Wednesday, December 9, 2015

REVIEW: 'Arrow' - Oliver Faces the Horror of Potentially Losing His Family in 'Dark Waters'

The CW's Arrow - Episode 4.09 "Dark Waters"

After the city is attacked again, Oliver makes a bold move against HIVE. Malcolm checks in on Thea and leaves her with a warning. Things take a horrible turn when Damien Darhk retaliates in a brutal manner at Oliver's mayoral holiday party.

There is an important distinction between the Green Arrow battling Damien Darhk and Oliver Green facing off with Damien. As of right now, they remain two separate entities. Damien doesn't know that they are the same person. And yet, the battle in "Dark Waters" is between Oliver and Damien and is just as tense and emotional as any encounter between the hero and villain. Oliver is attempting to be a better man this season by not relying on the Green Arrow identity to make a difference in Star City. He wants to do whatever it takes to save the city from Damien. He knows it's risky to run for mayor and face the wrath of Damien and his ghosts. He's putting the lives of everyone he cares about in danger because of it. But he's not backing down from this fight.

Oliver is doing good things for the city. The citizens are actually embracing him as a mayoral candidate because they respect and admire what he is doing for the city. He has good intentions of cleaning up the bay. That's his biggest priority at the moment to help win over support. That goes directly against Damien's plans though - because apparently he is interesting in the algae that has been developing out there. That puts the two of them directly in conflict. Oliver isn't afraid to use the press and the citizens of the city against Damien. He wants to be united with everyone to make a difference. That's such a difference from who Oliver was in past seasons. Before he would always want to handle things by himself. He was always carrying the world on this shoulders and that wound up getting a lot of people killed. This approach is still just as dangerous. But he's no longer as isolated as he was before. He is turning the city against Damien by naming him as the monster in control of the ghosts.

Of course, that action only paints an even bigger target on Oliver. It's one thing for the ghosts to attack during Oliver's big event to clean up the bay. It's another thing completely when Damien crashes Oliver's holiday party to take Felicity, Thea and Diggle hostage. They all supported Oliver taking this action against Damien. They are much more capable of taking care of themselves than they were in the past. They don't need Oliver to protect them from the dangers of this city. And yet, they still get taken. They can't fight back without blowing their secret identities. So, they are forced into going with Damien. It's a crushing blow to Oliver. He's angry because this was always going to happen and he allowed it to because he trusted his team and their abilities. He's still wise to depend on the support of others. But for a brief moment, he's at a loss and defeated again. His life was just starting to get good and happy again. Damien threatens to take all of that from him in one swift action.

Oliver believes the only way he can save his family is if he turns himself over to Damien. He wants to exchange his life for theirs. It's a noble gesture that Damien was never going to follow through on. He goes through the motions of accepting this deal only to force Oliver to watch as the three closest people in his life die right in front of him. Damien has gas chambers that will make their deaths brutal. That's not a fate Oliver would wish on anyone. But he's helpless because he's just Oliver Queen. But Oliver Queen is a smart and resourceful guy as well. Malcolm and Laurel are to the rescue in this instance. He was able to rely on them to save the team while maintaining his cover as nothing more than a mayoral candidate who won't bow down as easily as Damien wants him to. Because the team works together, they are successful in this mission. They have learned from their battles with Damien so far. They understand that his powers give him an advantage. But it also gives him confidence which they can use to their advantage to surprise him on a number of occasions - including explosive arrows and sneak attacks. For a moment, it even seems as if Malcolm kills Damien. He is shot multiple times with arrows that then explode. But that moment also showcases just how difficult it will be to take Damien down. He recites some spell and then emerges a scene later good as new. So even the team's best efforts don't seem to be good enough just yet.

And then, there is the hour's big emotional storyline with Oliver and Felicity. It's such a fantastic improvement over last week's awful fight between them regarding Oliver's newfound son. That's a horrible story that is still waiting to explode at any moment. But of course, that means Felicity has to live long enough to get to it. Her life is in danger throughout this episode. And yet, that doesn't keep her from having some truly enjoyable and fun moments as well. She survives being shot at in the beginning and then - with some key help from her mother - finds the engagement ring Oliver bought for her. She is able to connect all the pieces about his proposal but wonders why he didn't ask her. Of course, all of that is soon made more complex by her being kidnapped by Damien. Oliver gets a moment alone with her before the big gas chamber sequence. The two really do profess their love for each other. But it's also such a good thing that Felicity escapes alive. That leads to the fantastic scene where Oliver actually does proposal. He does so with the whole city watching. He wants everyone to know just how special she is to him. And yet, that just makes the final twist of the episode so brutal. Oliver and Felicity are enjoying their happiness when ghosts attack their ride home. Oliver is forced to think quick on his feet in order to get the two of them out of that dangerous situation. But it may be too late. Felicity was hit. She may be the person in the ground that the show teased back in the season premiere. It's a devastating twist. And unlike last year's big death in the midseason finale, it actually has the potential to stick. That would be horrible considering the damage it could do to Oliver. He finally embraced his own happiness which may have unfortunately gotten Felicity killed. They are unfinished as a couple. But she could still be ripped away so tragically and violently. That makes it a very engaging and meaningful final twist. The next episode in the new year will have a lot of explaining to do early on.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Dark Waters" was written by Wendy Mericle & Ben Sokolowski and directed by John Behring.
  • It's great that Malcolm can only enter scenes now if he's coming out of a dark corner of the room and noting how easy it is to break into the place.
  • Also, how did Captain Lance not know that Malcolm was still alive? I didn't realize he didn't know. Plus, the episode doesn't really allow him to have a reaction. He just has to accept it as fact and move forward to help Oliver and the team.
  • Laurel also learns that her father has been helping Damien and Oliver knew about it. And yet, she doesn't react in a big, emotional way. She doesn't take it that personally. She understands her father and she trusts him. Plus, he is still there for her in the end when he offers his assistance in getting the team out of this dangerous situation.
  • Thea has really gotten some excellent comedic timing this season. Her wondering if that was her father in the Green Arrow costume was great.
  • Diggle still hasn't made any progress with his brother. Andy is refusing to give up any information on whatever Damien and HIVE have planned for the city.
  • Speaking of which, what the heck is going on with that final reveal of Damien showing his colleagues that things are going to be able to move forward with their big and nefarious plan to make a better world. It's just cryptic enough to be intriguing but more answers need to be forthcoming.
  • In the island flashbacks, Oliver swims out to the sunken ship from the second season to retrieve a survey of the land. That's about it. Of course, he then runs into trouble when a shark attacks and when he's caught as the spy he really is. Though it's still not that engaging as a storyline.