Review: ‘Arrow’ Desperately Needs Its Own ‘Restoration’ Before ‘Legends’
Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “Restoration”
I spent the better part of last week’s Arrow review frustrated by all the dumb decisions at work, between Laurel haphazardly digging up a corpse to throw in an international magic hot tub, or Oliver ludicrously opting to run for Mayor, and came prepared to do the same tonight. “The Candidate” didn’t have enough going on emotionally to balance all its heavy-handed setup, and that too almost came back to haunt “Restoration,” albeit through different means. There was a lot to chew on, and some really nostalgic opining for the show’s early team dynamic, if only all this Legends of Tomorrow setup weren’t hogging the spotlight.
As a series, Arrow needed to cut itself off from the Lazarus Pit before the flash-forward’s impending death, just as surely as Sara needed to return for her spinoff, and “Restoration” ends up short-changing the rehabilitation of Oliver and Diggle’s bond all the more for it. The same could be said of Felicity’s mysterious phone troubles building up to signs of Ray’s survival, certainly a smaller (no pun intended) distraction, but one that interrupts the flow of scene-work nonetheless, or order to pay off later. It’s the same kind of criticism increasingly leveled at the Marvel movies, and just like Thor’s cave rave in Age of Ultron, the overall story absolutely suffers for the setup.
The Diggle angst in particular arises as a necessary holdover from Season 3, and really tugs at the core relationships of the series, so much so that it felt rushed for Oliver and Dig to replenish their bro-bond with little more than a shouting match, quick mission and a card trick. Felicity’s recurring nostalgia throughout the hour made for some strong setup, as did Emily Bett Rickards’ impressively forceful demand that both men hash out their issues, and those were the scenes and connections “Restoration” deserved to live in, rather than spend so much of its runtime in Nanda Parbat.
The problem with Sara’s return arc isn’t complicated, but purely functional in its setup, and simultaneously damaging of Laurel’s growth over the last season. Thea, Nyssa, Malcolm, all of them practically scream at Laurel to reconsider her decision at one point or another (let alone what Oliver or Quentin would say), and a more thought-out arc would see Laurel at least devote an episode or two of consideration to the matter. But nope, Sara needs to return before December, and get back to her old self, just like Ray needs to return, while everything we’ve come to love about Arrow takes a backseat to Legends of Tomorrow.
For that reason, everything about Laurel and Thea’s journey to Nanda Parbat feels like an afterthought, whether how they transported the body, what the League of Assassins even does these days, what hilariously dilapidated state their compound security must be in, or Thea’s evidently incurable* bloodlust. Just like Oliver’s mayoral campaign, Arrow seems to have its sights on a target at the story’s end, rather look in the moment at the wildly impractical shot it takes to get there.
*You’re warned of some serious speculation, but tonight’s Arrow might have tipped its hand to the grave Oliver and Barry will overlook in the coming months. Were Thea truly unable to purge her need to kill, that would surely make her incompatible with Oliver and Arrow’s present-day vision of heroism, and therefore in need of writing off.
Malcolm also mentioned a potential cure of killing one’s tormentor, something the revived Sara clearly sought for Thea, and that would seem to tie off the various loose ends. Thea no longer a killer, unable to be revived, Sara’s reason to jump to Legends, a devastating blow for Oliver, and a gravesite Barry would attend, but not break down at. Just speculation, but it might work.
Everything else this week had a harder time fitting in as well, the chemistry and light interplay between Felicity and Echo Kellum’s Curtis Holt paying off in spades (really sorry about these unintentional puns) for Arrow’s new tonality, however disparate its jaunty music feels sandwiched between scenes of throat-slicing. The flashbacks too aren’t offering much beyond the usual thematic bullseye with present-day events, but it’s still early yet, and the island operation at least feels less busy than Season 3’s Hong Kong venture.
I really wanted to enjoy everything about this week’s outing, and like Diggle, get back to placing trust in Arrow after last year. “Restoration” felt so much closer to the Arrow we used to love, focusing on the strong relationships and interplay of its core three, with some reasonably solid action all-around. If Season 4 could only get out from under its latest spinoff’s shadow, we might have a resurrection worth rooting for.
AND ANOTHER THING …
- Was the energy between Malcolm and Nyssa … flirty, at first? Are they married by association now? That’s so much weirder than forcing her to marry Oliver.
- Problem with introducing your big bad off the bat: Why has Damien Darhk spent two weeks outsourcing goals he could easily accomplish himself?
- So, what do we make of the H.I.V.E. goon’s DNA? Some kind of figurative drone/clone?
- Was Diggle staking out the same alley in which Oliver fell through Coast City two weeks ago?
- You know, I tried to make it through this without laughing at the absurdity of a villain throwing razor-sharp playing cards. Oliver defeated Ra’s al Ghul, but couldn’t handle projectiles slower than gunfire. That’s what you get for ditching sleeves, bruh.
- Incidentally, how did Doubledown catch up to Felicity and Curtis in the lair so quickly?
- Diggle didn’t just get a shiny retractable visor, but also a Batman voice!
Arrow Season 4 will return next Wednesday with the Canary-tastic “Beyond Redemption,” airing at 8:00 P.M. on The CW.
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