Arrow – Season 6 Episode 10
Arrow returns from winter hiatus with a divided team, growing tensions and a group of villains working together towards a common goal.
The previous episode ended on a really pessimistic note with Team Arrow split down the middle between the original members and the new members and a group of villains uniting in common cause. The contrast between the heroes getting weaker and the villains getting stronger was a really effective cliffhanger and sets up the arc for the next few episodes.
Going into “Divided” there are two clear objectives; bring the team back together and defeat Cayden James’ band of evildoers. There was always the possibility that the schism was going to be resolved by the end of this episode to allow the team to forge on with renewed determination and trust in one another but the writers of this episode take a much more difficult path and have the newer members stick to their guns.
I would have been hugely disappointed if this had played out like a temporary setback and everything had been back to normal by the end of the episode. This is teased by Oliver asking them to come back and taking full responsibility for everything they feel wronged about. It’s unclear if he genuinely feels like he did the wrong thing or is simply swallowing his pride for the good of the city but he certainly seems sincere thanks to Stephen Amell’s performance.
Based on Oliver’s prior characterisation it seems likely that he doesn’t regret keeping the newcomers to his team under surveillance considering how little he knew them initially. It’s not obvious -unless I missed it- when Oliver started to do so though I suspect it was after Evelyn’s betrayal because otherwise the fact that he didn’t catch that ahead of time is questionable and it’s a logical place to start considering how costly a betrayal that turned out to be.
When he started to do it largely doesn’t matter because the important thing is that he did it and they aren’t happy about it. It’s easy to see both sides of the argument though I would personally say that Curtis, Rene and Dinah are most valid considering how unwavering they all were in their loyalty to the team. This doesn’t include Rene being revealed as the one testifying against him in the previous episode though even the reasoning behind that feels valid and doesn’t necessary suggest disloyalty as it is more motivated by fear and a desire to protect his daughter.
That’s not to say there isn’t progress in the relationship between the two teams. The first exchange involves everyone except Oliver and exists for the plot reason of letting the others know that the Bunker was bugged but also letting Dinah know that Vince is working with Cayden James. This conversation is very hostile which makes sense as tensions are at their highest point and emotions are running high so it’s perfectly natural for it to be more difficult than it otherwise could have been. Curtis, Dinah and Rene are less than pleased with Felicity, Diggle and Oliver at this point so are reluctant to hear them out. This explains Dinah’s overreaction to not being told about Cayden James bugging the Bunker until 24 hours after finding out about it themselves. It’s not an unreasonable time frame and Dinah is likely lashing out because she’s upset at that point. This is compounded when she learns that Vince is working with Cayden James as he is someone that he thought incapable of that.
Nobody comes across especially well in this scene -though Curtis seems the most reasonable- as Diggle and Felicity appear self righteous to the point of being condescending. Diggle’s reference to the surveillance being for the good of the team is especially insulting because he should know that it won’t be deemed acceptable as a justification. He also points out that Rene’s decision failed to consider the needs of the team but Rene bites back by pointing out that it wasn’t a choice he made lightly. Dinah’s line about pointing fingers at everyone but themselves feels appropriate in this scenario as Diggle and Felicity are unwilling to accept any blame for what has happened.
I like this because it makes the characters feel flawed and therefore more real. Flawed heroes are far more interesting than those who get things right every time and it automatically makes engaging drama more possible. What we have here is a clash of personalities with a group of people in a situation where none of them knows how to react or how to resolve it. It’s interesting to watch because we know these characters and see how effectively they work together as both a team and as friends. There was a sense that Team Arrow was becoming more familial in their connection so splitting them apart does feel significant.
The later conversation led by Oliver is much more open and respectful. Sincerely or not Oliver accepts responsibility for his own decisions and tells Rene that he understands why he made his choice while admitting that the potential to be taken away from his son caused him to react emotionally. He also acknowledges that a measure of the blame lies with everyone so doesn’t completely concede but ultimately he suggests wiping the slate clean and going back to the way it was before which is something that the others struggle to do. It’s difficult for them to forgive such a significant betrayal and I’m glad that it will take longer for them to get to that stage. I fully expect them to be working together by the end of the season though I hope that the dynamic will change as a result of these events as it rightly should.
Oliver accepts their decision and takes some comfort in the fact that they haven’t turned their back on protecting the city. I predicted in my previous review that there could be two teams fighting against Cayden James operating independently of one another but working towards the same objective. Seeing how the second team handles things and how that differs from the original Team Arrow will be interesting as their handling of situations should be very different but equally effective.
I really liked the moment where Oliver sincerely wished them good luck and they part on relatively good terms. It was a strong piece of acting from Stephen Amell showing Oliver’s leadership skills and more measured temperament compared to even a season ago. The episode also hints at a respectful relationship following these events mostly through Curtis still working to fix Diggle’s injury and continuing to stay in business with Felicity. How the other characters will interact with their former teammates remains to be seen but it looks like Curtis will function as the connective tissue between the two teams.
Dinah goes through a lot in this episode. An early scene with Vince shows her starting to feel more comfortable with the fact that he’s alive and maintains a secret identity. She is seen to be much more relaxed and happy in a way that we have never seen before. It definitely stands out and lets Juliana Harkavy bring out another side to Dinah. It’s great to see that there’s more to her than the subdued and withdrawn figure that we’ve largely had up until now. It has never been bad but if it was allowed to be the only thing that defines her for too long then it starts to feel like she lacks in depth. This scene proves that there’s more to her beneath the surface and give the viewer a taste of the sort of person she was before she believed that Vince was dead.
It’s an important scene for Dinah because it makes the sense of betrayal she feels later in the episode land much more powerfully. It’s clear that Dinah was slowly managing to trust Vince again and had that ripped away from her in an instant. Everything she thought she knew about him is turned on its head and she goes back to the more withdrawn persona by the end of the episode. Her dynamic with Vince is fascinating and I think it will define her team’s relationship with the villainous cabal.
Cayden James is a very well performed villain and the idea of him leading a team of other antagonists is a good one but it still fails to completely resonate. The problem is that their endgame isn’t entirely clear other than the nebulous mission of taking over Star City. They do represent a threat because there are so many of them but beyond that there isn’t an awful lot to say about them. Their introduction in the episode as they surrounded Oliver was excellent though and I suspect the potential lies in the personal connection some of them share with their opponents.
The most interesting thing about Cayden James is his ability to manipulate people to achieve his goals. He has played a part in tearing Team Arrow apart though only manipulated what was already there and has managed to bring together the conflicting personalities of his allies into a partnership that seems to work for them. There are few disagreements among them as they all seem focused on whatever the plan is so there’s a lot of room for this to develop. I also like the satisfaction he clearly takes from being able to craft intricate plans around toying with other people.
Quentin is shown to be struggling to process his recent experience with Evil Laurel. As before he objectively knows that she isn’t his daughter but can’t help seeing his daughter in her especially after the conversation revealing that there are more similarities between their counterparts from the different universes than either of them would care to admit. Quentin seems to think that Evil Laurel can be redeemed because he saw a tenderness in her that he can try to bring out. It’s something that risks tearing him apart but he feels compelled to try.
Thea is there to offer some perspective as always and reminds him that the most evil people have moments of kindness. Her outlook seems really black and white in this scene which does seem out of character for Thea though it’s possible she’s compartmentalising her feelings about having an exact duplicate of Laurel around considering how close they were. She is also more worried about Quentin putting himself in danger for a potentially fruitless endeavour and encourages him to think about what effect his loss would have on those in his life. I always enjoy scenes featuring these two characters as their bond is so strong that they make a captivating pair. Thea coming around to his way of thinking by the end of the episode by pointing out her realisation that Malcolm was able to change in some way so it’s possible for Evil Laurel to be redeemed. Thea may not be suiting up and fighting criminals but her place in the show is still very well defined.
A strong return that complicates the nature of the schism between the original members of Team Arrow and the newer recruits. Each side has valid points and the tension between them is developed in a realistic way thanks to two key scenes beginning with none involved coming across very well and ending on a more respectful note. The prospect of having a second team is an interesting one and should provide plenty of material. Using Curtis as the connective tissue is a natural fit as well. Cayden James makes for an interesting and well performed villain but his endgame is still unclear and his villain alliance so far only represents a threat because there are so many of them.
The villains do have connections to the heroes such as Dinah and Vince who are starting to reconcile to the point that Dinah relaxes around him and shows a different side. This makes the reveal to her that Vince is working with Cayden James more powerful because it reverts her back to being wary and withdrawn. Thea and Quentin have a connection to Evil Laurel that seems to be heading down the route of Quentin trying to redeem her. It initially seems concerning to Thea but she comes around to supporting it eventually. Despite not being in costume she continues to prove her worth in the show.
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