While Arrow has steadily built a reliable audience over its first three seasons, every show that heads into a fourth year needs a bit of a shake up. It is a tried and tested strategy, and can be seen in many of the biggest successes of the modern era – including The X-Files, ER, The Office, Friday Night Lights, Mad Men, and even Breaking Bad.
These are shake ups that apply to both the structure and narrative of the show, and serve to refocus and redirect the overall plot. It is always interesting to see how a series team will approach these shake ups, and Arrow is no exception. What is clear now is that, for this show, the shake up will come in the form of Damien Darhk, played by actor Neal McDonough (Justified).
While a superhero always needs a villain to battle against, it will be both the nature of this bad guy, and the way he is introduced that will make him the central point of the fourth season shake up of Arrow – as executive producer and showrunner, Marc Guggenheim recently explained.
“Damien’s a different kind of villain than we’ve had on the show before. He’s not as centurion as Ra’s, he’s not as looney tune as Slade, he’s not as – and people will be surprised I use this word – he’s not as noble as Malcolm Merlyn. He’s pure evil. We wanted someone who was truly, truly malevolent. We’ve never done that on the show before. All of our big bads always thought they were doing the wrong thing for the right reason. This guy does the wrong thing for the wrong reasons.”
In the source material – the DC comic books – Damien Darhk is a little known character who first appeared as an elusive mastermind in Titans Vol. 1 #1 in 1999. He consistently evades capture, thanks to a vast range of connections in the criminal underworld, and is renowned for harnessing Wi-Fi technology for nefarious purposes.
In the TV show, Arrow, his imminent fourth season arrival was prefaced by Ra’s al Ghul toward the end of season three, when he explained that Darhk had been a renegade member of the League of Assassins, who had met with resistance when he sought to create his own criminal organisation.
“It’s a bad situation to have this guy coming in. And the other thing that we’re doing that’s different is in past seasons, you’ve had to wait ‘til usually the mid-season finale to meet the big bad, and have Oliver confront the big bad. We are coming out of the gate strong. We’re not waiting and actually, that itself has really energised the show, and it infuses even the ‘villain of the week’ episodes with an epicness that they wouldn’t otherwise have.”
So, it seems that the creative team behind Arrow are shaking things up by introducing a villain that comes with very little pop culture awareness and baggage – allowing them to create someone truly unnerving – and making that introduction early on. The fact that Neal McDonough will be the one to bring that villain to life just makes the prospect all the more exciting. This is indeed a bold shake up for the series, so fans may want to strap themselves in ahead of the October 7th CW premiere.