TV Recap: Arrow, “The Candidate”

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When family friend Jessica Danforth (Jeri Ryan) declares her candidacy for  Mayor, Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Thea (Willa Holland) worry for her safety. As Oliver spends more time in the field with his sister protecting Jessica form a new villain named Lonnie Machin (Alexander Calvert), he realizes that her revival by Lazarus Pit last season may have had a larger impact than he first expected. Elsewhere, Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) struggles with the fact that massive lay-offs may be the only way to keep Palmer Tech afloat.

I’m just going to get this out of the way now and say I’m not giving this episode a rating. It would be deceptively low. “The Candidate” was no “The Calm,” but it was still a really solid character episode and a really enjoyable hour of television. The somewhat disparate storylines may have kept it from being entirely narratively cohesive, but it did emphasize what an ensemble piece Arrow has become. And it’s not like there isn’t narrative justification for how separated everyone is.

Oliver severely tested all of his relationships when he joined the League of Assassins and that means now is that literally everyone but Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) is currently keeping secrets from Oliver. On one level, it’s a lot of great dramatic tension, on another, it’s hilarious that everyone is lying to Oliver at the exact moment he seems to be an open, emotionally stable adult for the first time since the pilot.

From last week’s episode, we already knew that Diggle (David Ramsey) was hiding the truth about his connection to HIVE and Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), but this week, someone else learned that too: Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy). Laurel’s purpose on the show has always been somewhat difficult to define, but this episode it became clear that while Oliver and Felicity were off snorkeling in Bali or whatever, she became Team Arrow’s voice of reason. When Diggle said Laurel of all people should understand keeping the circumstances around a sibling’s death a secret, she came right back and reminded him that she is a shining example of why that is the WORST idea. When Thea was still reeling from the revelation that her dip in the Lazarus Pit may have changed her into a berserker, she’s the one who proposed they go to Nanda Parbat to find a solution. Granted, that decision isn’t entirely selfless.

Team Arrow started dealing with the fallout from Sara’s (Caity Lotz) death exactly a year ago today and while the mere existence of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow promises that Laurel will succeed in her quest to get her sister back, this whole Thea post-Lazarus anger issue thing is a brilliant way to get that story going. Especially because it’s just as exciting. Thea’s place on this show has been almost as difficult to define as Laurel’s, but the way her new propensity for violence both mirrors Season 1 Oliver and contrasts with the anti-murder, anti-torture guy he is now is just so juicy character-wise. That scene where Oliver prodded her into an attack and then she screamed her abandonment issues directly into his face was the best moment of the episode.

On a much, much lighter note, I’m also really digging this Felicity Smoak CEO storyline. The producers and writers have made a lot of fuss about Felicity being more comedy-oriented again this season and watching the character become the sharp, determined businesswoman she was always meant to become thanks to comic book canon while also remaining bubbly and optimistic is just tons of fun. And look, I realize some may find this subplot rather pedestrian when Damien Darhk is off doing magic somewhere, but in some way, this is the direction the show always had to move in.

Oliver’s complete avoidance of his Queen Consolidated responsibilities was always infuriating, a reminder that just because he’d experienced horrors in his five years away didn’t mean that at heart he wasn’t still a spoiled rich boy shirking adulthood. He’s only now reaching the level of maturity he would have needed to run that company, but that opportunity is lost now, given to someone who actually has the mind and will power to do it. Saving the world as a masked vigilante is no way to build a life. Oliver learned that after three years of awfulness (if you just count being back in Star City) and 5 months of blissful normalcy.

That’s why Oliver thought up this crazy running for mayor thing. The Green Arrow will always exist as a symbol of protection from extraordinary evil. But he’s realized now that giving people the inspiration to believe in the city itself is just as–if not more–important. Real talk, nobody in their right mind would vote for him. Judging by Felicity’s face at hearing the news, even she knows this. The guy’s only had one real job in his whole life and he nearly ranQC into the ground. But the fact that he’s even thinking about the future and what will fulfill him in the long term shows how much he’s evolved. That Oliver Queen wants to inspire without hiding behind a mask is the noblest thing he’s ever done.

Just one last thing. Last week, I was about 90% sure that Diggle would be the person in the grave in the flashforward. Given Thea’s anger issues and how quickly Quentin Lance’s (Paul Blackthorne) relationship with Damien Darhk is souring, I’m not so sure. So, from now until we find out who’s in that grave, I’m initiating a new section called Arrow Death Watch. Here’s how I think things stand now:

John Diggle: 60% chance

Thea: 30% because all that talk about darkness in the flashforward would fit her anger storyline

Quentin: 15% he’d be higher up if it made sense that Barry (Grant Gustin) would show up at his funeral or Oliver would be that heartbroken

Laurel: 5% wishful thinking

Felicity: 2% only if the writers definitely want the show to end after 5 seasons

Oliver’s awful flashback wig: 100% God Bless