Warning: This contains spoilers. For how to watch Arrow, click here.
Regardless of what happens in the finale, it’s fair to say that Arrow has been building to this particular episode all season long, ever since Agent Samanda Watson (who’s conspicuous by her absence here) first announced her intention to prosecute Oliver for crimes committed as the Green Arrow. As far as courtroom drama episodes of superhero shows go, Docket No. 11-19-41-73 has to be considered a rousing success, at least compared to the equivalent episode of The Flash Season 4 (Episode 10 – The Trial of The Flash). As a viewer, you may take issue with some of the more outrageous twists and turns, but there’s no denying it’s ridiculously entertaining.
Last episode ended with season Big Bad Ricardo Diaz (who, lest we forget, now has most of Star City in his pocket) perp-walking Oliver in front of the press and promising to speed up his trial. Say what you like about Diaz, the man is as good as his word, and sure enough, this episode kicks off with Oliver up before the beak, as Bertie Wooster used to say. Actually, that’s not quite true – first there’s a cold open that involves Diggle orchestrating a behind-enemy-lines rescue in Kasnia and telling an unseen figure that they need his help in Star City. Who on earth could it be? Good luck guessing the answer to that if you haven’t seen Episode 5 of Season 5. Still, whoever it is, it’s clear that he will be Important For Later.
Back in Star City, Oliver sits down with Felicity and his lawyer, Jean Loring (Teryl Rothery). Jean tells Oliver that the prosecution lawyer will be Alexa Van Owen (guest star Catherine Dent, taking a break from her recurring role on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and that she has a 99% conviction rate. Loring tells Oliver that Van Owen offered her a plea deal whereby he accepts a single manslaughter charge and a minimum of 15 years in prison. Unsurprisingly, it’s a no from Oliver. On the plus side, Van Owen isn’t on Diaz’s payroll, but on the other hand, as Loring explains, Judge McGarvey most probably is. What’s a costumed vigilante got to do to get a fair trial in this town?
In the Outsiders Workspace, Curtis, Dinah and Rene all agree that while Oliver may not be their favourite person, they don’t want to see him in jail, as it might be bad for the vigilante business. Hilariously, Curtis is having a bit of a sulk, because Dinah and Rene have both been subpoenaed and he hasn’t. Anyway, they show up to the trial and offer Felicity their full support. In fact, they’re so supportive that it’s almost like this entire season never happened, or, at least, all the bits about The Outsiders falling out with Team Arrow and splitting apart.
So, Loring and Van Owen both give their opening statements and the trial kicks off. The prosecution call their first witness: John Diggle. Is that meant to be a shock? It’s hard to tell, but The Outsiders exchange glances anyway. Diggle’s a no-show (presumably because he’s in Kasnia), so he’s given an hour to show up or he’ll be in contempt of court. The prosecution’s second witness is Doctor Schwartz, from all of Arrow’s hospital scenes. You can tell she’s one of the good ones, though, because she bats away all the prosecution’s questions, citing doctor-patient privilege and claiming that she was too busy attending to the Black Canary’s injuries to worry about who was under the Green Arrow mask.
At this point, we pull back from Doctor Schwartz and realise that the entire trial is being broadcast live on Star City News, O.J. Simpson-style. Quentin and Not-Laurel are watching the news live. Quentin is optimistic, but Not-Laurel reminds him that Diaz will stop at nothing to see Oliver convicted. She notes that the only reason Diaz hasn’t had Oliver killed is because he doesn’t want to make a martyr out of him. Then, Diaz summons Not-Laurel, and Quentin appeals to her conscience. Not-Laurel is unconvinced, but Quentin assures her that his Laurel would have stood up to Diaz, no matter what. No prizes for guessing where all this is heading.
Back in the courtroom, Diggle shows up with a cheery “sorry I’m late, your honour”, just as Judge McGarvey is about to declare him in contempt of court. Diggle reminds everyone that he was Oliver Queen’s bodyguard for several years and that surely, if his boss was the Green Arrow, he’d have noticed. No-one mentions that in all that time, the Green Arrow was frequently sighted with another masked figure of about Diggle’s build.
The editing gets clever at this point and starts inter-cutting Diggle’s testimony with Dinah’s. Van Owen tricks Dinah into exercising her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, which doesn’t go over well with the jury. (Someone please cast Catherine Dent as a hard-ass lawyer in her own TV show, because she’s made for this stuff and you can tell she’s enjoying herself.)
Meanwhile, Not-Laurel meets with Diaz, who tells her he’s relying on her to take Oliver down with her testimony when she’s called to the stand. She protests that she’s worried people will spot that she’s not the real Laurel when she’s on the stand. Diaz is onto her, though, noting that she’s been pulling away from him ever since he torched that dude on the rooftop (ah, that age-old problem) and he grabs her throat and threatens her, saying she’d better give a better performance on the stand than the one she’s giving him. Not-Laurel looks genuinely scared, so her testimony could go either way.
Back in the courtroom, Rene takes the stand. He’s all set to do his bit for Team Arrow (which we know, because he’s repeatedly assured Felicity, Dinah and Curtis that this is the case), but then – gasp! – Diaz suddenly appears in the back of the room, with Rene’s daughter, Zoey. Diaz freezes and exchanges a terrified glance with Oliver, who, to his credit, immediately does a long blink to let Rene it’s okay, and he should do what he has to do. This is a great scene, for a number of reasons, not least because it finally ties the whole Rene’s-custody-of-his-daughter subplot to the main plot in a way that makes total sense. Indeed, if this single scene was the entire reason for Zoey’s existence this season, then we’re saying it was totally worth it. It’s also a really nice moment that plays off the season-long tension between the two men and Oliver’s long blink was a great directorial choice. Anyway, the whole thing works – Rene says that Oliver Queen is the Green Arrow and the entire courtroom acts like they’re surprised.
Outside, Diggle and Dinah angrily attack Diaz and his goons on the courthouse steps, but Diaz reminds them that he has the entire police force at his disposal and they’re suddenly surrounded by cops.
Meanwhile, in a requested recess, Oliver asks Loring if it’s as bad as it looks. Hard not to laugh out loud at that point, really. Read the room, Queen! Loring asks him flat-out if he’s the Green Arrow and Oliver admits that he is. Loring proposes a new strategy, whereby he admits he’s the Green Arrow and they argue the case based on everything he’s done for the city, but Oliver says he can’t do it, because he’d be putting a target on his family’s backs. In an impressively emotional speech (and, really, let’s just admire how far Stephen Amell’s range has come in the space of the last six years). Oliver says he always thought his mission would end one day and that he’d finally be able to live his life, and that will never happen if he tells the world he’s the Green Arrow.
Back in court, Felicity takes the stand and lies through her teeth, telling the court that Oliver isn’t the Green Arrow. Van Owen then takes her apart on the stand, pointing out that her track record with family members having secret identities isn’t great, given that her father was genius cyber-criminal The Calculator. She then perjures herself again, when Van Owen asks her if she, herself, has ever engaged in cyber-crime. She adds “good luck proving otherwise, Miss Van Owen”, which seems particularly unwise, given what we’ve seen of Van Owen so far.
Finally, Oliver takes the stand. He exonerates Roy Harper and says that he knows who the Green Arrow is, but will not reveal his identity. Van Owen has another ace up her sleeve and pulls out the photo that Sexy Journalist Susan Williams (someone else who is conspicuous by her absence) had last season, showing Oliver in Russia when he was supposedly on Lian Yu. Oliver’s forced to admit that he hadn’t been entirely candid about those supposed five years on an island in hell, admitting he’d been in both Hong Kong and Russia in that time. Van Owen: “So you lied, repeatedly and publicly? What else have you lied about?” Oliver: “Umm…” Luckily, he doesn’t have to answer that question because someone in a Green Arrow costume comes crashing through the courtroom skylight. (Note to superheroes on trial: always make sure your courtroom has a skylight for surprise witness entrances.) Who could it be?
In what is surely a breach of court protocol of some sort, the Green Arrow takes the stand, without even an objection from the prosecution. He immediately unmasks and… it’s Tommy Merlyn! Even Oliver looks confused. In fact, all credit to Stephen Amell’s face acting in this episode, because he looks properly taken aback, his face registering shock, bewilderment and sadness, all at once. Tommy cheerfully admits that yes, he faked his death after his father tried to destroy the city and he’s been the Green Arrow since before that. Van Owen asks whether this means that Rene perjured himself and Tommy says “well, I don’t know – I’m not a lawyer, I’m just the Green Arrow”. The judge immediately places Tommy under arrest and he goes quietly, chirpily pointing out that his team will extract him before he ever gets to prison. Unfortunately, the judge dismisses Loring’s motion for a dismissal, saying it’s the jury’s job to sort this mess out.
Sure enough, Tommy’s confidence wasn’t misplaced, and a suited-up Diggle and Wild Dog duly rescue him from Diaz’s police escort. They escape in a van, where Tommy suddenly rips off his own face to reveal… Christopher Chance, aka. the Human Target from that Season 5 episode mentioned above. Give yourself a hearty pat on the back if you saw that coming, because we certainly didn’t. If you’re still thinking, “hang on, Christopher who?”, then here’s a short version: he’s really, really good at disguises and somehow manages to create convincing masks of people’s faces at short notice. Yes, okay, he’s not the most plausible character in the Arrowverse, but give the writers a break – they were clearly in a corner at this point. Anyway, Diggle points out that at the very least, they’ve created some serious reasonable doubt in the jury’s minds.
Back at the courtroom, it’s recess time again and Oliver tells Felicity he knew Diggle had gone after Chance, but not that Chance was going to use Tommy’s face, which explains his reaction. Quentin pops up and spoils the party by telling them that Not-Laurel is about to take the stand and she’s bringing Chance’s entire CIA file with her, meaning the stunt they just pulled will be exposed.
So it all comes down to Not-Laurel and the pay-off to the will-she-won’t-she stuff over whether or not her redemption will stick. Not-Laurel admits she’s the Black Canary and that she knows who the Green Arrow is. Van Owen asks her who the Green Arrow is and both Katie Cassidy and the director milk the pause as long as possible before she answers “Tommy Merlyn”, and stares right into the court TV camera, knowing that Diaz is watching. For once, Diaz actually seems quite annoyed. In fact, it almost looks like he’s holding back tears. Pretty sure there was the hint of a lower lip wobble too.
Quentin, obviously, is delighted, although he’s also aware that Not-Laurel has now signed her death warrant with Diaz. He tells her to get out of town, but she tells him not to worry, that she knows exactly what she has to do. Again, fair play to this episode – it really does feel like all the stray threads of the season have been brought together in satisfactory fashion. Well, all except the one about Team Arrow and The Outsiders falling out, anyway.
Back in the courtroom, it’s time for the jury to decide. Team Arrow are pretty convinced Diaz will have nobbled the jury members in some way and they already know Judge McGarvey is in Diaz’s pocket, so the guilty verdict doesn’t come as that much of a surprise. However, Loring has one final ace up her sleeve and asks for a “judgement notwithstanding the verdict”, which the judge helpfully explains is a legal thing that happens when there’s a verdict that no reasonable jury could arrive at. This seems like a long shot, given that Team Arrow already know that Judge McGarvey is in Diaz’s pocket, but after a dramatic pause, McGarvey grants the motion and tells Oliver he’s free to go. Pretty much everyone in the room is dumbfounded, Oliver included.
Still stunned by their narrow escape, Team Arrow reconvene in the Arrow Cave, where we discover that Judge McGarvey was, in fact, Chance again. Fool me once, Arrow, and apparently fool me twice too. You can practically hear the writers slapping each other’s backs at this point. Turns out they jumped Judge McGarvey during the deliberation and took his place, just in case. No one seems unduly bothered that they’ve basically signed Judge McGarvey’s death warrant by doing this, but let’s not worry about that right now.
Anyway, Oliver gives Diggle a heartfelt thank you and Diggle says it wasn’t his idea, so Oliver goes to see Rene to thank him personally. Rene and Zoey are watching 1953’s House of Wax for some reason and there’s a nice father-daughter moment where she teases him about being afraid of horror movies, the unspoken subtext being that he wears a freaking hockey mask as part of his costume. Anyway, Oliver says thank you and apologises for an entire season’s worth of bad blood between them and Rene apologises for turning on the team when his custody battle was on the line and the two shake hands and make up. It’s really all very touching.
The final scene of the episode takes place in a dark alley, where Diaz kills poor old Judge McGarvey. Hardly his fault – how was he to know he’d get jumped by a dude that could make masks of other people’s faces? Then Not-Laurel shows up and tries to kill Diaz, but he’s managed to nullify her sonic scream and he captures her. The cliffhanger is basically Diaz vowing to “kill Oliver Queen and everyone he cares about”, which makes him just like every other Arrow villain. Took them 21 episodes, but they got there in the end.
All in all, this is a great courtroom drama episode that delivers shocks and twists in all the right places, as well as successfully pulling together some of the season’s dangling subplots. However, even with the caveats that it’s effectively a show trial, what with Diaz’s influence over both judge and jury, it’s still quite troubling to see Oliver, Felicity and Diggle all cheerfully perjuring themselves and pretending like it’s not a big deal. This is the one aspect that the episode never really gets to grips with. In that respect, it’s telling that Curtis is the only character not to be subpoenaed, because he’s the one character that would find it difficult to lie under oath. Smooth work, writers. Come back next time, when Diaz unleashes the full force of the Dragon on Oliver and company.
Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
– The numbers in the episode title (11-19-41-73) refer to the Green Arrow’s first ever comics appearance, in More Fun Comics #73, which was first released on 19th November 1941.
– Chance’s saucy goodbye line (“Try not to need me again, for at least another year”) more or less steals the episode. At least it shows the writers are fully aware of how cheeky they’ve been with their face mask guy ex machina.
– Coincidentally, The Flash’s trial episode also hinges on someone pretending to be a surprise witness who was previously thought dead. Maybe that’s where the Arrow writers got the idea.
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Photo: 2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.