We all know the adage: if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything. That’s why r/Arrow on Reddit didn’t say anything, they just up and changed into a subreddit for Marvel’s Daredevil. The CW “superhero” series “based” on the DC Comics’ character Green Arrow just completed Season 4, and when it ended there was only one feeling: relief.
Incoherent plotting, contradicting characters who became intolerable, shoddy construction of stakes, and general sloppiness rendered Arrow a sorry shell of its former self, in a banner year when superheroes — namely the DC side of the tracks — have pushed the boundaries tremendously. Arrow was never going to be prestige TV, but it was reliably fun and engaging, and that alone almost put the show in a separate league. Now, the show’s own spin-offs The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow outshine it every week.
It wasn’t all bad, though. No one can or should accuse the cast and crew of Arrow for not trying, and the effort shows in some of the (few) high points of the season. Here are six things Arrow Season 4 actually nailed.
Damien Darhk — or rather, Neal McDonough
Though aesthetically unremarkable – and “Snarky Villain” is a stale archetype – Neal McDonough soaked up every single second in frame as Damien Darhk. His smirk, his delivery, and his overall presence humanized Darhk, more so than he probably deserved.
Most importantly, McDonough had the charisma to pull off Darhk, and as a result, became legitimately fun to watch while Arrow was messing up everything else. By the finale, I supported Darhk: Just destroy it all.
Captain Lance vs. Oliver Queen in “Beyond Redemption”
Paul Blackthorne has been sorely under-appreciated so far in Arrow. As the hard-nosed officer intent on nailing “this hood guy,” he was demoted in Season 2, and got an interesting arc as he developed a bond with the Arrow. Then, things things got murky when he finally nailed Oliver as the vigilante.
But in Season 4, the two settled their differences. That’s kind of boring, but things re-heated when Oliver found out about Lance’s partnership with Darhk in the Season 4 episode, “Beyond Redemption”, which now just reminded me how woefully incomplete this storyline was left. Points for both Amell and Blackthorne for not only reminding viewers how great the dynamic between Queen and Lance is and should be, but for communicating a palpable hatred and distrust that’s still probably between them.
Constantine, Vixen, and the Legends of Tomorrow
It’s a shame Arrow can’t take care of its own, because it did gangbusters for the rest of the DC TV universe. The resurrection of Matt Ryan’s John Constantine felt like a real miracle (speaking as a devoted Constantine fan), and “Haunted” is still, in fact, a fun episode just by itself. It’s a shame there wasn’t more room for Constantine’s world in Arrow (What’s Zed up to? Chas? Papa Midnite?), but that Arrow allowed it to still exist is appreciated.
And Vixen, too! There was no reason to flesh out Vixen, introduced as a character through digital animation, but they did it anyway. And with her voice actress, Megalyn Echikunwoke! Who was awesome. Echikunwoke kicked ass in her one guest episode and she definitely deserves to have a permanent place in the live-action DC universe.
Then there was the two-parter that launched Legends of Tomorrow. Was it a good cross-over like last time? No, but it was still fun and showed how truly big of a world Arrow created.
Heck: Curtis, too
Destined to become Mr. Terrific someday, Echo Kellum was a welcome addition to Arrow’s cast. Beyond the diversity he brought to the show as a gay man of color, he was regularly funny and witty; and his chemistry with Emily Brett Rickards’s Felicity evened out the poor caricature she had devolved into.
Katie Cassidy is another actress worthy of commendation for her time in Arrow. While first a bad caricature of Lois Lane without any of Lois’s interesting qualities, Laurel grew into her own as an emotionally intelligent individual, solidifying herself as the superhero she was meant to be (even if I personally hated her bad BDSM-looking outfit).
While her alcoholism was a divisive arc when it aired, in hindsight it was a transformative period, worth enduring to see the mature, wise Laurel Lance in Season 4. Unfortunately, with no more room to grow, there was nothing left for her and so she was killed off, to the ire of many fans. Fans miss her dearly, and with good reason: she was great.
Stephen Amell at SummerSlam 2015
Okay, so it wasn’t actually Arrow Season 4, but c’mon. This was a ton of fun. Remember when Arrow was fun?