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This season of Arrow has been working hard to streamline its storytelling, stripping away all the remaining members of what was once a very cluttered Team Arrow until it’s just Oliver on his own. The Diaz-centric last episode demonstrated the advantages of having an episode with a single storyline and seemed to promise a renewed focus on that approach. However, this episode hedges its bets and tries to have it both ways. On the one hand, we have a stripped-down central storyline in which Oliver takes the fight to Diaz, without any back-up from Team Arrow, and it’s easily the best part of the episode. And on the other, the show reverts to type, splitting the rest of the hour between The Outsiders (and honorary Outsider Diggle) and Not-Laurel’s ongoing will-she-won’t-she redemption plot. The result is a solid episode that builds to a great cliffhanger, as Season 6 head into its final three episodes.
The episode begins in Russia and, for a second, it looks like we’re in for yet another flashback, but no, Oliver’s there doing a job for the Bratva in an attempt to get them to forgive Anatoly. Everything goes according to plan, so Oliver approaches his old friend in Star City and tells him that he’s free to return to Russia, if he wants. However, it turns out Anatoly has no interest in returning to Russia, thank you very much, and instead, he tasers Olly and ties him to a chair. D’oh!
Oliver uses the opportunity to reminisce over old times with Anatoly and tries to talk him out of working with Diaz, by appealing to his sense of honour. Their conversation is a nice change of pace for the show and the history and affection between Oliver and Anatoly, coupled with the strong performances from Stephen Amell and David Nykl, really make the scene work. Except it’s all for nought, because at the end of it all, Anatoly delivers Oliver to Diaz anyway.
Oliver, however, isn’t as dumb as he looks. It turns out that he deliberately allowed himself to get captured, partly for a chance to get into Anatoly’s head and partly to have a long-overdue confrontation with Diaz. He pretty much gets what he wants on both counts, although it doesn’t go quite the way he planned.
So, Diaz starts beating on Oliver and crowing, at which point Anatoly steps in, Oliver’s words ringing in his ears, and tells him that there’s no honour in beating Oliver if he’s all chained up like that and that he should make it a fair fight. Surprisingly, Diaz agrees and comes up with an irresistible deal: the two men will fight, without weapons, and the loser has to leave Star City, for good, no questions asked. Oliver: Well, alllllrighty then.
The fight is pretty decent, but not a patch on Arrow’s usual standard of punch-ups, perhaps because neither Oliver nor Diaz are in costume, making it harder to swap in the stuntmen. Diaz seems to be winning, but then Oliver gets the upper hand and locks Diaz into a chokehold. Diaz: not happy. In fact, Diaz turns out to be the mother of all bad losers and pulls out a knife, stabbing Oliver and winning the fight by cheating. He tells Oliver life isn’t fair. However, Diaz’s blatant cheating appears to be the last straw for Anatoly and you can practically see him changing sides in his head. Was this Oliver’s plan all along? We’ll never know. But let’s pretend that it was.
Anatoly lets Oliver know that he’s ready to help him escape, but it’s too late. Diaz decides that rather than force Oliver to leave town, he’s going to speed up his trial date (which he can totally do, given how many prominent Star City citizens he has in his pocket) and take away his bail. With that, he perp-walks a beaten and bloodied Oliver through a barrage of TV cameras, as Felicity, William, Diggle and The Outsiders watch the coverage on the news, open-mouthed. And that’s the cliffhanger for the episode. Pretty great, huh?
Or it would be, if the whole thing wasn’t constantly interrupted with two other subplots. It wouldn’t be so much of a problem if there was a sense of where The Outsiders plot was going at this point, and really, with just three episodes of the season left to go, that’s something that ought to be a hell of a lot clearer by now. It’s also worth pointing out that even the worst seasons of Arrow have had a strong sense of momentum going into their final episodes and that just isn’t the case here.
So, yes. The Outsiders. Rene is finally out of hospital and wastes no time calling everyone “Hoss” again. Since Oliver and Diggle took out Diaz’s Vertigo business a couple of weeks ago, The Outsiders figure he’ll need a new drug supplier, so they set their sights on a Glades gang called The Scorpions. However, when they arrive at The Scorpions’ warehouse, things quickly get out of hand, because a load of Quadrant goons – lead by Lydia Cassamento from last episode, so congratulations if you correctly assumed we’d be seeing her again pretty sharpish – arrive and start killing Scorpions, with The Outsiders caught in the crossfire. Luckily, Diggle arrives in the nick of time with a load of ARGUS red shirts and he rescues The Outsiders. Oh, and it turns out The Scorpions were running guns, not drugs, which may or may not be important for later.
It’s worth pointing out that Lydia Cassamento (played by Gina Ravera) has only had two or three scenes in Arrow so far and she’s already the best new villain to come along in ages. Here’s hoping she’s been locked down for Season 7. That’s surely the case: you don’t give a bit-part player a great name like Lydia Cassamento without having some serious plans for them further down the line.
Back at The Outsiders HQ (hereafter known as The Workspace), Diggle apologises to Dinah, Curtis and Rene for all the bad stuff that went down. No one blames Diggle, so it seems he now has honorary membership status in The Outsiders, anytime he wants it. He shares his ARGUS information and the two teams decide to stake out The Quadrant. While on the stakeout, Rene confesses to Diggle that he’s got a bit of the old PTSD and his heart isn’t really in the vigilante game anymore, because he keeps thinking about his daughter, Zoey, and how he doesn’t want to make her an orphan. Diggle gives him some advice about learning to compartmentalise, which clearly works for Diggle, since he hardly ever mentions his son (or daughter, whichever it is), but Rene seems less convinced.
Anyway, it turns out that rather than importing weapons, Diaz and the Quadrant are exporting them. If there’s some sort of plot significance there, it remains unclear, but either way, Diggle, ARGUS and The Outsiders successfully destroy the entire shipment, which gives them what is pretty much their first outright win of the season. So yay for the The Outsiders. Back at Rene’s flat, Zoey tells him she knows all about him being Wild Dog and it’s, like, totally fine, which is the sort of thing that will probably come back to bite her in a big way. Let’s not think about that right now. That’s pretty much it for the Outsiders subplot, as it ends with them all watching Oliver’s arrest, live on Star City News. Their storyline doesn’t have much impact, but at least it nudges all the pieces into place for the final three episodes.
The second subplot is once again devoted to Not-Laurel and her continued conflicting loyalties (or Laurel-ties) with regard to Diaz and Quentin. Last episode, as she watched Diaz burn an old enemy alive, it seemed pretty clear that Laurel was actively afraid of her new boyfriend and was about to switch sides. This week more or less confirms that, as Diaz puts pressure on her to get Quentin to sign over a piece of municipal real estate. When Quentin refuses, Diaz reveals that he and Laurel are together, which hits Quentin pretty hard. Come on, hasn’t the poor guy suffered enough? Jeez.
However, Laurel convinces Quentin that she’s genuinely frightened of Diaz and that she wanted him to sign the paper to make sure nothing bad happened to him. Quentin believes her (for once, we’re given no reason not to take her at her word) and signs, with the pair promising to protect each other from now on. However, when Laurel gives Diaz the paper, he tears it up, telling her he just wanted to be sure he had the new Mayor in his pocket. Laurel asks what would have happened if he hadn’t signed and he thwocks a massive knife into a book on his desk. So that answers that.
And that’s pretty much it. It has to be said that the set-up for the final three episodes isn’t looking too promising so far, especially compared to previous seasons. It’s probably fair to assume that Oliver won’t be spending the final two episodes in jail, but we’ll find out soon enough. Come back next time for The Trial of Oliver Queen!
Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
– Felicity only appears very briefly in this episode (during the watching-the-arrest montage at the end) and her absence barely registers. No doubt she’ll have a big part to play in the trial and was just taking a well-earned rest beforehand.
– Speaking of the trial, the trailer for the episode reveals a surprise witness: Tommy Merlyn! Any guesses as to how they pull that off? Calling on Earth 2 Tommy seems like a bit of a stretch and would also be in very bad taste.
– Still no sign of Samanda Watson (Sydelle Noel), Arrow’s most promising, but least used character. Will she show up for Oliver’s trial? Place bets now!
Arrow Season 6 is available on Sky 1 every Thursday, within a week of its US broadcast. Don’t have Sky? You can stream it live or catch up on-demand through NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription, no contract. A 14-day free trial is available for new subscribers.
Photo: 2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.