[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: Gordon Velheu
Writers: Spiro Skentzkos and Stephanie Kim
Starring: Stephen Amell, Emily Bett Rickards, Curtis Holt, Katie Cassidy, Kirk Acevedo, Ashton Holmes, J. Douglas Stewart, Benni Gotesman, Max Archibald, Paul Moniz de Sa
While Felicity grapples with Oliver shutting her out of his activities as Green Arrow, Ricardo Diaz is aided by Black Siren in his bid to become a member of the Quadrant.
What makes this episode stand out is the fact that the primary focus is on the journey of the villain as opposed to Oliver’s “back-to-basics” approach following the events of “Fundamentals.” More on that later. As the old saying goes, the villain is always the hero of their own story. The flashback sequence of a bullied Diaz hits all the right notes. You see the foundations for the man he has become in the way he had been tormented by Jesse and by the photo of his father. The revelation at the end of the episode that reveals he pulled out the remains of the photo from the fire with his bare hand was poignant. The metaphor of the anger designated “The Dragon” makes more sense by this fact. He had been burned by this bully, by his father’s abandonment, and by life in general. Acevedo’s performance conveys the demeanor of a man holding back a mountain of rage against society and – given the bathroom scene when things aren’t going his way – he’s barely holding it together.
What also works is that Black Siren, the cold-hearted version of Laurel Lance, is starting to lose her nerve. You can see in Katie’s eyes that she is not entirely on board with this man’s agenda. In the scene in which Diaz takes his revenge on the now-adult Jesse, if you look at the right of the panoramic shot of this man being burned alive, you can see the disgust on Laurel’s face. She is on board throughout the entire episode, kicking ass and taking names. Diaz has given in to his demons as opposed to rising above them. And that is the fundamental line between the hero and the villain. What he sees as justice for his abuse is really revenge. He doesn’t care that this man has a wife and family now. All he sees is the man who burned the only photo of his father and made him feel worthless. The bigger man would have walked away, and his instability is risking Laurel’s loyalty. This is a more layered villain than Cayden James, if not as meticulous as the likes of Prometheus and Deathstroke.
Now back to the lack of the series’ star in this episode, save for the brief appearance in the end. I believe this is deliberate as a means of putting the viewer in Felicity’s shoes. Oliver has no team and no tech support, and it’s a decision he has made himself. The viewer can only guess what Green Arrow is up to as a loner again. Emily is believable as the wife putting up a brave face for her friend while inside she is in pieces. Not even supporting cast members are featured.
Felicity is, for the first time since season one, out of the loop. As a member of both versions of Team Arrow, it’s become part of her life. As Oliver’s wife, it was a strong part of the bond between them, as they were in each other’s ears. Now, Oliver has deliberately shut her out for her own protection and she feels adrift. Not even Helix Dynamics work helps. Her surrogate family is gone, and her husband has essentially fired her. The state of affairs is far from over between Ollie and Felicity, so a promise to always come home is superficial to say the least.
I’m not sure where the flaws are in this episode because it’s such a change of pace. I think the only complaint I have is Felicity herself. She is taking this too easily, even when she’s breaking down. The Felicity of old would have broken into the facility and hacked her way into Oliver’s ear to find out what he was up to. The conversation seemed too stable. Whether this is deliberate on Felicity’s part to encourage Ollie to open up again, I’m not sure. The way things have been lately seems too volatile for Felicity to allow herself to believe Oliver’s promise. William hit the nail on the head in that there’s no way his father can definitely keep his word. The life of Green Arrow is always a gamble, as there will always be a bigger threat or more dangerous situation. Oliver thinks he will always survive regardless of the collateral, and that is foolishness on his part.
Diaz needed this episode to establish his motives as a villain and the validity of his replacing Cayden James as the real Big Bad. Again, Felicity playing a poor man’s June Cleaver – as in okay with Oliver keeping her out of his vigilante affairs despite the anxiety driving her up the wall – is what I take issue with because the character feels off in this sense.
And to the readers, I apologize for the lateness of this review and will be on time next week.