ARROW Season 4 Roundtable: Of Super Villains, Super Dramas and Superheroes

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After a very long six-week hiatus, ARROW returns tonight on The CW. I know I am not the only one who is on the edge of my seat, dying to know what happened to Felicity and what the consequences of that tragic ending on the winter finale are going to be. However, we did have six weeks to get over the shock of our dear IT queen getting shot and talk about it endlessly, so I imagine you ARROW fans had more than enough time to come up with a million different theories, right?

Well, so did we. Just like we did for FLASH, a few colleagues and fellow fans of the Green Arrow have sat down to discuss the main plot points of season 4 so far – and let’s be honest, there is a lot to discuss. So sit back, relax and take a look at what we came up with.

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DAMIEN DAHRK

LUCIANA MANGAS: I know he is controversial and he is ruthless, but Damien Dahrk is probably my favorite villain to date. Mostly due to Neal McDonough’s incredible performance, this version of the iconic super bad is basically evil reincarnated, but he is also charming and so funny. McDonough plays this amazingly scary character with such lightness and grace that – even though I hate his guts and want him to die a painful death when the time for that finally comes, especially after what he did to Felicity – I can’t help but sit up straighter and pay attention and be completely delighted to see the magic he brings to my screen every week. I have no idea where they are going with this character, now that Oliver is hell bent on getting justice for Felicity, but I can’t wait to see what happens next and what his master plan actually is.

MELISSA SMITH: I first remember Dahrk (and H.I.V.E) from TEEN TITANS.  He was a 20-years-old and looked like a teenager.  He was never a big character, so the fact that Dahrk is so different on ARROW does not bother me in its departure from the graphic novel canon.  Neil McDonough is such a good actor that he makes the character his own, leaving the Titans version in the dust.That being said, introducing a “magical” character into the ARROW-verse is a tough issue to resolve.  Unlike many of his contemporaries like Superman and The Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow has no superpowers.  He’s just a guy who can fight and design arrows that do cool things. In fact, none of TEAM ARROW (that we know of) has superpowers.  Having them fight a magical immortal gives them an almost-impossible challenge.  At least R’as al Ghul fought hand-to-hand.  That, you can defeat (theoretically).It will be interesting to see how they end up defeating Dahrk.  I have a theory as to how I’d like to see that happen.  Read below under “Expectations.”

SHANA LIEBERMAN: Let me preface this by saying I think Neal McDonough was the perfect choice to play this Big Bad. He’s a great choice to play any villain, really: Loved him as slimy Sean Cahill on SUITS, loved him when he showed up as one of the many people after Scully’s Platonic Alieum Miracle Baby on THE X-FILES… But I’ve been offended by this character beyond just the normal “love to hate” super-evil reaction, thanks to some decisions by the creative team at ARROW that I just can’t support. At this point, regardless of how great McDonough is, I just want to forget Damien Darhk.

I feel like I could write an epistle on this one, but in an effort to keep this roundtable from turning into my own personal soapbox, I’ll just say this: There was no need to go there with the gas chambers in ARROW’s winter finale. Making matters worse, they had Felicity, a Jewish character, in that chamber — and after making a big deal about it being Chanukah (yes, in the real world, it was Chanukah then, too) earlier in the episode. There was also no need for the gray prison uniform that was far too close to what actual nazi gas chamber victims would have worn. Respecting the memory of those killed during Holocaust is very important to me — not just as a Jew but as someone who has studied that dark period in history extensively, even taking it as my personal responsibility to retell on one of the survivors’ stories — so, as a general rule, I like it kept out of fiction. There are very rare cases where I can accept its use as a storytelling device, but this wasn’t one of them.

If the only way to take your villain in a 100% fictional world up a notch is to have him worship Hitler, you’re doing it wrong. Sorry, ARROW. I’m not impressed.

MEREDITH ZYLBERBERG: Damien Dahrk is the villain we’ve been waiting for, and Neal McDonough was the absolute perfect casting choice. After last year’s villain fell fairly flat in terms of scariness (which is really kinda the number one thing you look for in a villain, wouldn’t you say?) the show really needed to come back strong in that regard. Thankfully, they delivered in spades. While not necessarily the most physically imposing villain, Dahrk’s creepiness factor more than makes up for it. The addition of the supernatural makes the stakes even higher  - the viewer legitimately questions whether, and ultimately how, Oliver can beat him.

In addition to Dahrk’s villainy-nous and creepiness, there is the added ambiguity of his purpose. What does he want? What is his goal? Why does he have a super-freaky cornfield underground? What is he going to do with it? Throw in the recently-revealed family dynamic, and it leaves us with a lot of (good) questions about Damien Dahrk. The mystery surrounding him is a good one, it’s one we want answers to. I’m invested in Dahrk and this storyline in a way I haven’t really been with a villain since Slade. And maybe even more so. Malcolm Merlyn and Ra’s Al Ghul didn’t really pass muster as scary villains who actually had the potential to do harm. Slade did, and now Dahrk does. So bravo, ARROW. This season’s Big Bad is big and bad and exciting. Definitely one of the most successful storylines of the season so far.

Next page: Oliver’s son…

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