Dark Waters review – Damien strikes back

My measure for how good a finale is – either mid-season or season – would be Three Ghosts in season two. It was sharp, clever and a particular moment was pretty shocking. So, did Dark Waters get close?

The answer is both yes and no. It’s a strong episode, but it’s not without its flaws. Neal McDonough is on predictably top form as Damien Darhk, whilst we got a rather interesting team-up between two unlikely allies, though there are moments where it felt as if the episode was treading across old ground, while the cliffhanger really didn’t pack any sort of punch I imagine it intended to.

That’s not to say some of you reading this aren’t going to be shocked with that ending, I’m not knocking anyone who is. For me personally though, it didn’t sucker me in. I think that stems from both the delivery of ‘that’ moment and what the moment actually was. When comparing it to last season’s ‘The Climb’ in which Oliver was stabbed, kicked off a cliff and left for dead – that was shocking. It wasn’t something I didn’t see coming, but it was delivered in such a way that it spun around my head for quite some time afterwards. There was next to no music. Ra’s al Ghul clearly had the beating of Oliver. Yet still, you couldn’t see them doing it. You couldn’t see them ‘killing’ their lead! But they went ahead and did it.

Felicity getting shot, eh. As soon as the episode was over, I moved onto other things pretty promptly. It’s obvious she’s not dying. The grave scene we saw is six months into the future. Unless I’m terrible at maths (in fairness it was never a top subject of mine but I think I can get by) then we’re not at that point yet. The promo for the next episode, if you’ve seen it, is pretty naff with all things considered. Just, yeah. You should trust that promo in the same manner you’d trust Donald Trump as a world leader – you just shouldn’t.

But anyway, if you killed her off now, considering the role Felicity has, the love for her from a certain fanbase, then whoever is in that grave is a bit of a shoulder shrugger. It wouldn’t have as much of an impact. It’s a moment devised for shock value rather than anything substantial. I just don’t really see them bringing anything all that major out of this moment, apart from an episode of Oliver brooding before Olicity angst down the line as he questions whether he can be with her.

That grievance aside, what we had from Damien really made the episode for me. This was a new level for Darth Darhk – I’m hyped for Star Wars, and he had a moment that was pure Darth Vader, forgive me. But, it’s intriguing to see someone going after Oliver in the light of day. He doesn’t know he’s the Green Arrow, he just knows he’s a pain in the ass for his plans. Oliver took the opportunity to expose Damien to the public, and from here, they’ve set up a really interesting dynamic.

Darkh isn’t going to stop, that’s a given. Nobody in Team Arrow is safe. I just love his powers. I love the way he’s played. The type of personality he has. He’s like nothing Arrow has done before in terms of big bads, and it’s been the major success story of this first slice of season four. After the underwhelming and pretty bland interpretation of Ra’s al Ghul they gave us, Darkh exceeds Malcolm Merlyn of season one, and even Slade Wilson in season two. Furthermore, alongside that Felicity cliffhanger we were shown Damien has a family. We’ve known about that, as he told Lance he’s a father himself. But still, they’re now in the picture and you get the feeling that’s not the last time we’ll be seeing them.

I’d say the second-half of the episode perhaps was weaker than the first. The first built things up fantastically, Damien unleashing his rage, Team Arrow being taken, Oliver’s furious search to find where Darkh is, but the second is where I had more issues.

The set-up for the episode builds up for something more than what we get. That’s how I was left feeling, at least. The final confrontations with Darhk felt a little faster than I’d perhaps have liked, but you’d imagine we’ll get a corker of a showdown in the new year. Oliver watching his friends get gassed was a frustrating scene, as all his focus was on Felicity. Your sister was in there too, Oliver. I guess it’s to be expected, considering the instances of this sort of thing we’ve had before but even still, it was something that needed a little more balance. Laurel and Malcolm saving the day was nice, I must admit. The explosion of the base, again, okay – Damien suddenly popping up all fine with his associates, before taking them into a corn field?! Huh? Firstly, I had to check I hadn’t skipped a scene. It was obvious he was going to escape but still, perhaps the transition could have been smoother. His seemingly ultimate plan? I have no idea what that’s all about.

The proposal scene. To be fair to Olicity shippers, dangling that thread and doing nothing about it probably would have been a little harsh. How we got there? Frustrating. Furthermore, Felicity’s reaction to discovering he was going to propose was unfortunately, predictably annoying. Last week, where she gave Oliver no time to get his head around his news, went from zero to drama in an instant and broke up with him? That really didn’t endear her to me whatsoever. It was a similar thing this week, whining at him about whether he’s changed his mind or whatever it was. I can understand her insecurities, but it’s brought up far too much. Episode six was a slog. Olicity in the crossover was tedious. While they weren’t so bad today, that moment was really frustrating.

Weirdly, I didn’t mind the proposal scene. It was cliché, but I guess that’s pretty in keeping with the soap opera style love affair the pair share. Can I see a wedding happening? Nope. Not at all. That’s not wishful thinking, I just genuinely can’t see it.

The flashbacks. A CGI shark which we see for a split second. Oliver emerges with a shark bite. Uh… I honestly couldn’t quite believe what I was watching – and that’s not in the good way.

Overall, it was a solid episode without being spectacular. The stakes were raised high as the episode opened up but it fizzled out a bit too much for my liking in the end. Some interesting plotlines were raised for future episodes to come, such as Damien’s family and the Damien-Oliver rivalry. The cliffhanger was poor, however, and devoid of tension. Felicity Smoak will be fine by episode 11 or 12, I’m banking on it. They tried to shock us; it didn’t really shock me.

Yet, all in all, after a lacklustre third season, Arrow is showing signs of a return to form. There are still flaws. The competition is a lot better out there now, compared to when Arrow started and it still really does show. But I’ve enjoyed myself a lot more than I did last season. Long may it continue.

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