Friday, 13 November 2015

Review - 'Arrow', S04E06 - 'Lost Souls'

This was a very strange episode of Arrow. It was an episode which, somehow, managed to feel vitally important while, at the same time, not actually being very important, at all - at least, as far as plot progress on Arrow, itself, is concerned.

With Sara Lance's soul restored, with the help of John Constantine, in the previous episode attention is turned, here, toward bringing back another character who fans have always known was set to return - Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh). Considering that I have always enjoyed Brandon Routh's performance in the role, in spite of the awkward love triangle the character was forced into alongside Felicity and Oliver in the previous season, I think it's probably fair to see that this moment was always going to be a highlight of the season, for me. And, there was definitely a lot to enjoy about the entire set-up.

Despite the fact that every character on the show believes that Ray Palmer had died in that explosion at the end of last season, there had never been any attempt made to hide his inevitable survival from the audience (he had, in fact, even been listed as part of the cast for the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow at around the same time). All that was left to be revealed, really, was the exact details of how her was going to return.

Well, as it turns out, the experiment that Ray had been working on at the point of the explosion had actually worked - just not in the way that he had intended. For the past few months, Ray Palmer has actually stuck in a significantly reduced form - shrunk down to a tiny size, and unable to change back. More than that, though, Ray's early attempts to reach out for help had been overheard by members of HIVE - a stroke of misfortune that left Ray trapped in a tiny box on Damian Darhk's desk.

The sight of Ray trapped in that tiny box, left sitting on the villain's desk, was probably the true highlight of this episode, for me. I've grown accustomed to the fact that The Flash is quite willing to follow embrace its roots, as it indulges in some of its more outlandish 'comic-book' elements - but, the idea that Arrow is growing increasingly willing to do the same definitely appeals to me. Even with the threat of Damian Darhk, and what he had planned for Ray's technology, looming over him, there was still a light-hearted touch to the whole situation which made it kind of funny. Less humorous, though, was the fact that Ray had actually been desperately reaching out for help for the past few months, only for his calls to go unheard until know - something which Felicity is quick to blame herself for.

While a dramatic element to the whole wonderfully absurd premise is, of course, entirely fitting, I do have to admit that the idea of Ray's return being the catalyst for more relationship angst between Felicity and Oliver bothers me, a little. I genuinely feel like we got more than enough of that last season - and, honestly, Ray deserves better. Fortunately, though, the tension between Oliver and Felicity in this episode actually had nothing to do with any lingering romantic feelings she may have held for Ray - it was, instead, entirely motivated by the guilt she feels about not being there to help Ray when he needed it, because she was off with Oliver. So, naturally, she gives every indication that she blames Oliver, while secretly blaming herself. It didn't make this bit of exaggerated relationship melodrama any more watchable, for me - but, at least it was something.

The rest of the episode also had its high points, and its low points. It was definitely great to see Curtis Holt brought into the team, here - being the only other person around capable of understand Ray's work, he was obviously going to be an important part of the mission to rescue him, and restore him to his normal size. Curtis is another genuinely likable character, and I would love to see him continue to play an important part in the future. It was also great to see another, however brief, confrontation between Oliver and Damian Darhk - with Darhk, once more, showing exactly how dangerous an opponent he truly is.

On the downside, though, this episode's 'flash-back' sub-plot once more ground to a halt, as no real progress was made on uncovering the mystical secrets hinted at by John Constantine in the previous episode. Also, Sara's issues with an uncontrollable anger, and a compulsion to kill, after finally being fully restored feels much too similar to what he have already seen with Thea to be truly interesting. The weakest element of this episode, though, probably comes with the realisation that all of this is really only taking place with the sole intent of putting more pieces in place for Legends of Tomorrow - with both Sara and Ray heading off to unknown destinations by the end, and with the audience left with no idea of whether we will see either of them again before that new spin-off starts early next year.

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