Well, the status quo for Arrow this season is that Oliver has returned to Star City as Green Arrow and has re-teamed with Red Arrow (his sister Thea), Black Canary (his ex-girlfriend Laurel), Diggle (his former best friend) and his current love, Felicity. In “The Candidate,” Star City continues to be embattled by more chaos as more and more threats come out of every corner.
One important ongoing theme this season is Oliver’s attempts to be a paternal figure to the renegade Thea. She has never been quite right after the Lazarus Pit, and Oliver continues to try and reign in some of her more unsavory aspects. Not an easy balancing act for anyone, much less someone like Oliver Queen, who has battled demons of his own.
The issue resurfaces in a big way earlier on, when the team has to deal with Ghost once again. Thea’s intense tactics again seem to come close to crossing the line, and Oliver seems to be concerned. This behaviour is partly due to the Lazarus Pit, yes, but the dynamic has echoes in lots of other comic storylines as well, most recently in the animated movie Batman vs. Robin (2015), in which Bruce Wayne struggles to teach Damien Wayne (Robin) to show more self-discipline. It’s the old “impetuous youth vs. wise elder” archetype that we have enjoyed countless times in Pop Culture. In Arrow, it remains to be seen whether Oliver will succeed in toning-down Thea’s anarchical tendencies, or fail.
Thea’s tactics come into play again later, when Jessica Danforth announces her intention to run for Mayor of Star City. A gun goes off, which seems to be an assassination attempt. Thea investigates, but finds the gun is just a diversion that allows Lonnie Machin, an associate of Bad Guy Damien Darhk, to try and kidnap her. Thea goes all out-of-control again, hurting a witness and even setting Machin on fire as she and Oliver try to stop him. Wow. Is Thea redeemable after the Lazarus Pit? You have to wonder.
In a way, the idea of Leadership is a unifying theme in this episode. Danforth’s running for Mayor – and her withdrawal after realizing how dangerous it can be – serves to underscore just how much of a mess Star City has become. Anarchy has indeed taken over, it seems. Oliver’s decision to run for Mayor in her stead is his attempt to bring that desperately needed leadership to the city, but will he succeed? Or is this city too damaged to fix? Certainly, his struggles with Thea seem to be a kind of metaphor for the never-ending – and possibly futile – battle of order vs. chaos.
But there’s hope in the form of Oliver himself. This episode is a great example of the new general direction the show has taken, centered around the change in Oliver himself. No longer so much the brooding, murky figure of past seasons, Oliver is now – amazingly – the role model on the show for keeping faith and hope in the midst of the darkness. His change of character brings hope to Star City, and to Arrow. If he can change, anyone, and anything, can.
A good example of this is Felicity’s decision to try and save Palmer Tech. This is indeed another VERY uphill battle, given the sorry state of the company. But it is important more for what it represents: Felicity stepping up and taking leadership in a company that needs it. On the other side, however, we also got an example of what NOT to do, when Laurel decides to dig up her sister Sara’s decaying corpse (ew), and put it in the Lazarus Pit. Are you serious?! This is obviously not going to lead to anything good, and it is definitely not the way any viewers wanted to see Sara return (and that rotting corpse image didn’t help).
This season of Arrow has some very strong and compelling thematic threads that “The Candidate” continued quite well. Can a person be saved, despite themselves? Oliver is trying to show Thea that they can. Can a city be saved, despite it looking hopeless? Oliver has bet heavily that it can. But that doesn’t mean that he’s right – we’ll have to keep watching to see.