Arrow S04E18 “Eleven-Fifty-Nine” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Sky One, Weds 8pm
Writers: Marc Guggenheim, Keto Shimizu
Director: Rob Hardy
Essential plot points:
- Andy retrieves his gun from John Diggle’s safe, then reveals to his brother that Malcolm Merlyn approach him to help break Damien out of prison by hijacking a shipment of Paveway missiles.
- Oliver, Thea and Laurel attend Ruvé’s acceptance speech after winning the mayoral election – where they learn that 48% of the write-in ballots still voted for Oliver. Ruvé offers Laurel the position of district attorney for Star City.
- Acting on Andy’s intelligence, Oliver and Diggle fend off an attack by the League of Assassins on the Paveway shipment, but it’s a ruse designed to get them out the Lair while Malcolm and his forces storm it – and steal back Damien’s idol.
- Oliver doesn’t trust Andy, thinking he’s playing Team Arrow on behalf of Hive.
- Captain Lance warns Laurel if she takes the DA job she’ll have to give up being the Black Canary, as her movements would be even more scrutinised, leaving Laurel with a dilemma.
- Andy follows Merlyn to an abandoned factory, but when the team get there it’s empty – and booby trapped. Andy throws himself in front of Oliver to save him from one of the traps.
- Malcolm takes the idol to Darhk in prison, but it turns out to be incomplete with a key piece missing and kept separately as an insurance policy.
- Oliver follows Andy back to Diggle’s apartment where he finds him searching the room, claiming he’s looking for bugs. But Oliver thinks Andy’s looking for the missing idol piece. He starts to torture Andy to find out what HIVE are up to, but John interrupts, pulls a gun on Oliver and forces him off his brother. The two have an almighty dust-up, and John warns that Oliver’s returning dark nature is what forced Felicity to leave him.
- Damien stages a breakout at the Iron Heights, with armed prisoners taking the guards hostage. Team Arrow breaks into the prison to take him out, with John bringing Andy along as back-up.
- They confront Damien, who reveals Andy is still working for them – he has found the final part of the idol and hands it over to Damien, who regains some of his old powers. Before he can kill the team, Thea – who had been fighting Malcolm elsewhere in the prison, pops up and puts two arrows in Damien’s chest.
- A dying Damien sacrifices one of his men and uses the life energy to restore himself. Fully powered up, he holds the team at bay, then uses one of the arrows Oliver fires at him as a blade to stab Laurel. Revealing he knows who everyone in the team is, he escapes as Oliver rushes Laurel to hospital.
- She undergoes surgery and appears to be recovering as Team Arrow gather at her bedside – except for her father who has been detained by police. As she speaks privately to Oliver though, she appears to arrest, and attempts to resuscitate her fail. Lance arrives at the hospital just too late…
- In flashbacks to Lian Yu, Oliver and Taiana get back to the cell complex under the island before Reiter, and set off explosives to bury him – and the idol, which is the same one Damien Darhk now uses. They make a vow that if one of them doesn’t make it off the island, the other will visit the dead one’s family and tell them of their heroism.
So after a couple of, by Arrow standards, slight holding episodes, we shift back up through the gears with a hugely significant and dramtic episode that genuinely changes the dynamic of the show.
Killing off a key cast member isn’t a new thing on TV, but so far Arrow’s exit storylines have largely been for guest cast or peripheral figures in the story of Oliver Queen – even his mother, important though Moira was. The only key character to genuinely exit so far has been Roy Harper – and even he managed to come back earlier this season.
So to kill off one of the members of Team Arrow properly underlines the high stakes game that Oliver’s crusade against Hive is displaying. We’ve had a couple of episodes of Damien Darhk being powerless behind bars. Now we’re reminded just what a nasty piece of work he really is. It also, finally, gives resolution to the issue of just whose grave it is that Oliver and Barry are standing beside at the start of the episode. Or does it…?
Laurel’s exit is pretty well telegraphed. From the start, with her being offered the District Attorney’s job by new mayor Ruvé and considering giving up her mask, to the moment she says this will be one last outing for the Canary, it’s pretty clear that Katie Cassidy’s time as a regular in Team Arrow is over. It’s reminiscent of those old war films when a character proclaims he’s on his final mission and looking forward to getting home to his family.
Basically, the usual rule of thumb is, if someone in a high stakes story says they’re looking forward to returning to civilian life and taking up playing the piano again, don’t be buying them gloves for Christmas.
Yet there’s the dangling suggestion even this exit isn’t final. We don’t know what her final request to Oliver is before checking out, but there’s a reasonable chance that’ll be addressed in a future episode – and in a show with immortality, resurrection pits and magical idols, a return for Laurel wouldn’t be a surprise.
I wouldn’t complain either. At times Cassidy has been the weak link in the show’s cast, but this season has seen both the character and her performance grow to the point of her exit having genuine weight and emotion. In a season that’s put the team through the physical and emotional wringer, the timing of killing Canary hits home hard.
Indeed, after two relatively fluffy episodes, “Eleven-Fifty-Nine” has far more punch. Damien’s out of prison and more powerful than ever, something that has brought yet another show-stealing performance from Neal McDonough as Darhk, and the alliance between the head of HIVE and the remaining League of Assassins loyalists under Malcolm Merlyn creates a threat that feels infinitely more dangerous than Mirakuru supersoldiers or immortal ninjas.
Darhk this season has been portrayed as more than a cackling Bond villain, and someone who delivers on his threats. Now Damien’s worked out who his opponents are, it makes this final five episodes feel significantly more climactic.
- We praise Cassidy and McDonough above, but really everyone in the cast ups their acting performance a notch here. Stephen Amell, David Ramsey and Eugene Byrd as Andy all produce gripping turns. Kudos to all involved in the episode, and director Rob Hardy for coaxing the performances from them.
- The flashback action sequences are far more interesting than this week’s variations on a Big Fight In A Warehouse (specifically, a Big Fight In A Prison and a Big Fight In The Arrowcave), with Amell getting to show off his Jason Bourne skills.
- Where the hell’s Curtis? Last week spent an entire episode setting him up as the new Overwatch, handling computer and HQ stuff for the team. But now, in circumstances where they’d need him, like raiding HIVE… he’s not there, and the team prove more than capable of hacking cameras and networks without him.
- It’s a crazy NINE minutes until we get the Arrow logo at the start of the episode, meaning the entire first act is effectively the pre-credits sequence, managing to throw in flashbacks, a major fight sequence AND two key plot developments. Which is fine, except that the cut to the Arrow theme and logo then feels really weird after that long, don’t bother at all.
- You’d think the assistant District Attorney of Star City and someone who comes into the hospital dying while dressed as a vigilante, in the arms of the Green Arrow might be afforded a better room than the same hospital room used in EVERY episode. Private healthcare, eh?
And the Random:
- Rob Hardy returns to the Arrowverse, having previously helmed season two’s “Blast Radius” and last year’s “Draw Back Your Bow”, along with two instalments of The Flash. A highly acclaimed TV director, he’s been a busy lad this year, working on everything from Empire to black-ish and Grey’s Anatomy.
- It’s not truly the end for Katie Cassidy in the Arrowverse. She’ll be back as Laurel in this year’s Vixen web cartoon (explaining why the two characters knew each other in Arrow this year), and popping up in The Flash as her alternate universe self.
- Ruvé’s campaign posters use QR codes at the bottom. Proof, surely that she’s an evil monster…
Review by Iain Hepburn. You can listen to his podcast at www.fromthesublime.com