In the wake of the tragedy of Laurel Lance’s apparent death, season 4 of Arrow enters its endgame with its twentieth episode, “Genesis.” Throughout the season, unstoppable mage Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) has made vague hints about an overall goal of his called Genesis, but aside from a few brief shots of an underground garden farm that he controls we’ve been given no information what that is. Now we find out, and instead of the annual terrorist attack on Star City that has become so formulaic that characters in-universe regularly joke about it, the dashing super villain has something much bigger in mind.
Fresh from his prison break, Darhk reunites with H.I.V.E. and summarily purges it of its remaining disloyal elements and sets Andy Diggle (Eugene Byrd) on a mission that will put the last stage of his plan into effect. Meanwhile, Team Arrow continues to struggle with the loss of the Black Canary and Oliver (Stephen Amell) acts on information from John Constantine that may allow him to repel Darhk’s magic. The team quickly agrees that a brief vacation might be the best thing for all of them and go their separate ways, and Oliver and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), John Diggle (David Ramsey), and Thea (Willa Holland) become embroiled in their own separate adventures.
What follows can be described as part Dungeons and Dragons, part Twilight Zone, and part spy thriller. Ordinarily, cramming so many different genres into a single episode is too much even for a super hero show, but “Genesis” does it just right, giving each character just enough to work with to make each plot really meaty. The best story arc belongs to Thea, who finds herself on a wonderful weekend getaway – except with no memory of where she is or how she got there. Her scenes are brief, bewildering, and done just right; and they lead to a truly epic shot at the episode’s end that’s a huge payoff. Meanwhile, Andy Diggle’s mission naturally brings him into confrontation yet again with his vengeful older brother John. Without spoiling too much, “Genesis” finally succeeds in giving that running conflict a payoff as well.
Longtime viewers will find “Genesis” a treat due to the sheer number of callbacks to previous episodes that it provides. Darhk’s mind-wiping drugs, Amanda Waller, Shadowspire, and Andy Diggle’s wife and daughter all get mentioned again after having seemingly been dropped from continuity, and Oliver’s spirit quest lets us experience all the show’s villains yet again. It justifies what may be seen as some of the weaker writing from earlier in the season and reaffirms faith that the show’s writers do have an overall goal and care about what they are doing.
The only weaknesses in “Genesis” are that John Barrowman’s Malcolm Merlyn character is criminally underused, and that Constantine, while heavily referenced, does not appear. Barrowman is such a scene stealer that it’s hard to watch him looming in the background as Darhk’s flunky. He only appears for a few moments in the show’s intro and does absolutely nothing except suffer a snide joke about his missing hand. On the bright side, Merlyn finally seems to have acquired a prosthetic hand, eliminating the awkward and unconvincing sling the character has worn for several appearances. As for Constantine, it is probably for very practical reasons like scheduling conflicts with the actor, etc., but he is such an interesting character and the possibility of him having a continuing existence on Arrow following the demise of his own series is hard to let go of.
Overall, “Genesis” throws Arrow back into action in a terrific way following the tragic loss of Laurel, and it promises a big ending for the battle with Team Arrow’s most dangerous enemy yet.