Arrow: Season 4
In the age old battle for supremacy Marvel has dominated bringing their stories and characters to the movies. They continue to own the box-office smashing records practically with every new release. Their perennial rival, DC Comics has continued to maintain a significant lead by expertly deploying their stories and characters on television. The connection between their comics remains tenacious at best; the newly constructed DC extended universe continues to expand encompassing a greater number of fondly remembered superheroes and their corresponding enhanced cadre of villains. A major boon was achieved by Warner Brothers when Supergirl migrated from CBS to the CW, the home of what fans have taken to call the ‘Arrowverse,' greatly enhancing the opportunities for cross-over episodes, a staple of this set of conjoined TV shows. Remaining as the foundation for the entire franchise, ‘Arrow ‘, based on a blend of several incarnations of the ‘Green Arrow’, one of the founding members of the DC’s latest big project, ‘The Justice League of America’. Despite the fact that the film and television worlds are purposely kept separate, they do create buzz with the fans. The fourth season, under consideration here, was one of the most emotionally intense and psychologically powerful seasons in the series thus far. Paralleling similar plot projections over at Marvel, ‘Arrow’ is being used as the spearhead to introduce magic and the supernatural the universe. These themes have been a part of DC for decades, and there has already been an attempt to introduce supernatural elements using the occult detective, Constantine, a canceled series which prematurely met its end after only a single season. A crossover with s defunct series is somewhat unorthodox, but the CW has become known for introducing significant characters and pivotal plot devices through the use of crossover episodes. Fans of Constantine can sustain some hope that this intriguing character can become a reoccurring guest star. The main point to this is magic drives a substantial portion of the drama and is responsible for the incredible power of the season’s Big Bad.
With Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) ending the previous season by leaving Team Arrow and riding off into the sunset, the safety of Star City has been reduced to nil. Star City is the rebranding of Starling City in honor of the billionaire, tech genius, philanthropist, Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh), who was believed killed in the climactic conclusion of the previous season. Palmer survived and joined the spinoff group of superheroes introduced in another multi-series crossover towards the middle of this season. DC utilizes this plot device in a similar fashion that Marvel does in the movies; overlapping stories and characters to establish a shared universe. The comics have been utilizing this technique in the comics since at least the 60’s resulting in the necessity to purchase a complete set of comics each month to keep up with the story as it unfolds. Now fans have to be certain to catch all the involved shows to keep up to date.
While Oliver and Felicity are enjoying their long overdue romantic getaway the situation back in Star City has gone completely out of control. A group of mercenaries acting with military precision has terrorized the city. Without the Arrow in the field or Felicity running operations from the Bunker, maintaining control of the situation was impossible. John Diggle / Spartan (David Ramsey), Thea Queen / Speedy (Willa Holland) and Laurel Lance /Black Canary II (Katie Cassidy) were doing everything in their considerable power to stem the tide of the lethal mayhem but the invaders, known as the Ghosts, continue their wave of terror. Felicity has been secretly helping Team Arrow which eventually pulls her and Oliver back to the city. Realizing that he has to be different from the vigilante persona of ‘The Arrow,' Oliver decides to become something else, ‘The Green Arrow.' Don’t worry if you have some difficulty in perceiving the difference aside from the typical new season uniform modification and the infusion of additional dark green accents in it the alterations to become ‘something else’ are mostly psychological in nature. Last season devoted Oliver’s absence, so the team had to reunite quickly. The main difference with the newly reformed team is ‘Olicity’ are now engaged. Oliver’s introduction of his rebranding is made by a city-wide broadcast announcing he is now ‘The Green Arrow,' vowing to be a beacon of hope for the besieged city.
Change drove this season making it one of the entertaining and exciting thus far. Between the rebrandings and crossover with new characters there were resurrections. Thanks to the magical powers of the Lazarus Pit formerly controlled by Ra's al Ghul (Matt Nable), leader of the League of Assassins, Thea was brought back to life but at a cost; she developed an overwhelming bloodlust that can be satisfied temporarily by killing someone. Later Laurel’s sister Sara (Caity Lotz), the original Black Canary, was resurrected, but since she had been dead for a considerably longer period, the blood lust was considerably greater. She assumes the nom de guerre of ‘The White Canary,' joining the same spinoff team as Ray Palmer, Aa.k.a. , The Atom. Has Warner Brothers has learned how a popular character's removal from a crowded playing field is achievable by migrating them to a spinoff. Again these archives cross promotion but also add to the potential story lines available for all involved series. The series was at the very precipice of having the pit become an example of Deus ex machina, Greek for lazy writing. They ostensibly destroyed the pit, but there are a potential means to restore it. According to the comic canon, there are some pits located at magically powerful locations positioned around the globe.
The Big Bad this season is Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), a powerful criminal mastermind in possession of immense magical powers conferred on him by an ancient idol. Oliver had seen the idol and had a taste of its supernatural power during his exile away from home. The use of magic was the excuse to bring him in contact with Constantine and to arrange for a crossover with Team Flash. One of the trademarks of this franchise is to infuse the story directly with family members. One of the ghost army controlled by Darhk is Andy Diggle (Eugene Byrd), younger brother of John. Crossover events infuse the main thread with yet another opportunity for siblings to directly oppose each other. Oliver had experienced this with Thea and Laurel dealt with this adversarial relationship with Sara.
The series has begun to embrace its comic book heritage in earnest albeit cut from a much darker cloth. There are a few judiciously used specialty arrows but thankfully the series has avoided the ones designed more for comic relief than crime fighting. One that stands out in my mind as a fan of the silver age DC is the arrow tipped by a boxing glove. Even as a child I instinctively realized that such an ungainly, unbalanced arrow would not be capable of accurate flight. By going to a darker emotional place imbued with disturbing psychological overtones the series eschewed the light-hearted nature suited for a pre-teen demographic to appeal to an older audience.