Arrow season 4 episode 2 review: The Candidate

Arrow makes good on its promise to bring back the fun. Who knew Oliver Queen still remembered how to smile and everything?

This review contains spoilers.

4.2 The Candidate

Season four of Arrow is well underway, and we’re finally getting to see what the producers meant when they kept telling us about the show’s ‘lighter tone’ and renewed Flash-like sense of fun. It seems they weren’t lying because, while this is still recognisably the same world we’ve always been watching, the tone has been picked up just enough to make season three’s suffocating angst just a distant memory.

There are still little niggles that could become huge problems with time, such as Laurel’s regression back to stupid decisions and keeping things from Oliver, or Diggle still feeing side-lined even though he’s out in the field with the heroes now but, by and large, this season is showing off a lot of Arrow’s better qualities.

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This biggest change is in Oliver’s face, which now smiles and everything! Who knew he had it in him? His relationship with Felicity is so much more bearable when it’s not the sole focus of either of the character’s storyline, and I actually found myself enjoying their playful dynamic again this week.

Felicity has her own thing going on at Palmer Technologies, and he’s off being a superhero. Nobody’s crying, and nothing’s trying to break them up. They even discounted Curtis Holt aka Mr Terrific as a potential rival love interest within about ten minutes. Progress.

Speaking of which, we got to meet Holt via Felicity’s storyline this week, with the two of them working together to eliminate the need for cost savings and allow people to keep their jobs at Palmer Tech. It’s kind of a weird thing to watch in the middle of a superhero show, especially if like me you didn’t realise Holt’s comic-book alter ego until after the episode is over, but his character fits right next to Felicity as a smart, quirky counterpart.

Her dedication to stopping the layoffs now that she’s CEO has direct parallels with Oliver’s attempt to craft a new identity and new set of moral boundaries for the Green Arrow. It’s one thing to announce that things would be different when they returned but another thing entirely to put that idealism into practice, especially for someone like Oliver.

It takes Quentin to rightly point out how little has changed between monikers, and it’ll be fun to see him try to do something about that with all the madness around him. It’ll always be fascinating to compare the vigilante hero of old with the symbol of hope that he clearly wants to become, and I guess getting to that point is what Arrow’s endgame has always been.

But the moral high ground is Oliver’s favourite place to be, and right now he’s able to get there through Thea’s uncharacteristically aggressive behaviour. What seemed like overexcitement at finally suiting up and joining Team Arrow has turned into something a lot more worrying, setting Anarky on fire in a final move that surpasses even Oliver’s more creative kills.

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Laurel offers to take Thea for a spa weekend, but instead plans to take her and Sara’s decomposing (there’s an image!) body to Nanda Parbat for a little bathe in the Lazarus Pit. Stupid idea? Almost definitely but, like Laurel, I’m just desperate to have Sara back on my screen.

In the flashbacks, Oliver got a haircut.

Damien Darhk is still one of the better ongoing villains to have graced Star City, with the reasons for Quentin’s apparent loyalty becoming a bit clearer this week. Quentin’s a hard character to get right as, push him too far away from the rest of the main characters and we’ll hate him, but he serves a genuine purpose by being morally against the entire costumed vigilante game.

How he reacts to Oliver running for Mayor is going to be amusing, not to mention complicated for his current relationship with Darhk. I like the idea in general, mainly because we didn’t get enough of Oliver being just Oliver last year and that was part of the problem. We want to see the Green Arrow, sure, but it’s also interesting to see how the guy without the hood can help save his city. 

Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Green Arrow, here.

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