Arrow: Haunted

Oliver: "I don't have the right to be mad at anyone for keeping secrets."

The title of this episode is actually kind of perfect. Not necessarily in the sense of ghosts manifest, but metaphorical ghosts coming back to haunt you. This one also featured the remarkable crossover of a character whose series is no longer on the air.

Alex: "I'm talking about the kind of closet skeletons that could cripple you on your first day in office. Your personal Chappaquiddick."
Thea: "Like the game from Harry Potter?"

Starting with Oliver's political campaign, Alex Davis brought up Oliver's scandal involving Sara's first death as a potential stumbling block. While it is always nice when continuity is brought up and details that haven't been important in a long time are remembered, this is also a good parallel thematically to what was going on with the rest of the episode.

Felicity: "The threat of zombie apocalypse aside, isn't it nice not having to deal with the pain of saying goodbye?"

For Felicity, the ghost is the additional recording from Ray. Despite the somewhat whimsical way Curtis and Felicity interact, the actual depth to the scene was written all over Felicity's face. How do you deal with the reminder of the death of an ex-boyfriend when you have moved on with your life? That suggests so many complex emotions, and they are covered in her reactions without the story dwelling on it. I love that the writers trusted Emily Bett Rickards to carry that stuff as subtext.

Darhk: "Are you sticking around for a cupcake or something?"

For Diggle, it was something more pressing on his mind: the mystery of his brother's death, the resolution of which is just awful. Andrew Diggle was killed off because he was a bad guy, in a place where bigger bad guys didn't want anyone butting in on their turf. That's all kinds of messed up, horrible, rotten emotional anvils to drop on someone, learning things about a dead loved one that you never wanted to know. I also thought they did a really nice job using Quentin as a go between with Darhk, but I wonder if this sub-plot was needed in an episode so stuffed to the gills with other plots probably a bit more important than this one.

Constantine: "What, you've never seen magic before?"

So yeah. In a very meta way, Constantine has been resurrected, too. Using him as a bridge to bring both Sara back, and as a formal introduction to the world of magic, was well done but a little rushed. This was where the bulk of the episode centered, and I'm glad it did. In fact, I kind of wish they had stretched things out a bit and done a two-parter. Because introducing Constantine in those flashbacks, and then using him as the answer to Sara's problem in the same episode, didn't entirely work for me.

That being said, I actually loved what they did with Constantine as a character. He worked for me, both as a part of this world, and as an answer to the questions Damien Darhk brings up. It goes to the arc of the series, since the first season was entirely based on people without any superpowers. Season two brought in meta-humans and a villain to match. Season three delved into mysticism and hinted at the possibility of magic. Now, early into season four and magic is front and center.

Constantine: "Go on Alice, down the rabbit hole you go."

Spells, incantations, levitation, resurrection, souls, and very likely more stuff to come have entered the fray and our very human heroes are starting to look a little outmatched. Of course it is about escalation, how storytellers maneuver around stagnation over a long running series. Bringing in new elements quickens the narrative, makes it exciting. Only now we need to have a way of countering the new stuff so that it isn't a stretch for our heroes to beat it.

How do mortals go up against magic and monsters and things they never trained for (a Joss Whedon quote for every occasion)? By bringing in new characters that can match or teach our core heroes something new. That was Constantine, at least temporarily. I wonder if someone else will step up to take his place in the long term, because otherwise things are going to get very bad for team Arrow.

Comic Book Bits:

Constantine is one of the more interesting characters in the DC universe. He belongs to a series called Hellblazer which was both incredibly successful and was kind of the flagship title for DC Vertigo, the mature rated wing of the DC Universe. It was heavily atmospheric, based in magic and the occult and steeped in noir detective tropes. What's even more interesting about the title is that it didn't really exist in the same world as the rest of the DC Universe, even though characters like Zatanna would appear, and Constantine himself would cross over into other titles as well (like Green Arrow).


Even without a soul, Sara was only killing thugs and bad guys -- Thea lookalikes being the only exception.

So we get another answer to Oliver's mysterious tattoos, and this one is a doozy. Now I wonder if that tattoo will come into play later this season in the fight against Darhk.

It kind of bums me out that I never gave Constantine a real shot. After the pilot I kinda gave up on it, mostly because I just knew it would never last. Sigh.

I like how wrong Laurel was about Oliver. She was convinced he would just put Sara down. He just so happened to have a magic wielding bad-ass on speed dial for just such an occasion.

The Island storyline feels really unimpressive so far. Other than Constantine showing up and dragging Oliver on a merry little jaunt down into a secret underground bunker with a magic orb squirreled away in it, there wasn't much to get excited about. Especially since the little cliffy last week went nowhere.


Felicity: "There's something off about it."
Curtis: "Are you sure it's not the fact that it's a dying declaration from your ex? I mean that is some serious Nicholas Sparks level stuff. Don't judge, the man can write emotion."

Darhk: "Ah, thank you for coming."
Quentin: "Well, I think we both know I didn't have too much choice."
Darhk: "No, certainly since you literally doubled the number of daughters I have to hold over you."

Diggle: "Where did Oliver find this guy, the Luxor?"
Felicity: "I'm just glad the latest person from Oliver's past is not another gorgeous woman."

Thea: "Well, he's a very specific kind of yummy."
Oliver: "Oh, I'm going to pretend I didn't just hear you say that."

Oliver: "How's Sara?"
Laurel: "Resting. It turns out that getting your soul back is exhausting."

Felicity: "You're not even allowed to say 'energy drink' on company time ever again."
Curtis: "That's okay. I think I might be having a cardiac incident anyway."

A bit rushed, and too full, I still enjoyed this one and feel somewhat guilty for never giving Constantine a chance.

3 out of 4 Magical incantations.
J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.


garyb said...

Speaking of things you can't say..... a bit OT, on last week's Blue Bloods, the gathering around the dinner table was starting to sing Happy Birthday, and Frank made them stop, and explained that since the song was copy-written, that that could not sing it without making a payment....

A bit meta, and fourth wall-ish, but funny.

J.D. Balthazar said...

I should probably apologize for being so late in posting this week. Last Wednesday I was suffering from the flu and the first week working full time at my new job. So I let writing slide more than a little too long.

Basically, I'm sorry guys for falling down on the job last week. I'll get the next episode review up as soon as I physically can.

Patrick said...

Someone online pointed out how Constantine used the peacock feather to scratch himself, a nice little dig at NBC, his former network :)

Anonymous said...

I also wish that this was a two-parter. I wanted more Constantine. I wish that the restitution was its own episode, if only to give it some more weight and not feel like a total cake walk. It also would have given this rather dense episode more room to breathe. Still, I really enjoyed the episode. It made me go watch Constantine, since I missed it when it aired. It's a crime that NBC canceled it and that no one else grabbed. The pilot was rough, but then it got really good. Gold stars to Matt Ryan.

Freeman said...

It was glorious to see Matt Ryan's Constantine back in action. While the Constantine show had its flaws, he was a joy to watch on that show. It really would've been nice if he got more air time in this episode though. It's cool that he's the reason behind one of Ollie's tattoos. I wonder how that's gonna play out. By the end of the series is Ollie just gonna have no more tattoos left?

Katie Cassidy is a pretty bad actress man. The way she non-reacted to Thea being hospitalized was a moment that made me laugh out loud. I don't buy Laurel's argument to Ollie for a second. The circumstances behind their respective uses of the Lazurus Pit were completely different. I'm really enjoying this new lighter Ollie, but he's really letting people walk all over him this season.

Ever since Ollie and Quentin sort of came to terms with each other, I've had a feeling that Quentin is gonna bite the dust. I hope I'm wrong, I like his character.

Billie Doux said...

I have to echo the Constantine love. Back when, I didn't get past the pilot, and I was surprised at how enjoyable a character he was in this episode. Hope they bring him back.

Josie Kafka said...

I'm going to echo the Constantine love, too!

Katie Cassidy is a pretty bad actress man. The way she non-reacted to Thea being hospitalized was a moment that made me laugh out loud.

I'm also going to echo this. It was so noticeably bad that I wondered if there was some problem with the editing and they had to use a reaction shot from her that wasn't meant to be doing much.