The CW’s Arrow has three episodes left in its fourth season, episodes titled “Monument Point,” “Lost in the Flood,” and “Schism.” Thanks to the events of tonight’s episode, we have a better idea what the writers mean by the title of the season’s penultimate episode. It’s not just a flood, but the flood, as in the Biblical, world-ending force of ultimate destruction that is intended to come bearing down on Star City. Arrow is reaching for some pretty epic ideas here, but I’m not quite sure the show’s execution is up to the task.
Let’s take tonight’s episode, which wisely did away with flashback sequences except for a couple brief moments, but somehow found a way to rehash old plots while rushing new ones. Basically, Damien Darhk is powered-up and back in business, ready to get his Genesis project started without the help (or interference) of Milo Armitage and Phaedra Nixon. The details of Genesis remain mysterious but this episode went a long way toward explaining the devious plan’s first act. However, in order to get to that point, we had to watch another odd mini-vacation with Oliver and Felicity, an ill-fated reunion of the Diggle brothers, and a trip under the dome with Thea and Alex. We’ll take them in that order as we look at the good, the bad, and the ugly in this episode.
In case you haven’t been paying attention this season, Oliver has been struggling with his own inner darkness as he looks for a way to defeat Damien Darhk without allowing that darkness to consume him. Look, I’m fine with playing up Oliver’s light side to counter that of Darhk’s … darkness, but spontaneously introducing a random immortal shaman named Esrin Fortuna (Gabriella Wright) who likes to hang out in an upscale casino in Hub City (the home of Victor Sage, a.k.a. The Question) ain’t the way to do it. And since her time with Oliver is so short, rather than waste her time actually training him, she explains the super-basic concept of light vs dark magic and then almost instantly gives up on him. Oliver might want to have a talk with Constantine about the quality of his referrals. Really the only interesting thing of note to come out of this scene was that both Lian Yu and Star City apparently act as a nexus of various planes of existence. (I’m still waiting for boom tubes to pop up in one of these nexuses.) The long and short of it is this: If Oliver’s darkness outweighs his Luz del Alma, or light of the soul, then it will fuel Darhk rather than defeat him. I’m really not a fan of slapping some magical abilities on the Green Arrow, but I feel like they’ve kind of written themselves into a corner here. Ollie is able to repel Darhk’s magic briefly as his eyes flash yellow, just like Taiana’s eyes did when presumably battling Baron Reiter in this episode’s very brief flashback sequence.
Luckily, Green Arrow and Felicity return to Star City from their exceedingly odd vacation in time to save Diggle and Lyla from the machinations of Darhk and his treacherous little henchman, Andy Diggle. Lyla, as head of A.R.G.U.S., has been in hiding since Andy’s betrayal put her and Sara at risk. However, John’s hot-headed nature and desire to exact vengeance on Andy inadvertently put his family in danger. This was actually the most enjoyable plot of the episode for me as it resolved the season-long conflict between the Diggle brothers, and did so with a high-stakes payoff and heartfelt resolution. When Andy provokes his brother for a final time, John himself is surprised to see that he’s pulled the trigger and killed his little brother. This is the first death in a while that’s felt earned, warranted, and emotionally resonant. I hope it brings Diggle and his family some peace even if John will never, ever forget the way things went down between them. Good stuff from David Ramsey, Eugene Byrd, and Audrey Marie Anderson.
While John, Lyla, and Sara managed to survive the attack, Lyla’s run-in with Darhk did not leave her unscathed. It seems that Darkhk was after access to the Rubicon, a ballistic launch override protocol–which was hidden away in a subcutaneous device embedded in her forearm–that essentially gives whoever is control of it the keys to a nuclear arsenal. That person is now Darhk, who plans to use the nuclear weapons to bring about destruction of the world, the first act of Genesis that the team refers to as “the flood.” Now those episode titles make a little more sense.
Making slightly less sense was the very surreal and odd little side-plot in this episode, the one featuring Alex and Thea on a little getaway of their own. Thea inexplicably wakes up in a well-appointed suburban home where Alex is cooking her Eggs Benedict and acting rather cheery. Everything seems normal until Thea notices that the ambient noise–dogs barking, birds singing–appears to be on a loop. It’s revealed that Alex’s “vitamins” are actually the yellow pills that Darhk’s Ghosts take in order to become more susceptible to manipulation, pills given to him by Mayor Ruvé Adams. What followed was a Twilight Zone-like resolution that finds Thea trapped under a dome in an artificial environment that’s presumably intended to hold the rich folk who will ride out Genesis’ nuclear destruction on the surface world above. This was out of left field, but it’s clearly setting up a rescue sequence in the upcoming episode as Team Arrow attempts to save their own, shut down Genesis, and put a stop to Darhk for good.
Call me crazy, but this was a perfect opportunity to introduce Zatanna, an actual magician in the DC Comics universe who actually crosses paths with Constantine on more than one occasion. I thought for a moment that Esrin Fortuna might be Zatanna in disguise, but if that’s the case, they’re saving that reveal for later in the season. Instead, Oliver’s “light of the soul” is going to have to be enough to take on the death-powered Darhk and his rich-and-powerful allies. I hope Ollie’s got enough positive voices in his head to help him pull it off, but something tells me he’s going to need all the external help he can get.
Rating: ★★★ Good
Programming Note: If you haven’t read Kayti Burt’s excellent think-piece pondering which side DC Comics’ TV characters would chose in their own civil war, check it out here!
Damien Darhk: “Ladies and gentlemen, and the recently deceased, it is time to begin the final phase of Genesis.”
Oliver’s Constantine impression was actually pretty good!
Esrin Fortuna: “Tell John Constantine he still owes me money.”
Lyla Diggle: “You’re not acting like the man I married, you’re acting like the man I divorced.”
Darhk: “Well, that was a fun bit of business!”
I know Darhk was after the Rubicon, but it seemed like he had an interest in Sara Diggle as well. Do we think he was going to take her back under the dome as part of the new world order?
Diggle: “He was never gonna back off, Oliver. My family…they were never gonna be safe.”