Arrow S04E06 “Lost Souls” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Sky One, Weds 8pm
Writers: Beth Schwartz, Emilio Ortega Aldrich
Director: Antonio Negret
Essential plot points:
- Six months ago, while tampering with the miniaturisation on his suit, Ray Palmer blew the roof of his building and was apparently killed. Except, as we now see, he wasn’t.
- Fast forward to now, and Felicity is obsessed with finding Ray after decoding his message last week, an obsession that’s starting to worry Curtis and Oliver.
- Oliver’s campaign manager Alex Davis asks Thea out on a date, but gets gently KBed.
- Sara breaks the news of her latest return to her mother, but is struggling to adjust to being alive again.
- Ray makes contact with Felicity and Oliver, and reveals the suit shrunk him down to about the size of an action figure – and is being held captive by someone who wants access to his powers.
- Worried about Felicity, Oliver invites her mother, Donna, over to stay, which goes down about as well as you’d expect.
- Team Arrow launches a raid on Kord Industries to steal a piece of equipment needed to restore Ray – but in their exit, Sara brutally attacks a guard and beats him to a pulp as the blood lust takes over
- Ray is being held by Damien Darhk, who has overheard the messages to Felicity.
- During a domestic, Felicity reveals she blames herself for Ray’s plight as she’d been too busy travelling and having a happy life with Oliver to save him. Both end up seeking support: Oliver getting relationship advice from Diggle, Felicity from her mum.
- Lance asks Darhk’s help in dealing with Sara – but it’s a trap to lure Darhk out so they can trace where Ray is.
- The team, with Curtis in tow, stages a raid on the building and restores Ray to full size, with Oliver and Darhk coming face to face for the first time since the train attack. Sara loses it again and kills a guard.
- Sara decides to leave town while she works out how to deal with the blood lust.
- Felicity and Oliver make up. Awwwwwww.
- Darhk’s people reveal they’ve worked out how to recreate some of the ATOM suit’s power – which Darhk wants them to use to power up a strange circuit diagram-like design inside his mystical box.
- In flashbacks to Lian Yu, Ritter uses the orb retrieved by Constantine to illuminate secret writing in the underground chamber, then sends Oliver and Conklin to lead a party of slaves to a cove on the Island to search for something. Conklin bribes one of the slaves to attack Oliver but he fends him off and kills him… as Conklin watches from the shore.
There’s a weird tone to “Lost Souls”, which on paper absolutely shouldn’t work. It’s a thrilling race against time to rescue a friend being held hostage by Team Arrow’s moral enemy. At the same time it’s an emotional drama looking at guilt and making the wrong choices in relationships. And there’s more murder.
But it’s also laugh-out-loud funny most of the time. There’s an incredible lightness about the script from regular series writer Schwartz and relative newcomer Aldrich, and in theory that should work against the subject matter. Somehow, though, it really doesn’t, and what we get is a charming, amusing, gentle episode of Arrow which feels oddly short on peril yet somehow feels all the better for it.
The steady unfolding of the storylines at a regular rate this series continues to be perfectly judged. Bringing Ray back – looking remarkably healthy for a man who’s spent the last few weeks locked in a fish tank – and advancing Sara’s resurrection storyline (she seem to be affected far worse than Thea ever was) are both obviously primers for the Legends Of Tomorrow launch. Yet those storylines also advance other aspects of the plot; notably Felicity’s guilt providing the first shaky ground for her relationship with Oliver and Lance getting dragged in deeper with Darhk.
There’s a sense of cause and effect to the plot; serial storytelling which is underpinning the coherence of this series compared to last year. Darhk’s wider scheme and the flashback plot on the island are on the back burner for now. We get glimpses of what’s going on, but not enough to judge yet, which feels right while the focus is on the Legends launch.
There’s also an interesting sense of them building up Team Arrow for a fall. They’re all supremely confident in what they do – launching a raid on Kord’s warehouse, rescuing Ray in audacious fashion – that it feels like something’s got to go wrong for them soon. And given what we know from the season opener’s flash forward, that fall will presumably have catastrophic consequences.
But all that’s to come, one would imagine. For now, we’ve got a show building somewhere, full of confident performances and with so far a season that’s not really put a foot wrong. The pacing for the last couple of episodes has notably slowed down from the frenetic opener, but again this feels deliberate; the producers are putting all their pieces on the board for the forthcoming crossover (two weeks and counting) when we can expect it to all kick off.
It’s also great to see Echo Kellum’s engaging Curtis Holt getting more involved. He’s already been a great addition to the cast but three little moments in the episode highlight why having Mister Terrific join Team Arrow full time would be no bad thing: his seeing Oliver for the first time (“Remember: I’m married and he’s straight”), trying to work out of Oliver’s the Arrow (“It’s not you, jaw’s not right”) and him joining in on the rescue. In a show with a whole bunch of great comic performers, he’s already stolen the show.
- Ray’s back. Brandon Routh’s lovably nerdy performance last year was such an asset to the Arrowverse that his absence has been felt this year.
- Donna’s back. Charlotte Ross’s appearance as the brassy Mother Smoak last year was great fun, and there’s the tantalising prospect of her sticking around for a while this time, thanks to…
- …That scene in the bar at the end with Donna and Captain Lance. What could easily have been played for laughs is a really sweet, touching, surprisingly grown-up moment in an episode that touches on love and relationships in an interesting way.
- Felicity and Oliver’s first domestic, during the raid on Kord, is an obvious but really nicely done pull-back-and-reveal joke.
- There’s some lovely direction from Antonio Negret in this episode, especially the transitions to and from the flashbacks. It’s a notably different feeling from the last two episodes too, which is ideal.
- There’s also a nice callback back to Ray and Felicity’s relationship when Oliver won’t let Felicity do anything else until she’s had a shower and a nap.
- Spartan? C’mon, Felicity, could you not come up with a better code name for Diggle than that? It’s pretty bland. Plus, if we’re being pedantic, there’s already one (sort of) in the DC Universe – Jim Lee’s one from WildCATS and occasionally Stormwatch.
- While it’s heartening to know Kord Industries has improved its response time, would their security team really come in all guns blazing to a store room full of expensive high-tech equipment? P45s all round, I suspect…
- In a world of magic and meta humans it’s a bit churlish to complain about the science around Ray’s miniaturisation, except to say it’s all rubbish and handwavey pseudoscience, and instead complain about the obvious: if he’s been locked in that transparent box for weeks, where’s he going to the loo?
- Most of Curtis and Felicity’s scenes are played for laughs, and that’s fine because Echo Vellum and Emily Bett Rickards have great comic timing, but the plinky plonky music that gets wheeled out for every damn scene is now getting jarring. It’s like a bad ’80s ITV sitcom, for goodness sake.
And the Random:
- Ray’s fascination with insects while being shrunk down with his super suit feels like a little nod of the titfer at a certain Marvel character who made the jump to the big screen this year.
- Perhaps I’ve missed this in the previous seasons, but is this the first time we get an actual idea where Star City is? Felicity describes the building Ray’s being held in as once being the most secure on the West Coast, so presumably Central City and locally advertised tourist destination Coast City are as well. Oliver’s been bumming about Seattle in the comics recently, although it doesn’t rain enough in Star City to be Seattle.
- Kord Industries is, of course, owned by Ted Kord – we first heard about him at a fundraiser in the first season. In the comics, Ted Kord is a genius, inventor and the second Blue Beetle…
Review by Iain Hepburn. You can listen to his podcast at www.fromthesublime.com