The holidays in Star City. The one time of year that everyone puts their selfish interests aside and comes together for the common good. A time to “Unite”. That’s where we open this mid-season finale of Arrow, with a group of volunteers spending time during the holidays with the lone mayoral candidate, Oliver Queen, cleaning up the bay. United. And, in direct opposition to what Damien Darhk warned Ollie not to do a couple of episodes back.
Just how serious was Darhk in his threat against Ollie if the candidate persisted in his bay area project? We soon find out, as a camouflaged drone swoops in and opens fire on the volunteers. (If Darhk was concerned about concealing the drone until it was ready to fire, why not have it painted a color that would blend in better with the bayside environment?) Candidate Queen gets a few more approval points out of his quick thinking and saving mini-Felicity from the drone, while the actual Felicity uses her tablet to disable the drone.
It’s all in a day’s work for Team Arrow. The problem is that this wasn’t an attack on Team Arrow. Ollie challenged Darhk. Ollie told the press that the battle for Star City would be fought in the light of day. Ollie asked for this. All Darhk did was rise to the challenge. Not to be outdone, and never one to cower from the bad guys terrorizing those he loves, Ollie uses the press to call out Darhk one more time, this time going all in and exposing the HIVE leader, right in front of his cronies.
Meanwhile, Felicity’s mother, Donna, is sticking around Star City a little longer. While decorating for the holidays, Donna stumbles upon the engagement ring Ollie had hidden way back in the season opener. I’m not exactly sure how the ring got mixed up with the holiday decorations, but there it is. Donna and Felicity jump to the conclusion that Ollie is going to use the holiday party as an opportunity to propose to Felicity. A sound assumption, I’m sure, given the circumstances. Why else would Ollie hide the ring with the decorations?
On the contrary, Ollie is ready to call off the party altogether. He just called out Darhk. They have no idea why this bay project is important to HIVE. Diggle’s brother, Andy, hasn’t given them any information. Time to bunker down and wait for Darhk to make his next move. Something no one at home actually expected to happen and certainly not something that the rest of Team Arrow is willing to let happen. After a round of “that’s just what the terrorists want” from the gang, Ollie agrees to go forward with the planned party.
Which, in this case, is exactly what the terrorists wanted.
At the party, Felicity is in a tizzy about the imminent proposal, but it’s a throw-away line by Curtis’ husband that causes Felicity to realize that Ollie wasn’t planning to propose now, that he had planned to propose before the couple returned to Star City. But he didn’t. Instead, he went up in the attic and hid the ring among the holiday lights. Felicity goes looking for Donna, only to find Donna and Quentin making nice beneath the mistletoe. Moving from one awkward scene to another, Felicity calls out Ollie. Why didn’t he propose?
Ollie is in the middle of making some lame excuse, which sounds like another variation on the whole “let us men keep our secrets and do our job of protecting the women-folk” that we’ve heard time and again, when shots are fired. Enter Damien Darhk.
Look, I know that The Joker is the iconic DC villain. I love me some Mr. J, too. But, between the portrayal of The Trickster on The Flash this week and Darhk’s entrance here so closely mimicking Heath Ledger’s version of The Joker interrupting the fundraiser for Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, it feels like maybe the Joker tropes were buy-one get-one this week in the DC shop and the producers of The Flash and Arrow took advantage of the sale.
Still, Darth Damien does get some cool Sith Lord powers that The Joker doesn’t have, so there’s that.
Darhk is out to send a message to candidate Queen. Thea, Diggle, and Felicity are taken hostage. Ollie goes out every night and takes his fury out on the Ghosts, but they’re no more help to Ollie in finding his friends than caged up Andy has been. While Ollie is thrashing the Ghosts, Laurel is manning the phone bank for any leads the citizens of Star City might have. The only one that pans out is regarding her father as one of Darhk’s accomplices.
Laurel calls out Quentin. How could the captain of the SCPD be one of Darhk’s accomplices? Because the men-folk have to keep their secrets to protect the fairer sex. But, it’s not what it looks like. Is it ever? Dear ol’ dad is Team Arrow’s mole. Ollie knows all about it. In fact it was Ollie’s idea to keep Quentin close to Darhk instead of letting the captain turn himself over on corruption charges.
Back at the lair, Ollie, Laurel, and Quentin gather to go over what little information they do have on Darhk. Malcolm walks in and repeats his trademarked “I’ll do anything to protect my daughter” catchphrase. My issue here is that this appears to be the first time that Malcolm breaks into the new Arrow Cave, but we saw him pull the same stunt last week during the two-night crossover event. I hate it when shows break their own internal continuity (but that’s not the episode’s most egregious sin).
Malcolm has access to the Ghost’s private cellular network. Ollie has a plan. Laurel has her bondage suit. Time to make a deal with Darth Damien. Surely the villain will prove to be a stand-up guy and accept Ollie’s trade of himself for his friends’ release, right?
Ollie gives himself over to Darth Damien, who reveals to Ollie that he has a legion of brainwashed followers willing to give their lives in service of HIVE’s master plan. What is that plan? Apparently, it involves the HIVE brass hiding in a bunker full of corn while they use algae blooming in the Star City bay to poison the world. Or something to that effect.
Darth Damien gives Ollie and Felicity some alone time, which Felicity uses to reiterate the theme of this episode. It’s the same one that the team gave Ollie after the attack on the beach and the same one that Laurel gave her father before suiting up and waiting for… I don’t know, for that dramatic moment to make the save, I guess. That message is that these people chose this life. Ollie didn’t choose it for them. They knew the risks involved and embraced them. So, quit trying to protect those who never asked to be protected.
Instead of releasing the prisoners, Darth Damien puts Felicity in the gas chamber with Thea and Diggle. What, did Ollie really think that a Sith Lord like Darhk would let his friends go free? It’s a good thing that Laurel decided that now would be a good time to show up and do something,since the gas is really flooding the chamber. And who’s that with her? Why, it’s the Green Arrow!
Laurel uses the Canary Cry (we sure are getting a lot of that this season) to burst the glass of the gas chamber and leads the prisoners to Quentin and the SCPD. So much for not needing protection, huh? I mean, it’s one thing to say you don’t need protection and another to welcome it when the cavalry does show up.
Meanwhile, Darth Damien and Green Arrow battle it out. Darhk finds Malcolm’s lack of faith disturbing and starts to Force Choke him out. (Aside: You know what would be cool, guys? See if we can work in some Star Wars references in the mid-season finales. Maybe book Mark Hamill to reprise his role as The Trickster on The Flash and have Darhk go all Darth Vader on Arrow.) Ollie tackles Darhk, proving without a doubt that candidate Queen is not Green Arrow. Malcolm and Ollie get away before the facility goes boom, but so does Darth Damien.
Since the last holiday event went so well, the gang decides to throw another one, attending the world’s smallest tree lighting ceremony. It’s here that Ollie finally proposed to Felicity, who says “yes”. Happiness! Wedded bliss to come, right?
Wrong. This is the mid-season finale. Remember, last year, we were treated to Ollie’s “death” at the hands of Ra’s al Ghul. So, who’s life will (cliff)hang in the balance this season? As Ollie and Felicity are basking sparkle coming off of the rock on her finger, Ghosts surround their limo and pepper is with bullets. The driver is killed, but Ollie manages to drive he and Felicity to safety.
Nope. Not to be. Felicity has been shot. And… scene.
Arrow fans, the producers went to great lengths to remind us in the “Previously on Arrow” and in the tease for the show’s January return that someone is going to die. They are also working hard to make us believe that Felicity is the one who is going to be killed. Are you sold? Surely this attack isn’t directly connected to the foreshadowed death, is it? In the season premier, we were told that the flash forward was six months in the future. I know continuity was broken once this episode, but would they really tell us that someone is going to be freshly buried next spring, then kill that person at Christmas?
No, friends, I don’t think that this cliffhanger is tied to that death. Felicity could die when we return in January. Or not. Felicity could be the person killed closer to this season’s end. Or not. I think she’s still the obvious choice for being the one killed, the one whose death causes Ollie to choose to be a killer once again. Felicity is Ollie’s light in the darkness. It would take that light going out for Ollie to return to the darkness once more. But, something tells me that Felicity being the obvious choice also makes her the least likely choice. Maybe I’m just hoping to be surprised.
Finally, a word about the flashbacks. I’m not going to spend much time on them because they’re not worth the space. In seasons one and two, the flashbacks served a purpose. They showed us how the trust-fund baby became a killer in the five years he was on the island. They showed us that Ollie wasn’t on the island for five years, and when he was there, he certainly wasn’t alone. They gave depth to the relationship between Ollie and Slade Wilson.
Last season, the flashbacks became the weakest part of the show, becoming little more than a way to flesh out a couple of side characters. This season, the only purpose they have served so far is to show us that Ollie has some experience with magic. That’s fine, but that could have been explained away as something he picked up in his time serving under Ra’s al Ghul last season (Lazarus Pit, anyone?).
But, this week’s flashback…
I’m sure most here are familiar with the term “jumping the shark”. It refers to the moment when a show has exhausted every avenue possible in a storyline and goes to a surreal place instead. We don’t need to go into all the specifics and history of the term here (you can Google it), but I can’t help but wonder what happens when a show doesn’t just “jump the shark” but gets bitten by the same shark.
A shark, who is most definitely just a shark. Not a man. Not a man-shark. Not a King Shark. Just a shark.
I think the flashbacks could possibly be saved. I think we’re almost to the point where the flashbacks would be taking place during the time Ollie is back in Starling City during season one. It would be interesting to see that he is up to something more than just what we saw during that season. That would be a great way to bring some old, familiar faces back, too. But, I think the better option might be to go ahead and scrap the flashbacks altogether. End this season with Ollie turning the corner. Saying something like “No looking back.” And end the flashbacks.
Happy holidays, Arrow fans. If you find yourself volunteering this season, keep your eyes open for gun-carrying drones. If you attend any holiday parties, be watchful for uninvited Sith Lords. And if you attend a lighting ceremony that consists of a nothing more than a replica of Charlie Brown’s tree, please don’t take the limo home!
Catch up with all of the first half of the season of Arrow season four on Same Geek Channel:
Episode 4.01: Green Arrow
Episode 4.02: The Candidate
Episode 4.03: Restoration
Special Edition: Arrow Death Watch
Episode 4.04: Beyond Redemption
Episode 4.05: Haunted
Episode 4.06: Lost Souls
Episode 4.07: Brotherhood
Episode 4.08: Legends of Yesterday