Arrow: Season 4, Episode 2 – “The Candidate”

Great action, but peculiar character development make for an uneven second episode.

In the first episode of Arrow’s fourth season, we saw a reluctant Oliver Queen return to Star City, and eventually decide to remain there to stop Damien Darhk. But after the Arrow’s “death”, Oliver’s rebranded himself as a symbol of light, and as an inspiration to the citizens of Star City. He became the Green Arrow.

Episode two, “The Candidate”, opens with the new Team Green Arrow — Green Arrow, Speedy, Black Canary and metal-helmet John Diggle — battling more of Damien Darhk’s “Ghost” soldiers. It’s a fun, high intensity action sequence, during which Black Canary uses a rope arrow as a zip line. But the best moment is when the camera hangs on Green Arrow for just a second, and he can’t help but smile as he watches his team kick ass. Seconds later, Green Arrow somehow diffuses a bomb with spray bottle. The city’s water supply is safe and score one for the new Team Green Arrow.

Later, Oliver and Thea are having lunch with Jessica Danforth, an old friend of their later mother Moira Queen. Danforth, played by Jeri Ryan of Star Trek: Voyager fame, is inspired by the Green Arrow, which ultimately proves that Green Arrow is indeed becoming the symbol of hope Oliver intended. Danforth informs Oliver and Thea that she intends to run for mayor of Star City. Oliver isn’t exactly enthralled with the idea as the last three mayors were killed, but Danforth asks Oliver for his support.

Meanwhile at Palmer Technologies, the company is failing, and layoffs are needed. Enter Curtis Holt, who at some point will become DC Comic book hero Mister Terrific. Holt is some kind of genius as he’s developed a highly complex algorithm that will determine the Palmer Technologies employees that should be terminated. The twist is that Curtis Holt’s algorithm is so good that it even recommends that he himself get fired. Later on, however, Felicity halts the layoffs, rehires those she already laid off, and then promises great things from a proprietary, revolutionary technology from Holt. The board of directors gives her six months to “astonish” them.

It doesn’t take long before Danforth’s mayoral run takes a turn for the worst. Bullets riddle the podium at her announcement rally, and Oliver chases down an attacker with a powerful electrical weapon. The attacker eventually gets away, but Team Green Arrow gets his fingerprints and finds his identity: Lonnie Machan, who some might know as Batman villain Anarky.

One of the more intriguing scenes in the episode is the post-Green Arrow meeting between Capt. Lance and Oliver. Capt. Lance is still not buying that Oliver has evolved from the Arrow and thinks the city needs someone to stand up to crime in the day rather than lurking around in the darkness of night.

If there’s a character on Arrow that does need to rise out of the darkness, it’s Thea. During an investigation at a former Palmer Technologies paper mill for clues about Machan, Thea goes slightly overboard when she breaks the arm of a sewer rat she’s questioning. Oliver, of course, freaks out and tells her to leave. Back at the Arrow cave, Oliver and Thea get into a physical alteration, which leaves Thea growling in anger. Oliver admits to Team Arrow that he took Thea to the Lazarus pit in Nanda Parbat to heal after she was on the brink of death following an attack from Ra’s al Ghul in season three. While the pit saved Thea’s life, it left her a rageaholic, and Oliver is deeply concerned about her welfare.

The episode takes a rather odd turn, however, when it’s discovered Machan has kidnapped Danforth’s daughter. It’s a crime so evil, apparently, that Damien Darhk himself wants nothing to do with Machan. Darhk tells him he’s sloppy, and all he represents is, “anarchy”. It’s certainly peculiar that Darhk would draw the line at a kidnapping when he already tried to kill hundreds in Star City with his train bomb in the previous episode. Then in an even weirder twist, Capt. Lance demands Darhk not harm the Danforth girl, and Darhk in turn threatens Laurel, but still gives Capt. Lance Machan’s location.

Capt. Lance wastes no time telling Oliver where Machan is hiding, and Team Green Arrow flies into action. But Speedy once again lets her anger and rage get the best of her as she uses Machan’s electrical weapon against him, which sets his body ablaze. A battle-injured Green Arrow watches on in horror as his sister seemingly burns Machan alive.

Danforth is reunited with her daughter, but decides to withdraw from the mayoral race. Capt. Lance lets Oliver know that he’s being charged with Machan’s murder. But later we discover that Machan isn’t dead at all. Instead, he kills two ambulance drivers and escapes leaving only an anarchy symbol in blood behind.

The shorter, tighter flashbacks in this episode show Oliver back on the island infiltrating a group that runs some sort of drug growing operation. Why Oliver is infiltrating them still isn’t quite clear. But back in the present, Oliver is ready to make a major impact without the Green Arrow suit as he reveals to Felicity that he’s decided to run for mayor of Star City.

The most fascinating portion of the episode occurs at the very end when Laurel tells Oliver that she’s taking Thea on a spa getaway to clear her head. But the truth is Laurel has enlisted Thea to help her dig up her dead sister Sara Lance’s body in order to bring her to the Lazarus pit in Nanda Parbat. The viewer actually sees Laurel open a coffin to reveal Sara’s decomposing body, and it’s actually pretty frightening.

“The Candidate” wasn’t as strong as “The Green Arrow”, and it really made for some confusing character development when it came to Damien Darhk. However, the tension between Oliver and Thea is building at a steady pace, and Laurel’s sudden obsession with the Lazarus pit to bring back her sister is wild to watch. Here’s hoping the momentum carries into next week’s “Restoration”.

RATING 6 / 10
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