Arrow: 4.18 Eleven-Fifty-Nine
Warning: Huge Spoilers in this review. Read on at your peril...
This week we got the answer to this year's big question. Who is in the grave? And it all came at the hands of the season villain Damien Darkh, doing something that his season three predecessor Ra's Al Ghul could never do; killing a principal character and enacting a permanent, devastating blow on Team Arrow. Admittedly his victim was the obvious candidate; the mid-season opener has already established that it wasn't the obvious choice Felicity and Thea had already gone through the a resurrection (the closest Ra's came). Quentin's death wouldn't have made as much of an impact and it would have been particularly cruel to kill off Diggle, particularly given his wife Lyla's connection to ARGUS.
Admittedly it didn't quite have the punch of Slade Wilson running Moira Queen through with a sword in season two and perhaps that was because we all knew that death was coming. I wonder how much of shock it would have been if Darhk and delivered on his promise to Quentin and killed Laurel without the flash forward grave scenes. It may have made Laurel's final scenes all the more cruel as she seemed to recover after surgery before relapsing and dying before her horrified friends. Regardless, it was still a nasty twist, particularly for Quentin who failed to get to see his daughter before the end. I am intrigued to see how her death impacts the team and the rest of the season - please no resurrection arc though. With the Lazarus Pit destroyed any attempt to bring Laurel back would feel like a retread of both Sara and Thea's stories and make any death in the show feel pointless.
I will admit that I will be sad to see Katie Cassidy go though. Her character had been one that the writers often seemed to struggle with, first as an on-off romantic angle for Oliver before they finally made the right choice to pair him with Felicity. And after being in the dark as to Oliver's secret identity for two seasons, the third season felt like a desperate rush to get her to her comic role of becoming the Black Canary.
But this season she felt like a more natural addition to Team Arrow and a worthy hero. We also saw her in court, showing her skills as an assistant DA (something I wish we had seen more of) and a reconnection with Oliver in recent weeks that was long overdue. The tease of giving up the role of Black Canary to become the city's District Attorney (even if it was partly motivated by the desire to infiltrate the evil inner circle of newly elected mayor (and Darhk's wife) Ruvé Adams was an interesting one. Finally she was becoming an essential character - which of course was kind of the point given her eventual fate - but I also wish we had got this much sooner. As much as the show and its fans have struggled with Laurel Lance, at least she went out a good character.
Fortunately there was also a great build up to this event as the events on the island flashbacks and the present FINALLY converged. The black idol mask Baron Reiter obtained on Lian Yu became the totem by which Darhk got his powers back. In fact the flashbacks seemed to have a little more urgency this week, even if it largely amounted to a lot of running around firing guns. Taiana asked Oliver to tell her family about her and her brother in Russia, while Oliver shared his photo of Laurel, something that came full circle in the hospital room before her death. It also of course means that Taiana won't be lasting much longer, given that Oliver had a lot of Russian connections when he returned to Star[ling] City four years ago.
The lead up to Laurel's death as Darhk's goons went on a bloody rampage through Iron Heights Prison and team Arrow launched their attack was also a great action sequence, ending not only with a critically injured Black Canary but the season's villain gone into the wind with his renewed abilities. And I'm glad Arrow went with Andy Diggle being evil, despite John's protests against Oliver. Though given how obvious it all was, it did make John Diggle seem rather stupid and I am sure he will feel that in the weeks ahead.
Malcolm is a character I have quickly tired of this series and indeed his only reason for being on the show now is Thea. Fortunately the conflict between them is escalating - including one actual physical fight between the two this episode - and I hope that, as good as John Barrowman is, the show offs his character for good by the season's end.
A lot of fans will probably feel frustrated by how Laurel Lance / Black Canary was treated on the show and I share a lot of those frustrations. She finally started to become a better character, only to be killed off, when personally I would have preferred Thea or Diggle. But it did show Laurel's strengths and proved to be a good final episode, even if her death was signposted in many ways - not least because Darhk threatened Quentin with her death at the start of the season if he ever betrayed him. I hope Arrow ups the pace now, because the stakes have been raised.