Arrow has seen Oliver progress through vigilante names over time. At first he is know simply as “the Vigilante”, then “the Hood”, then “the Arrow”. This reflects his different statuses as the series goes on, his progression from a vigilante with an agenda to a protector of the city. The series is based on the Green Arrow comic book, so it seemed likely they would get to the point where he was known as the Green Arrow eventually, especially with Laurel taking over the Canary mantle last season and being known as “Black Canary”. But what does it mean for Oliver to be the Green Arrow as opposed to who he’s been before?
As usual the season starts up 6 months after the last season ended. We find Oliver and Felicity continuing to lead a new life after they left Star City at the end of the last season. The introduction to their life begins with a nice little nod to the beginning of Season 2, with Oliver running through underbrush wrapped in green. But, it turns out he’s just out for a jog in a stylish green hoodie. Bright colours abound. They’re living a perfectly normal and lovely life together, and Oliver immediately seems very different, oozing warmth and happiness we’ve only seen on spotty occasions before. Arrow fans will be more than familiar with it, though, if they’ve seen any of Stephen Amell’s numerous videos to fans. Oliver has chilled out, and Amell is very much challenging his usual charming self in the performance. It’s really interesting to see something other than brooding Oliver for once.
Things aren’t going quite so well in Star City, though, where the remaining Arrow team are continuing to operate as vigilantes and are having problems with a relentless and highly organised criminal force known as the “Ghosts”. Laurel is firm in her role as Black Canary, Diggle has a weird helmet now, and Thea has taken up the mantle of Arsenal in Roy’s place. Thea is the most interesting addition to the team, as we only glimpsed this at the end of the last season. She’s a far cry from how she was in other seasons too, the Lazarus Pit revival clearly having made her a little unhinged — she’s hyper, bubbly and violent in dispatching her justice, and just as athletic as when we saw her last season. She’s had a long journey since the beginning of the show, and it’s great to see how far she’s come. She’s massively watchable in the role, and while I did have a bit of a soft spot for the somewhat dull and dour Roy, Thea seems born for it.
Naturally they need to get Oliver and Felicity back on the team to take care of the Ghosts threat. Even suited up Oliver seems a lot more mellow and chill than he did before. Unlike him, though, Star City hasn’t changed, and if anything it’s only gotten darker — nobody will even run for mayor through fear of assassination (as happened to the prior mayors and even candidates), but even the temporary council of city leaders becomes a target for the Ghosts.
Potentially the primary antagonist of the series, Damien Darhk (played by Neal McDonough, who also plays the Howling Commando Dum Dum Dugan in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), reveals himself in person under 7 minutes in to threaten the council. There’s no build up, he just walks right in to confront them. At first glance he seems relatively unassuming, upper-class, business like. He wouldn’t look out of place stepping onto a stage at an E3 press conference. His articulation, the way he holds himself even, is just a wonderful performance. It’s quite down-played, yet also arrogant, and menacing. He also seems to have some sort of mystical powers that are distinct from the metahumans mostly associated with The Flash, building on the mysticism of the League of Assassins, who Darhk was previously affiliated with, first being mentioned by R’as last season.
The B-story set in the past also starts up, but barely anything happens in it this episode, instead just setting up where it’s going to go. Amanda Waller picks Oliver up as he attempt to be a vigilante somewhere else, but he’s not very good at it yet. She drugs him and sets him on a mission for ARGUS that will return him to Lian Yu. I guess that’s kind of interesting, but there’s not enough to know how to feel about it yet.
Even once the Ghost’s plot is foiled by the Arrow team, the threat of Darhk and the ghosts still remain. It gives Oliver and Felicty another reason to stick around, and Oliver to give himself a new mantle: the Green Arrow, building himself as a successor or homage to the Arrow, who the public believe died in the events towards the end of last season. He’s frank and honest, speaking to the entire of Star City, no longer lurking in the shadows. This Green Arrow is one the public should know about, one that can give people hope in a city that is still struggling.
I really like this new Oliver. He can still be serious when the going gets rough, or when he needs to rally his team, but his lighter attitude is really refreshing after the intense brooding of the majority of season 3, and it’s super nice to have the “will they won’t they” angst of “Olicity” just resolved as them being together and both being really happy about it. Perhaps they were aware of some elements of season 3 being a bit overdrawn and just decided to stamp it out. There is a somewhat bait-y hook at the end of the episode showing “6 months later” that could show Oliver returning to an angst-ridden streak, but hopefully it’s just the kind of fakeout that the showrunners are notorious for.
The new status quo is very interesting, and for a show that seemed like it could almost be verging on stale if it continued the way things were going, it’s very good too see. Darhk is a show stealer, and being here from the get go is very different to how we’ve seen the show go before, unless things pan out differently. As it’s Arrow, I really don’t know. They keep surprising, and I keep loving it. This was a very strong opening, and perhaps the best first episode Arrow has had yet.