Arrow: 4.01 Green Arrow
Last season on Arrow it was all change. Roy left for good. The Arrow was 'killed off' in the public eye. Thea joined the ranks of superheroes as Speedy / Red Arrow and Laurel finally took on her sister's mantle as Black Canary. But perhaps most significantly, Oliver and Felicity drove off into the sunset to live out their days happily ever after.
Except of course it was never going to be the end and despite Oliver's best efforts to adapt to suburban life and make souffles, poor Felicity missed all the drama of Starling City and was secretly helping the rest of the team fight crime back home. And so despite his attempt to propose to her with a giant engagement ring their happily ever after was cut short with the arrival of Laurel and Thea. Not surprisingly, Felicity was ready to jump back into the action, even if took a little longer for Oliver to come around.
I'm not sure at this stage the 'ghosts' were anything worse that what Starling City (rebranded Star City in honour of the late, great Ray Palmer; Atom can't really be dead, he's going over to Legends Of Tomorrow) had faced, though the man behind them was certainly an exciting new foe.
Neal McDonough was a proper evil villain in Damien Darkh, no moral compass lurking within but a desire to control, kill and generally sow chaos wherever he went. He even had a few nasty tricks up his sleeve too, from the lifeforce-sucking hand to the chest technique to his ability to stop Oliver's arrows mid-air. The show has toyed with mysticism before but this was at another level and ultimately proved to be a strong enough reason for Oliver to stay by the episode's end.
Not to mention the fact that the rest of Team Arrow weren't doing that well without, well, the Arrow. Despite a spectacular highway assault on the a stolen truck in the opening, Diggle (donning a new Magento-style helmet), Speedy (Thea) and Black Canary (Laurel) failed to stop the ghosts from winning and proceeding to eliminate the leading members of the city's de facto council. Diggle continued to remain furious at Oliver, though considering he kidnapped his wife and abandoned his baby daughter, that isn't really surprising. And Thea was clearly having too much fun this episode beating bad guys to a pulp. I wonder, is this the effects of her resurrection from the Lazarus Pit that was alluded to but never really seen last season? Or does share share her brother - and father's dark nature? Surprisingly, it was Laurel who seemed the most assured this week - physically and mentally.
Just like the first episode of this season's The Flash was about bringing Barry back into the fold, this was about Oliver's triumphant return, emerging not as Arrow but Green Arrow, the new hero of Star City. The lighter tone of his costume reflected the lighter tone of Oliver's personality too. His "You have failed this omelette." line to Felicity was a perfect sign that this season wasn't going to take itself quite as seriously as the last, which is a very good thing.
And like last year's shocking murder of Sara, this opener had not one but three intriguing twists to keep audiences hooked for the rest of the season. In the flashback sequence (arguably more engaging than any of last season's) Oliver found himself literally dumped back on the island by Amanda Waller, suggesting these scenes were going to hark back to season two's highs. In the present a hero became a potential villain as Quentin revealed himself to be working for Darkh and HIVE - for the first time in a while I am excited to see what Arrow does with his character.
And then we flash forwarded to the future and Oliver at a gravestone of someone close to him. Thea, Laurel or Felicity. The arrival of Barry Allen at the end suggests that it might be the latter and that raises the stakes for the season even further. I also loved Barry's distraction due from fighting his own upcoming big bad Zoom (and the mention of Flash Day) building on the wider universe of both shows.
Green Arrow was a confident season opener with an exciting new villain, a nice overdue injection of humour, some bold twists and the promise of great things to come. If season three was more decisive, than season four looks set to right those wrongs and deliver something quite special.