This Arrow review contains spoilers.
Arrow Season 6 Episode 22 Review
The Ties That Bind is a reminder of what made Arrow great in the first place. It’s refreshing to see the team reunited and working together, and Lyla is always a welcome addition to the mix. Oliver’s feelings aside, it was fun to see Felicity in the field again, and to see some of her sense of humor come through with her, “sorry, not sorry!” line bringing some much-needed levity.
This episode gave us a great glimpse of the show’s couples fighting together, or at least cowering together. It’s too bad we couldn’t get more of it – John and Lyla’s reciprocal spin moves were among the cooler bits of fight choreography, and I’d love to see more of that kind of collaborative fighting between them or any other pair of people who are clearly so in tune with one another. Even better, it serves to reinforce the theme of Ollicity’s growing pains compared to the settled in familiarity of Dig and Lyla’s longer tenured relationship.
Diggle and Oliver’s power dynamic is still clearly in flux, and I hope to see more of that in the future. Watching two men who respect each other figure out how to transition leadership of the team could easily be fodder for interesting stories, if the Arrow creators would have the trust and the confidence to go for more realistic storylines like that. The couple theme was a step in that direction, even if the Ollicity half felt like a re-tread.
The Oliver/Felicity plot was the weak link in tonight’s episode. Oliver’s having a long-lost son means Felicity needs to take fewer risks and be more careful? But Oliver gets to keep running the team, even though Diggle is perfectly capable of leading. Felicity “split his focus”? Really, Oliver? The male hero and female damsel has always been one of the least interesting aspects of the superhero genre, but with so many other properties leaving that sort of limiting, retrograde storytelling behind, it feels like a huge step backward for Arrow. It doesn’t help that it means Oliver is jumping from one obnoxious stance to another.
Oliver takes risks like these all the time, and as Felicity points out, so do fellow parents John and Lyla. This is hardly new territory for the couple, but I was hoping they had put it behind them. Back when Sara Lance was on the team, she taught Felicity some moves so she would feel more comfortable in the field. What happened to that? I’d love to see Lyla running Felicity through some sort of boot camp so she can step up her game. And while we’re at it, Curtis can go too – he’s still the team’s weakest fighter.
On the positive side, I’m glad Felicity stood up for herself and her right to do her part. Even better, Oliver did learn his lesson – hopefully for the last time. Finally, it was sweet to hear Oliver refer to Felicity as a parent. She has been putting in the time to be a reliable presence for William without trying to replace his mother. Coming in as a step parent is hard, but so is losing your mom, and Felicity has always put William’s needs first. It’s great to see a positive depiction of a blended family, and for Felicity to be recognized as an important part of William’s life.
It’s no secret that this season has dragged. Part of that has been the angst-fest that is the NTA/OTA schism. But the lackluster villainy has also played a role. One good thing about Diaz as a villain is that he’s realistically smart – he figures things out at a reasonable rate, like why Lyla is at the precinct, and the fact that Anatoly sold him out.
The brief appearances of the Quadrant served mostly to remind us how poorly villains have been handled this season. It seems bizarre that a) there’s this unstoppable, illustrious crime syndicate we’ve never heard of before and 2) they fall to Ricardo Diaz almost immediately. We barely met this woman and she’s already more captivating than so many of the forgettable foes this season. Then Diaz had to go ahead and kill her, the most interesting villain in what feels like ages, in service to what, exactly? His having a slightly bigger, but still essentially indestructible, untouchable army? That doesn’t seem to raise the stakes in a meaningful way, but it does cut off some story possibilities. On an unrelated note, while it lasted I enjoyed the fact that Diaz and Casamento pronounced one another’s names properly.
In the end, it’s Felicity’s quick-thinking that saves them both. They have to trust each other and again, watching them maneuver their new roles as their relationship has changed and recalibrate the way they interact with the rest of the team could be very interesting. My favorite action-oriented shows are the ones where everyone trusts that everyone else can keep themselves safe. It’s far more interesting – plots that only exist because the guy goes back into the fire to save the girl who’s already safe are beyond mundane – and it belies a belief in all parties as competent equals.
Speaking of competence: Agent Watson is back! There was no real reason for her to miss the trial, other than to keep her from being tainted by Diaz’s shadow of corruption. Still, I’m glad that her introduction will finally pay off, even if they made us wait until the finale.