The producers stated before the beginning of the season that season four would be much lighter than the previous three. And in the first 16 episodes, I’ve failed to see that come to fruition. Beacon of Hope is Arrow’s descent into that territory, and after watching it, my first thought was: Can we get back to darkness now?
If you were a fan of the puns about boomerangs back in season three’s crossover with The Flash, then you’ll probably love this episode. If, like me, you hated those puns, considering them to be not only repetitive to the point where it felt like they were being crammed down your throat, but not funny in the first place, then you’ll probably hate this episode too.
Because there are so many puns. So. Many.
A year on from a debut appearance in the Arrowverse on The Flash, Brie Larvan (Emily Kinney) makes the jump from Central City to Star City. Larvan’s main threats? She controls an army of robotic bees, and is an excellent hacker – she and Felicity had quite the rivalry in her opening episode. And you better bee-lieve me (only pun I make, promise) when I say that Arrow goes overboard and then some with the bee-related puns. What’s concerning is that the creative minds behind Arrow seem to think that this equates to the show being light. While that may be partially true, the idea is to use it effectively, creating a generally upbeat tone, rather than shoehorning in a lot of puns and overly cheesy scenes. That isn’t how you do it. In all honesty, Arrow shouldn’t even attempt a lighter tone, since everything about the show is dark: Choosing to shoot much of the show at night, using dark warehouses with very little artificial light, having a main character who so rarely cracks a smile that you could count the number of times that he does on one hand. As a result, throwing in some supposedly funny moments won’t succeed in making an episode light, because unless those fundamental elements about the show change, the overall dark tone remains. But here we are.
The story seems to have been sacrificed for the puns too. Not only does Larvan herself not feel threatening at any point, but her army of robotic bees pose a strange problem for Team Arrow – and the show – as it is difficult to fight a battle against things as small as they are, but rather than attempt to use that in a new and interesting way, Beacon of Hope decides the best course of action to be introducing a human-sized hostile for the team to contend against. The safe option is also the wrong option.
In the midst of all this, there’s Donna attempting to talk with Felicity about her relationship with Oliver breaking down, often while they’re in imminent, life-threatening danger – much of the hour’s plot revolves around Thea, Felicity and Donna being trapped in Palmer Tech as Larvan attacks the building – which feels ridiculously out of place, adds nothing and does a fine job of suggesting that if the characters involved (or, at least, one character involved) doesn’t care about the danger they face, then why should the viewer?
It’s a shame that Beacon of Hope fails on so many levels, because there are some great moments interspersed with the absurdity. Curtis’s storyline, for example, is the highlight and I couldn’t be more thrilled that he is a regular in season five. They do perhaps go too far on occasion with his humour and light-heartedness, but for the most part, it works, and shows that Arrow could do hints of a light tone if they really tried.
As for the rest? Almost entirely forgettable. Yet another episode of Arrow’s fourth season that may go down in the show’s hall of fame, but for all the wrong reasons.
1. “What’s the exit?”
2. “I am here to rescue you.”
3. “So it’s payback.”
4. “I am still pinching myself.”
5. “You can’t hack it out.”
Tune in and watch Beacon of Hope on Wednesday 20th April at 8pm on Sky 1. Then, check back to the site after the episode for Cory’s review and the podcast.