And sometimes Berlanti seems to take notes as to how his fans are feeling towards some of his other series. Last season, ‘Arrow’, the flagship series that started Berlanti’s takeover of the format, took pangs for going pretty dark, even by the standards of DC. So, Berlanti took his hero Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), whose alter identity was exposed last season, and had him ride off into the sunset with his girlfriend/tech support Felicity. And they lived happily ever after… for about six months.
But things in Star City have been getting notably worse, not only following the crisis of last season’s actions, but due to the arrival of a new threat, the Ghosts, commanded by the mystical Damien Dahrk (Neal McDonough, in his best role since his stint on Justified) who seems determined to bring order, even if that includes a lot of deaths as a result. So, not entirely reluctantly, Ollie and Felicity return, only to find that there are a lot of problems still waiting for them. Jon Diggle, the closest thing Oliver had to a best friend fighting crime, still doesn’t fully trust him, considering his action in the final third of the season 3. Thea is still experiencing bouts of darkness from her near death and resurrection at the hands of Ras al Ghul last season. And Laurel Lance has been keeping secrets of her own—- learning of the power of the Lazurus pit, she decided to bring her murdered sister Sara back to life, only to find having done so that she is not even a shell of her former self.
Trying to deal with things into the light has not been much easier for some of the other people. Oliver has adapted his new persona of the Green Arrow and has decided that he has to try and lead the city by running for Mayor— a position that hasn’t been filled since the last mayor was murdered. Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) has found herself the CEO of Palmer Technology (her former boyfriend Ray Palmer died mysteriously in the season finale of Season 3) and she has been tasked with the job of trying to rebuild the company while learning what might happened to her former boyfriend. And Captain Bert Lance, now finds himself making a deal with the devil himself—- Dahrk, which Oliver learned about in the most recent episode.
Already, this season seems to be a lot brighter than the last one, with hints of even more joy as the season unfolds. Berlanti has been perhaps the most brilliant user of crossovers since Joss Whedon was running ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel, and has already laid the groundwork for some remarkable back and forth. As if that weren’t enough to delight the average comic book fan, next week’s episode promises an arrival by John Constantine, from the recently departed NBC series. What makes these series special is the fact that they are never being done just for show. Berlanti has always expressed interests in telling multi-level complex stories and while ‘Flash’ has demonstrated great ability, ‘Arrow’ has mastered it first. And anyone who considers these series merely comic books clearly doesn’t pay enough attention. (Paul Blackthorne alone had a scene in last night’s episode when he confronted the fact of his daughter’s inhumanity that by itself was worth an Emmy nomination.)
It’s still not a perfect series. The flashbacks to Oliver’s life before his return to Star City have been become less pertinent and more reminiscent of the early days of ‘Lost’: one is starting to wonder why they’re relevant. And the series still doesn’t quite know how to use all it’s characters flawlessly— John Barrowman, so brilliant last season, has been regulated to near cameo status. But these are still minor complaints as one watches a modern epic begin to unfold.
My score:4.25 stars.