Arrow: “Genesis” Season 4 Episode 20 Review

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It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when Arrow hit its creative peak. Each season has been far from perfect, but has stretches of episodes where things just clicked. I have a feeling most would say the end of season two, from Moira’s death to Deathstroke’s siege of the city to the villain’s eventual defeat. But I think it goes back a little farther. The moment that sticks out most to me in this series is at the very end of season one when Oliver realizes that Malcolm Merlyn’s plan to destroy the Glades actually worked. It was a shocking moment of a hero’s failure. Oliver had failed his city. Comparatively to now and season two and three before it, season one’s stakes were dire but attainable. The Glades being destroyed wouldn’t make season two have to jump through hoops just to make sense, where Deathstroke couldn’t actually maintain control of Starling City past season two and Ra’s al Ghul couldn’t actually destroy the city. There was an unpredictability to that first season finale that actually paid off.  

With “Genesis,” Damien Darhk’s plan is finally revealed. He’s playing both God and Noah from the famous Biblical tale. His flood is a nuclear strike that wipes out the planet, and his ark is a huge biosphere beneath the surface of Star City. This plan is bigger any of the one’s in seasons past, which is why there’s no tension. The world isn’t going to blow up in Arrow season four, not only ending this show, but also The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. Frankly, that’s fine. Arrow is a lot more fun now than it was in season one. But man, a marriage of season one’s grounded stakes and season four’s levity would be one hell of a season of this show (some might argue that occurred in season two, and I wouldn’t fight them too hard).

Tension is also ripped away from this season because we’ve likely already been given Oliver’s avenue to defeating Darhk. Visiting an immortal shaman (you have to love how kooky this show got), Oliver learns that the way to fight Darhk’s, uh, darkness, is with light. The tattoo Constantine gave him allows Oliver to tap into this magical energy to some degree, but if he lets darkness consume him, he’ll only make Darhk more powerful, instead of sapping his energy when light consumes him. It’s nuts, but at least Arrow is connecting its dots a lot better than The Flash this season. Somehow, this show has earned a shaman telling Oliver to channel his light to defeat a villain. It might be because the shaman hilariously tells Felicity to shut up while trying to train Oliver. He fails of course. We still have a few episodes to go until this showdown. But the show betrays its own tension building later in the episode when Green Arrow and Darhk do come face to face and Oliver’s light magic in fact works. I’m now significantly less interested in the rest of the season. But it’ll hopefully at least be a fun ride to the finish.

Yet the crux of this episode is around the Diggle family. John and Andy are on opposite sides of a war. John’s side has already seen a casualty, so perhaps it’s time to even the score. But the brothers’ quarrel is merely a game to get Darhk close to Lyla so he can get Rubicon, that supposedly very dangerous thing Amanda Waller was talking about many episodes ago. He succeeds of course, just before Oliver pushes him away with light magic. But the far more surprising outcome of this fight is John killing his brother. For all of Andy’s back and forth motives this season, John kills him in a moment of weakness. I’m interested to see how this will affect him, and how it may change Oliver’s perception on killing Darhk for revenge for Laurel.

Meanwhile, something fishy is going on with Thea’s vacation. She’s hearing bird and dog noises on a loop and her boyfriend has those yellow mind control pills we’ve seen Darhk dishing out. She’s essentially in a much creepier version of The Truman Show that turns out to be Darhk’s ark. This leaves the team down another member going into the final episodes, which is one of the only things in this episode that works to raise the tension.

Still, the parts of “Genesis” come together to make a coherent and effective whole. There’s fun in Oliver and Felicity’s magical journey, something genuinely unsettling in Thea’s situation, and serious drama in the Diggle family happenings. Darhk’s endgame may be boring, but the road to getting there has been more fun than in seasons past. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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