When it comes to Arrow’s fourth season it’s seen its share of highs and lows. While the first half of the season was sensational, the second half has failed to impress nearly as much with that signature lull that tends to plague nearly every show on television in between the midseason finale and the final run of the season.
Following a somewhat disappointing episode last week (“Canary Cry”), “Genesis” was the episode that Arrow has needed to cement itself as one of DC television’s best shows.
The episode found Team Arrow divided as Oliver and Felicity journeyed to Hub City to find a mystical way to fight Damien Darhk, Diggle found himself battling his demons with Andy, and Thea found herself literally trapped in a perfect nightmare.
From sensational performances and character dynamics to a high stakes that hasn’t been felt on this show since the closing act of season two, “Genesis” put Arrow on an entirely different level as it presented us with the potential to top even the high-ranking season two in terms of overall end of the season.
Let’s break this down:
Darkness Versus Light
When it comes to the human spirit there are two different components: the light and the dark. This is something that we’ve seen be a central theme throughout Arrow’s existence as Oliver Queen has been a hero that has battled to overcome darkness for the light, but he’s never seemed to get there entirely. And this week it took an even greater significance as it turns out that light might just be the key to defeating Damien Darhk.
This episode presented Oliver with his first real breakthrough with how to defeat a mystical madman like Damien Darhk. With the help of a charming shaman and the support of Felicity, Oliver delved in the art of deflecting dark magic, which is something that he’s had experience with in the past. I believe we’ve seen it in the flashbacks, but I tend to zone out during those. Sorry. Regardless it’s clear that it’s shaken him. But he needs to this in order to ensure that Darhk can’t ever hurt anybody he cares about again. While Oliver is able to deflect a small bit of dark magic, the second go-around didn’t go so smooth. Oliver was overcome with darkness as it showed him his darkness moments – deaths: Tommy, his mother, his father, Laurel, himself, Felicity leaving him, to which he considered his own death in itself.
The shaman warned him that if there wasn’t more light than darkness inside of him that the darkness would overtake him, which obviously unnerved Oliver considering the mindset he’s always been in. But the darkness can’t outweigh the light. Oliver needs to channel that light that lives within him in order to overcome that darkness and ultimately Darhk. He needs to use those good experiences in his life to get there. Instead of focusing on everything he’s lost, he needs to focus on everything he has.
After the experiment subsequently failed, Oliver believed that it showed him who he really is: a man encompassed with darkness. He wasn’t going to the light to snuff Darhk’s darkness. Oliver believes Felicity has always been his light, and in a way he’s not wrong. But what he’s not admitting is that he hasn’t tried to be that light on his own. For so long he’s relied on Felicity to provide it for him. But he needs to try to his own light.
While the words that Felicity left him with linger in his mind – that he’ll always revert back to that man on the island – she assured that it was said in a heated rage. She believes that we’re all capable of change. If we try. And Oliver can get to that place of light on his own. That’s not to say that he can’t rely on the light from the good experiences in his life – because he can. Those experiences are what have made him the Oliver we know and love today. But he needs to learn how to channel those and focus on those instead of in times of crisis reverting to the painful memories that he’s let define him for so long.
And that’s exactly what he did as he was able to overcome Darhk’s magic…
Oliver Deals in the Mystical
This episode saw Oliver and Felicity setting course for Hub City where they were to meet with one of John Constantine’s friends (bring Constantine back!) that was said to help them with lessons on how to fend off Damien Darhk’s magic. But when it comes to lessons it’s more practical experience than anything as Oliver found himself dealing hands-on with dark magic that this shaman threw at him. His goal was to control the lightness and embrace it and not give in to the darkness, which as you read above proved to be challenging for him.
The thing with Darhk is that he is the literal embodiment of darkness. So using darkness against him would only serve to make him stronger instead of to defeat him, which means that the way to defeat him is to use the opposite: light. This was something that Oliver struggled with in his training and in his mindset. It’s hard to channel light inside of you when you don’t believe it’s possible. Oliver is someone who’s lived in darkness all of his life. Even now as he’s grown from that dark, humanity-less person we met in season one, he still has that tendency to embrace the darkness when things get rough. And that’s not the approach needed to defeat Darhk. So after Oliver’s session crashed and burned we were left to wonder what would happen when Oliver came in contact with Darhk.
But luckily Oliver had that experience under his belt when he faced Darhk later in Star City in order to save Lyla from what we can only assume was death. The two battled a little bit, but Darhk eventually got his hands on Oliver and we saw as he began to drain the life out of him threatening his loved ones in the process. But then something strange happened: Oliver was able to fend off Darhk’s magic, which as you can imagine left Darhk shocked beyond unreasonable doubt. Yeah, he wasn’t counting on that.
Later, Oliver opened up to Felicity about facing Darhk’s magic and overcoming it. He explained that it was because of her and Diggle, Thea, and Laurel that he was able to overcome that darkness. He heard Felicity’s voice in his head reminding him of all the good things he has in his life. He heard Diggle, Thea, and Laurel reminding him to keep fighting, to not give up, and to have hope. He was able to channel the love of the people who love him in order to fend off Darhk. That’s the key to defeating Damien Darhk. And Oliver has finally found a way to find the light inside of him. Bring it, Darhk.
John Diggle Confronts His Brother
The guilt that has been weighing on John Diggle since his brother Andy betrayed him and essentially led to his friend Laurel’s death has been overwhelming to say the very least. This was never just about Andy’s betrayal. This was about how John reacted to his brother’s betrayal. The lure of vengeance was overwhelming for John, as we saw, but as Oliver reminded him in the previous episode they can never become like the villains they fight. They need to find a way to rise above it.
John was pushed to the brink in this episode as he let his vengeance guide him for most of this episode as he ran down his brother and soon found himself being held captive by him. We watched as Andy hung Laurel’s death over his head as a means to push him to the dark side. We saw how much John let his anger and guilt overcome him and force him to do things that he wouldn’t normally do – things that John that Lyla divorced, used to do. And that was the wake-up call he needed in order to change his mindset. John was able to reign himself in before things got really bad.
But the final showdown between the Diggle brothers proved to be everything that we were introduced to in the beginning. We saw how redemption was never the plan for Andy; how he never wanted to be saved. For so long he’s lived in Darhk’s shadow and been this Ghost that it’s what he ultimately become. He was no longer John’s brother. He was something else entirely. So when push came to shove and when it became a “me or him” situation, John did what he had to do.
“I had to kill my baby brother,” John cried later to Lyla, which instantly brought me to tears. John never wanted Andy dead. He wanted him to be redeemed. Even after he betrayed him for Darhk there was still a part of John that believed that he could get through to his brother, whether that was using his son, wife, or himself. But ultimately it came down to one had to die so the other could live. And when Andy reached for his gun, John did what he had to do. But that by no means is indicative that John is a bad person. Good people have to make difficult decisions, and this was an example of that.
Now I believe that John’s path to darkness has been wrapped up with this episode. That dark path was never intended for him. He’s someone who’s lived by the justice of it all. We’ve seen how he’s turned his life around since he used to be that man; since he used to be Oliver from years back. But that doesn’t mean that what happened will be easy on John. Sure, he’s going to have Genesis to keep him and Team Arrow occupied over these final episodes. But make no mistake this is something that will forever stay with John reminding him that he has to be the best version of himself. For himself, for his family, and for Andy.
Oliver and Felicity Gain Ground
Not only did we get to see Oliver and Felicity go undercover in a casino, which brought back some serious season one vibes, but overall this episode was another step in the right direction for their inevitable reunion. When it comes to Oliver and Felicity reuniting, as I believe they will by season’s end (whether that means engagement or not remains to be seen), it’s something that hasn’t been, nor should it be, quick and painless. That breakup was one of the most painful experiences in their lives for both of them. It’s a slow, gradual process that we’ve witnessing on screen with each passing episode.
Despite them not being “together” that has never stopped Felicity from caring about Oliver, especially when he’s about to set off on a dangerous mission without any backup. Of course she was going with him because despite the circumstances, she still loves and cares about him, and they’re still a team. But it also never ceases to amaze me just how well these writers and actors know these characters and their relationship. Lines like “don’t talk to me like I’m other people” are indicative of the relationship that they have always had.
While it was Felicity who ended things and is essentially working toward being able to trust him again, Oliver is trying to better himself so that he can be the man that she deserves. These final episodes where they are finding their way back to each other are all about Oliver showing that he can be that man that lets her in completely, and it’s about Felicity being brave enough to take that risk on true love – because true love isn’t something that comes along very often. While the fear of being hurt again lingers in her mind, she needs to be willing to let go of that fear and dive in. But she does need some convincing on Oliver’s part, which we’ve seen him show hints of becoming the man that Felicity has always known him to be.
These final episodes will be crucial for Oliver and Felicity as Felicity is beginning to get a look at Oliver showing her that he can let her completely in. Whether it’s him willingly offering up information about facing Damien Darhk and overcoming his magic or opening up about his island past or his belief that he can’t be that light that he needs to be, Oliver is leaning on her the way that she wanted him to. All Felicity wants is for them to be partners in every sense of the word. They’re supposed to be a team – personally and professionally. They’re supposed to rely on each other in a way that others could only dream of. And I believe when all is said and done they’ll emerge the stronger following this.
Thea’s Perfect Nightmare
As the other members of Team Arrow found themselves delving in family matters and the mystical, Thea found herself taking a little vacation with boyfriend Alex (who remains shady as hell) away from the insanity of it all. Well, it turns out Thea got the bad end of the stick on this one as she found herself literally held captive within the walls of the Hunger Games.
Thea is smart. She knew immediately that something was off from the moment she woke up. But she went along with it for the time being before she soon discovered that this perfect world was far from perfect. It was as if she was living in some kind of alternate reality. Only it wasn’t an alternate reality: it was a protective bubble of sorts – think City of Light from The 100. And it was absolutely terrifying. She couldn’t escape it. All she could do was run into the barrier and realize that she was trapped inside a world she wouldn’t be getting outside of anytime soon and torn away from the people that she loves most.
Now, I think we can all put the pieces together: Malcolm is working with Darhk and HIVE, and a couple episodes back Darhk promised Malcolm that he’d keep him and Thea safe amidst the chaos of Genesis. And perhaps Ruvee asked her husband to allow Alex inside, as well, or perhaps it was easier to lure Thea inside with him. Or maybe he is still that shady guy we all think he is. But this was a wake-up call of sorts as it’s become so much more real now that this plan for world destruction is literally hours away from coming to pass.
Genesis Raises the Stakes
One of the criticisms from last season had to do with the overall plot that big bad Ra’s al Ghul brought with him. It didn’t have the level of intensity or personal connection that the storyline from season two with Slade Wilson and the Mirakuru soldiers had. But following this episode that gave us a glimpse at Genesis, as well as revealed the legitimate threat of it all, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m terrified heading into these final three episodes. This is the storyline I’ve been waiting for.
Now that Damien Darhk has Rubicon in his possession – and plans to use it to – this is perhaps the greatest threat that Team Arrow has faced in four seasons. If Darhk were to be successful we’re not just talking about the destruction of Star City or even the United States. We’re talking about world destruction. That’s about as high as the stakes can possibly get. And when you’re dealing with a sadistic leader endowed with mystical power it literally feels like there is nothing you can do to stop him. But we know that Team Arrow will. Somehow. They always find a way. But right now it looks pretty damn hopeless. But as a viewer I couldn’t be more excited to see Arrow return to the type of plot that hooked me and emotionally crippled me in the best way possible.
NEXT TIME ON ‘ARROW’
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.
What were your thoughts on “Genesis?”