Arrow: Eleven-Fifty-Nine review S4, Ep. 18

Wow. So did not see that one coming at all.

Last week’s preview teased a major character’s death and while all signs pointed to one character in particular we got thrown a major twist with the death of ….

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Laurel Lance will don the black leather and batons as Black Canary no more as we got the big reveal of the mysterious casket’s occupant.

As we’ve seen on shows like The Walking Dead, anytime characters start talking about a future or expressing any sense of contentment with their current lot in life it’s time to start a countdown clock. Presented with a promotion to serve as the District Attorney, Laurel was at a career crossroads — do the Matt Murdock thing and bust criminals at night and make sure they stay in prison in court by day.

arrow- eleven fifty nine review - laurel lance-minThe only catch, Quentin reminded her was her security detail would be so tight she’d have to abandon her Black Canary identity. And by the time the episode unfolded, Laurel decided she would accept the offer and go out for one last ride.

As Laurel weighed her options, Team Arrow was splintering further apart. Oliver was leery of Andy and the not so coincidental way his sharing HIVE secrets led to Merlyn breaking into the Arrow Cave and stealing Darhk’s totem. I was glad Team Arrow had the foresight to reassemble all but one piece, but why not have each member of the team take a shard and ditch a sixth shard in the ocean to ensure it can’t ever be reassembled without some major work?

Diggle naturally resented Oliver accusing his brother of being a double agent and actually brought up Oliver pushing Diggle to reconcile with Andy. I’m glad the writers didn’t ignore that very important aspect of this storyline. Diggle’s heartbreak when Andy revealed his true allegiances was a rough moment. For most of the episode, the setup led to some sliver of hope that Andy possibly was doing a long con on Darhk and Merlyn and wasn’t going to betray Team Arrow after all.

This allowed for much more sympathy for Diggle, who insisted his brother was on the straight and narrow now and could be trusted. And it helped not make Oliver look like an idiot for trusting this newcomer. The writers set up a smart win-win here as both characters came out looking reasonable.

It didn’t dawn on me how much Felicity had been dragging the show down lately. Without her forced humor, the episode had a darker tone and felt like a show about vigilantes trying to take down sinister madmen. This wasn’t the silly, campy outing like last week and was right in the zone where Arrow is at its best.

arrow- eleven fifty nine review - baron reiter-minEven the flashback sequences felt more important this week. Taiana promised she’d tell Laurel how Oliver helped save them if he didn’t survive and he promised to tell her family if she didn’t make it out. It appeared Oliver’s plan to trap Baron Reiter in a cave-in worked, but considering his power that’s not necessarily a given.

The streamlined team dynamic also helped Thea’s storyline. Twice she battled Merlyn and on both occasions, Merlyn defeated her because her waning bloodlust didn’t allow her to have a killer instinct. Re-establishing the antagonistic relationship with Thea and Merlyn resulted in a strong story arc for Thea going forward as it’s Thea, not Oliver, emerging as Merlyn’s principal threat.

Merlyn and his League of Assassins loyalists retrieved the totem and Murmur distributed shivs to start a prison riot and free Darhk. Team Arrow (+ Andy) tried to restore order at Iron Heights. Even without the tease of a major death, there was a sense this was going to end very badly for Team Arrow.

arrow- eleven fifty nine review - green arrow-minAnd it did as Andy gave Darhk the missing piece of the totem restoring his telekinetic abilities, which he used to keep Team Arrow at bay and make good on his promise to Lance that he would kill his daughter. I liked that Darhk finally spelled out that he knew Oliver was the Green Arrow. No secrets between the two enemies now. Darhk slung two arrows into Laurel and retreated with Team Darhk as Arrow raced to get Laurel medical attention.

Initially, it seemed like Laurel would be fine. She pulled through her surgery and shared her retirement decision with all of Team Arrow, including a returning Felicity, but realized it was only fighting alongside the team she truly felt alive. Everyone else left as Oliver and Laurel had a moment before it all went bad and she flatlined.

arrow- eleven fifty nine review - damien darhk-minThe performances during this scene were exceptional across the board, but Stephen Amell and Paul Blackthorne was just gut-wrenching. Their worst fears have been realized thanks to Damien Darhk.

Eleven Fifty Nine was an episode of Season 4 that finally delivered in a major way. The stakes were significantly escalated, Team Arrow is at its worst point and Darhk seems unbeatable. Last week I was worried I was set to give up on this season, but I’m more excited about next week’s episode than any other show.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10