This Arrow review contains spoilers.
Arrow Season 6 Episode 20 Review
This week is significantly better than the previous episode, but that’s a low bar to clear. It mostly gives us a break from rehashing the Oliver-versus-everyone dynamic, and instead lets us focus on a mission and a classic confrontation with a villain. And yet it can’t seem to escape the problems that have plagued the entire season, from bloated story lines to a confuse use of this Laurel.
Doing favors for the Bratva is the kind of thing that would normally warrant at least some discussion between Oliver, Felicity, and Dig. It’s not to say they’ve never done, as Lance puts it, the wrong thing for the right reason. But they always talked it through, even if it was after Ollie had already gone off and done it. I hope that in the future, we see some fallout from Oliver choosing to go against his personal code.
Right now it seems to be all upside, and it’s easy to see how Oliver could lose sight of his boundaries without his two-person moral conscience, Felicity and Dig. As much as they both provided serious tactical and strategic advances, their biggest contribution to the team was in how they always pushed Oliver to be a better man and a better hero for his city.
Rene is back, but he can’t stop thinking about dying and leaving Zoe without a father. Finally we get a couple of dads talking about the reality of what it means to be a vigilante and a father at the same time. This is rich material – Diggle’s advice to simply compartmentalize is understandable but not the greatest, and I’d love to see him and Rene work through that over the course of several episodes. If Arrow trimmed the fat of its two biggest and most bloated storylines, the dissolution of Team Arrow and the non-redemption of the other Laurel, there would be more room for character-driven material or perhaps even some fun.
The return of Rene and Oliver’s isolation from the rest of his former teammates are both good steps toward improving the tone of the episode, and the show as a whole. Ollie’s protracted discussion with Anatoly is the kind of cat and mouse philosophizing that’s long overdue, given how bizarre it is for Anatoly to have forgotten all of his values so he could throw in with Cayden James and then Diaz. It also continues Arrow’s theme of father/son relationships and is in serious contention for Ollie’s most interesting single-episode storyline all season.
It was great to see Diggle being recognized for doing a great job, especially in a leadership role. While a reconciliation with Oliver is inevitable, even before this season’s disagreements it’s long been clear that Oliver is holding John back. This is one of the hardest uphill battles a long-running show has to face – at a certain point, it gets harder to justify why these characters don’t progress in obvious directions, ones that would necessarily take them out of the show’s orbit. Perhaps working at Argus is a way to let John grow without losing him, which the show could never do.
Another good thing: seeing Dig and NTA (which is currently the Only Team Arrow) make amends and work together. If I were Oliver, it would be very hard not to feel terrible about all my old friends getting over their differences so they could take down bad guys and make dad jokes without me. I missed Felicity, but it makes sense that it would take her longer to process her firing from Team Arrow, and I’m sure Emily Bett Rickards was happy for the night off.
The Redemption of Evil Laurel continues to be an albatross around this show’s neck. They never should have killed off OG Laurel Lance, but this has been a ham-fisted way that pleases no one. If this new Laurel is to be redeemed and essentially replace the old Laurel, the writers have seriously underestimated their audience.
Worse still, they’re doing a terrible job selling us on her redemption. Sometimes she’s crafty and playing her angles, then she’s a lost soul with daddy issues (and little else for personality), and in another episode she’s a scared woman trapped in a domestic abuse cycle. Her comfort with torture and murder waxes and wanes as the story requires it, showing no real trajectory of growth or redemption. We know almost nothing about her and what little we do know is wildly inconsistent. She’s apparently never held any kind of job and didn’t go to college, but she also crammed a bunch of law school books well enough in one day to get Oliver impeached as mayor. If Laurel is to be redeemed, or indeed have any arc at all, first she needs an actual personality other than “badass” and “looks just like the other Laurel.”
On the other hand, we have another character who’s completely magnetic, in spite of her incredibly brief screentime. The woman from the Quadrant has had maybe ten minutes in the show so far, and she’s already more engaging than an entire season of Diaz. I’m not sure what to think about the Quadrant, other than the fact that throwing more brand-new villains on top of a lackluster season doesn’t seem like a great solution. Perhaps they’re being teed up for next season, but dragging them out for another 23 episodes (or even just the first third of the season) sounds unbearable after how poorly this season was broken.
Which brings us to our setup for next week, when we’ll finally make some progress on Oliver’s trial as the Green Arrow. This arc has been put off for so long that it’s unlikely it can live up to our expectations, but at least it might force some kind of paradigm shift for the stagating show.