Review: ‘Arrow’ Finds ‘Lost Souls’ in Ray’s Return, Both Frustrating and Phenomenal
I’ve been playing a little game with Arrow fans of late, asking if anyone can tell me, without referencing any setup for Legends of Tomorrow, what Season 4 is actually about. Six episodes in, we know that Damien Darhk and H.I.V.E. have some vague, potentially mystical plans for Star City, of which Oliver now intends to run for Mayor and … that’s really as far as most people get. It’s an endless source of frustration for a series all used to adore, compounded by the last week’s lightning-quick introduction of Constantine, and solely to put Sara back in the mix.
Looking at it from the present-day, we know The CW to be laying ground and building hype for a new series in 2016, but I can’t help imagining those picking up a Season 4 Blu-ray, or binging for the first time, how odd it must seem to focus near-entirely on characters imminently moving to another show. I don’t know how directly Legends of Tomorrow will incorporate its parent series – would they?
It’s a frustrating conundrum on its own, but what’s equally difficult to process is when Season 4 actually manages to strike a proper balance, as with tonight’s “Lost Souls.” Sara required a bit more narrative heavy-lifting in her restoration, where the return of Ray Palmer wasn’t really so much about Ray at all, as much as Oliver and Felicity taking a good long look at their relationship. In earnest, it’s astonishing how well that actually shined through such a busy hour.
Oliver and Felicity weren’t designed as a romantic pairing through Arrow’s initial inception, and the series resisted leaning into that relationship as such over the years, before finally committing in the outro of Season 3. There’s always a lingering fear that a longer-term plan intends to pull the rug out and shoehorn Laurel back in her canonical role, but what “Lost Souls” did well was to transmute Felicity’s seemingly disproportional irritation over Ray into a very real conflict for her and Oliver.
We never really saw much of Felicity’s personal life or immediate past before joining Team Arrow full time, but the idea of an all-encompassing love does tend to overwrite one’s sense of self, ostensibly Felicity’s defining trait from the beginning. It was especially smart to root those fears in the more immediately relevant past, disappearing into Oliver and suburbia long enough to miss out on Ray’s immediate distress, even neglecting a meteoric professional rise that college Felicity would stand in awe of.
This was a busy episode overall, and even more surprising is that the ultimate wisdom came from Donna, brushing away her daughter’s fear of losing herself by assuring that Oliver had done the same, and they’d find a new balance as partners. Near of every angle garnered equal service as well, between the adorable mid-mission bickering, the quieter, more intimate scenes, and even allowing Oliver and Diggle to renew their bro-bond over whiskey in the new lair.
The only aspect that felt particularly underserved came from Sara’s return to active duty, a laughably premature insistence of Laurel’s among a string of terrible decisions this season. Had Season 4 more time on its hands, Sara’s recovery could easily have filled its own episode, or at least spread out over a few, given the impact of her demise last year. By the time she walked in to volunteer for Ray’s rescue, I’d honestly forgotten* her presence in the story, or among the team. And fun though it was to see the three women of the team battling together, Sara of course immediately takes her grief elsewhere to Central City, presumably to set up the Flash portion of this year’s crossover, etc., etc.
*You know a storyline fails to resonate when the flashbacks offer more to chew on, and on that note, kudos at least for carrying over Constantine’s presence to open up a more mystical side of Baron Reiter’s activities.
I can’t stress the relief Arrow Season 4 will feel once Legends kicks off on its own course through the time stream, but “Lost Souls” at least offered a refreshingly well-built hour in the meantime, knowing exactly the right emotional beats to emphasize. Should Felicity turn out to be the one in that grave, the tenderness on display tonight will feel that much worse in retrospect, but we’ll at least have “Chatty Cathy.”
AND ANOTHER THING …
- I doubt “Lost Souls” would suffer the absence of Thea’s bookends accepting Alex’s invitation for a date, but all in pursuit of a “normal” life, I guess.
- “You’re married, he’s straight. You’re married, he’s straight.”
- Lots of transitions from stuff, into similarly shaped stuff. Directing!
- Somewhat amusing that Ray’s de-shrinking salvation lay in Kord Industries, home to the same Ted Kord his character was initially envisioned as.
- Did Laurel confirm that Star City exists at least somewhere on the West Coast? Where does that put Central Ci - oh, I get it.
- Timely SPECTRE reference.
- Okay, Quentin and Donna. Long-shipped, but is Charlotte Ross actually sticking around long enough for that to matter?
- Thoughts on Darhk’s foldy … schematic-looking … evil board game?
- Why in the world would the below promo reveal … what it reveals?
Arrow Season 4 will return next Wednesday with “Brotherhood,” airing at 8:00 P.M. on The CW.
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