Arrow is about to take a three week hiatus, yet you would think that it was a season finale with how intense this episode was. Keep reading, but beware for spoilers.
1. Cayden flashbacks
The CW, and Arrow in particular, love a villain that can really dominate a scene with some over the top thespian moves. In that way, Michael Emerson has fit right in on this show, even if his brand of intensity is quite different than, say, John Barrowman’s. This week, Emerson was asked to give us a glimpse of Cayden James before he was a supervillain, when he was just an A+ hacker and a somewhat deadbeat dad.
Emerson does fine with this material, even if it is about as uninspired a story as possible. If we want to feel bad about his son dying, we should just based on principle – a teenager was murdered! We don’t need to see how his dad disappointed him. If you want to tug on the heartstrings even more, then work for it. Sometimes, Arrow‘s obsession with fathers and sons is handled really well, but often times, it is just boilerplate dysfunction.
2. Bullshit Flash cameo
The Barry Allen ‘cameo’ really bugged me this week. Ollie and Diggle needed to be someplace quickly, so they rang up Barry and he sped them there. Of course, we didn’t see them call Barry, or Barry himself, just a blur of speed lines. This is just lazy writing, because if Barry can run them there, then he can totally move the bomb elsewhere, or dismantle the detonator, or any other Flash thing. Why would Ollie say “Hey Barry, we need a lift, but don’t help us with a bomb that could potentially destroy an entire city.” It was just dumb.
Also dumb? Not having Diggle puke. We know he hates running with Barry, and that running (groan) gag is one of the show’s few attempts at humor that has worked.
I’m jumping to the end here, but it is revealed that Diaz, not James, is the ‘real’ big bad of this season. While I don’t necessarily love this – Cayden was more interesting, with a different skillset, and Diaz is more of the same ol’ scenery chewing I was talking about before – it was a twist I didn’t see coming. Earlier in the episode, Ollie proves to Cayden that he didn’t kill his son. Despite Black Siren taking the credit (because, I don’t know, she felt remorse at the potential destruction of a city?), it turns out that it was actual Diaz who did it.
Of all the villains this season, we’ve spent the least amount of time with Diaz, and while there is still time to make him interesting, at this point he is the same type of thug we’ve seen on this show over and over again. There’s almost nothing about the character that makes me want to dig deeper, but I’m sort of happy that the show decided to, narratively, throw a curve ball and fake us out in terms of who the big bad would be for the season, even if Diaz will only really be the main villain for the final third or so.
4. Weird Spartan mask
Maybe it is because Diggle hasn’t suited up that much lately, but didn’t his mask look bizarre this week? Look at the image at the top of this article – I barely recognized him. It’s time for a makeover, John.
5. The feel of a finale
This episode, due in part to the nuclear bomb plot, the fact that William somehow tracked his dad’s location, that Quentin kidnapped Black Siren, that Dinah went rogue, and that Cayden got dead all contributed to the heightened emotional feel of the episode. While I never for a second thought the bomb would detonate – especially as this show has already nuked a town – it was an intense hour of television, and one of the best that the show has produced all season. While there might have been some story problems, the performances and pacing of the episode really, really worked this week.
See ya in March!