We’re only two episodes into the fourth season of The CW’s Arrow and already things are threatening to go off the rails. Best friends are turning on each other, brothers and sisters are fighting each other tooth and nail, and corpses best left for dead are being dug up for possible (read: probable) resurrection. And while new characters from the DC Comics universe continue to be folded into the story, the prize for weirdest reference in this episode is a toss-up among Oliver’s wig, the Love Fern, and a possible Stanley Tucci reference. Let’s try to sort it all out by starting with tonight’s flashback sequences.
When last we saw Flashback Ollie, he was at the barrel of a gun held by a mercenary living on Lian Yu. Obviously Ollie was going to take him out, but I don’t think anyone expected him to kill the man and then blow up his corpse by rolling it onto a landmine, but hey, when in Lian Yu … Oliver’s orders are to infiltrate a group of mercenaries overseeing workers harvesting some sort of presumably illicit crop in the fields. Though Oliver Queen reveals exactly who he is, the leader of the mercenaries recognizes him anyway (He’s a celebrity!) and gives him a job as one of his soldiers since he’s apparently survived on the island for three years. We soon see Ollie in his new fatigues (and with a new haircut to boot) treating the ailing workers quite harshly, but a young, defiant woman among them stands up to him and likely earns his affections. Let’s see how this plays out!
Back in Star City, Team Arrow continues to battle the Ghosts. In the well-choreographed opening stunt sequence, they take out a large number of the mercenaries and deactivate a bomb before it can do any damage. We learn two things from this exchange: the first is that Diggle and Felicity really need code names, the second is that Thea’s bloodlust is about to boil over.
Oliver’s concern for his resurrected sister is as close to an episodic theme as you’re going to get in “The Candidate” since most of the hour felt like it was designed to appease the Arrow fandom – ie, the “First Day as a Boss” Fern – rather than progress a cohesive story. All well and good, but if Arrow’s supposed to be the relatively more grounded and realistic answer to The Flash, they might want to slow down and think through some of these logical leaps.
For example, Jeri Ryan pops up as a guest star to play Jessica Danforth, a friend of the Queen family who’s decided to run for mayor and asks Thea and Oliver for their support in the campaign; Tiera Skovbye stars as her daughter Madison. As far as I know, they aren’t on the show as a reference to any DC characters, but instead, their part in staging the shortest mayoral campaign in the history of Star City exists only to show how dangerous the city has become, and to give Oliver a reason for declaring his own candidacy by episode’s end. #MayorQueen2016
Don’t worry though, there are still some comic book characters who find their way into the comic book-inspired show. As Felicity is now running Palmer Technologies and having a few disagreements with her board members over the state of the company, she finds a new ally in Curtis Holt, aka Mr. Terrific (Echo Kellum). Though Felicity fires quite a few employees, including Holt, she hires them all back by episode’s end with a plan to boost the company’s profits thanks to Holt’s world-changing research … which doesn’t exist yet … but it’s cool because they have six months to work on it. Business 101: This is exactly how multi-billion-dollar conglomerates function in the real world.
Another familiar face from the comics appears in “The Candidate” in the form of Lonnie Machin, aka Anarky (Alexander Calvert). Working on behalf of Damien Darhk, though not technically in his official employ just yet, Anarky tries to kidnap Jessica Danforth during the announcement of her mayoral campaign. When Oliver Queen foils that attempt, Anarky opts to take young Madison instead. The real hero in this instance is Darhk himself, who wants Danforth out of the race but doesn’t particularly approve of Anarky’s methods. Darhk reveals the location of Madison and gives it to Quentin, who then shares the information with Oliver. I’ll buy the idea that Quentin wants to give Oliver a chance to prove himself as a rehabilitated vigilante more than the apparent personality flip of Darhk from someone who saw no problem putting puppies out of their misery in the first episode to someone who despises kidnapping teenage girls to be used as leverage. Neal McDonough still turns in a cool and commanding performance, it’s just an example of inconsistent writing.
Unfortunately, Anarky’s personality didn’t come across as anything but bizarre and unhinged. I was hoping for more of a political diatribe from an anti-villain who truly thinks he’s doing the right thing for the city. I was not hoping to watch him break little girl’s fingers and tap a bloody tooth on the tabletop, but alas, that’s what we got. The highlight of Anarky’s involvement in this episode was the 2-on-1 fight featuring Green Arrow, Red Arrow, and Anarky himself. I rarely get to enjoy a villain who can fight capably with a three-section staff that doubles as a stun gun, so that earns big points. Also, Willa Holland (and/or her stunt double) is taking Speedy’s fighting prowess to a whole new level. This was probably my favorite individual fight in a long, long while.
So while Anarky survives the battle to fight another day (hopefully with more emphasis on how his political ideals clash and co-mingle with Oliver’s), Thea’s bloodlust remains a cause for concern. In Oliver’s eyes, she got a little overzealous when fighting the Ghosts, then broke the arm of a drug-dealer who wouldn’t cooperate, then set Anarky ablaze and nearly killed him. Oliver is concerned that the effects of the Lazarus pit are starting to get to her; Thea is trying to convince Oliver that these brutal tactics are necessary in a world this savage. And with Anarky’s violent escape from his police and medical escorts, I have to say that I side more with Thea.
Everything seems to be back to normal as Oliver apologizes to Thea, and roommate Laurel offers to take her along on a girls’ trip. Unbeknownst to Oliver, however, Laurel plans on taking Thea to Nanda Parbat to get some answers about her condition from the League of Assassins. But that’s not all! No, now that Laurel knows about the power of the Lazarus pit, she has designs on dragging the corpse of her long-dead sister Sara out of the grave, through customs, and across the sea (presumably) to bring her back to life. It’s sweet that Laurel would do anything for her sister (that scene of Sara’s desiccated corpse though…) but I’m more interested in the logistics of the plan at this point than anything else.
“The Candidate” was a strange episode that jumped all over the place without really seeming to accomplish anything. Oliver wants to be Mayor now? Cool. Felicity is a maverick businesswoman who isn’t beholden to her board members? Okay. Thea and Laurel are going to Thelma and Louise their way to Nanda Parbat with Sara in tow, Weekend at Bernie’s style? I’m down. But if future episodes are going to skew more towards what Social Media wants to see than plots that comic book stories have laid out for decades, I’ll quickly find myself losing interest.
Rating: ★★★ Good
Canary riding down the zipline fired by Green Arrow was a pretty cool stunt to start the show.
Felicity: “I want a code name.”
Should Felicity and Diggle get code names? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments!
Jessica Danforth: “Oliver, how…” Oliver: “Uh, self-defense classes.”
Oliver: “One of the benefits of your girlfriend inheriting a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate. We have money now.”
Felicity: “The only person around here who is allowed to speak in sentence fragments is me.”
Holt: “Wow, you look like someone who has to fire a whole mess of people today.”
Anarky: “Something wrong with the front door?”
Thea: “Whatever’s going on with me will not be fixed with a mani-pedi.”
It took me a phone call or two, enabling Closed Captions, and a Google search to figure out that Felicity and Damien kept name-dropping what sounded like Rick Pinzolo, a gangster played by Stanley Tucci in the late 80s CBS series Wiseguy. I’m either way off or this is one of the oddest Easter eggs on the show so far.
— Arrow (@CW_Arrow) October 15, 2015