This Arrow review contains spoilers.
Arrow Season 6 Episode 20
Arrow brought back a sensation I hadn’t felt in a while: waiting at the edge of my seat for every commercial break to be over. Courtroom dramas generally slow down the pace and weaken the story for shows that aren’t already set there, but this episode finally gave us something we’ve been wanting to see all season, and kept us guessing until the very end.
Far and away the best performance of the episode is Rick Gonzalez as Rene. His and Oliver’s apology felt genuine, which was a tall order considering how intractable that fight has been. But far and away the best part of the episode was when he took the stand. He managed to play Rene’s terror for his child and anguish over what he must once again due to Oliver, all without being able to say a single word about it.
As great as this episode is, I wonder at the wisdom of holding it back for so long, particularly without any real advancements on this storyline for the majority of the season. Whatever happened to the FBI agent introduced at the beginning of the season? She seemed like an interesting and worthy adversary, and I’d argue it would be more interesting to see someone take on the legal question of the Green Arrow in earnest, rather than as a matter of corruption.
One of the hardest pills to swallow is how, throughout this episode, Oliver insists that he is innocent and warrants a complete acquittal. Regardless of the value we see in the Green Arrow’s story and even in his actions, the fact is that he did them. Dinah is the only person in the course of this episode who was honest about that fact, even as she was clear that she doesn’t think Oliver belongs in prison.
It doesn’t help matters that Team Arrow ends this episode with more blood on their hands: they sentenced Judge Garvey to death. While the man is corrupt, this season has made it clear that by this point, Diaz owns everyone. It’s unlikely that the judge chose to join Diaz’s ranks, make collective Team Arrow’s choice to leave him out in the cold a cruel one at best.
There was a lot of legal procedural funny business in this episode, though it more or less followed the rules that American television has decided on. The eventual technicality that won Oliver his case felt very deux ex juris prudence, considering it’s unlikely the average viewer has heard of it before. I have to tip my hat to the creative storytelling that was having Curtis go unsubpoenaed and feel very put out about it, which was some spot on characterization. The writers needed Dinah not to perjure herself since she’s a cop and threatening Rene’s kid was a reasonable way to have him spend his time on the stand, but I can’t imagine what they would have done with Curtis, who is possibly the only truly honest person on the team. That said, I really hope that Felicity eventually pays for the incredibly stupid move of challenging the prosecution to find any evidence that she has committed approximately seven million cyber crimes.
The Chris Chance gambit was…stretched rather thin. It’s always good to see Tommy Merlyn, and Stephen Amell’s best work in this episode was reacting to seeing the face of his best friend, whose death he blames on himself. But short of going to another earth to yank an additional, non-Nazi Tommy (which is really more of a The Flash move), Chris Chance was their only card to play. His second appearance someone else, though, felt even more like cheating. Arrow clearly wrote themselves into a corner on both this episode and this season-long arc, and their only way out was entirely unsatisfying.
Laurel’s slow-going redemption feels uneven as always here. Having Diaz threaten her certainly makes her feel more innocent, in a way that perhaps a male character being threatened by another man would not. The affect of her father-figure was also played up, but all of this flies in the face of all the times we’ve watched her double and triple down on her villainy. Coming to Oliver’s aid was a grand and public gesture toward being a good person, but she still has a long way to go, even if she’s wearing the face of a character we all love.
There was at least some pathos, though, in the form of New Team Arrow’s effort to save Oliver. Rene and Oliver’s interactions in particular felt like an emotional resolution that those two characters had been building toward for a while, even if that storyline has largely been drawn out and bungled. Now can someone put Argus protection on Rene and his daughter already? The man has a reason to answer his door with a gun in hand.
Now it’s time to see how Diaz holds up as an outright villain as he moves to take down Oliver Queen and everyone he knows and loves. The promo was careful not to say Diaz is worse than anyone else Oliver has faced, since we all know he’s not. He simply has seemingly unlimited access and power. The success or failure of the final episodes will rely on both the show’s ability to tie up the details of the NTA/OTA conflict, and whether it can play up the true horror of a completely corrupt system surrounding our heroes.