Arrow 4.02 “The Candidate” Review

Just like that, Arrow has my attention again.

Starling City—sorry, Star City—is in a real bind. It’s a city without hope. Anyone who tries to do more than simply keep the city safe quickly gets mowed down by the “Ghosts” (read: H.I.V.E.) or some other villainous group of terrorists. Basically, Star City needs hope and inspiration, but it also needs protection from an ever-growing list of increasingly bad guys.

Not coincidentally, Oliver Queen is facing a similar dilemma. Like Star City, he’s sincerely trying to rebrand, taking on a new name and a new philosophy in response to his past failures. And he’s also trying to strike a difficult balance between Hope and Protection.

What will it take to “inspire” Star City? What will it take for Oliver to become a real hero as the “Green Arrow”? Those questions are posed very explicitly in this week’s episode, “The Candidate”.

Recently, Oliver’s been worried that Thea is getting too violent and bloodthirsty. Every night, when Team Arrow goes out and beats up bad guys together, she’s beating them up too hard, maiming them when she should be simply hurting them, throwing them off high buildings when Oliver throws them off slightly lower buildings.

Essentially, Oliver and Thea are two violent vigilantes bickering about the exact degree of gross bodily harm required to work effectively. I won’t call Oliver a hypocrite, exactly, so much as a charmingly bewildering megalomaniac, forever demanding that everyone around him adhere to his constantly evolving moral code.

Fortunately, this debate about violence seems relatively exciting and high-stakes in this episode, thanks to some respectable fight sequences featuring Team Arrow. In the opening action sequence, director John Behring takes advantage of some multi-level set design to spice things up with some inventive choreography; there’s a particularly thrilling moment when Black Canary blindly leaps off a rooftop, anticipating that the Green Arrow will shoot a zip-line for her to grab. Teamwork!

But anyway: Oliver is right. Something is seriously wrong with Thea, and it all started when she got resurrected in Nanda Parbat’s Lazarus Pit last season. Oliver is struggling to define himself as a violent—but not too violent—inspirational protector, and he has to make that definition crystal clear to save his sister’s soul.

His dilemma is also echoed in this episode’s flashback storyline. Back on Lian Yu, Oliver infiltrates a paramilitary group who are forcing innocent hostages to farm their poppy fields. He earns the respect of their leader, Reiter (Jimmy Akingbola), but it seems like he’ll have to make some tough decisions soon—protect the hostages, or follow Amanda Waller and/or Reiter’s orders?

Meanwhile, Felicity is also facing an important decision that mirrors Oliver’s existential dilemma. As CEO of Palmer Industries, she’s being pressured to save the company from financial ruin by firing a bunch of employees. In the end, Felicity can’t bring herself to do it. With some help from a new ally, tech expert Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum; spoiler alert, he’s soon-to-be Mister Terrific, TV’s first black gay superhero), she sets out to save the company by creating a “world-changing” new technology in just six months. She wants to inspire people, not by breaking things apart, but by creating something new.

Also meanwhile, an old friend of the Queen family, Jessica Danforth (Jeri Ryan) decides to run for Mayor. She’s inspired not only by the Green Arrow, but by her late friend Moira Queen; Jessica defies the “Ghosts’” reign of terror, planning to bring Hope back to her city.

Unfortunately, Damien Darhk is determined to destroy anyone who tries to lead/inspire/benefit Star City, so he sends the very twisted Lonnie “Anarky” Machin (Alexander Calvert) after her. When Machin kidnaps Jessica’s daughter Madison (Tiera Skovbye), Oliver offers Police Captain Quentin Lance his help. Quentin initially refuses—he knows the city needs saving, but he thinks it’ll take more than angry guys in masks to do it.

As usual, I feel like Arrow is setting Q-Lance up as some kind of minor antagonist, and as usual, I don’t find it totally convincing. Yeah, I know that he’s a traitor now, secretly working with/for Darhk under duress—which is obviously a very bad idea. But, as usual, Quentin’s objections to Oliver’s vigilantism aren’t at all unreasonable, really. And, as usual, I really wish Oliver had some kind of counterargument to those objections, instead of just ignoring them and hoping Lance doesn’t tattle on him.

Anyway, Team Arrow saves Madison, but Jessica withdraws her candidacy for mayor. Oliver and Thea temporarily defeat Machin, but Thea hurts him so badly in the process that Quentin Lance ends up—once again—refusing to work with Oliver ever again. Plus, Machin escapes at the end of the episode, anyway.

In the end, Oliver realizes that he’s the only person with the ability to “inspire” and “protect” Star City at the same time—not by being the Green Arrow, but by running for mayor himself! Just like in the comics! This is a totally ridiculous idea, but I’m all for it. I miss the days back in Seasons 1 and 2 when Oliver had to constantly, awkwardly juggle his celebrity status and secret identity.

Anyway, as hilarious as Mayoral Candidate Oliver Queen is going to be, let’s get to the really important part of this episode. The moment we’ve been waiting actual literal years for.

Laurel tells everyone that she’s taking Thea on a “spa getaway,” but actually she’s planning on secretly taking her back to Nanda Parbat, to try to fix her “Pit crazy.” Objectively, this is a pretty terrible idea, but who cares? Because she’s also bringing back Sara Lance’s dead body, and she’s going to resurrect her, too!

And just like that, Arrow has my attention again!

Image courtesy of the CW
Mad Moll Green

Mad Moll Green writes in Los Angeles and Vancouver. She loves horror movies, comic books, and ironic spandex.