Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Arrow 4x20 Review: "Genesis" (In the Beginning)

Original Airdate: May 4, 2016

Genesis is the first book of the Bible. Even if you're not religious, most people would probably be able to tell you that. It literally means "the origin." And that's obviously an appropriate way to begin a narrative that spans from creation until the end of time. Genesis is also the name of Damien Darhk's evil plan in this season of Arrow for the very same reason. He wants to reconstruct the world — play God and do it over the way he wanted. He's starting with a small corner of the world, Star(ling) City, and presumably taking over the remainder of Earth from there, after he rebuilds it. The thing is that Darhk's evil plans actually stem from something fundamentally good, which makes him all the more complex: he wants a better world for the ones he loves. He wants a better story — a one that is more deserving of them. And I think in a way, a lot of us want the same thing for Arrow (though we might not destroy the world to get it). Over the course of four years, this show has taken a lot of dips and dives and crazy left-hand turns that some of us are experiencing serious whiplash. So if "Genesis" is meant to teach us anything, what does it teach us about Oliver? About darkness? About light? About humanity?

These are huge and difficult questions to tackle, so let's get to it.


(I wish I had come up with that brilliant title, but that belongs to Deb because she's an expert at all things puns and Harry Potter.)

Look, I'm going to be totally honest here: Harry Potter did this storyline better. As if on meta cue, the show dropped a reference to the magical series early on in the episode and then framed its central conflict (darkness vs. light) as well as its special effects (the darkness literally reaching out to grab Oliver and Oliver using light to block it) rooted in Harry Potter. For those of you who have never read the books or watched the films, here's something you should know about Harry — love saved him in the end. Love and lightness was the thing that filled Harry's soul. It was the reason he was able to defeat Voldemort. It was the reason that he was able to conjure up a Patronus — a gleaming charm of magical light (in the shape of an animal) that defeated Dementors. The reason he was able to do all of that was because he held tightly onto the memories of his parents. Harry was a survivor, in some of the same ways that Oliver Queen is. Both experienced immense pain, both had the option to flee into the darkness, and both can only be successful when they harness the light.

Felicity Smoak is the light to Oliver in a lot of ways, but now that they're broken up (more on that, probably), Oliver has had to rely on other sources of light. I absolutely love that Felicity is this beautiful beacon and symbol of hope for the people around her. But it's a lot of pressure and responsibility when you're someone's everything — their light-bearer. Just like Harry needed so many things and so many people to carry him through his crusade (when he conjures Patronuses, they may take the symbolic shape of his father, but Harry relies on the love of his friends and mentors and romantic relationships in order to provide that light for him), so does Oliver need many sources of light. I say this as someone who shipped Oliver/Felicity (and still do, though to a far lesser extent this season).

Oliver doesn't just need a light. One light — one candle or flashlight — will allow you to see some things clearly if you're in darkened woods. But three or four or five sources of light will guide you out. Felicity cannot be the only person Oliver relies on. And, in fact, I think Arrow is setting us up for Oliver to learn the same lesson Harry did — you have to become your own light, in the end. That is the only way Harry was able to defeat Voldemort, after all. When the dust settled and the fighting ceased, it was Harry and Harry alone who went to battle. He carried the love he had for his friends and family with him, no doubt. But Hermione could not fight Harry's battle for him. Nor could Ron or Ginny or Dumbledore or his parents.

Harry had to learn to embrace the light so that he could become the light himself.

And that's exactly what Oliver has to do. He took a pretty good step in the episode — noting that it wasn't just Felicity's voice in his head — and managed to fend off Darhk's magic long enough to save the others who needed saving. And while I still believe that Arrow is one of those shows that plays the "too little, too late" game every single season (just when I've become fed up with the show and on the verge of quitting, they manage to pull something semi-decent off), I think that this kind of growth looks healthy on Oliver and natural, given all he's been experiencing.

Now that Oliver's found his Patronus (it's a tortoise, just so you all know), he needs to work to become stronger in order to face the final battle against Darhk. ... Goodness, this really IS turning into Harry Potter, isn't it?


I've already spent a good deal of time talking about the lightness within Oliver and the gradual transition (which, okay, was not gradual. It was a BIT too fast for me to handle — suddenly at the end of the episode, Oliver can fend off Darhk without any issue when he literally only practiced ONCE?), but I feel the need to talk a little bit about John Diggle and his transition. Dig is a great character, but over the past few weeks, I've really struggled to connect with him. It's not the fault of David Ramsey, who is undoubtedly doing the best he can with his storyline this season. No, it's really the fault of the writers for circling the drain with this whole "is Andy good? Bad? Should he die?" thing. It's not even a storyline by the time we get to "Genesis," because Dig and Andy have had ten thousand stand-offs just like the ones we see in this episode.

Andy backs Dig into a corner, and Dig lets him go. Andy does something horrible, Dig has the chance to end it, and he lets him go. The taunts Andy makes and the haughty replies of moral goodness that Dig responds with? They've been happening for weeks now. So to me, nothing about the story — up until the final few minutes — was compelling at all. I was, quite frankly, bored of the taunts and bored of Diggle debating whether or not he should kill his brother. Again: not a fault of Ramsey's at all. It's unfortunately something that happens when the writers try to extend a pretty simplistic story over the course of half a season. The story has grown stale. In spite of Dig's moral goodness and his desire to do right and bring people to justice, even I was itching for him to pull the trigger.

And then he did.

I can't say that I felt anything extremely emotional (except gratitude that we can finally put this story to rest), but Ramsey's shocked expression was absolutely brilliant and wonderful. It was up to him to sell that moment, given how long we had been waiting for it, and he really did. I think that Dig's journey could have been a lot more compelling than it ended up being if it had been given proper plotting and was paced better. Between Laurel's death, Oliver/Felicity drama, and Thea doing goodness knows what, Dig's relationship with his brother was initially only brought in as a plot point — a way to connect the overarching baddie story to Team Arrow. And because of how long it stretched, the more weeks that passed with Diggle still making the same decisions and having the same conversations, the more frustrated and bored I became as a viewer. I shouldn't have felt that way! I should feel a lot more invested in the emotional and moral relevance of Dig killing Andy, but frankly I'm just glad that we're done with it all.


Whether or not Alex is being manipulated by Ruve or is willingly taking part in kidnapping, drugging, and forcing Thea to exist in Arrow's version of The Hunger Games' arena is still yet to be determined. But as of "Genesis," Thea is most definitely trapped and Team Arrow has absolutely no idea of this yet. In fact, Team Arrow has recently just discovered that Amanda Waller's important A.R.G.U.S. weapon/advantage that controls nuclear... something (I have a difficult time paying attention to the show sometimes) was taken by Darhk. So, you know, two steps forward and a billion steps back for this team of superheroes.

(Can we even call them superheroes anymore when they've literally had Darhk escape every single time they've ever encountered him?)

I kind hate that Thea is the one being held in this dome, but it makes sense because Malcolm Merlyn is the one who — I am certain — made sure she was there. If the world ends, he wants Thea to be safe. I mean, this is coming from the guy who manipulated her into killing people and is the worst human on the planet, so the sentiment falls a little bit flat. Malcolm probably won't be getting any Father's Day cards while in the dome. At any rate, though it makes the most sense for Thea to be there (with Darhk unable to touch her, she wouldn't have much to add to a Team Arrow magic battle), it's kind of unfortunate that the moment she gets to be happy, it's all an illusion.

Can't anyone on this show be happy for longer than an episode?! Sheesh! LEAVE TEAM ARROW ALONE.

With Arrow careening toward the magical final battle at a thousand miles an hour, I'm kind of wondering what's truly left for the characters to discover about themselves. "Genesis" might mean "origin," but it felt — to me, at least — a lot like this episode was intent on tying up some character growth and development. Oliver's transition to light happened far too quickly (unbelievably so), and Dig's ended Andy (not without repercussions, of course). Oliver and Felicity are back to being quasi-normal (or at least the most normal I can handle them being right now), and the only real thing left to do is save Thea. 

With every "Genesis" comes a Revelation. And I hope the end of this season is a lot better than the messy middle part has been.

Observations & favorite moments:
  • No MVP this week! Everyone was on equal footing, but bonus shout-out again to David Ramsey for that final scene of Dig and Andy.
  • I missed you, Paul Blackthorne. Come back. At least we got mentions of Donna in the episode? I'll just assume she and Lance were looking after baby Sara together.
  • Deb and I decided via Twitter that Oliver's Patronus would be a tortoise. So now I've taken it upon myself to come up with the Patronuses of everyone else on Team Arrow: Felicity would obviously be this adorable bunny; Dig would probably be a German Shepherd; Thea would be a swan; Lyla would be a lioness; Curtis would be a red panda; Lance would be a hedgehog; Donna would be a peafowl.
  • "Don't talk to me like I'm other people." #applause
  • Felicity had a really great wardrobe this episode. (And always, but specifically this episode.)
  • This episode had a lot of biblical themes. It's pretty much common culture I suppose, but still interesting that all of our main characters talked about Noah, the ark, and Genesis.
  • I know that she has a name, but Sassy Immortal Lady Shaman needs to make a return. She was great.
  • Can the season end with just all of the magical ladies defeating Darhk?
  • "You're not perfect. None of us are. The good news is all of us can change."
  • Why isn't Team Arrow smarter when it comes to trackers and stuff? If people let you go, alive, it probably means they're tracking you! Sheesh.
  • Look, I'm all for suspension of disbelief here but I think baby Sara would have been safer in the hands of Darhk than riding on the back of her father's motorcycle in the middle of a shoot-out... while she's pretty much entirely exposed. Fail, Arrow. Fail.
  • "It's been a while since I've hit anybody with this thing."
  • "I don't mean to apply logic to a bad guy's plan..." It's almost as if Felicity was all of us.
  • Are we SURE Darhk's master plan isn't to enact the 76th annual Hunger Games? Because it seems like it might be.
What do you all think of Darhk's plan? What would YOUR Patronus be? Is everything destined to turn into Harry Potter references from here on out? (Maybe.) Hit up the comments below and let me know!

1 comment:

  1. I sincerely hope Alex is simply being used as a tool because I was getting super-creepy vibes from him the whole time. I don't care if the cute boy can quote Whitman, he was freaking me out! And Thea, please just let her have a not-tragic relationship.

    I thought the scenes between Oliver and Felicity were pretty enjoyable. The banter was both serious and fun alternately. Felicity acknowledged that she was a bit harsh with Oliver due to being in pain and she expressed faith in him, in everyone, to grow and change. Yeah! That's my girl. And they had some mildly uncomfortable moments which is normal but still talked like close friends and grown ups. I am not pushing for them to get back together this season (although the pacing of most relationships on this show can be either weirdly slow or very rushed) but I simply enjoy watching those two characters share screen time.

    Diggle's scenes were painful to watch, both in good ways and bad ways. I would have preferred a more consistent arc and development when it came to the two Diggle brothers this year. How can some episodes feel like they are wasting time and others feel so rushed? Pacing continues to be my biggest issue with Arrow. But man did David Ramsey sell those scenes. Powerful stuff. And yes, never put your kid on your back when being chased. They always go on the front. I can teach Dig how to tie a baby wrap much more effectively. I know they wanted it to look cool and all but it was not good.

    It was so amazing to watch Lyla kicking some butt and saving her family. I preferred her fight scenes over Dig and Andy's fight scenes. I love when we get to see her.

    I'm not sure how I feel about Oliver's tapping into his light suddenly. On the one hand, that happened super quick. On the other hand, he was doing something self-less to save his friends (knowing Darhk could easily kill him) and there's nothing better than that to put him in touch with the light part of his soul. And also, Ms Fortuna hinted that it wasn't about practise or teaching, it was simply something he had to know about himself. Oliver has a lot of light in his soul, he simply has to believe in that and access it. And yes, Shaman Fortuna is someone I would love to see more of. She was funny and interesting and tough.

    Well, the horrible plan is coming to light and you know that's why Malcolm made his deal. Still vile but he will always choose survival and that's why Thea is in the creepy dome. I don't know if I would choose nuclear devastation but something tells me living in that dome with the rest of HIVE will not be paradise. They will simply bring their violence and crazy with them.