Friday, 23 October 2015

Review - 'Arrow', S04E03 - 'Restoration'

While the main plot-line set in motion in the previous episode was, of course, Laurel and Thea heading off to Nanda Parbat with Sara Lance's body, their absence also created the perfect opportunity for an important bit of character development for both Oliver and Diggle. Finding themselves in a position where the two have only each other to depend on brings the lingering distrust that Diggle feels toward Oliver to the surface. With Diggle's two-year long investigation into his brother's murder finally resulting in a concrete lead in the form of Mina Fayad (Carmen Moore), a fellow member of the mysterious H.I.V.E organisation that Damian Darhk represents, Diggle is determined to get the answers he has been looking for for so long. At the same time, though, a meta-human hit-man (J.R. Bourne) has recently arrived from Central City with the express purpose of accepting a contract to hunt down, and kill, the Green Arrow.

Diggle's unwillingness to trust Oliver, of course, ultimately only serves to place both men in danger. As Diggle goes after the woman responsible for his brother's death on his own, Oliver is left to deal with the meta-human hit-man hired by Damian Darhk to kill him. With neither there to provide back-up to the other, the seemingly inevitable result is that Oliver is left wounded, while Diggle's target is able to get away when he is spotted. This, of course, gives them the perfectly motivation to try to work through their issues, as each is forced (by Felicity, mainly) to admit that the lack of trust between them is only going hurt their efforts to protect Star City.

Honestly, I think that the worst decision that the show could have made, regarding Oliver and Diggle, would have been to let the tension that has existed between them, this season, fester for too long. Diggle's distrust of Oliver may be entirely understandable, given the circumstances, but it's also very easy to imagine it becoming a weak-point going forward - with Diggle's distrust gradually shifting from being understandable to just kind of petty as it lingers. So, unless the tension between the two was intended to eventually boil over into actual conflict (which was, clearly, never going to happen), it is probably better for it to be resolved sooner, rather than later - so that the two characters can move on. And, that's exactly what happened, here. By the end of the episode, Oliver and Diggle seem to be back on good terms - and, even if the resolution that we were given may have come across as a bit abrupt, it's probably for the best.

As a side-note - with his ability to turn tattoos of playing cards in deadly projectile weapons, Double Down (whose name, of course, comes courtesy of Cisco over in Central City) probably rates as one of the more unusual villains to feature on either Arrow or The Flash. Honestly, it almost comes across as a little too outlandish - even for a pair of shows that have been going out of their way to fully embrace their comic-book roots. Also, the fact that Double Down apparently got his ability thanks to being in the process of receiving a tattoo at the same time as the particle accelerator explosion, which gave all of Central City's other meta-humans their abilities, is really starting to stretch that particular gimmick to breaking point. At the same time, though, his odd ability did allow for the inclusion of some fun action-sequences.

Laurel and Thea, meanwhile, arrived in Nanda Parbat to find very little support for their plans. Honestly, Laurel's motivation throughout this episode still seems strange to me. She has only recently learnt that the Lazarus Pit even existed (and also, it should be remembered, that the supernatural power it holds is even possible) - and, everything that she has been told about it seems to suggest that actually using the Lazarus Pit is more trouble than it's worth. Malcolm Merlin, in his recently acquired position as the new head of the League of Assassins, is adamant that it shouldn't be used. Nyssa, who has as much reason as Laurel to want Sara back, is also adamant that it shouldn't be used. And, to top it off, Laurel can see first-hand what Thea's experience with the Lazarus Pit is doing to her. Yet, despite all of this, Laurel seems entirely convinced that placing her sister into the pit is the right thing to do.

Despite everyone's objections, though, Laurel does ultimately get what she wants when Malcolm unexpectedly comes around and agrees to place Sara's body in the Lazarus Pit - a development which was probably inevitable when you remember that Sara Lance's role in the up-coming Legends of Tomorrow has already been confirmed.

This is a tricky position to place a character in, really. Are we supposed to be impressed by Laurel's stubborn determination? Or, are we meant to see her behaviour as foolish and reckless? I know which way I lean - but, I find myself wondering whether the show's writers agree. At this point, I think that I actually want to see some negative consequences to bringing Sara back from the dead - if only so that it can become another learning experience for Laurel. Given the state Sara is in at the end of the episode, it seems entirely possible that I might get my wish.

Thea's story, this episode, was much more interesting, though. The suggestion that there may not actually be any cure for her increasingly violent urges, combined with the fact that the only way to alleviate them temporarily is to indulge them leaves her in a fairly grim position. Her insistence that she will find a way to resist these urges without indulging them is noble, sure - but, the episode leaves the audience with clear doubt about how successful she will be.

The flash-back plot-line, meanwhile, finds Oliver in an interesting position as he works to infiltrate the drug production operation - with Oliver forced to carefully balance the need to put on a convincing performance as the newest guard of the operation's slave labour with his genuine concern for their safety. The idea that Oliver would be required to his talent for torture to use as the 'lesser evil', in order to save the life of a worker who would have otherwise been shot, is also a suitably grim development. The contrast between the Oliver that we see in these flash-backs and the Oliver of the 'present day' has always been a fascinating aspect of Arrow - and, Stephen Amell has always done a great job of showing us the same character at very different points in his life. While we still have no way of knowing where the flash-back plot-line for this season is headed, I am still definitely interested in seeing it play out.

In all, though, the third episode of the show's fourth season is does a fine job of maintaining the level of improved quality we have had so far this season. While it was a bit strange to see a villain like Double Down (a character who would have seemed outlandish even on The Flash) appear on Arrow, it does seem to fit with the overall lighter tone promised for this season. Also, while I have to admit that Laurel's behaviour didn't exactly do much to endear me toward her - the result of her stubborn insistence should, at least, lead to interesting developments in the future. I hope so, at least. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see.

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