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TV RECAP: ‘Arrow’ – S4E9 – “Dark Waters”

On the one hand, last night’s Arrow was a festival of cloying Christmas holiday episode cliches, on the the other hand though, it was one of the strongest entries in the fourth season of the show so far. Getting back to the Darhk main story of the season after last week’s diversion through the Legends of Tomorrow and Central City, the big bad Damien was put back on the front burner in a big way just in time for some end of the year mayhem. The end leaves us in a precarious spot, as the team behind Arrow shrewdly dangled the Grim Reaper’s scythe over the show, and the cast, for the whole hour.

The bad thing about those crossover episodes is that plotus interuptus abounds. What was Team Arrow doing with Andy Diggle locked up in the Arrow-cave as they were helping Team Flash deal with Vandal Savage? Where was Donna Smoak when Savage Tarzaned into the stately Queen loft on last week’s Flash? I guess we can assume that Donna was shacked up with her new boyfriend Captain Lance, that relationship discovered by Felicity this week in the worst kind of sitcom contrivance. Why can’t adult kids of single parents ever be happy if they find love, even if it’s with your main police contact from your superhero second life?

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Secondly, don’t have Oliver attacked by a shark if we’re not going to see Oliver fight a shark! The flashback this week saw Oliver and Taiana make their way to the wreck of the Amazo to get up-to-date topographical maps of the island so that they can find the magical do-dad Reiter is looking for. On his way back to shore, we see a (CG mind you) shark emerge from the sea weed. Cut to the next flashback and Oliver emerges from the water with a shark bite in his torso joking that he doesn’t taste good. Dammit! You don’t show someone reaching for a gun and then cut to a guy stumbling into the emergency room with a gun shot wound, do you? Arrow writers: I demand a deleted scene where Stephen Amell fights a giant CG shark to undo this injustice. Put it on YouTube, and we’re cool.

Back to the main thrust of the story, in which Oliver tried to prove that his civilian crusade could be just as tough as his costumed one. Oliver’s grand clean up the bay program was bearing fruit until a Darhk drone shot up the place, and nearly killed, among others, an adorable mini-Felicity. Oliver responds by publicly outing Darhk, and pegging  him as the leader of the Ghosts and the head of the source of all Star City’s troubles, H.I.V.E. It couldn’t be a worst time of Darhk because he had his board of directors visiting, and the last thing they want is publicity.

Darhk retaliates by crashing Oliver’s campaign Christmas party and kidnapping Thea, Dig, and Felicity for a full Dr. Evil style plan involving a gas chamber. Darhk’s plan is if you can’t beat him, break him, and make him join you. The situation devolves Oliver back to his age old trope of self-flagellation, which you think he would be over considering his friends kept Team Arrow going in his repeated absence. It would be one thing if all his friends were unknowing civilians, but not only do they know, they’re in on the gag with their own costumes and roles. Oliver can leave the torture to Darhk, he’s good at it.

Malcolm Merlyn earns his pay this week by posing as Green Arrow when Oliver pretends to surrender to Darhk in order to get H.I.V.E.’s location. The season has struggled for what to do with Malcolm other than pop up every now and then to help Thea deal with her post-Lazarus Pit blood lust, but when you have an asset like John Barrowman on staff you don’t let him go easily. I thought having him encounter Darhk as Green Arrow and being unmasked would be an interesting development, and open a three-way war between H.I.V.E., Team Arrow, and the League of Assasins, but that was not meant to be. I predict that the matter of Merlyn will still be a struggle in the new year, and does anyone else here think that’s all she wrote about Thea’s blood lust? And what was that knowing look that Darhk gave Thea when he sees her out of costume?

The episode did seem to mark a turn around for Oliver, finally feeling ready to say that not everything that happens is his responsibility despite being Star City’s most well-known tough guy. The “Previously on…” montage at the beginning of the episode, showed the inevitable result of that transition when Oliver says at the grave of the unknown cast member that this “wasn’t my fault, it’s my responsibility.” Flashing back to that moment at the top of the show immediately set a tone that there was going to a hint about someone’s fate. Obviously, we’re a few months too early to find out who, but I think we can eliminate a few possibilities.

For instance, why would Arrow shoot Felicity now if they’re going to kill her later? Felicity was by far the most likely candidate for a gravestone, because which other member of Team Arrow might be more likely to bring Barry Allen to the funeral? But I think Felicity is more or less safe for the moment. Still, it was a powerful moment when the Ghosts ambushed Oliver’s limo and it was made effective by the Christmas classic “The Little Drummer Boy.” My favorite version is the one by Bing Crosby and David Bowie, but this more somber one works too. I think it’s the same version of “Drummer Boy” used on The West Wing in the first season when Toby arranged for an Arlington funeral for the homeless Vietnam vet that’s found dead in the coat he gave to Good Will. We may need to fact check that.

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More potently, the end montage revealed that Damien Darhk has a family of his own, which I think adds a whole new shade to Oliver’s line about responsibility. Why introduce the fact that Darhk has his own picture-perfect family if they weren’t going to become fair game? At some point, I think, Mrs. Darhk and Li’l Darhk are going to befall some ghastly fate, and I will put a prediction right here that a Blood Lusty Thea will be to blame. That would compound Oliver’s responsibility since he put Thea in the Lazarus Pit, and it would make sense that Barry would come out to console his friend on the occasion of the death of his baby sister. Also, it would bring Malcolm off the bench in a huge way if Thea is killed. At this point, it’s really the most likely option. Will I put money on it? ….I’ll get back to you

Anyway, that’s it for Arrow this week, and for 2015. The Star City vigilantes will be back in the new year with all new adventures including the arrival of an old friend, and the departure of other friends as they spin-off. See you again on January 20. Wherever you are, have a Merry Christmas and don’t fail your city!

Category: reviews, TV

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