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Wow. Who saw that coming, huh? Nobody, that’s who. Arrow has pulled off the Big Bad switch before, but never in quite such a surprising fashion. Or so cold-hearted a fashion, come to that. In a delightfully unexpected twist, this episode takes season Big Bad Cayden James off the board and replaces him with… well, we’ll get to that. It’s too early to say whether the sudden change of direction will improve this somewhat patchy season, but it’s certainly a bold move and it opens up a number of different possibilities.
Last episode ended with Dinah swearing vengeance on Not-Laurel after she killed Vincent, so we’re already primed for Black Canary vs Black Siren and the episode doesn’t disappoint. But first, there’s the small matter of Cayden James’ pesky thermobarric bomb to deal with. Cayden lures Oliver and Diggle into one of those empty building traps he likes so much and has a communications link set-up waiting for them. He tells them Vincent’s betrayal convinced him that he can’t trust Oliver anymore and he’s going to go ahead and blow up the city at midnight. Oliver says they almost have proof that he didn’t kill Cayden’s son, but Cayden calls that a desperate gambit (a Queen’s gambit, if you will) and signs off.
In a sign that he really means it this time, Cayden gathers the rest of the Legion of Hmmm together and thanks them for their part in helping him avenge the murder of his son. It’s all rather touching. He says their airlift out of the city will be there shortly and they will all receive the agreed payment. However, none of the Legion seem to entirely trust Cayden and, sure enough, when it looks like the airlift is running late, they all decide to leave town on their own.
Meanwhile, Dinah is busy beating the hell out of various street thugs in an attempt to root out Black Siren’s location. Curtis and Rene catch up with her and inform her of Cayden’s bomb detonation deadline, saying that maybe that’s a little more important? Dinah reluctantly agrees.
Back in the Arrow Cave, Felicity and Alena are busy working on the doctored footage of Oliver killing Cayden’s son. Oliver says they only have four hours before Star City goes boom and Alena rightly points out that even if they find the proof they’re looking for, he might be trying to reason with someone who’s beyond reason. This leads into the first of the episode’s flashbacks, but we’ll get to those later. Between her geeky rapport with Felicity and the way she talks to Oliver on an equal footing, Alena makes a great addition to Team Arrow. Here’s hoping the writers can find a way to keep her around a little longer. Anyway, she proves her worth to the team by working her video magic and definitively proving that Oliver didn’t kill Cayden’s son. It turns out it was a hired assassin, who has since also been murdered, suggesting someone has been manipulating Cayden from the start.
With the clock ticking, Oliver needs to find a way to get to Cayden immediately, so, um, he calls up The Flash, who zips Oliver and Diggle over to Cayden’s location, catching him as he’s leaving town. On the one hand, this is a nice little non-cameo (since Barry doesn’t actually appear – it’s just the familiar Flash speed effects), but it sets a rather dangerous precedent, because if Oliver can call up Barry for help on things like this, why doesn’t he do it all the time? Specifically, why didn’t he ask Barry to find the thermobarric bomb? Let’s not think about it too closely and instead just enjoy the silliness of the moment. (Also, you can tell the regular writers weren’t involved in this decision, because no-one remembered that Diggle always throws up after being Flashed somewhere.)
Anyway, they confront Cayden with the evidence and, to his credit, he takes them at their word. After examining the meta-data, he concludes that one of his own henchmen is responsible, because it’s the same person that created the video that outed Oliver as the Green Arrow. That means it’s either Black Siren, Diaz or Anatoly. Cayden says that since he still has the bomb, he’d like Oliver and Diggle to round up his three erstwhile compatriots and bring them to him as quickly as possible. Diggle tells Oliver they’ll need “the rest of the team”. Awww. It’s sweet that Diggle still thinks The Outsiders are still on the team. Bless.
Just as Oliver’s about to head out, Thea shows up with William and he has a sudden attack of Whiny Kid Syndrome, saying that he wants to go with Oliver, bomb or no bomb. Oliver patiently explains that the bunker is the best place for him right now, but you can tell William’s already made his mind up.
Elsewhere, Dinah finally tracks down Laurel as she’s leaving town and there’s a pretty decent fight scene before Quentin shows up and puts a stop to it. Dinah blasts him out of the room, but Team Arrow and The Outsiders arrive before Dinah and Laurel can kill each other. They fill Dinah in on Cayden’s instructions and Dinah says she can wait, but she’s not letting Not-Laurel out of her sight. Oliver tells Curtis and Rene to go after Diaz, while he and Diggle track down Anatoly.
With the Legion of Hmmm all captured, everyone heads to the rendezvous for the big showdown. Including William, who in a world-beating moment of stupidity has chosen this moment to accompany daddy to work. Oliver’s not impressed, but Cayden thinks it’s fitting that Oliver’s son should be there to witness his son-related vengeance. He gives a touching speech (which Michael Emerson sells the hell out of) about how losing your son is like losing your soul, before snapping out of it and getting back to exacting his vengeance. Not-Laurel clearly has some sort of death wish, because she tells Cayden it was her that murdered his son, but he doesn’t believe her, saying she’s not callous enough and that he saw her hesitate before she killed Vincent. Cut to Quentin, who has a look on his face that says “That’s enough for me, that’s all I needed to hear”. Felicity then warns Oliver that Cayden’s detonator is shorting out Not-Laurel’s power-dampening collar, but it’s too late – she canary-blasts everyone in the room and makes her escape. (How exactly Cayden survives a point-blank canary cry is, of course, not explained.)
Various fight scenes ensue (Diaz vs. Diggle, Curtis and Rene vs. Anatoly, Dinah vs. Not-Laurel), but Diaz and Anatoly both get away, while Quentin once again arrives just in time to stop Dinah killing Not-Laurel. Dinah gets Quentin’s gun away from him and shoots at Not-Laurel, but she manages to blast them both as the gun’s going off, taking a bullet in the stomach. Quentin recovers first and goes over to her, with something clearly on his mind.
Back at the rendezvous, William tries to grab the detonator but Cayden gets there first. Oliver holds William close, fairly convinced that Cayden’s going to blow everyone up. Instead, Cayden goes into a borderline breakdown, where he says he failed his son and that he was responsible for his death. He may or may not be about to detonate at that point, but Oliver throws a mini-arrow and disarms him.
With Cayden in custody, everybody heads back to the Arrow Cave, where Oliver gives William the mildest of reprimands (“What you did was very dangerous”) and William mumbles an apology. Two words, Oliver: boarding school. Dinah storms out, after everyone tries to talk her out of killing Not-Laurel, especially as she’s so blinded by rage that she couldn’t see Not-Laurel’s play for what it was – pushing Cayden’s buttons. Rene reminds Oliver that even though they’re all happy they got to put Cayden away, that doesn’t mean the team are going to get back together. So the whole Outsiders thing is set to continue for a while yet.
That brings us to the first of two cliffhangers. In a bizarrely shot sequence, using first-person camera work and glaring, disorienting lighting, Not-Laurel wakes up in the back of Quentin’s car. He tells her he knows there’s some good in her and by God, he’s going to find it. The whole scene is shot in such a way that you’re actually a little afraid for Not-Laurel, like it’s Quentin who’s gone off the deep end. And who knows, maybe he has? At any rate, he clearly hasn’t told the rest of Team Arrow what he’s up to, not even Thea.
The final cliffhanger is a genuine shock. At first, we see Oliver talking to Cayden in custody and he agrees to return the money and give up everyone’s probable locations in return for being able to visit his son’s grave. Then Oliver leaves and Cayden’s next visitor is… Ricardo Diaz, who apparently has the chief of police and several other important figures on his payroll. Diaz tells Cayden that he has his own plans for the city, but they seem like common-or-garden crime lord plans (i.e. making money) rather than blowing it up in revenge for something or other. Basically, Diaz reveals that he’s been pulling Cayden’s strings all along and then he calmly slips a knife into Cayden’s back, killing him. All of which does sort of beg the question, if Diaz was such a mastermind as to have orchestrated this entire plot, what did he need Cayden for in the first place? Just to split up Team Arrow?
It remains to be seen what Diaz has planned for Star City, but you can bet it’s nothing good. At any rate, kudos to Arrow for pulling off such an audacious twist, even if they don’t quite manage to follow it up. Also, let’s have a brief moment of silence for the brilliant Michael Emerson, who basically completely reprised his Lost performance and the season was all the better for it. He will be sadly missed, and Kirk Acevedo has a lot to live up to, Big Bad-wise.
Oh, right. The flashbacks. Although the season in general has ditched the weekly flashback format, we occasionally still get them whenever someone needs a bit of backstory, like Vincent and Dinah. This episode, it’s the turn of Cayden (with a cameo from Alena), as we see the story of his relationship with his son. He keeps missing his son’s basketball games because of his hacking commitments and then he gets himself on a wanted list or something, but he’s promised to attend his son’s game, so he shows up and sees a bit of it through a window, but then gets arrested by ARGUS, who don’t even let him say goodbye to his son. And then the final scene is ARGUS agents informing a now captive Cayden that his son has been killed. Pretty brutal stuff and it gives Cayden some heartbreaking depth as a final send-off. The look on his face in the last moment of the last flashback is genuinely haunting.
All in all, this is a pretty decent episode in a season that has started to feel like it’s treading water of late. Here’s hoping the Diaz reveal shakes things up a bit and that the writers have a few surprises planned for the rest of the season, other than whatever they’ve cooked up for Quentin and Not-Laurel. Speaking of which, tune in next time, when the teams come to blows over Quentin’s actions.
Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
– Trick Arrow Watch: It’s not exactly new, but Oliver busts out the wrap-around wire arrows to take down both Not-Laurel and Dinah. So he carries more than one at a time? Interesting. Just how many trick arrows does he have in that quiver, anyway?
– Thea Queen Watch: Another bitterly disappointing episode for Thea, who is reduced to baby-sitting William when he comes over to the Arrow Cave, and briefly interacting with Felicity and Alena. This just isn’t good enough, Arrow-writers. Please up your Thea game.
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Photo: 2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.