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REVIEW: Arrow 4×09 “Dark Waters”

Written by Scott Swartz

I know it’s in poor taste to root for a character to die, but god damn if that ending didn’t put a weird smile on my face because of how much it will probably piss off a certain portion of the internet. As far as christmas episodes go I am definitely moving that towards the top of the pile, not quite “Three Ghosts” but “Dark Waters” was definitely a high quality episode. I am definitely assuming that one of the people we saw nearly get croaked tonight is indeed in the grave, but odds are now in Felicity’s favor to survive the big sleep. I mean you don’t fake out someone midseason and then just kill them off, unless their death is something that has truly been established in comic book  lore. This episode however managed to do a ton right and seemingly put the show back on a strong path heading into the back half of the season.

A lot of this episode worked better than expected as there were just so many ways this episode could have become overly cheesy or failed. However, we managed to keep the focus on all of the right elements of this week and there is no better component in this show than when Oliver has a purpose and drive. Having Oliver not only call out Darhk to the public, but continue to show that he is more than capable of fighting with his public persona shows us how far he has come in a couple of years. Now that he is willing to fight it out in the light there should be nothing able to stop him, I love that Oliver has actually evolved and learned from his mistakes rather than repeat them like he has so many times before. What makes this even better is now when Oliver goes dark it is with a purpose rather than his usual intimidation tactics.

I really can’t put into words how excited I am that as soon as everyone was kidnapped Ollie reverted back to full on rage mode. As much as I enjoy our much happier hero, it is always enjoyable to see Oliver return to his roots and actually kick some ass with a sense of purpose. Knowing that soon something will cause Oliver to go full no prisoners mode and actually be more like the season one badass we all know and love is so gratifying. Stephen Amell did a great job overall as he was saddled with carrying many of the interactions in tonights episode with the standouts being anything that also happened to involve Damien Darhk. Amell and Neal McDonough manage to play so easily off each other that it is almost scary, and that just makes me want to watch all of their material more and more.

Speaking of Neal McDonough, man is he great when he just gets to be the villain. I was worried once Damien was revealed to the world that he might shy away from facing off with Oliver, but doing the exact opposite just shows that this guy has no fear. I loved every little bit of this episode, from him showing up at the party to when Damien “comforted” the man who went to the gas chamber. Each moment added another layer of subtlety to his character that was sorely missing in other episodes, to the point where you gain some creepy sense of compassion for the madman. It is very similar to how I respect Malcolm despite him being a complete and utter psychopath. It’s one thing to be a villain, it is an entirely other thing to be a villain that has pathos and drive.

While these two elements of the episode were great and provided the central crux of the story, the idea of have Felicity be our emotional crux really fizzled out. At no point did I feel that Ollie cared about anybody besides Felicity and that was a super strange feeling considering how close he and the rest of the team are. I mean I am happy they got engaged and that everyone got out alive, but there needed to be some sort of stronger emotional resonance than simply save the girl and everyone else. I loved the time we were given to Diggle as it helped to show that Damien’s pull is not just related to the drugs. There is something more pulling Andy into obeying and following his orders and I really wish we had actually spent more time on that than Felicity and Oliver’s relationship hitting a minor speed bump.

Besides all of that the big action scenes of the episode were on point as both the rescue and mob style gunning down added something more to the respective characters involved. Watching Ollie fight Darhk out of costume added another great level to their rivalry as Damien can’t figure out why this worthless insect keeps trying to fight back. I means so much to Damien’s character that he is finally being challenged by someone, unfortunately for him the fun and games are finally over.

Overall it was a really strong episode leading into the break. Now let’s see if the back half can capitalize.

Final Grade A-

+Those final moments

+Laurel/Malcolm team up

+Great performances by Amell and McDonough

+Ollie and Felicity material worked…

-Until it didn’t

-Ollie punched a shark in the face

Extra Thoughts

-Curtis shows up just to remind us that he is still amazing

-The moment where Felicity finds out her mom is dating Lance was played to perfect comedic effect.

-So Darhk is just growing corn? Ok, still makes more sense than Zoom.

-If Malcolm saying “I am Ra’s Al Ghul” is not a meme tomorrow I will be sorely disappointed in the internet.

About the author

Scott Swartz