After defeating his most formidable foe to date and riding off into the sunset with longtime flame Felicity Smoak, Oliver Queen (aka The Arrow) left Star City with the hopes of beginning a new life. But will Oliver ever truly be able to leave behind his past as The Arrow, and, if so, what becomes of the team he has worked so hard to assemble? Will military vet John Diggle, Oliver's sister Thea Queen, and lawyer-turned-vigilante Laurel Lance continue Oliver's fight without him? And with Malcolm Merlyn having ascended to the top of the League of Assassins as the new Ra's al Ghul, is anyone really safe?
As a televisions series progresses, we as the audience naturally want to see the characters we've come to know and love grow and move along their path in life. It can be a bittersweet process, because when things go bad we feel for them or when things are good, we're hopeful they'll stay good even though deep down we're certain the next episode spells certain doom. This topsy-turvy process is what keeps us tuned in week after week and maintains our interest in what the character goes through. Unfortunately, some shows start to trade coherent narrative flow and natural character development for an altogether unrelated process of expansion. Alas, this is the pit 'Arrow' has fallen into. While the show still provides plenty of entertainment value, the constant need to bring in characters from 'The Flash' and the now-canceled 'Constantine,' while working towards setting up 'The Legends of Tomorrow' weighs down the forward progress of this season.
After defeating Ra's al Ghul and upending the plans of the League of Assassins, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) put away the green cloak, mask, and arrows and forever buried his alter-ego The Arrow. Now living the peaceful suburban life with Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), he enjoys the quiet "boring life" he's always dreamed of. While Oliver spends his time swapping recipes with the neighbors and planning to pop the question to Felicity, Star City is going to hell. A mysterious new crime syndicate known as H.I.V.E. has risen from the ashes of the League of Assassins. Lead by the deadly Damien Darhk (an awesome Neal McDonough), John Diggle (David Ramsey), Thea Queen (Willa Holland), Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) and police captain Quentin Lance (Pail Blackthorne) have their backs pinned to the wall. Without any way of defeating the Ghost operatives of H.I.V.E. or tracking their movements, they need Oliver back in action.
A life of action isn't what Oliver wants any more. For the first time in his life, he's found peace, but the emergence of Darhk aims to spoil things. As Oliver must deal with this new threat, he must find a way to make peace with the people he left behind while also finding a way to make Star City safe again. By picking up his bow and arrow one more time, Oliver becomes The Green Arrow, a reflection of his new peaceful life and aims to be the image of hope the people of Star City need. How long that reflection can remain untainted will depend on Oliver's actions to save the city as well as revelations of his shadowy past.
Because home video has evolved, it's become incredibly convenient to get caught up on a favorite show rather than wait for the inevitable syndication rights to be sorted out. Why wait when you can now marathon the entire season in the matter of a couple days? While this is certainly a convenient way of getting caught up on a particular show, it can expose some creative defects in the story. If you'd watched the show week after week, you possibly may not have spotted the issues as quickly, but when you see everything all at once, it becomes a glaring problem. This was my experience with 'Arrow.'
I had avoided watching the show at first, mostly because I'd dismissed the CW as a network in its entirety so I never felt compelled to give it a chance. Then I heard how good it was and once The Flash appeared on the scene, I figured I'd give it a shot. After burning through the first two seasons I was left very entertained but also a bit perplexed at how long Oliver Queen's transition from a dark anti-hero to a more traditional hero was taking. Did this story arc really need to be dragged out for this long? And then season three started up. I was still entertained, but I could also feel the weight of an expanding universe pressing down on the show's shoulders. Where it was already having a somewhat difficult time with its title hero's motivations, 'Arrow' was suddenly the supporting foundation for 'The Flash.' That was all fine and good as some crossovers are fun - so long as they're brief. Season four of 'Arrow' magnifies all of these expanded universe problems. Where the occasional appearance of a side hero was a good bit of fun - Brandon Routh's The Atom is always welcome - 'Arrow' has become the springboard for a television universe and its own story and characters suffer as a result.
If you're a fan of the second season of 'The Flash,' and subsequently 'The Legends of Tomorrow' you're no doubt well aware of how a number of major plot points interconnect with 'Arrow.' These three television series are no longer autonomous of one another - they're joined at the hip. So if the story thread unravels it now has repercussions on the greater whole. Normally I wouldn't mind a guest appearance here and there, but for the DC Television Universe, it's gotten out of hand. These guest appearances serve no other purpose than to market another show on a different week night - or network entirely. Like the appearance of Jonah Hex in 'Legends of Tomorrow,' I didn't need an entire episode dedicated to Matt Ryan's John Constantine. Especially since his character appearance only works to revive White Canary so she can go run off and fight Vandal Savage with the rest of 'The Legends of Tomorrow' - which actually happens a couple episodes later. This series stops what it's doing and its main story of fighting Damian Darhk and H.I.V.E. to fight the primary villain of another TV series.
This isn't to say that I don't like my entertainment interconnected, I do, but I also like my shows and movies to be their own individual entities. I've collected comic books for nearly thirty years. I have clear memories of the 90s where virtually every comic book was a part of some unnecessary crossover event complete with rare variant covers to force fans to spend more money. Instead of having to buy four or five issues to get the whole story, you were obligated to buy twenty-five comics stretched between every book a particular character ever made an appearance in. I don't want to see 'Arrow,' 'The Flash,' 'The Legends of Tomorrow,' or the incoming second season of 'Supergirl' to constantly feel the need to feature every character in this little universe in one big gigantic plot thread spanning four different television shows. When season four of Arrow is at its strongest is when it's doing its own thing and focused on its own characters. You can see its legs wobble when Oliver Queen and Company have to start supporting other shows. I hope season five is a bit of a course correction. I still enjoy this show, it's still a lot of fun, but season four has some serious cracks in the foundation that need attention if the show is going to last much longer.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Season four of 'Arrow' arrives on Blu-ray as a four-disc set courtesy of Warner Brothers. Each disc is a BD50 disc that is housed inside a four-disc Blu-ray case with identical slip cover artwork. Each disc opens directly to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options. Included with this set is a booklet featuring an episode breakdown as well as a voucher slip for an Ultraviolet Digital HD copy of the entire season.
Each episode of 'Arrow' arrives with a solid if ever so slightly problematic 1080p 1.78:1 transfer. While 99% of the image looks amazing, the image can look rather noisy during a number of night sequences. Where one moment the show is bright, colorful, cleanly rendered with solid detail levels, all of a sudden some shots can look a tad crusty and get hit by some noise. Wide night time cityscape establishing shots tend to be the worst offenders, there are a few location scenes that go hit by the noise. This isn't altogether a deal breaker, it's just an obvious issue that can break the visual flow of the series from scene to scene. Other than that, the show looks absolutely fantastic. Detail levels are a treat, especially with all of the elaborate costuming and places the show travels. Production design, facial features, and Stephen Amell's ridiculous intermittent Kurt Cobain wig come through with amazing clarity. Colors are bright and vibrant for daylight scenes allowing primaries to pop. Once things move to darker quarters, black levels are stable and provide a nice sense of dimension to the image. There are a couple fight sequences that look like they were shot with lower-grade handheld equipment and can lose some of the clarity, but thankfully these moments are brief. All in all, this is a stable and consistent presentation for all 23 episodes.
Each episode of 'Arrow' is given a commanding and rock solid DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. Audio is the one thing that has never wavered in the series. Each episode has always maintained a fine balance between conversation scenes and action sequences. Imaging remains steady throughout all of the episodes as even during the shows quietest moments there is usually something going on in the background to keep the surround channels moving. Dialogue is strong throughout and is never at odds with the background or soundtrack elements. Sound effects and atmospherics do a great job of providing a sense of space to the audio. Levels are just fine as there is little jump from the quiet moments to the heavy action beats that would make you feel the need to adjust your volume. All around, this show earns some strong points in the audio category as one would expect from the series.
Deleted Scenes: (HD 5:00) Spread out between episodes 1, 4, and 5, this is some basic deleted material. Some extended scenes, some extraneous character development stuff. Nothing earth shattering.
Deleted Scenes: (HD 1:26) From episode 10, this is some more cut stuff dealing with Thea and her issues coming out of the Lazarus Pit and her need to kill.
Star Crossed Hawks: (HD 11:20) This is a pretty good introduction to Hawkman and Hawkgirl and explaining the creative process of introducing these characters.
Star Crossed Hawks: The Hunt for Vandal Savage: (HD 11:02) This is a quick little side feature explaining how a lot of this material all winds up connecting to the villain from 'Legends of Tomorrow.'
Deleted Scenes: (HD 3:12) Taken from episodes 13, 14, and 15, it's mostly made up of small scene extensions that don't really add too much weight.
Arrow: 2015 Comic-Con Panel: (HD 23:19) Your basic panel discussion, offers up some insight to the show and where it's going and how everything is intended to connect all of the TV shows in little ways.
Smooth Criminal: The Damien Darhk Story: (HD 14:57) This is a particularly cool extra feature as Neal McDonough was a welcome addition to the show and the extended shows.
Deleted Scenes: (HD 9:09) Pulled from episodes 19, 21, and 23, like the rest there really isn't too much "exciting" missing but some good character moments. You can see why they didn't make it into the final cuts of the episodes but still cool to see.
Gag Reel: (HD 6:02)
As much as I did enjoy 'Arrow: The Complete Fourth Season', it's showing the strain of being the foundation for an entire TV Comic Book Universe. Sometimes that strain can be a bit much as the show will take multiple episodes to resolve a side story and take away focus from the main villain of the season. It's still a wild and entertaining show, but it could be better if it didn't burn so much time introducing new heroes for other TV shows. Warner Brothers brings 'Arrow: The Complete Fourth Season' to Blu-ray with a strong A/V presentation along with some slim but informative extra features. The show may not be in peak condition, but it's still got plenty of ammunition in its quiver. Fans will certainly want to pick this one up, but if you're not already riding the arrow train, this isn't a good place to jump aboard. Recommended.