Arrow – Season 6 Episode 9
Arrow heads into the winter hiatus with betrayal, mistrust, a wedding and a villain team up that promises complications when the show returns in January.
Most of the above list is true except from the wedding, technically that happened during the crossover so this episode technically has the reception. Oliver and Felicity throw a huge event to celebrate their recent nuptials so that everyone close to them can share in the celebration. My feelings about the wedding and how it was executed aside I thought that this part of the episode was very strong. It’s one of those rare quiet moments that allow the characters to be around each other without the threat of death hanging over their heads. Supergirl, The Flash and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow all took steps to have similar scenes this week and in all cases they elevated the episodes above what they otherwise would be.
I’ve said on many occasions that I’m not entirely invested in the Oliver/Felicity romance particularly since it has been reignited and having them married shortly after getting back together seems ludicrous to me. Despite my personal feelings on the matter it can’t be denied that Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards have great chemistry together which almost makes this work by itself. If the aim for the scene was to establish how pure their feelings are for one another then it certainly succeeds thanks to the performances of the actors.
It has all the hallmarks of a perfect celebration as well. Thea is up and about again for one which pleases Oliver. Felicity also gets to have both of her parents there getting along. It’s strange that Noah’s criminal activities are basically ignored here but other than that Charlotte Ross and Tom Amandes make it work while the writers manage to squeeze in a short reconciliation story for them while also dealing with Donna’s relationship with Quentin. It’s economical and well acted especially with Paul Blackthorne’s awkward hurt reaction to seeing them together.
Quentin and Oliver have a moment that shows how far they’ve come since being adversaries in season 1. Oliver being given Quentin’s father’s watch as a wedding gift is a really profound gesture establishing without a doubt that Quentin sees Oliver as something of a surrogate son. As always the actors sell the moment completely.
Much of the strongest material in this episode is delivered by Paul Blackthorne in this episode come to think of it. His capture by Evil Laurel allows for a long overdue extended conversation between them. Quentin’s discomfort with having a different version of his daughter running around killing people and committing crimes has been on the sidelines for a while but this episode finally allows them to interact in a really meaningful way.
Their conversation is stripped down to the basic level of a father and daughter reconnecting. Of course it’s more complicated than that but at its core the scenario is essentially that. Evil Laurel hasn’t seen her father since his death when she was 13 and Quentin hasn’t seen his daughter since she died almost two years ago so the two characters are dealing with an unexpected ghost from the past presenting itself.
Evil Laurel tells the tale of how she lost her father and the most striking thing about it is just how ordinary it was. A hit and run when he was on the way to getting her birthday cake is nothing more than random chance and bad luck. There was no malice behind it and the suddenness of the experience was clearly definitive for Evil Laurel. Katie Cassidy’s delivery of the story is subdued and filled with quiet pain which fits the scene perfectly. Paul Blackthorne’s sympathetic expression as he listens was perfect as well; it shows that all he sees is his hurt and scared little girl. It’s subtle, powerful and completely nails the emotion.
This conversation establishes how similar their lives are despite the different path taken. Evil Laurel likes exactly the same birthday cake that Earth-1 Laurel did and her father clearly had the exact same traditions. It’s revelatory that they are more alike than either of them initially realised and it makes Evil Laurel’s decision to let him go feel earned. It’s possible that redemption is in Evil Laurel’s future and if it is Quentin will be the key to making it believable.
Team Arrow are fractured into two distinct camps by the events of this episode. This happened to an extent when knowledge of Diggle’s injury divided them but this episode definitively splits them apart. Oliver is told early on that a member of Team Arrow is going to testify in a Court of Law that Oliver Queen is the Green Arrow though the identity of who that is isn’t disclosed. This leaves Oliver with the clear problem of leading a team where one of them has betrayed him. It has repeatedly been stated that Team Arrow can’t be effective without trust so operating with this hanging over them is a difficult task.
Each of the members not named John Diggle or Felicity Smoak are given scenes that give the audience a reason to be suspicious with the exception of Rene but I’ll come back to that. Curtis gets drunk at the wedding reception and makes some very clear statements about having regrets over his involvement with Team Arrow. This makes sense as being Mr. Terrific cost him his marriage and the wedding reception brings those regretful feelings to the surface. Dinah is shown acting suspiciously prior to a reveal that she is meeting with Vince aka Vigilante in secret showing a clear conflict between her responsibilities to the team and the feelings she clearly still has for him.
The reveal that Rene is the traitor was a genuine shock to me especially since his loyalty appeared to be absolute. This episode does hammer that home to trick the audience but even prior to this he appeared to be completely supportive of Oliver’s leadership. I am of course not talking about the frequent disrespect he showed in the beginning. Rene has really developed as a character and his increasing comfort level with being on the team has been a big part of that.
His reasoning for deciding to testify does make sense. He talks about being threatened by Samanda who apparently knows that he’s Wild Dog and plans to use that information to take his daughter away from him if he doesn’t cooperate. To Rene’s mind his testimony would make no real difference because of the proof Samanda apparently has of Oliver’s other identity. Given those conditions it’s easy to see why he would have made that decision and the fact that he stands by it when explaining it to Oliver says a lot about his integrity. A later scene does show him regretting the decision to some extent because it meant betraying a friend, leader and mentor but at the same time he accepts that it was the best way out of an impossible situation.
Oliver’s reaction to this is telling of how far he’s come. One of his major issues has been bringing himself to trust new members of the team so Rene’s betrayal cuts him deep. At the same time he can see Rene’s point of view as he put the good of his daughter ahead of the good of the team; something Oliver is familiar with after doing the same for his son.
Thea proves her worth to this show by serving as the voice of reason. She takes Oliver through both sides of the argument by acknowledging his point of view while encouraging his tendency towards empathy. Ultimately it’s this conversation that leads Oliver down the path to forgiveness and results in him giving Rene another chance. It’s a great brother/sister moment though Thea’s dialogue feels a bit stilted and not in keeping with her usual speech pattern to the degree that it stood out. It doesn’t detract from the emotion of the moment thanks to actors who know their characters really well.
From here things get a little too convenient. The only way of reading what happens next is that Oliver isn’t actually willing to forgive Rene because otherwise his reaction comes across as harsh. He kicks him off the team for disobeying orders and acting on his own to save Quentin. As luck would have it he made the right call and proved instrumental in the rescue but Oliver doesn’t see the results as justifying his actions. Rene is dismissed from Team Arrow for proving himself untrustworthy once again and the others follow suit.
As I said I think Oliver’s reaction is overly harsh here as Rene wasn’t acting any differently to the way he usually acts though I can see what the intent behind this was. The whole thing was designed to show that Team Arrow aren’t effective when they don’t trust one another so it becomes pointless keeping them together.
The others leave for their own reasons, chief among them being the revelation that Oliver spies on them as a way to constantly confirm their loyalty. Their privacy is being breached and something of a double standard is at play since Oliver demands absolute loyalty but doesn’t accept it at face value. Keeping tabs on people who put their trust in him is definitely the wrong thing to do the fact that it splits the team apart makes sense. The problem with it is that this is brand new information so it feels like more of an excuse than a twist.
What we now have is a Team Arrow split into two parts; the original three and the new three which is an interesting prospect on its own. I wonder if Dinah, Curtis and Rene will form their own team to show their commitment to helping people. It makes the most sense for them to do this and it’ll be interesting to see what happens if both groups go after the same target. This definitely won’t be permanent but that’s fine as long as good use is made of it in the meantime.
In the background of all this is Cayden James. It’s clear that he orchestrated this fracture within Team Arrow by taking advantage of what was already brewing and encouraging it. The reveal that Vince is part of his villainous cabal is evidence for that as he can use his existing relationship with Dinah to test her loyalty. Having Evil Laurel on his team is a good way to distract Team Arrow as well since it’s a familiar face turned against them. Anatoly makes sense as well following the breakdown in that relationship. I’m not sure where Ricardo Diaz fits into all of this but we shall see.
Given Cayden James’ methodology I’m now convinced that Samanda is working with him. Going after Wild Dog and using his daughter as leverage convince him to betray Oliver is a classic villain move and it ties into the overall plan of tearing Team Arrow apart. It ties too neatly into the overall scheme to be a coincidence so that’s my current prediction.
I find this villain team-up prospect to be somewhat limp. In theory it’s a good idea and the symmetry of Team Arrow being torn apart while the villain team come together is pretty effective but there’s something underwhelming about the whole thing. Cayden James is still brilliantly played by Michael Emerson but there’s very little interesting about the character himself. His device robbing plan in this episode was time killing nonsense and the writers are falling back on the mystery plan trope in an attempt to keep it interesting. Hopefully this will pick up and make more sense come January.
A solid midseason finale that has its share of problems. From a characterisation point of view the episode does a lot of things well such as the wedding reception scene that allows the characters to interact without danger hanging over them. The wish fulfilment aspect demonstrated by Thea’s presence and Felicity’s parents getting along was a nice touch as well. Quentin’s scene with Oliver where he gifts him his father’s watch was a well earned moment showing how far this relationship has come over the years. Evil Laurel’s bonding scene with Quentin revealing that they are more alike than they thought was wonderfully acted and makes Evil Laurel’s redemption somewhat believable.
Setting up the fact that one member of Team Arrow has agreed to testify against Oliver while showing reasons why Dinah and Curtis are viable suspects works really well as does the red herring associate with Rene seeming the most loyal but turning out to being the traitor. His reasoning makes sense and Oliver struggling with how to deal with it is allows for a great scene between Oliver and Thea despite the stilted dialogue. Oliver throwing Rene off the team for the reasons he did later in the episode feels somewhat harsh though the reasons the others leave are perfectly valid and the idea of having two distinct vigilante teams for a while is an interesting one. The same can’t be said for Cayden James’ cabal of villains because they aren’t that interesting so far. This will hopefully pick up come January but for now there’s something underwhelming about it.
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