As one of our very own writers recently pointed out, television is built on the foundations of genre - which means it abides by certain expectations, rules, and formulaic narrative arcs. For superhero shows like Arrow, The Flash, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., one of the main genre regulations requires each season to have a 'big bad' - a looming antagonist who underlies many of the episodes, pulling strings from dark corners until finally surfacing near the end to confront our hero.
Arrow has so far seen three 'big bads' confront Oliver Queen and attempt to destroy Starling City, each in a different, more diabolical way. There was the earthquake machinist and dark archer Malcolm Merlyn in Season 1; revenge-seeking super soldier Slade Wilson in Season 2; and most recently, Batman-turned-Arrow villain Ra's al Ghul. After defeating the Demon's Head in the game-changing finale, Oliver seemingly hung up the 'Arrow' suit for good and drove off into the sunset with Felicity. But come next season, he will have to leave the retired life behind in order to face possibly his most formidable and 'darhkest' enemy yet - an enemy who has been teased over and over again.
signs arrows point to that enemy being a character known as Damien Darhk. Fans should be familiar with the name, considering Darhk was name-dropped quite often over the course of Season 3 and revealed to be Ra's' former rival; he even played a significant role - albeit an unseen one - in the season finale. But it seems we will finally meet him face-to-face when the show returns in the fall.
Comicbook.com recently stumbled upon two audition tapes of actors reading for an unknown character listed as "Simon,” which could either be an alias or just a pseudonym that the showrunners are using to conceal the character's true identity. While the first teases a foreboding scene between Oliver and "Simon," the second features a prisoner or captive begging "Simon" for his life. Despite the lack of context, both tapes not only seem to confirm that "Simon" is the forthcoming 'big bad' of Season 4, but also that he is actually Damien Darhk.
[Update: Transcript removed by request of Warner Bros.]
The first transcript clearly establishes a link between Ra's and the unknown villain, touching upon their bitter rivalry. In fact, it is from the villain's first line - "I'm sure Ra's has told you many things about me. He was quite the storyteller - always concerned about myths and legends" - that we can assume he is Damien Darhk. Indeed, Ra's did tell Oliver many things about Darhk, most notably that after he was not chosen as Heir to the Demon, he fled the League of Assassins to continue his own nefarious agenda. And that agenda eventually metastasized into H.I.V.E. But more on that later.
A connection is also established between Oliver and Darhk - if only one-way. Judging by Darhk's knowledge of Oliver's past foes, it would seem the mysterious villain has been keeping tabs on the bow-toting vigilante ever since he returned from the island (or possibly before). He even makes a point to set himself apart from and above Malcolm and Slade, calling both men "pretenders." That said, if Darhk is indeed more dangerous than them - and if Ra's fears him like he claims - Oliver will certainly be facing his most merciless adversary yet.
And the second transcript only confirms this, revealing that Darhk has cut off all emotional ties to anyone and everyone. The result? A fearless and ruthless man primed to wreak havoc on Starling City (for a fourth consecutive time).
But he won't be doing it alone. Reenter: H.I.V.E., a cryptic group of villains and assassins that Darhk commands. As fans will remember, H.I.V.E. was already introduced in the Season 2 episode, "Keep Your Enemies Closer," as the organization that hired Deadshot to murder Diggle’s brother. It was also teased again in the Season 3 episode "Suicidal Tendencies," and confirmed by David Ramsey to officially show up in Season 4. That said, H.I.V.E. has been in the works for a while now, quietly buzzing beneath the surface. Whether or not it and its King Bee last for more than one season, though, remains to be seen.
Arrow season four will begin airing on The CW in Fall 2015.