Let the speculation begin.
With the introduction of mysticism, what appears to be a top notch baddie in Neal McDonough's Damien Darhk, and the evolution of Oliver Queen's titular character, Arrow Season 4 Episode 1 also opened up what will be a season long mystery.
At whose grave was Oliver standing at the end of the hour and to whom did he pledge to Barry Allen it was his responsibility to kill?
Surprisingly, it's not as easy as pointing fingers at easy targets Felicity Smoak and Damien Darhk. But, overall, it was a satisfying return to the series after a rather dismal Arrow Season 3. Let's take a look.
We were promised a lighter tone for Arrow Season 4, and to some degree, satisfaction was delivered. There is no doubt that Oliver in love is an airier Oliver, but it's hard not to question just how deeply that light travels when his flashbacks continually remind him he's dark to his core.
It seems no matter how much he tries to convince himself that he's happy, even he can't quite buy it.
But the scenes between Oliver and Felicity were fun. It's nice to know there is at least something Felicity cannot perfect, even if it's as simple as cooking an omelette.
Even when they're being a normal couple, their banter is amusing, and I can imagine fans savoring the lines (and thus I jotted them down for the Arrow quotes). They're not just in la-la love, they're comfortable.
Felicity: How was your jog?
Oliver: It was good. I'm getting used to running without someone chasing after me.
Oliver was so comfortable, he was going to propose marriage. Is it just me, or does Felicity seem like that's a step she's unready to take? She had no idea what they could be celebrating at a special dinner, was notably flustered at the mention of children and then dropped the bombshell she's never been far away from Team Arrow at all, thus never fully with Oliver (as he saw it).
Of the two of them, discovering it was Felicity who couldn't let go of the excitement and continued helping the team even while they traversed the world made sense. She had grown close to all of them while Oliver was otherwise engaged. What she's doing with them is important, and she knows it. She's been a person who wants to make a stand for a long time. It's unlikely she'd easily give that up for a poorly made omelette no matter how much she loves Oliver.
Still, Oliver had plans to give her his mother's ring, and dropping it into that bowl of marble rocks felt sort of final, as if he had his one opportunity and it was paradise lost. Besides the scene at the end (which we'll discuss at the end of the review), will something come between them that will tarnish their future?
After all, they'll be spending a lot more time with other people now, and their formerly private world will take on a completely different feel now that he's the Green Arrow (something Felicity had been planning for mind you, what with the new suit and all).
It's nice Team Arrow is back together, and Oliver gave a lovely speech as Green Arrow which was mindful of all the work they had done protecting the city after the demise of the Arrow. He vowed to join them, not lead them. I liked it. And the team was working quite well together, if not for the "ghosts." Laurel will be absolutely gutted when she realizes why they got the better of them and the entire city leadership. With an in like Quentin Lance, it was a rather easy job.
Damien Darhk is a quippy and interesting villain. He prays to whoever mystics do and with that comes powers to do some pretty amazing things, things Oliver has seen in the past. Of course, I quite liked Ra's al Ghul upon his initial entry onto the Arrow scene, so I'm going to have to reserve judgment, but so far so good. The fact he recruited one of the town's heroes to do his bidding bodes well for his powers of evil.
What could he possibly have on Lance that would cause the man to work to fight against a city he has always claimed to love? Did the Arrow leave such a bad taste in his mouth? It appeared he and Laurel had mended fences, and he knows Damien is fighting against her. Lance is in direct conflict with his own daughter.
Oliver's reunion with Diggle didn't go any better than his reunion with Lance, and it will only be repaired when Dig shares with Oliver what he knows about Damien and HIVE. It's not like Diggle to keep secrets, but this is one he's kept ever since Deadshot shared it with him. It's deeply personal, and the word hive didn't trip any wires in Oliver's mind, so it will be news to him.
Oliver: I'm looking for a way in.
Diggle: I was furious to think that you trusted Malcolm Merlyn more than you trusted me, but then I realized that I'm not angry with you, I'm angry at myself for thinking you're someone that you clearly aren't.
Oliver: I don't know what that means.
Diggle: Oliver, after everything we've been through, man, I couldn't fathom why you didn't trust me. Then I realized you couldn't. It's not who you are. You don't trust. You don't love. You were able to fool Ra's and join the League because inside you are every bit as dark as they are.
The verdict is "Green Arrow" is a definite improvement over the end of last season. So far, so good. However, I'm skeptical over the promise of a lighter tone. While the idea in theory makes sense, and we were treated to lighthearted moments during this hour, it's hard to let loose and breathe knowing in six months time someone is dying and Oliver is committing to murder. That's dark, no matter how you try to sprinkle it with pixie dust in the meantime.
Whatever happens between now and then certainly doesn't come out of nowhere. Oliver has good instincts. Sure, he bought into Felicity's fibs during their world travels, but he's not buying Thea's just reckless right now. If someone he loves is on a killer's menu (and judging by his single status, Barry's arrival and the tear running down his face, he's not kneeling by the grave of someone for whom he's indifferent), the odds are pretty good Oliver had an inkling.
His short discussion with Barry also indicated he held back in some way. At least he knows it's not his fault. But he does feel it's his responsibly to put an end to it by taking a life. Regardless, Oliver needs to change because he believes it "in his bones," as Laurel said. It will be especially difficult to watch this season unfold if he's fighting a side of himself when we know that as a result, tragedy awaits.
Everybody is filled with darkness and light and infinite shades in between. It's what makes people so different, so interesting, so full of life. How they act upon it is what sets them apart. Will that be a lesson that Oliver learns too late?
So, while lightness was promised, the season started on a pretty dark note. Someone is dead. Someone else is on the chopping block. I fully expect one of the core characters to die by the end of the season, and although Oliver was unable to propose to Felicity, it's too easy a call to say because he's alone at the grave the death was hers. Don't buy into it. Likewise, the "he" Oliver has sworn to kill could be Darhk, Lance or any of the upcoming villains.
Let the speculation begin. Hit the comments!!!
Although it was surprising that Felicity hadn't been doing anything for Palmer Technologies and it was nearing bankruptcy, that's about to change, as she'll be back in the office on Arrow Season 4 Episode 2. Be here next week to talk about it.
In the meantime, you can watch Arrow online if you need to go back over all the details up to now!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA), enjoys mentoring writers, wine, and passionately discussing the nuances of television. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.