Arrow season 4 episode 1 review: Green Arrow

Arrow's season 4 debut may be named after one hero, but it's more a sprawling ensemble than ever. Here's our review of Green Arrow...

This review contains spoilers.

4.1 Green Arrow

Arrow’s third season wasn’t very good. It was never particularly bad, but just constantly hit below the bar set by its excellent second run. Add the success and general quality level of its first spin-off The Flash, and the general fatigue possibly being felt courtesy of so many more DC superhero shows being announced, and we left Oliver and co. in a pretty shaky place.

Suffice to say, season four has a lot to prove, and that starts with somehow backtracking on season three’s happier-than-happy ending in a way that doesn’t feel cheap or piss off any Olicity fans. When we open, we’re greeted with a completely domesticated Oliver (the green jogging hoodie was a nice touch) living in the suburbs with Felicity, having brunch with normal friends and planning another happily ever after in which the two of them get engaged.

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Back in Star City, now officially renamed, those he left behind are doing a pretty good job protecting The Arrow’s legacy. I could go into how amazing I felt when the first superheroics we see are from Laurel and Thea, two women so frequently mistreated by the show’s writers, but I won’t. The important thing is that Black Canary, Red Arrow and Diggle in a silly hat are protecting the city pretty well without Oliver, even if it’s in worse shape than ever.

People are leaving, authority figures are being killed and the city is suffering substantially from all of the genocidal events that occurred since season one. It makes total sense.

But seeing the new team assembled in the Arrow Cave is the moment you realise how much Arrow has managed to achieve since it began. This is a whole universe now, not just one show. It’s the show that’s made an entire network reshape its strategy, and it’s one that’s actually built on its previous ratings despite a badly reviewed season. Yes, it’s still named after one hero, but it’s really more of a massive, sprawling ensemble than ever.

Of course Oliver has to suit up again, though, simply because of the aforementioned name issue. What excuse does the show come up with? Well, Felicity can’t shake the hero bug quite like he can and, one side mission in which they help out Thea, Laurel and Diggle turns into a full-time return. It’s interesting to me that Oliver doesn’t actually like the life he’s been handed, contrasted with the resolute joy and purpose present in so many around him.

Maybe a rebrand might help – a new suit somehow offering less protection and a ‘Green’ added to the moniker. It’s goofy and I’m sure very endearing for fans of the comic. Even if this season doesn’t live up to the promise of being slightly lighter in tone, at least we have a departure from the faux-realism it’s seemed intent on keeping in the past.

He’s still the same old Oliver though, with the episode even acknowledging his tendency to criticise those around him before he even takes a breath. Thea’s too intense, apparently and, as much as I’d like to chalk to up to Oliver indeed just being an interfering older brother, I think her aggression when out in the field is going to end up having something to do with the Lazarus Pit resurrection that season three never followed up on.

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Which makes sense because, along with a future appearance from Constantine, we’re getting magic this year. Damien Darhk – already a much more intriguing villain than Ra’s al Ghul – is bringing this strand of DC lore to the show as well as just a really promising bad guy. We need one of those because, aside from Slade, it’s been one of Arrow’s weaker points since the start.

The flashbacks? Well they’re still there. But we also get a flash-forward this week, showing an unidentified person in a grave and an inconsolable Oliver being visited by Barry Allen. Now, we’re all thinking that this must be a very well-thought out plot thread that will be woven throughout and pack a real emotional wallop when we get there, right? Well, apparently the writers don’t know who’s in the grave yet, so that’s brilliant.

I don’t implicitly trust this show to be automatically awesome like I used to. That doesn’t mean I don’t want it to be great, or that I don’t have every hope that season four could be a return to form, but there’s now a sense of apprehension that comes with an episode of the show. Can it prove me wrong? I hope so and, judging by this premiere alone, the signs are good. 

Read Caroline’s review of the season three finale, My Name Is Oliver Queen, here.

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