This week’s Arrow is all about magic and sleight of hand. If you’re not paying close-enough attention, someone might slip a tracker on you, or, worse, try to steal your life force. In “Genesis,” the show works its own sort of sorcery by transforming what starts as a slightly dull, exposition-heavy episode into a tense ride filled with strong performances and playful plot twists.
In the beginning (heh), Damien Darhk arrives at H.I.V.E.’s headquarters with his “posse” in tow, including Andy Diggle. Darhk’s there to have a heart-to-heart with the H.I.V.E. leaders who abandoned him in prison. Actually, he’s there to kill them, just as soon as he confirms that the mysterious Genesis plan is still on track.
Meanwhile, at the bunker, Team Arrow debates whether it’s the right time to fight Darhk. Dig is itching to track Andy down now, but Oliver wants everyone to lay low until Oliver has a chance to get some magic lessons from a pal of John Constantine’s in Hub City. When Felicity gets wind of Oliver’s concern about messing around with the dark arts, she insists on traveling with him. (Separate rooms, naturally. No bone zone for you, Oliver. Sob!)
In Hub City, Oliver and Felicity head to a casino, where they’re meeting Constantine’s connection. It’s a cute callback to season one’s “The Undertaking,” in which the two infiltrate a casino. But instead of being “inside her” ear, Oliver’s beside her at the blackjack table, where Felicity and her math skills are cleaning up. Thanks to Felicity’s charm, they make friends with a woman at their table, who turns out to be Constantine’s connection — an immortal shaman named Esrin Fortuna.
Fortuna escorts Oliver and Felicity through a back door at the casino and into another dimension that looks like the Lian Yu cave from the flashbacks. Here, Fortuna puts Oliver through a series of tests to see if he has enough light within him to repel dark magic. She cautions that, if Oliver’s inner darkness outweighs his light, then the dark magic will only grow stronger if Oliver tries to repel it. At a macro level, the ideas explored in these scenes — the balance of light and dark within Oliver — are appealing, and serve as an important connective thread to the season and series as a whole, but I found the dialogue clunky and underwhelming.
Thankfully, things are spiced up a bit during the “tests” with a Lost-ish smoke monster and a hallucinatory fight with Darhk, Slade Wilson, and (I think?) Al Sah-him. As Fortuna urges Oliver to fight off his darkness, we see a flash of images in Oliver’s thoughts: Tommy’s death, Moira’s death, Oliver’s stabbing, his breakup with Felicity, Laurel’s death, his father’s death … you see where this is headed. There’s too much darkness within Oliver, Fortuna explains. The lesson ends.
Speaking of damaged men, Diggle is desperate to find Andy, who’s still a threat to his family. Dig visits Lyla and baby Sara in their secret hideaway bunker, which, in a fun twist, turns out to be located in the trailer of a heavily fortified moving truck. While Dig’s on a diaper run for Lyla, he discovers Andy’s location using his handy “Find My Andy” app. He can’t resist the bait and heads out to look for him, solo. Andy ambushes him and a shoot-out and chase between the brothers ensue. Andy eventually captures Dig and starts to torture him. But Dig breaks free and, like a magic trick, ends up handcuffing Andy. Andy taunts Dig, but Dig refuses to shoot Andy and, instead, returns to Lyla’s truck.
While all of this tense action is happening in Star City, Thea’s on holiday with Alex. She wakes up in a suburban house and finds Alex making poached eggs, but it’s clear pretty quickly that something is amiss, even if Thea doesn’t quite catch on at first. Thea’s super tired … she’s staying in a creepy, empty suburban neighborhood … she’s hearing “nature” sounds on a loop. Thea starts to question Alex, but he gaslights her. (It takes you a day, Thea, to ask where you are?). While still at their Scare B&B rental, she discovers that, at Ruvé’s suggestions, Alex has been taking multivitamins. Only those vitamins are actually H.I.V.E.’s mind-control pills, and Thea bolts. (Oof, can you imagine the beautiful, but absolutely dumb, babies Thea and Alex would have?)
Back in Star City, a bloody and beaten Dig returns to the truck and finds a very pissed-off Lyla, who wanted Dig to hold off from going after Andy. But, they have other problems: Andy, riding in a Humvee with some sort of bazooka, starts to follow the truck. Turns out, Darhk and Andy planned for Dig’s escape all along and placed a tracker on him!
The remainder of the episode is impressive in terms of action and acting. Andy shoots his bazooka at the truck as it barrels down the road, but thanks to A.R.G.U.S. engineering, the truck is unharmed. Victory, however, is fleeting: H.I.V.E. minions show up to help Andy attack the truck. Dig reaches out to the missing Team Arrow, but there’s no time to wait for them.
Lyla mans the truck’s defensive weaponry, and for a while, it works — until Darhk shows up. He stops the speeding truck with his magic mojo, and Lyla puts together that Darhk is there for her, not Dig. She begs Diggle to leave with Sara, as she’s afraid she’ll give up secrets if Darhk threatens her family. Moments later, Dig zooms out of the back of the truck on a motorcycle, with little Sara riding in a Björn-like carrier on his back. (Awww …Sara’s first mission!) As Dig speeds away, Andy and the H.I.V.E. guys start to chase them. Dig is outnumbered … out-planned. He’s going to need a right-hand man.
Or, more precisely, a right-hand woman! Felicity, fresh from Hub City, appears out of nowhere with a van and runs down the H.I.V.E. dudes, leaving Dig to focus on Andy. Dig eventually corners Andy, who makes clear that Lyla and Sara will always be in danger and that they’ll likely die anyway when “Genesis” arrives. Dig can’t take any more threats to his family and shoots his baby brother. When Dig later confesses what he’s done to Lyla, he untruthfully claims that the killing was in self-defense.
Meanwhile, Darhk finds Lyla on the truck and does some magic-y thing to her arm. Before he can harm her further, the Arrow shows up and fights Darhk. Darhk uses his black magic to suck out Oliver’s life force, leaving him gray and veiny. But, after a few moments, Oliver is suddenly able to repel the magic. A stunned Damien disappears into thin air. Later, Oliver reveals to Felicity that he was able to find the light within by thinking of her voice, as well as those other people on the team and stuff … but also Felicity’s voice! Buckle your seatbelts, we are headed to the bone zone.
At the end of the episode, Lyla reveals that Darhk used his magic to remove a copy of Rubicon, which Lyla had installed underneath the skin on her arm after the Shadowspire attack. Rubicon, she explains, is a program that can override a country’s nuclear-weapon program. With Andy’s reference to Genesis, Team Arrow put together that Darhk is looking to destroy the world, like God did to Noah’s world. If Rubicon is the “flood,” Felicity wonders, then what is Darhk’s “ark”?
As Team Arrow mulls this over, we see Thea, as she helplessly runs through the empty neighborhood. The quiet suburban life, so idealistically depicted in Ivy Town in the season premiere, is now foreboding. H.I.V.E. guards show up, and Thea runs towards a cornfield off in the distance, but an invisible force stops her. Turns out, the cornfield is nothing but a projection: Thea’s trapped in some Truman Show–like bubble beneath the sewers of Star City.
- David Ramsey’s nuanced performances in the last scenes of this episode were excellent. He nailed the mix of shock, confusion, and grief of Dig’s decision to shoot Andy.
- Felicity, when she first hears that “Genesis is coming”: “I don’t think so. Phil Collins said they’d never tour again.”
- Lyla Michaels is the most badass working-mom on television.
- I’m glad they killed Andy. The back-and-forth between the Diggles had run its course. I also like that Andy was never redeemed.
- More Olicity bar scenes, please!
- Is veiny gray Oliver still hot? A question for the ages.
- I guess Tatiana the flashback lady is going to go dark?
MISSING THE MARK
- I’m probably in the minority, but I hate when they recycle old Olicity references like the fern. It’s cheesy, and I selfishly want new lines!
- The extras in the H.I.V.E. opener — dead bodies all around them and they don’t turn away from their computer screens?
NUMBER OF SHIRTLESS STEPHEN AMELL SCENES: 0 (My new campaign slogan: “Make Oliver Shirtless Again”)
Come find me on Twitter, which routinely sucks out my life force.