Arrow – Season 6 Episode 6
Arrow continues the Slade Wilson centric story started last week as Diggle’s emotional and physical issues start to cause problems for the team.
The decision to move Oliver Queen into the background with Diggle taking on his mantle as Green Arrow was a brave idea since this show has been heavily defined by focusing on Oliver Queen’s growth as a hero. The advantage here is that other characters are also well developed so it’s very easy for focus to shift without the show feeling underdone in any way. It has always been clear that Diggle becoming Green Arrow would be a temporary thing and it remains interesting even if the episodes since then haven’t taken full advantage of the idea.
A lingering problem for Diggle since the season began is that he suffers from nerve damage as a result of the events on Lian Yu at the end of last season. It’s something he has hidden from everyone on the team except Dinah and it was recently revealed that he was combatting the problem with some kind of illegal drug. It’s out of character in some respects for him to behave this way though it could be due to feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of leading a team after spending years being comfortable playing a supporting role. That’s one possible explanation and not what the episode goes with but I’m inclined to think that it’s in there somewhere as well.
This episode makes an attempt to explain and resolve this issue in one fell swoop. Diggle is forced to make a choice between his loyalty to the team and continuing to be supplied with the drug that steadies his hand. Naturally Diggle can’t call himself a hero and let a known murderous criminal continue to operate just to preserve his supply line.
What makes it more interesting is that there is hesitation on Diggle’s part when faced with the choice. He chooses to have the conversation with Lyla probably because she has a history of towing the moral line as head of A.R.G.U.S. and suggests that letting his supplier continue on might be a necessary evil. I can see the argument he’s making in the context of this show handles morality. From a certain point of view it could be argued that letting a gang continue to operate is an acceptable compromise if it means that the Green Arrow continues to be a force for good in the city. The counter to that argument is that all the good done by the Green Arrow is tainted because he looks the other way where the activities of one gang are concerned. Lyla reminds Diggle that there are no compromises when it comes to morality which is something that he should know considering he is the one who taught her that.
It’s plain to see that Diggle isn’t himself at this point and that his judgement is askew because he is struggling with being less than effective for the first time in his life. He is motivated not to let the team and Oliver down so sees it as his personal mission to ensure that he can live up to his performance to preserve the Green Arrow’s reputation. His conversation with Lyla is a reality check and a reminder of what Diggle should stand for which allows him to make the right decision.
As strong as Diggle’s moral journey is there are issues when it comes to Team Arrow’s villain for the episode . Richard Diaz/Richard Dragon (Kirk Acevedo) feels like nothing more than a standard drug lord/gang leader type that Team Arrow deal with while they’re killing time waiting for the real story to kick in. There is some shock value attached to the reveal that the man Diggle has been getting his drug from is the same man that Team Arrow are on the lookout for but even that was obvious as it isn’t possible for things not to be connected in a way that forces a character to make a particular choice.
Of course Diggle makes the right one but there’s a sense of hesitation and regret as he watches the drug that was sorting out his shaky hand go up in flames. It reinforces that doing the right thing isn’t always easy while serving as a reminder that Diggle will always make the morally upright choice even if he needed a push to get there this time. All Lyla did was remind him of what he already knew and didn’t offer him the justification that would have allowed him to continue.
The scene where he comes clean with the team was well acted but I feel that he was too easily forgiven for all he had done. Dinah had given him a hard time before this and rightly so but the rest take it in their stride. Rene should have at least been somewhat irritated that Diggle being compromised almost cost him his life. Curtis being offended that Diggle didn’t come to him for help with the issue was both amusing and incredibly valid. He reminds us of the miraculous technology he invented to allow Felicity to walk again so it is baffling that Diggle didn’t tell Curtis about it because this is a world where injuries don’t have to be dealt with in a realistic way. This runs the risk of being able to whip up magical tech solutions to everything meaning that characters don’t have to deal with injuries on a long term basis.
Diggle not asking Curtis for help could be seen as a plot hole though I’d disagree with that. He has always been a character who thinks in very real world terms. The medical science that he understands can’t deal with his injury so as far as he’s concerned it isn’t something that can be fixed. He does ask Lyla if A.R.G.U.S. can come up with something but that’s as a last resort once the solution he has is no longer viable. It isn’t the best developed problem though I still don’t think it constitutes a plot hole. The main problem is that not enough time was taken to really develop it and I would have liked to see if there was any side effects to using the drug to increase the conflict associated with using it but it seems to work flawlessly with no consequences.
The other plot the episode has involves Slade Wilson dealing with his son. Oliver’s relationship with Slade is one of the richest the show has thanks to really strong writing and a great deal of time spent developing it over the course of several seasons. Slade may not have been seen since season 3 but he had a prominent focus in the flashbacks in both season 1 and 2 as well as being the present day antagonist in season 2 so there’s a rich history between them that is rife for exploration.
This episode isn’t outwardly about Oliver Queen and Slade Wilson though it is definitely part of the tapestry that makes up Slade’s story. The focus here is on his relationship with his son Joe (Liam Hall) who has followed in his footsteps in some ways. He is leading a gang known as the Jackals who want to cause mayhem for reasons that are flimsy and not worth going into. The mechanics of this are perfunctory as the real story is Slade dealing with the fact that his past misdeeds have had a role in influencing his son to head down this path.
Flashbacks help to flesh this out by showing Slade’s return to Australia after the events of Lian Yu. This shows Slade at his most vengeful with his system full of Mirakuru and his mind full of hatred of Oliver Queen. It takes a while for those things to kick in with the first flashback scenes focusing on him reconnecting with Joe. They spend time training and the dynamic between them works really well. Slade is proud of the fact that his son follows in his footsteps and enjoys being able to work with him to make him a better agent.
This shifts once he sees that Oliver Queen is alive and the vendetta awakens within him. When coupled with a vision of Shado that encourages him to seek revenge this creates the version of Slade that we will be familiar with as the season 2 antagonist. Adding a bit more depth to Slade Wilson’s vendetta against Oliver Queen is definitely a good thing as my assumption was that he spent all of his time since leaving Lian Yu plotting his revenge so finding out that it wasn’t the case is interesting if a little pointless in the grand scheme of things.
The main problem with the relationship between Slade and Joe is that it has no real depth to it. Manu Bennett’s acting is as strong as it always is and he manages to do a good enough job to establish a connection between them as well as make it semi believable that he might kill Oliver so as not to disappoint his son but the same can’t he said of Liam Hall who has far less to work with. Dialogue tells us that he saw his father make a kill during their camping trip seen in the previous episode and decided to kill someone a few months later in an attempt to gain his father’s approval but it packs no punch because it is delivered so matter of factly. The story of a son seeing his father kill another man and going down the same path could be disturbing and compelling but here it just becomes background noise to justify Joe’s current state of mind and it doesn’t really work.
Oliver’s role in the episode is to provide support to Slade both emotionally and in the context of the mission. In terms of emotional support he provides that throughout with the backup element coming in later. Oliver’s advice gives Slade the context he needs to deal with his issues more concretely with their parting words being especially impactful. Slade is somewhat broken by the fact that he is responsible for turning his son into the man he is but he is also secure in the knowledge that he has moved beyond the man that goes by Deathstroke. As Oliver puts it, it’s a very sad story but there is hope in Slade’s convictions; he won’t stop until he rescues Joe from way he is. The whole experience is important for Oliver as he reaffirms his altered priorities while being convinced of his decision to give up being Green Arrow because it’s clear that violence really isn’t something he’s comfortable with at this point in time.
A compelling episode that deals with Diggle’s emotional and physical issues while resolving Slade’s relationship with his son in some way. Diggle’s story is really well handled though misses out on some things. Some effort is made to explore the complex morality of the situation and the idea that he would seriously consider letting a gang continue to operate if it means that the Green Arrow can also continue to operate is an interesting discussion with a clear answer based on what we know about Diggle. Lyla helping him realise what he should stand for is very fitting and the scene where he comes clean with the team is well acted even if they forgive him a little too easily for actively putting them in danger.
Slade’s story allows Man Bennett plenty of opportunity to act and his performance elevates the material significantly. The wealth of history associated with this character backs it up and his relationship with Oliver is put to good use. The weak link here is Joe who has no real weight behind his backstory which makes much of it feel fairly empty. There was definitely potential here but it doesn’t quite get there. For Oliver the events he participates in help him to reaffirm his priorities and confirm that violence isn’t something he’s currently comfortable with.
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