When Oliver Queen utters, “Felicity Smoak…You have failed this omelette,” it’s a major indicator that Arrow is indeed moving away from the dark and grounded action-drama that we’ve known it as for the past three seasons. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. After Arrow’s CW companion-show, The Flash, had a highly successful debut season, Arrow showrunner Marc Guggenheim confirmed that season four would, “take a lighter tone”.
Looking back, season three of Arrow had its ups and downs. It featured some great moments such as Oliver and Ra’s Al Ghul mid-season sword fight, and Roy Harper taking the fall for Oliver, which led to his exit from the show altogether. But the season ended on a whimper with Ra’s being easily defeated, and Oliver riding off into the sunset with Felicity Smoak, in a top-down convertible, no less. Good guy defeats bad guy and gets the girl. Maybe it’s because the conclusion of season three felt so finite that a lighter, more playful turn for the show might not be a bad idea.
Season four episode one, titled “Green Arrow”, opens with Oliver and Felicity settling down into a typical suburban lifestyle. Oliver has taken up cooking as a hobby, while Felicity now runs Palmer Tech after Ray Palmer seemingly blew himself up in season three’s finale. But both of them seem happy and at ease in their post-Starling City world of brunch with neighbors and morning jogs.
The same thing can’t be said about Starling City itself. First off, it’s not even Starling City anymore. In one of the more obvious winks to the Green Arrow comic book, the city was “re-branded” Star City in order to boost the city’s tourism and population.
Though Arrow is gone, the rest of Team Arrow remain active as seen early on when Laurel Lance, Thea Queen and John Diggle battle armed baddies as Black Canary, Speedy (or Red Arrow if Thea had it her way), and metal-helmet John Diggle, respectively. But these baddies are no ordinary street thugs. They are a highly trained and organized assault squad.
One thing that’s instantly apparent is that Thea has fully taken to masked vigilante-ness. “This is SO awesome,” she shouts as she uses a grapping hook arrow to hoist herself from a racing motorcycle on to a speeding semi. But her enthusiasm doesn’t help the Arrow-less Team Arrow. The assault soldiers, who come to be known as “Ghosts”, get away when backup arrives. Making things worse was the fact the Ghosts absconded with a large cache of weapons.
Of course when things get bad in Arrow, they get real bad. First, the district attorney get poisoned, and then all hell breaks loose when the Ghosts launch a full-scale attack on the Star City police headquarters. Luckily, Black Canary shows up in the nick of time to save her father, Capt. Lance. While Star City’s finest, with major help from Black Canary, recapture the police station, two other city officials have been found dead. The city has fallen into chaos, and Laurel and Thea know they need help to bring the city back under control. So, they turn to the best help available: Oliver.
While hesitant, Oliver and Felicity return to Star City with Thea and Laurel, much to the surprise and disappointment of John Diggle, whose friendship with Oliver was frayed at season three’s end. Oliver claims his return is only temporary, but then there’s the bombshell from Felicity that she’s been helping the Team Arrow behind Oliver’s back while they were supposed to be away from it all. When that little truth comes out, it’s hard to see Oliver ever returning to the clean, boring streets of his suburban community.
But the episode really picks up when the viewer gets better acquainted with this season’s main antagonist: Damien Darhk. Arrow has always shied away from the otherworldly, even when meta-humans are common in The Flash’s Central City, which is only a short train ride away from Star City. Darhk was foreshadowed last season, but here he’s front and center. The extent of his mystical power is seen when a costume-less Oliver, Dig, Black Canary and Speedy infiltrate one of his hideouts. Darhk kills one of his Ghost soldiers by touching the man’s chest and literally sucking out the life force.
Later, it’s discovered that Darhk and his army of Ghosts are planning to take out Star City’s new train station. Team Arrow leap into action including Oliver slipping on a sleek new suit courtesy of The Flash’s Cisco Ramon. They launch an offensive on an incoming train that’s carrying a bomb. This leads to the best scene from the episode as Darhk stops an arrow flying toward him in mid-air. Darhk then easily manhandles Arrow and is on the verge of killing him before metal-helmet Diggle shoots Darhk through midsection. But Darhk vanishes.
Together, Diggle and Arrow escape the train and destroy it before it reaches the train station. It’s a small victory against Darhk, who wastes no time displaying a supernatural power that Arrow has never encountered before.
After the battle, Oliver realizes he can’t abandon the city while Darhk remains at large. He’s got some work to do in rebuilding Team Arrow once more, especially when it comes to repairing his friendship with Diggle, who still can’t fully put his truth in Oliver. But Oliver decides to take on a new moniker. A new identity that moves away from the darkness of the Hood and of the Arrow. So Oliver, hijacks a TV feed and blasts his image all over Star City to announce he’s no longer the man he once was. Oliver is now fueled by the light rather than the darkness, and aims to be to be a symbol of hope for Star City. He is now, “The Green Arrow”.
The conclusion of “Green Arrow” offers a couple of fascinating reveals. First, it seems Capt. Lance is secretly helping Darhk, but not of his own volition. In addition, there’s a fast-forward to six months later where we see a brooding Oliver and a sympathetic Barry Allen in front of a headstone in a cemetery. This confirms that someone they both know and care about has perished, but while the episode’s editing seems to hint that it’s Felicity’s headstone, that’s likely just a red herring.
Though there’s not much written about them here, the five-years-ago flashbacks are still around, although they have been shortened and pushed to the background. In this episode, the flashbacks showed Amanda Waller’s return, and Oliver forced to return to the original island on which he shipwrecked three years earlier. One major complaint about previous seasons of Arrow is how the flashbacks break-up compelling scenes and sequences. But with “Green Arrow”, it’s clear this season’s focus will be on the present.
A lighter tone is one thing but a cringe-worthy, slightly self-deprecating omelette joke in the opening minute of “Green Arrow” didn’t bode well initially. Fortunately for everyone involved, including the viewer, the episode only gets stronger from that point on as Arrow slowly but surely begins to fully embrace its superhero comic book roots. It’s a welcome shift in tone for the series, and if “Green Arrow” is any indication, season four of Arrow should be a lot of fun.