“I am the Green Arrow.”
Right from the opening scene, it’s clear that Season 4 of Arrow has really changed the formula to include a lighter tone. It’s a little cheesy at first, but it only takes the natural chemistry between Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) to make the change a welcome departure from the melodramatic season three finale. The retired from the life thing has been done many (many…many…) times before. But knowing Oliver’s character adds a layer of depth that makes the transition an opportunity for characterization that builds on that contrast with Oliver’s past and present. The Flashbacks highlight this contrast by showing the violent beginnings of Oliver’s foray in to superheroics and vigilantism. At the same time that this is happening, we are treated to an example of the crime fighting that the new team Arrow has adopted, with Laurel (Katie Cassidy) being the Black Canary, Thea (Willa Holland) as Speedy (Oh…I mean Red Arrow), and Diggle (David Ramsey) taking his own costume that looks remarkably like DC Comic’s Guardian. Surprisingly, even without Oliver, the team looks like it’s doing well. All the members fill in their own niche for the fight scenes, and seeing Dig strut around one-shotting and kicking henchmen was a cut loose style that we’ve been waiting for since season one. Laurel’s crime fighting game has really improved, including strategy and moves that have been hard fought for, since she took up the Canary mantle in the earliest parts of season 3. The improvements made to her character have been astronomical, and surprisingly well paced. Thea’s crime-fighting abilities have also been increased, making her a real force for good, without losing her youthful vim and smart mouth. We’re finally seeing her really channel the character that she was based on, Mia Dearden.
The episode absolutely stands on the shoulders of Oliver and Felicity though. Their interactions and attitudes (especially Felicity’s) make this more than just a “callback to action” storyline. In many ways, “Green Arrow” is an origin story for how Oliver became the true hero everyone knows that he eventually does. The conflict is intense and brutal, with a pretty high body count for just a regular episode, but it doesn’t eat up the other time needed to get us all caught up and back in to the groove. Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) makes for a charismatic, yet ominous presence. It doesn’t seem like much of the comic information about his character will do much good for fans here, as he seems to be sort of following his own story and origin. However, his presence does solidify not only the existence, but the persistence of mystical forces in the Arrowverse; a concept driven even further home by Oliver’s own confirmation. The greatest effect of the episode though remains Oliver’s difficulty at settling back in to his old role, as well as regaining the trust of his former partners and friends. The rebuilding of his relationship with Diggle will take plenty of time, but by the look at this premiere, it’ll be a journey, full of characterization for both characters, worth taking.
Final Word: Arrow is great! This isn’t the Green Arrow show that blends comic elements with the realism of the Nolan Batmovies that was teased; instead it has gone on to form it’s own identity that has spun off three other superhero shows each with its own beloved characters. “Green Arrow” is a sign of accepting that influence, and finding its own place in the universe that it has created. It’s clear that this season is focused more on the team, and less on the danger. Most of “Green Arrow” is spent reintroducing rapport between the characters, and rebuilding bridges that have been too long burned; and that is perfect for Oliver Queen’s character. It’s a hard road back to the people he’s hurt, but that just makes the decisions he made in season three all the more powerful. We are seeing the consequences of what he’s done, and how it has affected who he’s supposed to be. We also see the true burden of the life he’s chosen, and how difficult it is for him to accept his destiny over his happiness. Not only is the tone lighter and more humorous at times, but “Green Arrow” is very much a story about the characters, that unfolds through the interactions between them. This is a welcome direction for the new Arrow that emphasizes not just the battles with our enemies, but those with our friends.