Arrow continues to excel this season with a renewed focus on its entire, expanded ensemble. As such, let’s do something a little different this week and look at the show in terms of its various characters, as opposed to the ongoing stories. Also, this is as good a way as any to get a mea culpa in, so stay tuned for that. So, in no particular order, let’s run through where the characters stand as we head into the Thanksgiving break.
It’s remarkable just how big a liability Curtis is. At this point, his inexperience and general uselessness in the field far surpass Laurel’s limitations—and I’m not talking about reasonably adept late-period Laurel, I’m talking early “I did a couple boxing sessions with Ted Grant and am feeling good to go” Laurel. The odd thing is that there’s an obvious fix here that makes sense both in terms of the comics lore and the character the show has already established for Curtis. We know he’s a tech geek without peer, so why doesn’t he bring in some gadgets to supplement his non-existent crime-fighting instincts? Right now, the vague gesturing toward his Olympian background doesn’t mean all that much, especially when his big action moment this episode was spectacularly falling off the salmon ladder. It’s hard to even think of him as the conscience or the resident light-hearted guy on the team, as Rory is doing a better job at both. His role is basically just the guy who likes Oliver and Felicity from way back, which doesn’t give Echo Kellum much to do. Mr. Terrific still has a chance to live up to his name—I’m never rooting against a hero who has the phrase “Fair Play” emblazoned on his uniform, damn it!—but he might need the most work of anyone on Team Arrow. Good news is he’s still a minor enough presence that his character problems don’t detract from the overall story.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule—nothing in storytelling is—but it helps for a character’s internal conflict to be relatable. Diggle has a legitimate claim to be Arrow’s most tortured character, and David Ramsey is throwing himself admirably into this new character direction, but Diggle’s motivations are tied up in being forced to kill his brother who he thought was dead but actually was a brainwashed H.I.V.E. agent who wasn’t brainwashed at all. That fine operatic superhero storytelling, but it’s hard for the average viewer to wrap their mind around what that would mean emotionally. It’s smart then that Diggle is now more tormented from his isolation from his wife and (gender-swapped, thanks to the Flash) child. Diggle can be such a natural mentor figure for the new recruits, so it’s clever for Arrow to play around with that by having Wild Dog recognize Diggle going too far and take steps to get him the birthday party he so desperately needs. Diggle’s whole situation feels like a lesser priority for the show, so I’m guessing he will be in more or less this situation for a while yet. Beyond how much Arrow has gotten me to care about Diggle’s wellbeing, that’s a good call from a storytelling perspective.
Hey, so Artemis is probably a traitor! I say “probably” because we’ve had enough fake-outs to be skeptical, but her heading off for a clandestine meeting to assure Prometheus no one on the team is any the wiser is plenty damning. There’s so little to go on here that I can really only suggest we all agree to wait and see, but Artemis has probably the best motivation to turn against the team, given Oliver did leave her parents to die, and she’s shown she is still angry about that in a way Rory doesn’t appear to be about Havenrock. Arrow appears to know what it wants to do with Wild Dog and Rory—their opposite dispositions make them a natural odd couple pairing, though Arrow has yet to really exploit that—but Curtis and Evelyn are much more thinly sketched. If Artemis’ interactions with Prometheus, whatever form they take, can fuel a larger character arc for her, so much the better.
Does it make sense to not just go ahead and reveal Adrian Chase is Vigilante? The show did go to the trouble of getting someone who isn’t Josh Segarra to provide Vigilante’s voice, so it’s possible a swerve is coming, but I’m struggling to think of who the show could reveal him to be who isn’t Adrian Chase and would have any impact. Okay, fine: Felicity’s boyfriend might fit the bill. But then the show also has a Prometheus reveal to get to at some point, and surely Arrow can’t pull a pair of shock reveals in the same run of episodes. Arrow might be unnecessarily prioritizing mystery here, particularly when the reveal that both the mayor and the district attorney believe so little in the system that they both moonlight as vigilantes is an angle worth exploring as soon as possible. (Though I wouldn’t be surprised if Arrow elides the implications of that, since it’s more than a little unsavory.) Anyway, Vigilante is a good foil for Arrow here, and his presence as a considerably more lethal crime-fighter is a welcome twist on the show’s use of imported comics characters.
Have the flashbacks ever had a compelling villain? I suppose Slade Wilson did manifest the beginnings of his Mirakuru-induced psychosis in the past, and Professor Ivo did kill Shado in cold blood, but generally it’s been very thin gruel in the flashbacks. Dolph Lundgren is throwing himself completely into Konstantin Kovar, melding his massive, still muscled frame with a cunning intellect—this seems as good a time as any to mention Lundgren briefly went to MIT on a Fulbright scholarship—and Kovar spends much of the episode raising the very good point that Oliver probably shouldn’t trust the Bratva. But then, his real point is that Oliver is so weak he can’t even tell what he ought to think of his supposed brothers, which leaves him fatally vulnerable going up against the likes of Kovar. The Russian flashbacks are absurd and delightful in the way all the flashbacks should have been.
Right, so let’s get into this: I’ve screwed up how I’ve been writing about Felicity. A couple weeks back, I wrote a stray observation about how she “is back in the role where she can function best and gain the most fan support (or the least fan ire, depending),” which was meant to be complimentary but was just kind of a dumb thing to say, because it suggests the show ought to marginalize one of its main female characters just to appease a section of fandom. After listening to some very fair criticism, let me say this: I’ve been way overstating how reflective my own read of the tenor of the comments section is of the consensus of all Arrow fans. So let’s leave “the fans” out of this as a shield for my own takes. Yes, I think the decision to pair Oliver and Felicity last season was a natural payoff to the unintended discovery of Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards’ chemistry, but the whole thing ended up feeling mushy and formless in a way a lot of season four did.
Resetting Felicity to her more familiar position as Overwatch and frankly not much else—give or take a new boyfriend, I guess—isn’t good because that’s where she belongs but rather because it’s reflective of the show’s general need for a fresh start. I like that Arrow is returning to its core strengths and building out from there, but that doesn’t mean Felicity ought to remain where she is. There’s a reason Felicity was the show’s breakout character for the first few seasons, and I don’t mind her reduced role thus far in that it’s giving the newer characters a chance to establish themselves. But she has the least to do of any of the longstanding core characters—including Thea and Lance, who aren’t even on the team anymore!—and to just keep her where she is now would be a waste. I’ll have more to say as the season progresses, but for now let me just reiterate the mea culpa and leave it there.
- So, just how spectacularly do you think Oliver telling a known adversarial reporter that he’s in completely over his head as mayor is going to blow up in his face? Let’s even leave aside the bit where she knows about him being in Russia!
- Is it a little weird for Oliver to just assume something Rory quotes is from the Torah? I’m not saying it’s offensive or whatever—of all the battles to fight, I wouldn’t say this is one of them—but can we agree that’s a little weird?
- Thea says Quentin is like family to her and Oliver tonight, but let’s be real: These two totally have a de facto father-daughter bond built on mutual loss, and it’s kind of the show’s emotional bedrock. Paul Blackthorne was always an obvious choice to be one of the show’s acting standouts, but I’ll never get over how great Willa Holland is as Thea.