Review: ‘Arrow’ Still ‘Haunted’ By ‘Legends,’ And No ‘Constantine’ Crossover Will Save It
Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “Haunted ”
Once initial excitement over Arrow’s official Constantine crossover abated, I had a sinking feeling. Knowing how assuredly Matt Ryan’s appearance would coincide with Sara’s Legends of Tomorrow resurrection, it seemed more than likely Arrow had crafted itself a shiny distraction to cover its most questionable move. Whether or not you believed Sara’s death inevitable as a means to Laurel’s ascent, most would agree Arrow Season 3 afforded the former a premature, and unworthy end, given the strength of Caity Lotz’s addition to the series. Reneging on that choice, only to slap a familiar face into another spinoff seemed equally misguided, particularly in light of how much Legends has siphoned away from Arrow already.
I had that same sinking feeling when interviews alluded to Oliver and Constantine having a history together; its subsequent implication that the two would had to have met in flashback, both for logistical reasons, and a more immediate dramatic relevance. The CW even asked reporters to keep that detail quiet (before the episode started leaking around the web), but an unfortunate truth remains that John and Oliver’s relationship is a huge headache for “Haunted,” and long before Arrow begs forgiveness of any confusing magic.
Constantine doesn’t even show up in the present day until after the half-way point, mostly owing to the volume of rushed flashback setup required, which itself makes unfathomably little sense in the current* context anyway. One three-hour encounter in the past, and Oliver can just call the man five years later for a quickie soul restoration? Forgiving that the two aren’t seen to exchange numbers (John at least had a business card, I guess?), nothing about the magical acts Oliver witnessed should suggest Constantine capable of undoing Sara’s current predicament, and the man himself even says he’d only attempted it once before, one year prior.
*Obviously, these details are easily explained away by additional appearances down the line, something The CW will surely pursue, but it’s absurd how quickly “Haunted” has to establish their relationship, renew it in the present day, restore Sara’s soul, and bugger off altogether.
Most infuriating of all, Season 4 barely has its own arc as of yet, to stage such an extensive appearance, and all in service of a character who has nothing to do with the series once her spinoff launches. I’m as enamored of Matt Ryan’s charisma and crossover novelty as anyone, yet all this aforementioned absurdity arrives before any consideration of Sara’s restoration itself, a bizarre and quickly-staged sequence reeking of slapdash. Quick pop through the Nanda Parbat set here, fight some demonic Leaguers and a masked Ra’s al Ghul there, pull Sara out of a hot tub, and Bob’s your uncle. A huge missed opportunity for horror, or at least some visual panache.
Buried under all of that, “Haunted” plays with an undercurrent of examining Oliver’s relationship with Laurel, which itself could signal something ominous ahead. On the one hand, Arrow Season 4 has so far made a mission of reexamining Oliver’s relationship with his teammates one by one, and it’s at least a worthwhile question how the Green Arrow might come to view Black Canary as an equal, given their respective histories. That said, in this instance Laurel’s decision to revive Sara proved so obviously terrible (multiple dead have already piled up), atop never even having consulted Oliver, he has every right to his anger. Laurel may have a point with Oliver’s repeat disregard for her personal struggles, but this was not the argument with which to explore that.
More ominous than that, “Haunted” reminds us at multiple points of Oliver and Laurel’s romantic past, even as the two reaffirm their friendly bond with a tender hug at the end. Considering how little time Arrow has had to explore Oliver and Felicity as a couple, I’m already nervous of producers sowing seeds for Oliver and Laurel to rekindle things down the line, another example of Arrow’s worst tendency to let DC continuity overrule character. It’s the same line of thinking that keeps Felicity’s investigation of Ray’s message invading unrelated episodes, all in service of storylines entirely inorganic to the characters we fell for in the first place.
On the positive side, “Haunted” did manage to keep Quentin active in the plot after last week’s stellar showcase, this time affording another unexplored pairing between he and Diggle. Their side-mission did well to bring at least some closure to the long-gestating mystery of Diggle’s brother, and the thread could likely have carried its own episode, were we not so burdened with Legends of Tomorrow setup.
It was also at least of interest to see Oliver in a new context as a struggling mayoral candidate, as well as a more forgiving brotherly role with Thea, but overall, “Haunted” was a terrible mess. I’ll admit to my own under-appreciation of NBC’s Constantine, as well as the implicit enjoyment behind two DC heroes of different networks crossing over, if only such rushed setup hadn’t cheapened that thrill.
The whole of tonight’s hour felt like a slapdash cover for everything wrong with Arrow over the past two seasons, and the real thrill will come when we’ve finally rid ourselves of this dreadful spinoff setup.
AND ANOTHER THING …
- If I’m not mistaken, Sara’s attack took place in the same alley we saw Oliver traverse in Coast City, as well as Diggle observing a H.I.V.E. target two weeks ago.
- Frustratingly tangential as the Ray plot has proven, Echo Kellum did some nice work establishing Curtis as a more distinguished character this week.
- Whatever Reiter really wants from Lian Yu, does anyone else find it odd he would so willingly let Constantine take Oliver out of the camp at gunpoint?
- Thea’s a little hard on herself, considering Malcolm served up the two League sacrifices before she had any real time to stop and consider the situation. Also, WHY WOULD YOU LEAVE HER HOSPITAL ROOM UNATTENDED?!
- It’s a bit unclear how impressive any of Constantine’s magic might be, considering the Temp FX of our screener. He made some leaves blow, maybe!
- Magic is always a tricky plot device to introduce, but the presentation of Oliver seeing a few tricks, to recognizing that Sara needs her soul back, to calling Constantine five years after the fact with such a complicated, uncertain request was ludicrous. Like … Gotham ludicrous.
- Hey, Verdant’s back! Do we know whatever happened to the Queen Mansion?
- Considering Constantine had the tattoos on his arm … why did he insist on relocating them to Oliver’s gleaming, muscular torso? Stealthy, if intentional.
Arrow Season 4 will return next Wednesday with “Lost Souls,” airing at 8:00 P.M. on The CW.
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