy device to the building’s server. Why? Well, the man with magical powers and an ego the size of Star City doesn’t quite feel like answering to a mere mortal, so Quentin takes the device to Felicity for a look.
Unfortunately, the device is so encrypted by the time Felicity cracks it, Damien would likely be suspicious. So Quentin has to go through with the mission, but Oliver isn’t letting him attempt it alone. Diggle is brought in to help, and though he’s initially furious, revealing to Quentin how his brother was killed by H.I.V.E., he realizes this close a connection to Darhk is the best way for them to take down the organization.
The two head in, and the device begins deleting files once it’s plugged in. One of those files happens to be on Diggle’s brother, and as he goes back to retrieve it, the alarm is triggered. Quentin improvises by smashing Diggle against the desk and pretending he’s captured a hacker once security guards arrive.
NEXT: Looking for a little magic?
All the while, the issues with Sara have escalated once she finally tracks down her target — Thea. She attacks Thea at her home just as Oliver and Felicity realize the women Sara has been attacking all look like Speedy. Thea survives the assault but ends up in the hospital, where she reveals Malcolm sated her thirst for blood and that Sara’s is at a much worse point.
But Thea’s time in the hospital most profoundly affects Oliver and Laurel’s relationship. The two hash out the ups and downs of their lives in the hospital hallway, where Laurel spells out just why she never came to Ollie for help and why she’s so angry with him. She believes he doesn’t see her as an equal. He never has as she’s taken on the Canary name and attempted to turn her life around, or, she believes, he would have told her when he took Thea to the Pit months ago. She loves the Queen family but wishes Oliver was able to reciprocate that love to the plight of her family.
The Queens and Lances are tied together yet again as Sara sneaks into Thea’s room later on. Thea is ready to accept her death. Although Laurel told her she does not want Thea sacrificing herself to save Sara, Speedy appears to have accepted that fate. She allows Sara to begin choking her, but she flees once others rush into the room.
Sara won’t stop coming for Thea, so the team, despite Oliver’s hesitations, decides to use Thea as bait to trap Sara. They do so at the rundown Verdant, where Sara does in fact strike. Laurel is ready to kill, or at least puts on a show that she is, after Oliver says Sara came back without a soul. But he steps in with a tranquilizing arrow because, rather than kill her, he wants to save her soul. To do that, however, they’ll need a help from a man named John.
And how does Constantine come into the lives of Team Arrow? Well, it turns out he and Oliver go all the way back to the island during Ollie’s infiltration mission. One of Oliver’s fellow soldiers brings him to the head of the camp because they suspect he is a spy, and they stumble into an interrogation of John.
Yes, Matt Ryan returns after portraying Constantine on the short-lived NBC series and does so in unexpected fashion. He crashed unexpectedly into Oliver’s life while he was on the island (assumedly pre-dating the NBC series’ events), escaping from his interrogation and taking Oliver with him. A gun pointed to Ollie’s head, he takes the spying soldier with him to a specific location on the island where a magical item is buried. He calls the island a nexus, hinting that Oliver’s superiors are not just on the island for the drug trade. But he’s not quite trusting enough of Ollie to take him all the way to his goal. He chains Oliver up as Constantine makes a bid for a magical spear buried in a cave, but it’s a good thing Oliver knows how to escape a pair of cuffs. He does so just in time to save Constantine’s life from a spike trap, for which John promises he owes the future Green Arrow a favor.
He also helps Oliver come up with a cover story, giving him the shiny end of the object (the real magic is in the staff itself) and performing some spell to transfer tattoos that will likely come in handy later in Oliver’s plight. After a punch to Oliver’s face (he has to make the escape look credible, after all), John remained out of Oliver’s life presumably for years, until Ollie calls on him for help with Sara.
NEXT: Entering a whole new dimension
When Constantine arrives in Star City, he wishes he’d come sooner had he known Oliver was surrounded by beautiful women (and on the inverse of that, Felicity is just happy another figure from Ollie’s past isn’t another gorgeous woman). But other than bringing his charming attitude to the dour streets of Star, he’s also come to help Sara. After Felicity assembles a list of items to perform a spell (plus find a peacock feather for John to scratch his back with), John promises a trip to another realm for himself and two other members of the group. Thea offers, but no one thinks that’s really a great idea, so Oliver volunteers and asks Laurel to trust and come with him.
She agrees, and the trio (with a dubious Quentin Lance also watching) head into a spirit realm, which looks suspiciously like Nanda Parbat. Only the room they’re in (Oliver and Laurel are dressed in their costumes, while John remains in his trench coat) sticks them in a loop, and it takes another spell from John to lead them in the right direction. It points them to an approximation of the Pit, where Oliver and Laurel pull Sara out of its depth as John duels with a masked assassin.
They return to the real world, and Sara is healed and the Lance family reunited, all (as far as we know) with their souls intact. John heads out, though not without Oliver offering to come to his aid whenever it’s needed — and John also takes the farewell to warn Ollie of just how powerful Damien Darhk is. (ASIDE: Although the producers have not said Ryan will be back, I hope the door remains open to him on Arrow and The Flash to pop in when a bit of magic is needed. Constantine, for me, was always a deeply flawed show with the potential to be so much more. Ryan, given network limitations, embodied the character as best he could, and so it’s a joy to see him back, hopefully not for the last time. Even if just to see Thea’s crush on him help distract her from going out with any other terrible DJ’s. END ASIDE)
With the Lances together, Quentin attends to some other business after confronting Damien about the data mining. He learns of Diggle’s brother and why Damien had him assassinated, information that Quentin brings to John. It’s not pretty, but it is what Diggle has been searching for all these years, even if he has no way of ever hearing the true story from his brother.
Oliver is also trying to make amends, inviting Laurel to his mayoral campaign speech despite his new manager’s protests against doing so. Oliver wants to be the friend he should have been all along, a telling step for how their dynamic will play out over the course of the season.
But with Sara restored and resting, another ghost lingers. Curtis, after downing an unhealthy amount of energy drinks, has uncovered Ray’s full message for Felicity. (He also reveals he was an Olympic athlete in 2008, which sounds quite terrific to me.) And that message reveals Ray is, in fact, not dead. He’s alive, and he could use some help. Maybe Constantine can stick around a little while longer?