Arrow Season 4, Episode 3 “Restoration”
Written by Wendy Mericle & Speed Weed
Directed by Wendey Stanzler
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm ET on The CW
It’s telling how little Arrow tries to hide its plot machinations in this episode; there’s no interaction in this episode that feels natural, each scene filling its role in catalyzing two very obvious plot lines it needs to address before it can move forward with the increasingly-mindless Damien Darhk story. Those two plot lines are bringing Sara back to life and bringing Diggle and Oliver back together – which, considering the former is dead and the latter involves Oliver kidnapping his family, clearly is going to involve some serious contrivances to work. However, when the episode isn’t with Felicity, it’s spent rehashing material from the show’s third season, embracing the very elements that threw it off the rails last season.
The Felicity material belongs in another episode: her presence feels much more aligned with the character we know and love, less a romantic object and more the ass kicking CEO we know she can be. However, even her scenes are in service of larger plots: Diggle’s beef with Oliver, the introduction of Mr. Terrific, teasing Ray’s return (that’s obviously him contacting her on the cell phone), and bringing up the idea of Arrow Lair 3.0 are all ingrained in Felicity’s scenes, which ultimately remove her as an actual character from every scene, save for the one where she goes ham with a machine gun, arguably the most entertaining thing Arrow‘s offered all season.
I also love her no bullshit speech to Oliver and Diggle about their problems, and how it’s going to get them both hurt: however, what Oliver did was such an egregious act, it’s hard for me to believe someone as honorable and loyal as Diggle could just forgive him as easily as he does in this episode. It’s like flipping a switch: the writers deemed it time for them to forgive and forgot, so he just drops his arguments when the script requires it, and that’s that: now they’re off to the races to find H.I.V.E. and track down the murderer of Diggle’s brother, with nary a mention of how fucked up Oliver was to Diggle and his family last season moving forward (or at least we can assume). This story really only reminds me of when Diggle slept with his brother’s widow for half a season, hardly a time in Arrow‘s past that built empathy for Diggle’s character. It’s simply an unneeded complication to give him motivation to help Arrow take down Darhk, who has an odd allegiance to killing everyone who helps him, which hardly seems like the way to take over the criminal underworld.
The real head scratcher of the episode – which has an alarming amount of them – don’t come from the conveniently-dispatched meta human, or the lame attempts to make Oliver an empathetic party in his conflict with Diggle: they come from Nanda Parbat, which jumps through a ridiculous amount of plot holes to try and engineer Sara back to life. All I had watching this sequence were questions: seeing Thea, why does Laurel think resurrecting her sister is a good idea, beyond her sudden feelings this is “something she needs to try”? How does pink bubble bath destroy the Lazarus Pit, and why didn’t Nyssa use it ages ago if she hated her father? Why haven’t her and Malcolm killed each other yet? Why would Malcolm agree to resurrect Sara, knowing that she watched Thea kill her, and thus would be resurrecting someone with a severe blood lust to get revenge, an insatiable desire Malcolm had JUST EXPLAINED to Thea she’d never get rid of?
This isn’t just an example of “Laurel’s the Worst”: this is one of the most egregious, ridiculous events Arrow has tried to sell to its audience. Sara’s death had actual meaning on Arrow: it gave her sister a meaningful arc for the first time in the show’s history, and was one of the only events in the show’s history – besides The Undertaking and Slade killing Moira – that actually had any sort of weight: in service of reviving her for a spin off, Arrow is perfectly willing to turn two of its female cornerstones into idiots (three if you include Nyssa), and doing so in the most ludicrously “mystical” location the show has to offer.
I suppose there’s some comfort to be found in knowing that these stories are finally over, and Arrow may be able to move forward: but given how the Darhk material has been introduced through three episodes, I’m not holding out a ton of hope for Team Arrow to be able to recover anytime soon. Be it The Wolfwoman Known as Thea, Mayoral Candidate Oliver Queen, or Forgiving Diggle (seriously: how does this episode try to paint him as an asshole for refusing to forgive Oliver so easily? I wouldn’t trust him either!), there isn’t a whole lot of “Restoration” that feels like Arrow, well, restoring itself to former glory.