Arrow: Dark Waters review

The Arrow season 4 midseason finale takes things to some unexpected places. Here's our review.

This Arrow review contains spoilers.

Arrow Season 4 Episode 9

“Dark Waters” begins with Team Arrow trying to figure out what it is that Damien Darhk wants. Good for them, because the audience hasn’t had a clue all season long, either. Sadly, “Dark Waters” does very little to really shed any light on things.

You can’t say I haven’t been patient with this season. I have. And this hasn’t necessarily been a bad season, but after nine episodes, there should be more focus. Arrow season 4 is all over the place, and it’s running out of excuses.

I hate to say it, but I have to…the problem starts with Damien Darhk. The lack of clear motivation has really dulled the mysteries surrounding him. The strokes are too broad for his plan to mean anything at all, and he’s by far the least-defined big bad we’ve had. The reticence to pull back and show us more of what’s going on is making me wonder if there’s really anything behind the curtain at all.

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The fact that they were telegraphing Felicity’s “death” (and yes, this is going to remain in quotes until Emily Bett Rickards sends a fond farewell on social media and signs on as a regular on another show) made the final moment anti-climactic, choral version of “Little Drummer Boy” and all. Every happy moment between Oliver and Felicity seemed to be written specifically as an “oh god, don’t kill her while he’s about to propose” beat. I don’t think it had the desired effect.

It hurts me to write stuff like that, because I was once dead set against the two of them getting together in the first place, and smart writing (and terrific performances from Ms. Rickards and Mr. Amell) won me over in the end. But “killing” Felicity just feels like a cheap gimmick. When Oliver “died” at last year’s midseason finale, it wasn’t just a “how will they get out of this one?” moment, it was a genuine surprise. Felicity’s “demise” this week just felt like a cheap appeal to “the feels,” and not a real way to move the story forward.

That’s me as a critic talking. As an Arrow fan, I look forward to being proven wrong. But, for real, after all Oliver has gone through in this episode alone, and armed fully with the knowledge that Darhk is probably not dead, he still goes out in public and drives off with the love of his life with no armed (or clandestine superhero) escort? I’m not buying it, and neither should you.

Oh, and if I’m wrong about this and Felicity really is taking the ol’ dirt nap for good? Well…I’ll be as heartbroken as any of you. But we all know that ain’t happening.

I’ve said it before, and I have to say it again. Arrow hasn’t had it easy this year. This is the series that had to pick up the brunt of the Legends of Tomorrow setup, and I fear that led to some of this season’s wheel spinning. But that’s all over now. I’m going to treat Arrow‘s return on January 20th as the real start of this season. Hopefully, that’s exactly what it is, because this show needs to get back in the business of what made it great in the first place, and put the focus back on making these characters matter in the moment.

Don’t worry, I say nice stuff down below. But not before…

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Meanwhile…On an Island…

If ever there was a week where there should have been no flashbacks, this was it. I thought that perhaps after the Constantine appearance and Reiter’s more supernatural leanings were revealed, we were on course for something a little more interesting. I was wrong. 

We haven’t spent enough time with the villains for them to become truly menacing. The non-villainous supporting cast for these sequences is virtually non-existent. And, of course, there can be no real peril for Oliver. What an utter waste of time these have become. 

Not that the star ratings for these episodes are ever particularly scientific, but they definitely “lost points” with the flashbacks this week. For an episode that was telegraphing nothing less than the death of a beloved character until literally the last minute, and with their main villain story flailing for purpose, this is precious story time we needed to spend in the present.

DC Universe Watchtower

There seemed to be very little in the way of overt DC Universe references this week, but there are still a few things worth noting…

– I might just be starting to come around to the idea that Damien Darhk is the forerunner of some kind of alien invasion. I know a few of you have voiced this over the last few weeks. Ordinarily, I would think the “Genesis” connection is a coincidence, but as we know, there are very few coincidences when it comes to names like that in this world.

Plus, I was really, really wrong about what some folks thought about Hank Henshaw over on Supergirl, all of whom were proven right this week, so my track record this season isn’t the best.

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So, yeah…is the whole mind control/happy to die aspect of HIVE some kind of sideways connection to Darkseid and the Anti-Life equation? Maybe the special algae in Star City Bay is a harbinger of Starro? I dunno. Post your theories down below!

– Merlyn using Green Arrow’s gear with no compunction about not killing anyone was a fun way to remind us just how far Oliver has come in the last few years from vigilante to hero. That’s still some lethal tech he’s employing, which means it’s even harder not to kill with it.

– It should be pointed out again that the Damien Darhk of the comics never displayed any mystical powers whatsoever. I wrote more about him here if you’re interested.

The fact that Malcolm Merlyn, who is well versed in the mystical world at this stage, has absolutely no clue what’s powering Damien Darhk might feed into that whole alien angle we’re kicking around right now, too, right? 

– I did get a kick out of Oliver’s totally offhanded and matter-of-fact “she’s gonna be OK” when he’s told that Thea was kidnapped.

– That was a properly comic book “Canary Cry” rescue in Darhk’s HQ. Fun stuff that could have come right out of the pages of a Justice League comic.

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And that’s the last of my Arrow rantings you’ll have to read until January 20th! Perhaps I’ll be in a better mood then. If you aren’t completely sick of me, come back for more. Until then, I wish everyone a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season. 

You may hurl abuse at me or point out any DC Comics stuff that I missed on Twitter. Or just say hello. That’s cool, too.


2.5 out of 5