What They Say:
After defeating Ra’s Al-Ghul, Oliver’s decided to put the vigilante life behind him and retires out in the suburbs with Felicity. However when a new threat run by Damien Darke appears, Oliver must once again take up the hood. This time though he’s decided to take on the title of “Green Arrow” and vows to be the symbol of hope the old Arrow wasn’t, but will Oliver be able to escape the darkness of his past so easily?
Content(warning as portions of this review may contain spoilers): Alright so I think it’s generally agreed upon that season 3 of Arrow was…problematic to say the least. I had fewer issues with it than others did, but there was no mistaking that the season tried to be way too dark for its own good and shoehorned a lot of unnecessary drama until it practically imploded on itself. The producers apparently took those complaints to heart and promised us a much “lighter” season this time, even down to trying to make Oliver funnier. Admittedly I wasn’t sure if this was something I wanted since the show’s darker tone is really the main thing separating it from The Flash, but now this new season is upon us and the question remains: just how much lighter is it exactly?
Well…it’s tough to say right now honestly because things pick up almost exactly where they left off regarding Oliver’s character arc. After deciding to give up being a vigilante he’s been relaxing quietly in the suburbs with Felicity and after his troubles last season it’s pretty well deserved. It doesn’t take too long for him to make a return to Star City though as a new criminal organization appears and it’s a bit too much for the others to handle on their own. Of course there’s hesitance on both ends of this reunion as Diggle hasn’t quite gotten over Oliver’s betrayal of his trust and despite Felicity being more than eager to return to crimefighting, Oliver himself isn’t even sure if he wants to come back since he wants to break away from his old self as much as possible.
This makes up the bulk of this week’s conflict and it comes to a head after a failed confrontation with Damien Darke who’s the mastermind behind the recent events. Diggle comes to the conclusion that the reason he can’t let things go between him and Oliver is the latter being incapable of trusting others rather than the other way around and it’s coupled with a similar lecture from Captain Lance about Oliver’s inner darkness having paved the way for other monsters to make their way into the city. It ends puts Oliver into yet another pit of self-doubt as he’s only ever known how to fight monsters by skirting the line towards being one, which steers dangerously towards season 3′s non-stop repetitiveness of stating that fact.
Thankfully, Felicity convinces him that rather than using said darkness to confront criminals like he’s done up till now, he needs to make yet another transition into becoming something better. This leads to him finally taking on the Green Arrow persona over his old one and making an effort to become a symbol of hope the old Arrow never was: a true hero. I wasn’t expecting something quite so reflective from the opening to a season claiming it wants to be “lighter” but I think it was probably a good idea for the show to address this right off the bat as Oliver shifting away from his darker tendencies is something that needed to happen sooner rather than later if we’re going to eventually get to his characterization from the comics. At the same time though I’m also glad that it seems as though it won’t be an immediate transition and I’m looking forward to him gradually becoming a lighter character. He sure needs it after all of season 3′s angst.
So far, I’d say this season is off to a pretty solid start. I was worried the rift between Diggle and Oliver was going to be resolved quickly for the sake of convenience but given Diggle’s decided to keep the truth about Damien’s group being H.I.V.E. to himself, it seems like it’ll be a while before those two patch things up. Also glad that the flashbacks seem to be better integrated into the main storyline than last season as Oliver apparently went on a murderous vigilante spree before being forced on a mission back to Lian Yu by Waller. It seems like the goal for the flashbacks this time is to contrast Oliver’s dark side with the lighter hero he now wants to be and it should be an interesting one provided things stay consistent. We also get treated to an interesting subplot for the season regarding Thea being a bit too in love with being the new Red Arrow, and a less interesting one involving Laurel patching things up with her father, but Lance family drama is always a drag so eh.
Speaking of Lance though, we also find out that he’s apparently working for Darke who already seems to be a slightly more interesting villain than I was expecting as he seems to be more “businessman” like in regards to how he operates. I’m not too sure where the show’s going with this mole thing yet, but it’s certainly got my attention at least. Ultimately I’m not feeling the supposed “lighter” tone so far, but aside from the flash forward to the future at the end involving the apparent death of Felicity(?) there’s certainly less overblown drama at the very least. For now I can take at least take solace in that and I’m glad to have the show back…just hoping it doesn’t screw things up again.
In Summary: Arrow’s season 4 premiere doesn’t quite deliver on the supposed “softer” tone the producers were advertising but it’s off to a good start. Shifting the focus towards Oliver trying to become a lighter hero rather than battling his inner demons is certain a preferred character conflict over last season’s and Darke seems like he could be a step up as a villain compared to how back and forth Ra’s Al-Ghul’s character was. It’s tough to say exactly where things are headed for the season just yet, but for now it’s a solid return to form.