Arrow, Season 4, Episode 2, “The Candidate”
Written by Marc Guggenheim & Keto Shimizu
Directed by John Behring
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm (ET) on The CW
On the heels of an abundantly familiar Arrow premiere, “The Candidate” found itself in a tough position. How does a show re-tell a story it’s already told? Turns out the answer is just that: tell the story you’ve already told, but apply them to other characters. In “The Candidate”, we’ve got Thea being too violent with perps, someone from the Queen family running for mayor, a super villain with an obscure secret plan, and Oliver insisting that he isn’t going to keep secrets anymore—and yet, while still remaining a little too redundant enough to feel unique, “The Candidate” pushes a few stories forward in interesting ways.
Where “The Candidate” finds interesting moments is with other characters: primarily, this episode helps give Felicity a bit of purpose, where the premiere had relegated her to secondary status, at least in terms of emotional importance. Her journey to try and redefine Palmer Industries is not exactly mind-blowingly unique—she’s got low profits, and a pushy board of trustees to deal with, as Moira Queen once did—but it places Felicity in a position where she has to think on her feet without staring at a CGI computer screen, without coming at the cost of the personality traits that make her such an endearing presence. Is her suddenly progressive approach to corporate culture a bit of a surprise, considering her previous position as VP at Palmer, and whatever she did for the Queen company in its prosperous days? Maybe, but it gives Arrow a taste of the social justice angle, something that’s been a recurring theme on the show throughout the years.
Of course, the primary concern of “The Candidate” is Moira’s friend who decides to run for mayor—and the less we talk about any of these stories, the better. I get the idea behind them is to bring the comic book plot where Oliver runs for mayor to life, but there’s absolutely no logic to any of this. Moira’s friend wants to run because of Moira’s legacy? She conspired with a bunch of assassins and planned to murder thousands of people, before being killed herself—that’s the kind of political history that really inspires people, no?
The idea that anyone in Starling City would vote for Oliver Queen for mayor is also a joke. This is a guy whose family name has been wiped through the press in recent years, and his reputation as playboy-turned-failed-corporate executive/club owner must be well-known in the town at this point. So what reason would anyone in this city have for Oliver, who represents the 1%’ers the general public seemed so concerned about back in season one (or at least, we were told)? His mother tried to eradicate an entire neighborhood of people, and Oliver spent most of years parading around hot women while shirking any sort of adult responsibility: we as an audience sees his nobility and what that means to the city, but how can anyone else possibly agree with that?
Logic is thrown to the wind here—as it is with the rest of the episode, save for the Darhk material and the Arkady Easter Egg left at the end of the hour. If anyone needed a sign that would happen, Laurel digging up her dead sister to be resurrected should prove that: after watching Thea break a dude’s arm—more on that in a minute—and become generally unstable, Laurel thinks this makes it a good time to dig up her dead sister, and bring her to Nanda Parbat to be resurrected, probably with a slimy favor from Malcolm Merlyn attached somewhere along the line. Thea’s basically doing the same thing Roy did last season when he took up the Arsenal mantle; he’s gotten too violent, causing a rift between student and mentor when the hypocritical Oliver calls them out for their violent ways (and considering how small and slender she is, I think Thea’s allowed to fuck a dude up beyond the general means, to ensure her own physical safety).
Again, everything about this season is repeating past patterns: right down to the opening monologue, which again tells us that Oliver has to redefine himself, and must do so by casting himself in a different philosophic light. Then comes the requisite new costume, and set of goals that devolve into saving his friends and city when the Big Bad Plan comes to light: the tracks are already laid for these stories in such familiar ways, Arrow needs to find drastic ways to differentiate from these previous patterns, lest it end up with an entire season of ineffective, predictable storytelling (and no, removing his wig in the island flashbacks is not enough of a change—the new militants are proved to be idiots when they just let strange Oliver join their organization). “The Candidate” is a slight step in the right direction—but when it comes to the ‘big moments’, just feels like more of the same for Arrow and the inhabitants of Starling City… except for the mini-Laurel/Thea spinoff—that is something new I’m down for more of.