Arrow S04E02 “The Candidate” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Sky One, Weds 8pm
Writers: Mark Guggenheim and Keto Shimizu
Director: John Behring
Essential plot points:
- An old family friend of the Queens, Jessica Danforth, announces she wants to run for mayor of Star City.
- Felicity is told by the Palmer Tech board she needs to make some redundancies.
- As Jessica announces her mayoral candidacy, the press conference comes under attack from a remote controlled machine gun,
- Turns out this is a distraction as the culprit tries to abduct her with a giant taser, but ends up empty-handed after being chased off by Oliver.
- Oliver offers Captain Lance his help in protecting Jessica, but the Captain is, as you might expect, a bit sceptical…
- While Diggle and Laurel stake out the police HQ, John reveals he’s been investigating Damien Darhk’s HIVE group for some time, as they murdered his brother.
- Darhk hired Jessica’s attacker, Lonnie Machin, to stop Danforth’s mayoral bid. But he’s less than satisfied with Machin’s performance so far.
- Felicity manages to get a lead on Machin’s identity, but when Oliver and Thea go to his last known location, Thea’s rage gets the better of her and she deliberately breaks a man’s arm during interrogation.
- Back at the Arrowcave, Oliver provokes Thea to show her she’s out of control, and is rewarded with a beating from his wee sister.
- Oliver reveals to the rest of the team that it’s an effect of the Lazarus Pit which brought Thea back to life – something Laurel didn’t know about before.
- The algorithm identifying redundancies has picked out Curtis Holt, who created it, as one of those to lose their jobs. He tries to put a brave face on it for Felicity’s sake.
- Oliver visits Jessica, who is under protective custody. She is insisting she will stand as mayor to give the city someone who can be brave for them, but it emerges that Machin has abducted Danforth’s daughter to force her to withdraw from the race.
- Darhk warns Machin he has crossed a line, and gives Machin’s location to Captain Lance – after warning a furious Lance that his own daughter’s future is under threat if the Captain continues not to show deference to the HIVE boss.
- Lance passes the details to team Arrow, who rescue Danforth’s daughter. In the fight, Thea shocks Machin with his own taser after he’s been knocked into a shelf full of spirits, burning him alive.
- Machin escapes the ambulance, despite his horrific injuries, leaving behind an Anarchy symbol scrawled in what looks like blood on the side of the ambulance. And thus another DCU villain is created…
- Felicity tells the board Curtis has come up with a new invention which will save the company’s future and mean she can reinstate the sacked staff – the board give them six months to prove it.
- Laurel offers to take Thea off to a spa to recover from her “issues”, but in fact wants to go back to Nanda Parbat – with the corpse of her dead sister Sara.
- With Jessica having decided not to run for mayor, Oliver decides to step up to the position in her place, to inspire people the way the Green Arrow cannot.
- In the flashbacks Oliver is ordered to infiltrate an of armed militia making people work cultivating and harvesting a field of purple flowers on Lian Yu. Heading them up is a man called Ritter, who recognises Oliver and invites him to join them.
- Oh, and now Felicity wants a codename.
The solid, if still slightly unspectacular, start to Arrow’s series four continues, with both the main and flashback plots taking significant steps forward this time out.
Most notably, though, this felt like the most grizzly episode of Arrow in a long time. We’ve got stabbings, child torture, beatings, people being set on fire, cops having their throats cut and a decidedly uncomfortable arm-breaking. This is the new brighter, cheerier Arrow in the same way that each Christmas is the happiest Walford’s ever seen.
The hardest bit to deal with so far is the stuff with Thea. A traumatised, PTSD-suffering, slightly lost-the-plot superhero is a great idea – albeit hardly original – and the fight sequence choreography pulls it off well, but the physical aggression from Speedy as a character, down to the nasty arm-breaking sequence, isn’t being matched by the acting and it makes what should be an unsettling storyline feel a bit blasé.
Likewise the financial problems at Palmer Tech. We’ve been through all this with Queen Consolidated – a couple of times, in fact – and another boardroom battle backdrop seems a bit blah. That said, it’s nice to see them giving Emily Bett Rickards an increasing amount to do, driving that storyline as first fiddle rather than standing alongside someone else. The introduction of Echo Kellum really benefits the show too – giving her someone to play off other than Stephen Amell.
More significant is the progression of the Damien Darhk storyline, as we see his combination of charisma, blackmail and downright villainy. The idea that even he has a moral code, which Anarky breaks, is an intriguing one, and you’re never quite sure if it’s because Darhk has a longer game he’s playing or if he’s genuinely hacked off at Anarky crossing a line. Having the villain be front and centre of the action from the off, rather than behind a mask or an army of hired goons for half a season makes a refreshing change.
Interesting too that we’ve got a plot that’s advancing rather than unfurling. Whether this is a side-effect of having to keep pace with The Flash for the impending crossover in a few weeks – and setting up Legends – remains to be seen, but we’ve got a story unfolding at a far punchier rate than the last couple of years.
- The opening narration’s changed, to: “My name is Oliver Queen. After five years in hell I returned home with only one goal: to save my city. But my old approach wasn’t enough. I had to become someone else. I had to become something else. I had to become the Green Arrow.”
- Curtis Holt, played by Echo Kellum: we already know he is going to be a new version of DC superhero Mister Terrific, and Holt’s debut is perfect, effectively playing a series one version of Felicity to Felicity’s Oliver. He also looks uncannily like Moss from The IT Crowd. Wonderfully, too, they throw in that he’s gay and married, automatically circumventing any sexual tension with Felicity.
- The opening fight sequence. The Arrow stunt team are so slick they can now toss off the sort of big fight that would normally be the high point of a show as part of the cold open.
- Neal McDonough’s performance as Darhk remains, after three seasons of big panto villains, a thing of joy. What’s interesting too is how powerful a figure he makes him feel, despite being shorter than most of the main cast.
- Olly’s flashback hair’s gone! He finishes the episode with a sensible trim rather than looking like Robbie Savage’s castoff.
- The idea of Oliver running for mayor of Star City’s an interesting one, which offers huge potential, and puts him in the firing line.
- Sloppy bit of (missed) marketing by the producers, but the JessicaDanforthForMayor.com URL you see on the screens and posters for the launch of the mayoral campaign doesn’t exist. Quick, to GoDaddy…
- Not so much the bad as the absolutely grim: the reveal of Sara’s year-dead corpse at the end. What were they thinking?
- Willa Holland’s really good at playing the physical, aggressive part of Speedy’s rage moments, but the emotional comedown’s definitely underplayed just now. Coupled with Katie Cassidy’s somewhat laid-back style, and the scenes of Laurel and Thea discussing her problems fall a bit flat.
- Diggle gets very little to do other than stand around in the background.
- Arrow’s played fast-and-loose with DC villains in the past, especially in trying to fit them into the show’s grounded universe, but this version of Anarky bears so little resemblance to the comics one, he may as well be a different character.
- Jeri Ryan gets so little to do here, it seems almost a waste. She’s great – genuinely great, so much so you want to see more of her character. Hopefully we we will this season, because writing off Danforth off like that, almost off camera, feels weird.
And the Random:
- Still no Barrowman. But probably next week, eh?
- So Felicity wants a code name, then? Who wants to stick £50 on it being Oracle. If they’re not allowed to use Oracle because of the films, then how about calling her Ceefax?
- The slow placement of pieces to set up Legends Of Tomorrow continues: we briefly see the ongoing work at Palmer Tech looking at the wreckage of the lab, and Sara’s exhumation. Coupled with the same moves in The Flash, it’s clear the reveal for the new spin-off show is coming sooner rather than later.
- Still no indication yet where the new Arrowcave is. We know it’s somewhere isolated since Olly used to use it for a bit of me time, and we know it’s well-enough equipped to house a transit van and two motor bikes. Maybe it’s under a car park.
Review by Iain Hepburn