In Arrow's most recent episode, Al Sah-Him, we received a namedrop of a potentially crucial character in the Arrow/Flash universe- Damien Darhk. Speculation has raged on this character for a while, and ever since Ra's al Ghul mentioned him, suddenly a lot of things in the Arrow and Flash universe began to tie together for me. There's a lot to cover, but I've tried to do it in an order which makes sense and is easy to follow. Enjoy!
The most we've heard of Darhk spawns from this scene, where Ra's al Ghul tells Oliver about the character and his history thus far in the show. It's pretty crucial to understanding everything ahead if you've not seen it or don't remember- or perhaps didn't pay attention- to what Ra's said.
When did this speculation start?
Way back in March- okay, not so way back- TVLine.com gave a scoop on a big event in Arrow's future- namely, that we would meet season four's big bad in the finale, and got some details on him.
"The show’s Season 3 finale will introduce a major, formidable, fierce new foe for Oliver, and his reign of terror will continue well into Season 4. The mysterious character is being referred to internally as “Damian Dark."
Now, it's possible that this was a misspelling- after all, Darhk is pronounced the same way as 'dark,' and so the mistake is a plausible one, as is a name change meant to throw people off. Many speculated that this could mean Damien Wayne, son of the Dark Knight, who has connections to Ra's, but that seemed unlikely (edit: ironically, it's come to my attention the Facebook page for Moviepilot actually shared this as Damien Wayne. That's an error such as the one above). DC fans began to realise this could mean Damien Darhk- a relatively minor, in the grand scheme of things, villain of the Teen Titans. The big thing here was that we would meet this character in the season finale, and that he would be a "formidable and fierce" foe for Oliver. It sounded a lot like season four's big bad, like Merlyn, Deathstroke and Ra's before him.
...So, just who IS Darhk in the comics?
Honestly, even a passionate comic fan could be forgiven for not knowing who Darhk is. Similar to Merlyn when he was announced, though to an even greater extent, there's little to be found on him online, and in the comics, unlike Merlyn, he's fairly minor. He had big connections to the American underworld, which saw him collide with the Titans, and was a high ranking official in H.I.V.E. He was considered a criminal by leading intelligence organisations, but there wasn't any evidence against him. He was known for his baby face, and, as it's put on the DC wiki, "...baffled investigators with his apparent youth; he seemed to be in his early twenties when he was already well established and well connected."
I suppose it's important here to go in depth about just what HIVE is. The Hierarchy of International Vengeance and Extermination- the acronym has been dropped in several versions, and indeed in the New 52 is "Holistic Integration for Viral Equality" - is a mysterious organisation that specializes in the training and employment of assassins, mercenaries and killers. They've appeared in the Teen Titans animated series, where they maintained a similar role- besides Arrow, that's their only adaption so far. While their history is far more extensive in the original comics, H.I.V.E only appeared for the first time in the New 52 in 2013, making their most recent appearance over a year ago, and they didn't do much. Ever since then, they've been quiet.
Meet Doctor Darrk, potentially important.
Damien Darhk's description from Ra's doesn't equate to his comic counterpart- but it's possible the writers have amalgamated two characters. Doctor Ebeneezer Darrk was assigned by Ra's to head the League of Assassins, who accordingly holds his own mini league of followers. Unlike most other assassins, Darrk relied not on martial arts, but on his mind- "careful planning and manipulation, ambushes and death traps, as well as a variety of cleverly concealed weapons and poisons." He died, marking his last appearance in the comics, in 1971- indeed, I think it's appropriate in this case, 'way back.'
And how does that fit into the show?
Ra's al Ghul's description matches neither character perfectly, but together it does. Ra's says that Damien has a "hive of followers" - it would seem, in this universe, Darhk heads HIVE, who are his own "loyalists" who departed the League of Assassins alongside him. That's where Darrk comes in, being an assassin and friends with Ra's, and his connections to the show thus far really end there, but I wouldn't rule out the notion of an amalgamation between Darrk and Darhk- perhaps to make it easier, it'll actually just be spelled 'Dark' in the Arrow/Flash universe, but we'll have to see on that one.
His "baby face" and apparent youth which eludes those who oppose him could very well spawn from the "waters he stole from the Lazarus Pit," allowing him to maintain his youth- and potentially allowing for a dangerous game changer in the form of resurrection entering HIVE's abilities. HIVE and the League aren't so different in terms of mechanics, but their ideology is completely different- HIVE's is yet to be explored thus far, but I'd expect it to be.
What impact does HIVE have in this universe so far? Perhaps a lot more than you think.
Ra's says that Damien is a threat to even him, which, as you can imagine, is a huge statement- the League spans the whole world, but so too does this "hive of followers" - his loyalists. Let's break down the HIVE members we've met so far, and when they've been mentioned.
Their first mention came in Season 2's Keep Your Enemies Closer, when Floyd Lawton, AKA Deadshot, told Diggle who contracted him to kill Diggle's brother, Andy- "no name, just an alias." Their motive for killing Andrew hasn't emerged yet, but, whatever the motive, the assassination occurred, and Deadshot presumably did even more work for HIVE afterwards.
In Tremors, we met Milo Armitage, who was again mentioned in Corto Maltese- in both episodes, there were HIVE connections. A lot more on him and those episodes below, though, so keep reading.
Their next explicit mention occurred in the scene above, in Suicidal Tendencies, and we met one of their members. This is pretty much the only time we've seen a member of HIVE openly stating that they belong to that organisation and offering some insight into their workings. This is where Deadshot's relationship with them began.
Then we met Brie Larvan on The Flash. Please note, this is speculation. There is no explicit mention of HIVE here, but the dialogue choice "I'm the queen of this hive" when the word has such significance in the Arrow universe could be significant- she was probably just using it in reference to, believe it or not, bees, however. But what could be significant is that she developed her killer bees for "military grade application." It's a long shot, but this is the kind of thing HIVE could use- remember, the toxin in those bees was enough to kill an elephant with a single sting, and give even Barry a hard time.
Then, of course, came Ra's' first mention of Darhk and his reference to his "hive of followers," a very specific word choice, where we learned the most of their actions so far. I'd expect to hear the name again before the season's done, whether HIVE or Darhk, if not actually a meeting in person.
Which leaves him with ties to Diggle...
We know that Diggle's backstory and character will be explored a lot more in season four alongside HIVE- David Ramsey, who plays Diggle, confirmed this himself. Having Darhk potentially responsible for the order behind Diggle's brother's assassination gives him a direct tie already to Team Arrow, and why he should be considered an enemy from straight away.
Who worked in their employ, even if only for a single assassination. This leaves a fair few of Arrow's villains also potentially in their command, or with ties to them, which again frames them an enemy. "For the nonce" Deadshot is off the table on Arrow, after we saw his apparent death in Suicidal Tendencies, but I don't think we're done hearing about him by any means.
...Deathstroke- yes, Slade himself-
Beyond Slade just being an assassin and making him an obvious target of recruitment for HIVE- as they have attempted to do in the comics, and potentially will in the show- HIVE has some large ties to Deathstroke's character in the comics. Let's start with his son- Grant Wilson. In Arrow, Grant doesn't exist, but Slade does have a son, Joe (Jericho in the comics) mentioned way back in season one. Another character combination could occur here.
In the comics, HIVE is responsible for the transformation process which makes Slade's son like his father, only the process goes slightly wrong, and Grant is left with powers akin to his father, but with less training, and some hiccups with his mental state. He dies on a contract for HIVE to kill the Titans, which pits Deathstroke against them and the Titans (leading to his long history with them). While the Titans don't exist in the Flarrowverse- yet- this could be a huge way of reintroducing Slade back into the fold.
The next character comes in the form of Slade's ex-wife, Adeline Kane, who, in a huge relationship between characters, leads the second HIVE. It's possible that in the show she leads it alongside Damien. In the comics, at one point Slade gives her some of his blood to survive a fatal attack- Mirakuru would most likely be the equivalent in the show- and she loses her mind accordingly, eventually losing all reason but no tactical or combat abilities. Blaming superheroes for Grant's death, she becomes the HIVE Mistress.
These are all simplifications of years of history, of course, but it's a nice snapshot on potential connections I think. Will all of this happen in the show? I doubt it. Could some of it, or even just a tiny bit? You bet it could. We'll see.
In Corto Maltese- more on all this below- we see Mark Shaw selling ARGUS secrets mentioned by Ra's to HIVE agents- those secrets are the identities of various ARGUS agents. If we're talking organisations, HIVE is kind of the anti-ARGUS, with a polarised motivation and leadership which would set the two on different paths. Diggle's connections also come into play here given his ties to Waller. What's interesting is that Shaw explained to Diggle that HIVE wasn't just paying him, they were his "way out" of ARGUS. If these people are helping ARGUS agents abandon their missions, this would make Waller unhappy indeed.
What makes the combination of both of these characters so interesting is that Marc Guggenheim confirmed that neither Deathstroke nor Amanda Waller were off the table for Arrow, meaning they could definitely have large roles in season four if the writers chose to make that the case- and, as I hope I've shown,
...and potentially Felicity.
This is a big one. We've touched on Felicity's father throughout the show here and there, and we know he's a genius- but he's also a criminal wanted by the police. He's the source of Felicity's intelligence. Damien was also known for being a "Wi-fi fiend, staying in touch with associates by the very latest forms of mass communication." Remind you of anyone? It's been hinted that we'll know the identity of Felicity's father very soon, and the reason "she's as smart as she is," and I'd happily put money on it being Darhk at this point.
What about the two remaining leads?
At this point, Oliver's only connection to HIVE is Ra's' request that he be the one to purge Damien from the world and not allow him to repeat his own failure to do so as the Head of the Demon. Laurel at this point has nothing in common with Damien, but Sara being a member of the League of Assassins has some interesting potential connection for her- and with all of the things HIVE is responsible for behind the scenes, there may be something we're not seeing. That's probably even likely at this point.
Another potential connection to Oliver is the above (and more extensively below) mentioned Milo Armitage. While it's unlikely to occur in the show, Armitage the arms dealer is the stepfather of Connor Hawke, and wife of Sandra Hawke- Oliver's son and wife in the show and comics. Connor will have to pop up eventually, one would think, given they introduced him.
On another note, while Colton Haynes isn't going to be a regular in season four, Roy Harper- funnily enough- in terms of comics has more connections to Darhk than anyone in the team, with him being originally a Teen Titans villain, and Roy being a member of the Titans. We're expecting TNT's Titans- or, if rumours are true, now called Blackbirds- to get more announcements soon, hopefully as early as 10 days away at the TNT upfronts, and if it does end up connecting to the universe of Arrow and The Flash, HIVE could play a role there.
He's been responsible for a lot of things- remember Tremors, and the earthquake device?
Yes, the "buyer in Markovia" - he was revealed to be Gholem Qadir (below). But Qadir wasn't working alone, as you'll see under the next heading. Not only could this earthquake machine have leveled Starling, it's interesting that Darhk wanted it. Remember, Merlyn was hunted by the League for breaching a code of honour the League follow in using such a machine- the League and HIVE already have very different ideologies.
Or remember Suicide Squad, and Gholem Qadir's bioweapon in his estate in Markovia?
Ra's mentioned that Darhk was also responsible for granting Gholem Qadir, the international terrorist with a personal history with Diggle, safe passage to Markovia. Waller says in the above mentioned episode that "Qadir tried to get his scummy hands on Malcolm Merlyn's earthquake machine." See the ties continuing here? Qadir, Armitage and Darhk are all involved with each other, parts of HIVE- as a point of fact, with Qadir in Diggle's past, his organisation that they dismissed as a terrorist group may be, in point of fact, HIVE.
What about Corto Maltese, when an anonymous source hired Mark Shaw to steal files from ARGUS?
It wasn't explicitly said who the buyers were during this episode, but in Corto Maltese ARGUS agent Mark Shaw went rogue and attempted to sell a transcoder filled with the identities of ARGUS agents to unknown buyers who worked for "Mr Armitage" - Milo Armitage, the same one who attempted to set off the earthquake device, and in the comics stepfather of Connor Hawke.
Armitage was mentioned during the transaction between the two parties, with Shaw remarking, "I expected Mr Amitage," receiving the reply, "This country's soil is not worthy of Mr Armitage." It would seem that Armitage may have been, in fact, a high ranking HIVE leader, and the troops who Oliver, Roy and Diggle fight in Corto Maltese are in fact HIVE agents.
Could he have even bigger implications for the Arrow/Flash universe? Vandal Savage? Killer Frost?
That's as far as solid 'already-in-the-show' speculation goes thus far, but here are two more points worth considering. In the New 52, during the Forever Evil storyline, flashbacks to Caitlin Snow working in STAR Labs showed that HIVE were the ones who tried to kill her, causing the accident which turned her into Killer Frost. I think it's unlikely they'll go down this route in the show, but, again, it's a possibility that's embedded in comic lore.
Vandal Savage is a time travelling big bad in the DC Universe, immortal and in every era, and is on my own and several other's list of plausible candidates for the big bad of the first season of the Arrow/Flash spinoff, Legends of Tomorrow. Indeed, he was a popular theory of who Harrison Wells really was, given the notions of persisting through various times and his recent increase in appearances in DC adaptions. Nothing's certain, but he could make it in, and, what's more, Savage is the one responsible for killing Darhk in the comics. It's a long shot, but his ties to HIVE are there, and could come into play if he in fact makes it in to the spinoff.
So, is Darhk Season 4's big bad?
At this point, Darhk certainly seems to be a good candidate for season four's big bad, but there's a lot of room for him to springboard into other characters, including the likes of the HIVE Mistress, Adeline Wilson, Grant/Joe Wilson, and more League of Assassins related threats. I guess we'll have to wait for the finale, My Name is Oliver Queen, and see if the rumours of meeting him are true.
That was a long article, I know, but I hope it helps you pull together the appearances of HIVE on Arrow so far and the potentially huge implications this could all have for the Flarrow universe- he may be a minor villain in the comics, but Darhk and HIVE could mean big and amazing things for the DC TV Universe.
For now, if you want more reading, you can get a breakdown on the trailer for The Flash's Grodd Lives, or their "Endgame" trailer, or, if you're feeling more arrow-y after this post, for this week's This Is Your Sword. If you've got any additional thoughts, be sure to let me know in the comments!