In Darhk-ist night…

And we’re back, starting with a familiar scene of Oliver running through the trees with a green hood over his head…only its a lighter, calmer shade of green, attached to a sweatshirt, and as the music pulls back on the intensity, Oliver bursts out of the “woods” and onto a suburban street. Suddenly, we realize we are not in Starling City anymore. (of course, the city is now called Star City, but we do not know that yet). We see scenes of domestic bliss with Oliver and Felicity, highlighting her complete lack of skill in the kitchen, and Oliver’s apparent talent for cooking. Its a little schmaltzy, but it is nice to see the two characters happy, even if we can tell Felicity seems to have something else on her mind. During a brunch with new friends, we learn Oliver is preparing to propose to Felicity using his mother’s old ring, and we can tell Oliver has changed. That night, after making her an epic meal, he slips the ring into the dessert, and just as he is about to let her find the ring, and pop the question, the doorbell rings. We knew it was too good to last.

Over in the newly renamed Star City (whose named was changed in honor of the late Ray Palmer, who we all know is not really dead), the revamped (and more democratically run) Quiver Crew is on the hunt, going after new baddies in town code-named ‘Ghosts’. The team takes down a stolen truck whose cargo is unknown, but the ghosts have back-up, which easily recovers the stolen goods, and causes Team Arrow to retreat. Meanwhile Captain Lance, the DA and other remaining city officials have an emergency meeting, to discuss the disintegration of their city, and how it is losing money, people, and hope. They cannot find a new person to be mayor due to the untimely deaths of the last two individuals who hold the post, and they know Star City is just barely surviving. At that moment they are visited by the season’s new Big Bad, Damien Darhk, who warns them to let Star City die or suffer his wrath, a wrath that will also extend to their friends and family.

When Laurel catches the story from the D.A., she enrolls the Quiver Crew to protect the city officials at that meeting, as the city leaders will not give in to Darhk. Unfortunately, all of the officials are found and killed by Darhk and his ghosts, except for Captain Lance, who was saved by Laurel, but still managed to take a bullet in his arm. Back at the new Team Arrow HQ (which might be temporary based on the illustrations of a much better HQ released over the summer), Laurel and Thea discuss the issues at hand, realizing they need help to deal with the ghosts, but Diggle, still unable to let go of the events of last season, does not want them to get Oliver. He believes they can handle it on their own. Which leads back to who was ringing the doorbell at the Queen/ Smoake residence.

Thea and Laurel enter, apologize for not calling ahead, and inform Oliver and Felicity of all that is going on, with Felicity more than ready to head back and help, tired of her only computer interactions being teleconference meetings due to her status as the CEO of Palmer Technologies. Oliver agrees but only for temporary help, just to stop the ghosts and then they will return to their suburban life. They return to Star City, with Oliver dismayed at how far his city has fallen, and at Diggle’s reaction to his return, which is frosty at best. Felicity uses her skills to track what was in the cargo the ghosts stole, learning they were cluster bombs, new tech that could destroy entire city blocks. Oliver comments to Felicity how easily she slipped back into the role of team Hacker, and realizes that she has been helping the team in secret the whole time they were away, using convenient lies to keep Oliver in the dark. He is annoyed that a part of her was always in Star City even when they tried to get away and build a life together, and she reveals how much she missed helping people and saving the city, and that she suspects Oliver missed it as well. At the Diggle home, we learn Lyla has already gotten over what happened with Oliver last season, and she reminds Jon that it was war, and that in war, people do what they have to do. She also reminds Dig that if Oliver were perfect, he would not need Jon, Jon is there to keep Oliver honest.

The team, reunited now with Oliver (who does not want to don a costume just yet), uses the GPS trackers Felicity found on the bombs and tracks the ghosts and Darhk to yet another Star City abandoned warehouse, where they see Darhk berate the man in charge of the truck assault, who almost lost the bombs to Team Arrow. Darhk reveals his mystical powers by draining the life out of the man, but it interrupted by the attack of Team Arrow, who take down all the men they can before Star City PD shows up. Oliver sees Thea (aka Speedy) go a little crazy on one of the men, pulling out her sword for the final kill, and stops her aggression, but Oliver realizes something is very wrong with his sister. Quentin spots Oliver under his ski-mask, and we can see him dread the return of his least favorite vigilante.

Later, Laurel speaks to her father about working together to figure out where the ghosts are going to use the bombs, and Lance suggests a new train station connecting Star and Central Cities that was opening soon, which the Team realizes is the most likely place the attack will happen. Lance also warns Laurel about going up against the ghosts, saying that she needs to steer clear of them. While it is nice to see Laurel and her father on better terms, I do wish we could have seen where the reconciliation with them started, as their rift last season was very dark. Team Arrow heads to the train station to search for bombs, with Star City PD showing up later to do the same. Lance runs into Oliver and berates him for being the one to start all the darkness in Star City, saying that he was a monster, and that he inspired other monsters to spring up. (which in my opinion is unfair, as if Oliver has not returned and become the Arrow, the Initiative still would have happened, as Malcolm Merlyn was already a costumed vigilante long before Oliver showed up. Merlyn is the monster that started all of this.) No one discovers any hint of a bomb at the station, and when Oliver returns to Felicity, they discuss Lance’s words, and Felicity tells Oliver he can be a new kind of hero now, one who can inspire people. She says he can be better than he was before.

Shortly afterward, the team realizes they did not find bombs at the station as they bombs are on the train coming into the station, and they set off to stop the ghosts’ plan. Diggle and Oliver speak briefly about how Diggle thinks Oliver is incapable of trust, or of being a better man, and that Diggle should not have been surprised by what Oliver did last season, as Oliver met the darkness of Ras Al Ghul with his own darkness. Felicity meanwhile, unveils to Oliver his new costume, designed by Cisco before he knew Oliver was retiring. Now fully suited up, Oliver and Diggle head out to stop the train, while Speedy and Canary are on crowd control at the station, working with the SCPD to evacuate all the civilians.

On the train, Oliver confronts Damien Darhk, who is personally overseeing the bomb delivery. Darhk is surprised to learn a new Arrow is in town, and shows off his mystical powers by stopping all of Oliver’s arrows dead before they can hit him. They engage in hand to hand combat where we see the skills and power of Darhk, who bests Oliver and begins to suck out his life forced, stopped only by the timely arrival of Diggle, who shoots Darhk with what looks like a tranq dart. (Why couldn’t he just shoot the villain?) Oliver and Diggle escape, and blow up the train, saving the station and all the people there.

Oliver and Felicity decided to stay in town, with Oliver hijacking the airwaves to announce his intention to become a new hero for the city, the Green Arrow, who will inspire people to be better. Diggle remains wary around Oliver, but knows his help will be needed, and as for Felicity and Oliver, they move into Thea’s old apartment, as Speedy moved in with Laurel following her “death” by Ras Al Ghul in the old place. We see Oliver hide the engagement ring in a bowl of marbles, and we know for now, the nuptials are off the table. Things have changed between the pair.

At Darhk’s HQ, we see him beginning a dark blood ritual when he is interrupted by a guest, Quentin Lance, and we learn Lance is in league with Darhk, the gunshot wound to the arm happening to throw people off track. Lance does not seem entirely happy to be working with Darhk, and their alliance is sure to be explained later. For now, Darhk demands to know everything Lance knows about the new Green Arrow, and threatens Lance’s family and friends if he does not get what he wants. Which of course is sure to spell trouble for all of Team Arrow in the future.

In the flashbacks, which seem better so far than what we dealt with last year, Oliver is attempting to be a hooded vigilante in Coast City, failing miserably at it, when he is found by Amanda Waller, who praises Oliver for the work he did on torturing General Shrieve last season. She drugs him, all while claiming she is trying to help, and Oliver wakes up on a plane, where he is handed a parachute and forced to jump by armed ARGUS agents. Right before he is kicked off the ramp, he looks down and realizes it is Lian Yu below him. He lands on the island (the bane of his existence) and is immediately captured.

In the episode aftermath, set 6 months after Oliver becomes the Green Arrow, we see Oliver at a fresh grave, tears in his eyes. He is joined by Barry Allen (aka the Flash), who apologizes for being late. Oliver swears to kill the man responsible, and when Barry asks if he needs anything, Oliver says he simply needs to be alone. We never see whose grave it is, but the ramifications are huge.


* For Barry to realize the importance of his presence at the funeral, the grave has to belong to either Felicity, Thea or Diggle, in my opinion. Since Diggle and Felicity are original creations of the show, it stands to reason they are the most expendable, even if they are clearly the fan favorites.

* With Darhk’s mystical powers, it is no wonder Constantine will be making an appearance in Star City, though hopefully we might also get to see Doctor Fate, who is basically the Doctor Strange of the DC Universe.

* Clearly Thea’s aggression is the first symptom of whatever goes wrong with a person after they leave the Lazarus Pit. Only question is why it took so long for the symptoms to manifest.

Excellent start to the season, and definitely feels like the show could be returning to form after the ups and downs of last season. The flash-forward definitely sets some stakes for the season, as really anyone can die, and I hope the introduction of mystical elements helps breath some fresh life into the show, as the challenges will be greater than villains with super-strength or advanced martial arts training, which we already know the team can handle. Eagerly awaiting the next episode!