This Arrow review contains spoilers.
Arrow season 4 episode 5
“Haunted” is an entertaining enough installment, but like every other episode so far in Arrow season 4, it does little to dig the show out of the weird little rut it seems to be in. Arrow hasn’t been bad this year, and it has yet to deliver it’s once or twice yearly traditional stinker of an episode, but it just hasn’t been great yet. And we know what this show is capable of when it works.
But it feels like we’re spinning our wheels this week. There’s barely enough actual story in “Haunted” to justify it beings its own episode. Instead, it’s more of a vehicle to bring Matt Ryan in as John Constantine to help save the day. It’s fine, and Ryan is expectedly electric and a welcome sight as Constantine, but we’re at the quarter mark for the season and there’s still not much happening other than getting Sara ready to go off to Legends of Tomorrow. This is a problem.
Perhaps more disturbing, what has always been Arrow‘s biggest strength, its large cast of core characters that you actually give a damn about, is somehow becoming a weakness. There are just far too many stories and emotional beats getting serviced every week, and it’s making for some really talky, awkward scenes. I’m not sure how many of these will pay off in a satisfying way before this season ends, although I’ll put good money on the revelations about Diggle’s brother as the piece most likely to deliver before the end of the year.
Damien Darhk remains a mystery to me, but I’m really enjoying the offbeat youthful energy that Neal McDonough is putting into the performance. The comic book Damien appeared to be a teenager or in his early 20s, while the show’s Damien is noticeably older in appearance, but has mannerisms that kind of make you wonder what his “real” age is. At some point, we’re going to see this guy lose his shit in a profound way, and I expect it will be really intense.
“Haunted” would feel almost completely inconsequential without John Constantine this week, and at times feels more like a vehicle for him than a properly well thought out episode. On the other hand, it doesn’t feel like a backdoor pilot for a Constantine revival, either. They never really fully commit to him, which would be fine if the rest of the episode we’re stronger. Instead, I’m kind of left feeling a little confused about what was really supposed to happenhere.
So, yes, it’s great to have Matt Ryan back, but Constantine won’t be around that often to charm his way through the proceedings. That means Arrow season 4 needs to step on the gas. We’re in no danger of Arrow veering into Gotham levels of intelligence insulting silliness, but things just still feel a bit lifeless this season. Maybe once the Legends of Tomorrow set-up is out of the way, the show can actually show us some of its cards.
Meanwhile…On an Island…
Holy moley…the flashbacks weren’t completely useless this week! From a “we need an excuse to establish how John and Oliver know each other” standpoint, this was a logical enough way to do it (although I had to chuckle about John creeping around on that island in his signature shirt and tie, both of which looked a little too clean, all things considered).
But we also get the revelation that Oliver was aware of the existence of magic/the supernatural well before he returned to the land of the living.
But the revelation that Reiter is far more than just some drug lord finally gave things some needed weight. The idea that the island is kind of a nexus for bad things is fun, too, and it’s something that doesn’t even necessarily need to be taken too literally. Magic or no magic, we all know places like that.
Between this and Damien’s seemingly mystical powers, it does seem like magic will be a very strong theme this season. That could certainly make for the change in tone I’ve been saying we need this year.
DC Universe Watchtower
– John Constantine first appeared in Saga of the Swamp Thing #37 in 1985. Well, kinda. That was supposed to be his first appearance, but Crisis on Infinite Earths #4 shipped first, so readers were like “who is this dude who looks like the singer from The Police and why is he in this comic?”
Having John kind of awkwardly interacting with superheroes reminds me of his earliest comic book appearances, before DC decided on making the Vertigo imprint into a separate playground for John and characters like him. I wrote more about that here.
– We finally get an indication of Curtis’ background as the old superhero standby of “an olympic class athlete.”
– The Orb of Horus isn’t ringing any bells, but it does have a certain resemblance to the Orb of Ra, which played into Metamorpho, the Element Man’s origin story. Whether the hawky-ness of it plays into the winged folks we know are coming to Legends of Tomorrow remains to be seen, though.
– Correct me if I’m wrong, but was this the first mention of Pennytown on the show? It’s not much of a reference, and it’s a fairly recent addition to Green Arrow lore, but it just caught my ear.
– OK, not a DC thing, but “this is your overlord, Felicity Smoak” will pretty much make me laugh until the day I die.
If I missed anything, fellow Justice Leaguers (and the way I’ve been going lately, I probably did) point ’em out in the comments, or yell at me on Twitter!