‘Arrow’ (Season 4): A Lighter Shade of Dark

Arrow "Restoration" Season 4 Episode 3 (9)

I honestly considered putting an “h” into the title of this article, if you must know. It’d be a bit goofy, but it’s the exact same pun the CW put into play with its preview of next week’s episode Arrow. It also serves as a perfect encapsulation of how the show has embraced a little more lighthearted fun this season, even if it’s still very much the darker side of the CW’s DC Universe.

The biggest change, at least aesthetically and thematically, is Oliver’s transformation into the Green Arrow. Though he’s still fighting crime in the shadows of night, he now wants to stand as a beacon of hope for Star City instead of its dark protector. To paraphrase The Dark Knight, he’s gone from being just the hero the city needs, but also being the hero it deserves. It’s a transformation that goes along with his civilian life, where he’s decided to follow in his mother’s footsteps and run for mayor.

This transformation goes along with Oliver’s ongoing dedication to unshouldering the burdens of guilt that have hung over him for the past three seasons. Gone is the Oliver who’ll mope over every setback or awkward rift between himself and his teammates. Instead of just expecting the other’s to go with his flow, he’s working as a member of the team. Instead of expecting Diggle to just forgive him for doing what was necessary, he does all he can to earn his friend’s trust back.

And then, it just takes a look at the new heroes and villains that have come onto the scene this season to truly cement the show’s turn to a lighter tone. There’s Curtis Holt, who the show is making no effort to hide his inevitable transformation into a vigilante who throws T-branded exploding balls at people. Or Damien Darhk, the show’s most charismatic villain ever who has some brand of mystical power. I mean, this past week, the team faced off against a metahuman who went into battle with an endless supply of skin-generated, razor-sharp playing cards. These are not the sorts of characters that would show up in the Starling City of two seasons ago.

Of course, that’s not to say the show has fully abandoned its roots. We’ve still got Thea infected by a kill-crazy bloodlust as a result of her dip in the Lazarus pit, and Laurel’s ongoing anguish over her the death of her sister. Stylistically, this show still operates far deeper in the shadows than The Flash ever does, even if Star City does look brighter than before. But those are the trappings of the show, and I don’t think it would be right for them to ever be fully abandoned. Instead, we get to enjoy a slightly lighter version of the show we’ve been enjoying for the past three years, which is making for a much more enjoyable season than last year.