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Last episode of Arrow ended with Oliver effectively retiring from the superhero business and passing the Green Arrow mantle to Diggle, unaware that Diggle is suffering from both psychological and neurological damage. This episode does a pretty solid job of establishing the new status quo for the show, and it’s refreshing to realise that Diggle will be the new Green Arrow for at least a handful of episodes going forward – they give him a new opening credits narration and everything (“His name is John Diggle and he is… the Green Arrow”).
Rather than faff about with the rest of Team Arrow reacting to their new leader, the episode jumps straight into the action, with Green Diggle in charge as the team (Black Canary, Wild Dog and Mr Terrific, with Felicity on comms as Overwatch) do a standard bit of crime-fighting. It appears that Green Diggle has somehow managed to overcome his previous neurological issues, so Dinah is satisfied, for now, but she lets him know she’ll be keeping an eye on him. There’s still a boatload of chemistry between Diggle and Dinah, but no official hint of an office affair subplot for them just yet.
There’s no sign of Black Siren (aka. Evil Laurel) or her mysterious benefactor, so Green Diggle gets to ease in gently with a standard Villain of the Week. Step forward Onyx (Chastity Dotson), who has ties to the League of Assassins in the comics but is here presented as just a former CIA operative with a grudge. Backed up by a squad of mercenaries, Onyx is targeting former members of her CIA team and plans to steal a load of chemical weapons. Chastity Dotson has a lot of charisma, but she’s woefully under-used in this episode. Hopefully she’ll return later in the season with a bit more to do than just throw a bunch of flash-bombs around.
The chemical weapons plot is really just an excuse to give Green Diggle a bit of a mid-mission wobble, anyway. After Rene goes to Oliver with his concerns, Oliver finds Diggle brooding in the Arrow Cave and gives him the mother of all pep-talks, both men keenly aware that things are usually the other way around in this situation. Diggle confesses he’s never lead a team on his own before, and Oliver admits he was scared with every decision he made too. Hey presto, Diggle feels better and leads the team into victory. They even have what qualifies as an after-party, during which Diggle makes it clear to Rene that he’s actually proud of him for going to Oliver behind his back. (There is a lot of growing-as-a-person on the show this season.)
Onyx may not be much of a character, but she does provide an excuse for two great action moments. The first is a piece of pure comic book nonsense, where Green Diggle jumps off a building and Black Canary sonic-blasts him onto a neighbouring roof-top. Pretty cool moment, but let’s not think too hard about why Diggle isn’t damaged by the blast in the process. The second moment is an inventively staged sequence that’s entirely down to the brilliance of director Kevin Tancharoen. (It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating – Tancharoen is one of the best TV action directors in the business and when you spot his name on the credits of superhero show, you know you’re in for something good.) This particular scene is a punch-up between Green Diggle and Onyx, except it’s shot entirely from the inside of a car, so what you’re seeing is restricted by window frames, with the characters popping in and out of view.
Of course, Arrow wouldn’t be Arrow without its standard-issue soap, so here we have Oliver trying to adjust to live as a new dad to William. After following up last episode’s idiotic advice about how to deal with bullies with some even worse advice about school in general (“There’s nothing wrong with getting Cs every once in a while”), Oliver admits he’s out of his depth and calls in Felicity, whereupon Felicity and William bond like nobody’s business as she helps him with his maths homework. William developing a monstrous crush on Felicity (and being jealous of Oliver) would actually make quite an amusing subplot, but it doesn’t look like they’re going there. Instead, Oliver decides that William’s life would be better with Felicity in it, and he tells her as much, suggesting that their relationship is now very much back on, after the pair of them keeping their distance for William’s sake. That sound you can hear is the rejoicing of Ollicity fans everywhere. (Spare a thought for Sexy Evil Journalist Susan Williams, who hasn’t even been mentioned so far this season.)
The show’s second subplot involves Oliver’s ongoing battle with FBI Agent Samandra Watson, who’s determined to catch him in a lie over the whole being-the-Green-Arrow thing. This week, thanks to Green Diggle, he has a great alibi: “Rockies game with my kid. We were on the jumbotron.” The upshot of their clashes this week is that Oliver agrees to a city-wide referendum on whether or not vigilantism is a good thing. This has a lot of potential, particularly in light of Oliver’s crusading persona in the comics, but it’s too early to say whether it’ll be anything more than a means to an end on the show so far.
That brings us to the episode’s closing moments, which offer a nicely-staged one-two punch of short-lived joy, followed by doom and gloom. As part of the celebration of Green Diggle’s leadership having lead to a win, Curtis, Rene, Felicity and Dinah present Diggle with his very own Green Arrow crossbow. Diggle tests it out and immediately nails three tennis balls to the wall, which impresses basically everyone, with Curtis pointing out that the aim is all Diggle. It’s a proper punch-the-air moment, which is then immediately undercut, in true Arrow-twist-ending style, by the next scene, which sees Diggle entering a dark alleyway, buying some drugs and injecting them into his arm, to stop the shaking that we saw last episode. Dun-dun-daah!
All in all, this is a solid episode, enlivened considerably by the twist ending and Tancharoen’s superlative action direction. Here’s hoping the writers stick to their guns and keep Diggle in the Green Arrow costume until at least the mid-season break, as it’s easily Diggle’s most interesting character development to date. Tune in next time for the return of Evil Laurel and the reveal of her Mysterious Benefactor!
Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
– This was the second episode in a row without flashbacks, which is a welcome development that bodes well for the showrunners’ confidence in doing something different this season.
– No Thea again this episode, either, although at least she gets a few token mentions, with Oliver missing having her around and Felicity noting that “she’d make a bad-ass aunt”. She really, really would. Get well soon, Thea!
– A small, but charming comics nod: one of the crossed-out names for Felicity and Curtis’ new business venture is “Oracle”.
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 7-day free trial is available for new subscribers.