‘Arrow’ returns with focus on relationships

The vast majority of fans of The CW show “Arrow” (2012 – present) were delighted with last season’s finale. The romantic relationship that fans have rooted for since the beginning — between Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), a crime-fighting vigilante known as “The Arrow,” and a member of his team, hacking genius Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) —  finally came to fruition. The sexual and emotional tension between the two has been growing since their first encounter three seasons ago, and fans have been going crazy waiting for them to finally get together. Last season, they (literally) rode off into the sunset together, determined to take a break from fighting crime in their town of Starling City and focus on their relationship.

The fourth season premiere opens showing that Oliver and Felicity have been living in the suburbs for the past few months, living a normal life. The opening scenes are both impossibly adorable and strangely disorienting. Though most everyone is happy that they are finally together, it’s weird to see the two cooking omelettes for each other and having brunch on the patio with a couple from down the street, aware that the rest of their team is back in Star City (Starling City’s name in this season changed to match its name in the comic series,”Green Arrow,” on which the show is based) fighting off new dangers.

Viewers see the degradation of Star City in The Arrow’s absence, and it’s frightening. The city is a shambles —  terrorized by a group known as “Ghosts,” led by Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), a name that should be familiar to those who have read the “Green Arrow” comic series. Darkh is a terrifying character from the moment he steps on screen — a nice change of pace from last season’s main villain, Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable), who failed to evoke this kind of fear in viewers. Darhk is shown to have superhuman abilities, something viewers haven’t seen in a villain yet, so there is plenty of opportunity for the writers to have fun with this. 

Oliver discovers that Felicity has been helping out the rest of the team in Star City behind his back, hacking into databases and doing research for them. The discovery frustrates him. Only Oliver truly committed to their plan of moving into a new life together, completely removed from Star City. A visit and desperate pleas from two members of their old team, Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) and Oliver’s sister, Thea Queen (Willa Holland), are all it takes to rope him and Felicity back into helping. The last member of their team, John Diggle (David Ramsey), is the only member who acts less than cordial toward Oliver, which is understandable considering Oliver put Diggle’s wife and child in danger as part of a master plan to defeat Ra’s al Ghul.

In this premiere, everyone is adjusting. The team is having trouble working cohesively with Oliver, who was, at one point, their leader. Diggle has now stepped into the leading role, and while there isn’t necessarily a power struggle between the two, Diggle’s lack of trust in Oliver presents problems for the team dynamic. A lot has changed in the months since Oliver and Felicity left, and it shows in the borderline uncomfortable interactions Oliver has with everyone except Felicity. The need to rebuild trust and connections between Oliver and the team will no doubt be an overarching theme throughout the season.

This is both a good and a bad thing. Amell portrays many emotions believably but has difficulty acting convincingly during heartfelt scenes — and there will likely be many this season. Though Amell has certainly improved as an actor since the first season, it’s difficult to relate to him when he isn’t quite able to pull off these more tender scenes. It doesn’t help that his co-star, Rickards, executes Felicity’s emotional vulnerability consistently well, carrying the two’s shared scenes. Felicity is arguably the most likable character on the show; with her snappy comebacks and nerdy charisma, she makes every scene she’s in extremely enjoyable to watch. 

Fans can’t help but worry that Oliver and Felicity’s return to Star City and the vigilante lifestyle will take a negative toll on their relationship. It would be sad to see Felicity and Oliver break up, considering their official relationship would be so short-lived. The introduction of a villain that actually terrifies — something fans haven’t seen since Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) — will bring just the right amount of tension into future episodes. Viewers can only hope that Oliver will be able to mend his relationships with his team and prevent the one he has now from falling apart.


This season premiere of "Arrow", anchored by strong performance from Emily Bett Rickards and Stephen Amell, hit a solid balance between action and emotional scenes, which looks to be a recurring pattern in the coming season.

3 stars