Damien Darhk reasserts himself as the big bad in Arrow's riveting mid-season finale.
ArrowAirtime: Wednesdays, 7pm
Cast: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy
Subtitle: Season 4, Episode 9 - "Dark Waters"
Air date: 2015-12-09
"Dark Waters" marks a turning point in Arrow’s fourth season. While this season’s big bad, Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), has been an entertaining villain, he hasn’t really done anything that evil -- until "Dark Waters", that is. In this episode, Darhk finally presents a serious threat to not only Oliver (Stephen Amell) but to all the citizens of Star City.
The episode opens with Oliver leading a volunteer effort to clean up Star City’s bay. Adults, children, and members of Team Arrow are all smiles as they pick up litter and help tidy up the city’s waterfront. A drone suddenly attacks and shoots at unarmed civilians, but Team Arrow jumps into action protecting the volunteers. It’s odd that Darhk would use drones when he has an army of Ghost soldiers at his disposal, but with the current saturation of gun violence, it’s a good thing the show went the drone route.
It’s quickly apparent that Darhk was behind the attack, because he’d previously warned Oliver not to restore the waterfront. Oliver doesn’t know why the waterfront’s so important to Darhk, but he does know that attacks like this on Star City won’t be tolerated. Oliver wastes no time getting in front of Star City news cameras and spills the info on H.I.V.E.’s threat to the city, in addition to revealing a photo of Darhk to the public.
Although Oliver essentially called out Darhk, he decides to go through with his mayoral campaign's holiday party. It’s no surprise that isn’t exactly the best idea as Darhk crashes the party with his Ghost soldiers and kidnaps Thea (Willa Holland), Diggle (David Ramsey), and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards).
At a loss with how to deal with Darhk, Oliver tries to get the info on the waterfront by beating it out of a number of his Ghost soldiers. After he’s unable to get any information, Oliver determines the best strategy to get his friends back is to give himself up in exchange for their safety. Oliver turns himself over to Darhk with the understanding that Thea, Dig, and Felicity will be freed. Darhk, however, has another idea, and completely ignores the deal with Oliver. Instead, Darhk shows Oliver his new weapon -- a lethal gas that uses algae, which Oliver’s volunteers were cleaning up at the waterfront earlier in the episode. Now, it’s clear why Darhk is so hellbent on protecting it. Darhk then holds a demonstration in which he locks one of his Ghosts in a holding cell and releases the gas through an air vent. The Ghost dies immediately.
Next, with Oliver watching and guarded by Ghosts, Darhk brings in Thea, Dig, and Felicity and places them in the same cell and begins to release the gas. It appears as though most of Team Arrow is about to die, and Oliver is completely helpless. But then a loud screech breaks the glass and disrupts the proceedings. It’s Laurel (Katie Cassidy) in her Black Canary garb along with Green Arrow, which seems confusing considering Oliver’s in the room. Turns out Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) put on the Green Arrow outfit to help out. Oliver finishes breaking the glass and rescues Team Arrow, while Merlyn takes on Darhk. After an intense battle, Darhk nearly kills Merlyn before Oliver shows up to save him. The facility where all of this is going down explodes, but everyone, including Oliver and Merlyn, escape. However, it seems as though Darhk has once again made a slick getaway.
Later, the gang appears shaken but alright when they attend Oliver’s tree-lighting event at the Star City waterfront. During the ceremony, Oliver proposes to Felicity, and, of course, she says yes. Everyone’s in good spirits, and then Oliver and Felicity leave in a black limo. It feels like another happy ending for "Olicity", similar to the conclusion of season three, but suddenly a group of trucks surrounds them. Ghosts climb out of the trucks, and then unload a barrage of gunfire on the limo. It looks bad, as the driver is instantly killed. Oliver and Felicity take cover. Eventually, Oliver makes it to the front seat and drives the limo to safety. He exits the limo and pulls Felicity from the back seat. She’s bleeding profusely and is lifeless. Oliver’s in shock, pain, and anger. Overall, “Dark Waters” was a very exciting episode that really cemented Darhk as this season’s antagonist, while also raising the stakes for the rest of the season.
Once again, I enjoyed Laurel’s heightened role. Not having her kidnapped by Darhk was a very clever plot point. It worked to develop Black Canary as the episode's hero coming to the rescue of Team Arrow, including Oliver. Laurel’s continued quest to prove to both Oliver and her dad, Captain Lance (Paul Blackthorne), that she can hold her own is hopefully setting up for some Canary-centric action in the second half of this season.
Although it was left as a cliffhanger, there’s absolutely no way Felicity dies. It will be interesting to see if the Lazarus Pit’s invoked to save her. Still, it’s great to see Darhk doing some seriously twisted things, like targeting the people closest to Oliver.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK:
The flashbacks in this episode not only didn’t really lead anywhere, but there was actually a scene in which Oliver’s chased by a shark while swimming. It was oddly edited, and it seemed like time constraints lead to the sequence to be cut substantially. The shark showed up before the commercial break, and then later we see Oliver already back on the shore. It was awkward, and this is the first episode of the season the flashbacks really hurt the flow of the episode.
NUGGETS AND TIDBITS
After playing a significant role early in this season, Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum) has been fairly absent from the past few episodes. He was in the holiday party scene for a moment, but then disappeared. Hopefully, Holt will have more to do in this season’s second half.
Is Felicity’s mom going to be a recurring character on the show now? Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but I feel the writers are shoehorning her in -- specifically her weird, budding relationship with Captain Lance.
It’s fun to see Merlyn play both sides. He helps Team Arrow in "Dark Waters", but then saved the ashes of Vandal Savage in last week’s epic team Flash and Arrow team up. The more mischievous the Merlyn, the better.