Arrow Season 4 Episode 3 "Restoration" : Review:

In my review of the Season 4 premiere, I was very cautious about letting myself think Arrow had gotten back on something resembling a track. Last week's episode gave more evidence that the show had not only gotten onto a track, but had a story engine ready to do some fun and entertaining, if not interesting, things. A lot of my cautiousness had faded away. Hell, "The Candidate" even had a fight sequence that wasn't cut into a chaotic mess and was content to let the choreography do its thing (a trend that continued in this episode, I was happy to see).
And then Laurel decided that she wanted to bring Sara back to life using the same thing that turned Thea, a young woman she'd known all her life, into a little rage monster, and I just put my head in my hands and sighed very loudly. It made no sense for Laurel to want to do this. She had come to grips with Sara's death. There was a whole episode about it, and it was good! The Laurel in the first half of Season 3? The one not wanting to listen to reason and consumed by grief and ready to kill a guy on the off chance he had killed Sara? That Laurel would've put Sara in the Lazarus Pit lickety-split, but that Laurel wasn't the Laurel that has existed since Season 3, Episode 13.

But grief is a tricky, sneaky emotion. It hits us when we least expect, and any little thing can trigger a wave of it, even when we think we've got it contained. Had Arrow done anything to show Laurel struggling toward the end of Season 3 or within the first two episodes of this season, maybe I'd have a different response to half of "Restoration." Sadly, for Arrow and for Laurel, the only thing that triggered her sudden grief relapse was the non-character-driven need to bring Sara back for Legends of Tomorrow, the spin-off premiering at midseason.

Both Arrow and The Flash are having to do storylines to set up Legends. That's fine; it was going to happen. Flash has to spend time establishing why Captain Cold would even want to join a bunch of heroes to save the world and also find someone else to be the other half of the Firestorm matrix now that Ronnie is no longer around. Arrow has to bring back Sara and also Ray Palmer (presumably, that's who was contacting Felicity on her phone in this episode). All of that, really, was largely doable for both shows, but the Sara aspect was always going to be difficult, and "Restoration" proved just how hard it turned out to be.
So not only was there virtually no character-driven reason for Laurel to want to do this, the episode shifted its focus entirely away from her to instead make the resurrection of Sara about Thea and Malcolm. That this was how the episode decided to handle the issue felt like an admission that they had no Laurel-based reason, and that they hoped exploring the causes and potential solutions for Thea's bloodlust would suffice instead. It didn't. All it did was demonstrate just how little sense it made to bring Sara back this way.

To be fair, Sara's death was all about Thea and Malcolm—they did kill her, after all—so there was a strand of relevance to it. It was just very poorly dramatized. Malcolm wanted to prove that he'd do anything for Thea by first allowing Thea to kill members of the League and then agreeing to resurrect Sara to heal Thea's conscience. But tell me, please, when Sara has to start killing people to satisfy her own bloodlust, how will that sit on Thea's conscience? Thea was totally unwilling to allow this to happen to Sara given what she herself was going through, but she was apparently convinced by Malcolm's dumb argument about letting Sara have the same chance to fight the oncoming desire to kill a bunch of people that she let it happened anyway... because of the spin-off. Nyssa had some sort of concoction that apparently rendered the Lazarus Pit useless, and despite being wholly against bringing Sara back to life, she decided to wait until afterSara was resurrected to use it. Why didn't Nyssa use it before they did the ceremony? Because of the spin-off.
There was no dramatic sense or character-based logic for any of this to happen the way it did. I understand that Arrow was backed into something of a corner because it was decided that Sara would be part of Legends and, whoops, she was dead. But since the people who make Arrow are also making Legends, it's not like the decision was forced on them. I mean, when you've opened up a breach to a second Earth on The Flash, how hard would it have been to just make it so Earth-2 Sara had arrived on Earth-1 and spared us all of this?
I'm not opposed to Legends of Tomorrow—even if I am cynical about the reasons why the spin-off is happening—so I don't want my negative reception about how this all went down to be mistaken for that. It's entirely because the demands of that show are hurting this show and its characters when it appeared to be something of a narrative upswing. It's disappointing. The upside is that Arrow will spend at least the next two episodes dealing with what bringing Sara back is going to mean for everyone.

By comparison, the focus on Original Team Arrow (plus Curtis Holt) in the other half of the episode was rather fun. The little callbacks to Season 1—I had forgotten about Dodger and his little bomb collars; ah, simpler times—were nice, but I really liked how the character interactions in this plot mirrored a lot of the character interactions that season as well. Oliver and Diggle were learning how to trust one another again and figure out their dynamics just as they were when Oliver first started out in Star(ling) City, and Diggle was the one being distant and putting himself at real risk the way Oliver did in Season 1. Felicity found herself in the Season 1 Oliver role of being a boss and going to a tech person to get assistance while doing a horrible job of lying about the reason she needed help looking at a playing card. It turned out that she's not any better at it than Oliver was in Season 1.
These situations felt not only like they were rewarding viewers who have been with the show for a while (or at least caught up before this season!) with bits of a cheeky role reversal, but also highlighted the new dynamics that each of these characters have come to since those good old days... when Oliver used to kill a lot of people. Okay, so the nostalgia was honestly pretty rose-tinted, but it was still indicative of the less grim tone they've been striving for this season. It's a good sign that, despite the rest of the episode, there's still reason to be somewhat optimistic that when Arrow isn't dealing with setting up Legends it's going to be good.
Mostly, though, I'm glad that Oliver and Diggle have made actual progress in mending their relationship. I don't want them to be bestest buddies by next week just because they took down Double Down (J.R. Bourne, having fun being a little ridiculous) together, or because Diggle finally shared his research into H.I.V.E. (or is just Hive or HIVE?) with Oliver. It's a step—a good step, but still a step. I would love the show to really pace this relationship's rehabilitation, even if it did sort of make Oliver and Diggle both look like little kids with Felicity (humorously) putting them in a time out in their own superhero lair.
On a season arc level, I am a little sad that the team was denied even a little advancement into finding out about H.I.V.E, but we did learn that Damien is in Star City to begin Phase 3 of something called Genesis, so I suppose that's something. And now that our heroes have an organization to focus their attentions on, more things may begin coming to light.

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