This week’s episode of Arrow took the emphasis off of the large threat to Star City and brought us a much more insidious threat. One much closer to home for hero, villain, and those walking the shadows between the two extremes. This episode got back to the heart of the series and the relationships that have shaped the show from day one. When can a man or a city no longer be saved? Where is that line and what happens when it is crossed?
This episode never explicitly answered those questions. I don’t know that there is a single answer. But it did give us some insight into what these characters might be willing to do to attempt to atone for the sins of their pasts. Maybe even what they’re willing to sacrifice.
Take Star City. We know that after three years of things going south for this city every May, those who can are moving out and those who chose to stay are forced to watch their city slide further into anarchy. Everyone who runs for mayor either gets killed or terrorized into walking away. The SCPD is overworked and underfunded. Those once-good officers are either waiting for someone like Damien Darhk to swoop in with his promises to save them or take matters into their own hands to provide for their loved ones.
Captain Lance quietly reinstated the anti-vigilante task force a few months back, but now the weapons and armor that was requisitioned for the force is being used by crooked cops who are taking matters of compensation into their own hands by making off-the-record drug busts, then reselling the drugs back to the dealers. Team Arrow gets involved when a couple of plain-clothed officers interrupt one of the deals, which gets them killed. The team reaches out to Captain Lance with a plan to spring a trap for the corrupt cops, believing Lance to be the one man on the police force that they can trust.
Not that Lance is the most trustworthy person in Star City right now. With the city going to pot, Lance made a deal with Damien Darhk, who swooped in with promises of saving Star City. By the time Lance figured out what kind of devil he was dealing with, Darhk had sufficiently threatened Lance’s one remaining daughter into keeping Lance compliant.
As if leading a crooked police force and Darhk’s threats weren’t problem enough for Captain Lance, Laurel dumps a whole different level of crazy in his lap. Sara, who has been dead for a year now, is alive, feral, and chained in Laurel’s basement. Not only that, but Laurel is exuding the creepy-calm that calls to mind the mother figure in some horror film, telling her demon spawn that everything will be just fine once her chap comes into his own.
More conflicted than we have ever seen him (even when we was squarely tucked into a bottle of whatever the liquor store had on sale this week), Lance goes to the one person he knows who has experience with the Lazarus Pit. Damien Darhk. Darhk tells Lance that whatever is inhabiting Sara’s reanimated body isn’t Sara. That keeping her flesh and bones ambulatory is only disturbing her spirit’s rest. Darhk gives Lance a little one-father-to-another advice. Put Sara down before that dog gets loose and bites.
Worse still, Ollie spots Lance and Darhk via dash-cam video that Felicity is monitoring in trying to track down the crooked cops. Using his vigilante “coming in through the window and sit in the dark until someone comes home” moves, Ollie confronts Lance in Lance’s apartment. Lance always rode Ollie for not being good enough… not as a boyfriend to whichever of Lance’s daughters Ollie was hooking up with at the time, not as a hero by night, nor as a stand-up kind of guy by day. Lance was the principled one, the ideal that Ollie strove to achieve and the one person whose regard Ollie coveted. And now that same man has handed Star City to Darhk.
If only things were so black and white. You’d think the guy in a costume trying to do right by his city by running around at night–acting as judge, jury, and sometimes executioner for those who he decides are in the wrong–shooting arrows at people would understand degrees of “innocence” and “guilt.”
You see, our crooked cops don’t think they’re crooked. They know that the city’s police are underfunded. Visiting the new Arrow Lair, Lance points out that everybody–the good guys and the bad guys–have better equipment than the police force. For years now, the vigilantes have riled up Star City’s criminal element, forcing them to up their game. And they have. Creating earthquakes. Fielding an army of Mirakuru soldiers. Threatening biological warfare. What has SCPD gotten in the bargain? Slashed funding. A more dangerous city to try to police. And nothing in the way of additional compensation. Is it so surprising that an element of the city’s “good guys” have sold out?
It’s not surprising to Captain Lance. But, when one of the corrupt officers gets the drop on Ollie, it can no longer be justified or reasoned away. Captain Lance gets up on his soap box and talks the officer into giving herself up. We know the lady officer lives by a code (one she broke in the show’s open, so how strictly does she live by said code?). We know she doesn’t think of herself as a bad guy (no one ever does; I’m sure Malcolm Merlyn, Ras al Ghul, and Damien Darhk think that they are the heroes in their own stories, not the villain in someone else’s story), but this was hard to swallow. A misstep in an otherwise well-done episode.
We wrap up this part of our tale back in Lance’s apartment (line of the night: “Get your own key or something?”). Lance is going to turn himself in. Ollie tells him not to. Team Arrow can’t get close to Darhk, but Lance has the guy on speed dial for whenever he needs some parenting advice. Ollie tells Lance to atone for Lance’s bad decision by making it a good decision. Be the mole in Darhk’s operation and help save Star City.
Now it’s time for Ollie to step up. Not only has he converted Brother Blood’s old lair into the new base of operations for Team Arrow, but he’s using the upstairs as his campaign office. No one on the team was all that impressed by Ollie’s announcement that he was going to run for mayor. Ollie wasn’t so sure of the decision himself after learning of Lance’s duplicity. But, after Lance’s speech to his former officer, Ollie is ready to step up and into public office.
How does this week’s episode end? Darhk got a package delivery. Felicity got a recorded message from Ray. And Feral Sara got loose from her chains.
1) As much as we have fun tearing into these shows about costumed people doing crazy things, I’d be remiss not to point out that the first scene between Ollie and Lance in Lance’s apartment was some of the best acting we’ve seen on this show. Kudos to Stephen Amell and Paul Blackthorne!
2) It’s fun to see the Canary Cry on-screen. That said… what a craptastic power.
3) In the past two weeks, we’ve seen a lot more on-the-street action between Ollie and Laurel. Episode 4.02 gave us Ollie firing a zipline arrow and Laurel jumping on without missing a beat. This week we got Ollie firing another cable arrow and the two swinging down together. It seems like the producers are starting to bring these two together more. A hint of things to come?
4) Have your thoughts changed about who might be in the grave we saw in the season premiere? After Ollie came clean with Lance about how Ollie has always wanted Lance’s approval, have you leaned more toward Lance paying the ultimate price for siding with Darhk, however briefly? Still think Felicity dies, removing her for a possible Laurel and Ollie pairing? (Note: I think I typed “Laurel and Hardy” three times before I was able to type “Laurel and Ollie.”) Sound off in the comments section and let us know whether or not you’ve changed your pick after this week’s episode.