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

When season 4 of Arrow started, there was a promise that this season would see the show in a lighter, less morose place than last year. Sure, it was never going to be as breezy and carefree as The Flash, but the idea was to raise Oliver out of the mopey depths that had defined season 3. Early on, it seemed like the show was definitely moving in that promised direction, with more colorful villains, a greater sense of teamwork between Team Arrow’s members, and the show’s most charismatic Big Bad so far.

Still, this far into the season, it’s gotten to the point where the show feels like it’s slipped back into old habits. That’s not to say things are as grim as they were during the heights of the League of Assassins storyline, but with child kidnappings, Felicity’s paralysis, and the looming death from the flash forward, the new Arrow is feeling a bit like the old Arrow.

Still, I’m of the opinion that the returning darkness is a good thing, particular because the show is doing such a good job of balancing the darkness with the more comic book elements. The most recent episode did have Oliver’s son’s kidnapping and Felicity breaking off the engagement, but it also saw Felicity regaining the use of her legs thanks to a miracle cure. That’s not even to mention that this was the same episode that featured the live-action debut of the animal-empowered Vixen.

Also, there’s no denying the importance of low points in storytelling, struggles that the characters need to fight against and overcome. However happy and unified Team Arrow was at the beginning of the season, it would be boring to see them stay as such all year. These darker moments are in every Arrowverse show, it’s just that Arrow has a tendency to hit them harder. Really, it’s something built into the show’s DNA, and while it was overbearing last year, it’s what allowed season 2’s Deathstroke arc to hit such highs.

Ultimately, then, what makes the show a more enjoyable, energetic ride this season is its willingness to dive deeper into the comic book world the show is now firmly apart of. It just feels far more fun when Ollie and the team can interact with characters like Vixen, John Constantine, and Damien Darhk. It’s more fun when Katana can return out of the blue to battle Nyssa for a miracle cure for Lazrus Pit-induced bloodlust.

And just the fact that I can write that sentence is proof enough that while the show is back in the shadows, it definitely hasn’t lost its newfound sense of fun.