This Arrow review contains spoilers.
Arrow: Season 6 Episode 10
This episode had a lot of work to accomplish, and yet somehow also very little that’s fun or flashy to mix in with it. No big reveals, almost no humor, returning to old villains but not for the first time, so it’s not even exciting. One highlight is letting a bunch of bad guys obliterate each other in battle, because who cares? They’re all throwaway nobodies.
But the thing I really enjoyed about this episode is that it didn’t take the easy way out, and it’s setting us up for a back half of Season 6 that won’t, either.
The episode is called “Divided,” which is what I would have expected the midseason finale to be called. The team is broken up and barely on speaking terms, which seems to be exactly what Cayden James wants. No one knows why, although, “because it’s easier to defeat people that way,” seems like a perfectly acceptable reason to me. I mean come on, just because he’s a super genius doesn’t mean he needs a Rube Goldberg-style plan for everything.
I have to admire Arrow for making this separation last more than an episode – most major setbacks and cliffhangers like this are resolved in the first few minutes when a show comes back from break, or by the end of that first episode back at the latest. But it looks like the factions of Team Arrow will remain splintered for a while longer.
Fundamentally, the A Team approaches this as an issue where at best, both sides have done wrong and they should wipe the slate clean and start over – not because it’s the right thing to do or they feel remorse, but because it is tactically necessary to defeat their foe, which is like a quarter of Ollie’s Rogues Gallery. But Oliver’s insistence on listing off the B Squad’s trespasses at his peace summit, framing of their departure as his decision, and belief that he is the one in a position to forgive or not, undercuts his argument and betrays his true feelings.
Felicity’s outburst, in which she framed the B Squad as children who are mad at “daddy” for reading their diary, is bizarre in the extreme, and communicates a similar message. Regardless of what they said about wrongs on all sides, Oliver and Felicity (Diggle seems more reasonable) still believe that they are in the right, the others are in the wrong, and that the B Squad should be lucky to be forgiven.
That’s incredibly egocentric, and right on target for Oliver. It’s only a recent development for Felicity, and one that I dislike for her character not just because I’m a fan, but also because I don’t understand it. In the past she has been one of the only people who can tell Ollie no when he really needs to hear it, and usually the only person who can make him listen to reason. The other is John. This of course begs the question: if Felicity and Diggle felt like it, could they get Oliver to come around? Probably, and they almost did at the end of this episode. But Oliver is Oliver, and no amount of Season 6 emotional maturity is enough to make this guy actually admit real wrongdoing.
While it makes me mad at Oliver when I watch it, it’s still a pretty gutsy thing for a show to do. Like many tv shows, superhero and otherwise, Arrow has asked us to give Oliver a million miles of leeway, forgive him of all his flaws, and always take his side, even when he’s in the wrong. But finally, in the sixth season, the writers are acknowledging that the world of their show is fundamentally unfair, and that’s exemplified most clearly within Team Arrow. We’ve been asked to ignore his moral shortcomings until he sees fit to remedy them, prioritize his needs and loved ones over all else, and to hate his enemies, even if they’re coming for vengeance for the things Oliver has done.
Still, I’m struggling to think of other shows that have called out their own star and hero like this, other than The 100, which is a show about marinating in moral dilemmas. Even antiheroes like Don Draper, Tony Soprano, and Heisenberg, who are acknowledged for breaking laws, vows, or moral codes, are still supposed to be seen by the audience as more or less making either the right, cool, or understandable choice, whereas Oliver just seems like a jerk. By letting the B Squad walk and choose to not forgive the A Team, Arrow is saying that they have a point, and that Oliver deserves to live with it.
I do think it weakens the strength of this (Queen’s) gambit a bit to put Diggle back on the board to even things up a bit for Oliver. I would’ve liked seeing him actually feel the full force of the consequences for his actions. I do think the B Squad is going to handle this break-up way better than Oliver realizes, and I can’t wait for him to value all of them, but especially loyal, longsuffering Curtis. I’m still holding out hope that Diggle will come around to all this first, and will make Oliver learn his lesson, although at this rate there’s a good chance Felicity will cast Diggle out if he does.
Ultimately, this will probably play into some very cool ending, and in many ways is the ultimate justification to anyone who ever called the lair crowded. I anticipate we’ll watch Oliver realize he needs to make a real apology and real change in how he leads his team if he wants them back. (This was never really John Diggle’s team so let’s not pretend.) Because as Curtis told them, some people are fundamentally treated differently than others. Again, this would mean an emphatic change and real growth for Oliver’s character, and that’s an exciting thing.
Let’s see if Oliver can actually change his ways, and how long it takes him to realize he has to.