Wednesday, November 4, 2015

REVIEW: 'Arrow' - Oliver Calls in a Favor From John Constantine to Help Restore Sara's Soul in 'Haunted'

The CW's Arrow - Episode 4.05 "Haunted"

When things take a turn for the worse with Sara, Oliver calls in a favor from an old friend who deals in the mystical, John Constantine (Matt Ryan).

Arrow letting Matt Ryan reprise his role as John Constantine from his recently failed NBC show could be seen as a way to give fans of that show some closure. As a DC Comics character, he's capable of interacting with the various other TV adaptations out there. And yet, his presence here never feels like fan service. Nor is it distracting from the ongoing narrative. He has a purpose for his appearance. Sure, he leaves just as soon as he comes to Star City. But he was a fun addition to the show in this episode. Arrow know how to incorporate the character into its narrative this season. That was the biggest problem with the character as the star of his own show. It had no purpose. Here, he's pivotal in restoring Sara's soul to her body. A mission several characters have been on as of late. Plus, the show reveals a little bit more about the magic that currently surrounds the characters and how it will impact the future of the stories.

Furthermore, the resurrection of Sara could also play solely as this show moving the pieces together for the upcoming spinoff, Legends of Tomorrow. That show has been set to feature Caity Lotz in the role since it was first announced. And yet, that really doesn't detract a whole lot out of the emotional value of bringing Sara back to life for her family and the team. It's quite a powerful journey that Laurel and Captain Lance have been on this season. Laurel would do anything to get her sister back - including putting her into the Lazarus Pit despite not knowing the potential consequences. The Sara that returned was a feral animal. She was determined to kill Thea, aka the person who killed her. She didn't care who got hurt in the process. The cost that that has for everyone else is phenomenally dramatized in this episode as everyone has to accept that they've all kept secrets from each other.

Oliver learns about Sara being brought back to life when in battle with her. He learns of the latest attack by the mysterious blonde woman and goes to stop her before she does anymore harm. When he arrives he sees that it is Sara and he hesitates. Sara was such an important character in all of these people's lives. It's a massive betrayal to him that Laurel and Thea went to Nanda Parbat in order to revive Sara - as well as deal with Thea's bloodlust. And yet, he can't be mad at them because he kept so many secrets from them over the years. He's still keeping secrets too from the five years he spent away on the island. But those need to be kept in order to preserve the integrity of the flashback structure. However, Oliver wants to lead differently. He wants to be open with his team so that they can work effectively as a team. It's very big of him to accept that Thea and Laurel kept this secret because they were afraid of how he would react. He understands why they would feel that way. That's why he goes out of his way to bring Sara's soul back to her body.

It's a surprise to everyone that Oliver has a friend who can actually do that for Sara. They must think that if John Constantine can do this, then what else can he do? But right now, the focus is on Sara. The team has successfully captured her by using a weakened Thea as a bait. Constantine is able to perform the spell that takes him, Oliver and Laurel to the realm where Sara's soul is being kept. It's an interesting set piece to say the least. First of all, it starts as a maze where the exit only leads back into the same room. Constantine has a card trick that can properly point them in the right direction though. It's there where the true battle begins. It's not as impressive as it could have been. Oliver handles a couple of monsters quickly. Then, he and Laurel do their best to pull Sara out of a pit while Constantine does battle with the main monster - who he is able to slay soon after saying some incantations. And just like that, Sara is saved. Everyone returns to Star City with the spell being a success. The Lance family is officially together again. It's a happy occasion for all. Despite the darkness that surrounded Sara's resurrection, it now has brought back the one thing Laurel wanted more than anything else. Her sister is back. That's a good feeling too because Sara was a great character in the second season. She probably won't spend too much time here - due to her commitments to Legends of Tomorrow. But it should be interesting to see what happens next with her and her family.

That's especially true considering the threat that Damien Darhk still poses to the city. Oliver is still managing to run for mayor without too much interference from Damien's organization. He still hasn't had another run-in with the man but Constantine notes that he's a much more powerful being than the few monsters they just dealt with. And Damien is up to something. He recruits Captain Lance to break into a federal facility in order to delete names from the system. All he has to do is plug a flash drive into the server. It's a story made important because Diggle tags along in order to get some answers regarding his brother's death at the hands of H.I.V.E. - and answers are given. True to fashion though, the answers Diggle gets aren't what he was expecting. Apparently his brother had turned into a local crime lord that needed to be taken out in order for the more evil organization to enact their plan in the region. It was as simple as that. But why then, is Damien deleting the name of Diggle's brother from that system? Something more could still be amiss here. It's hard for anyone to trust Damien with providing the truth. But in an episode filled with clarity and understanding, Diggle is given answers regarding his brother's death. It doesn't have a happy ending like the Lance family drama. But it's resolution nevertheless.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Haunted" was written by Brian Ford Sullivan & Oscar Balderrama and directed by John Badham.
  • This episode features the best flashbacks in quite some time. It completely forgets about what the ongoing story is for Oliver in order to focus on how Oliver and Constantine know each other. Sure, it also alludes to more mystical things happening on the island soon which may connect things better to the present day. But it was much more fun to see Oliver and Constantine banter.
  • Parker Young also debuts as Oliver's campaign manager. He wants to prepare Oliver for the scandals that could be brought up from his past - including the fact that Sara "died" during their trip to sea.
  • Felicity learns that Ray is still alive. It's not that surprising - again because Brandon Routh is set to star in Legends of Tomorrow. But it should be interesting to see how she reacts to this news and how she'll help him from the trouble he is currently in.
  • I would be more than fine with Matt Ryan coming back to the show to do more work as Constantine. He was a natural fit to the overall dynamic of this show while not stealing too much focus.