Arrow – Season 6 Episode 11
Arrow starts to explore the dynamic created by having two distinct crime fighting teams in Star City as Cayden James steps up his criminal activities.
I praised the previous episode for approaching the schism between the original members of Team Arrow and the new recruits in a really adult way. Emotions ran high for a while but ultimately the parting was on respectful terms and that makes for more interesting storytelling. This episode continues in that vein by having the two teams share information with one another in recognition of their mutual goals. Once again this lets them act like adults and shows that the issues between them are not more important than the safety of the city and its people.
This also allows the Outsiders -as they are dubbed for now- to gain a sense of identity on their own very quickly. Oliver, Diggle and Felicity treat them like they would treat Team Flash or the Legends in terms of their approach to working with them which means that the Outsiders are equally as valid as far as the writers are concerned. Even though the endgame is most likely Team Arrow reuniting stronger than ever it doesn’t feel like the show is killing time until that inevitable outcome.
Curtis, Dinah and Rene spend the bulk of their scenes trying to figure out a dynamic that works for them. Their issue with being on Team Arrow was trust so they have to ensure that no secrets are kept from one another. They agree a consensus based approach to crime fighting rather than having an established hierarchy which has its strengths and weaknesses. The main strength is that it reduces the potential for unnecessary secrecy as everything has to be discussed before agreeing the next steps rather than waiting for orders but the flip side to that is that necessary action might be delayed by a disagreement.
Both happen here with more attention being drawn to the latter. Dinah takes exception to Curtis accepting information from Vince and using that to plan their next move. Her opinion is naturally coloured by her personal experience with him and the betrayal that is still fresh. Curtis doesn’t immediately divulge where he gets the information which causes further friction as there is an assumption of secrecy that comes with that. What this says is that they don’t quite trust each other yet so there is still work to do before a proper bond has been established between them. Teething problems are good and make for compelling drama in this case as it reminds the audience that the characters are human and don’t get everything right first time. It would be a very boring show if it did.
This disagreement is taken as an opportunity for the dynamic to develop. Curtis, Dinah and Rene are willing to work at their partnership and make it the best version of itself. This is evident when they have a calm and honest discussion about using Vince as a source of information. I was especially impressed by removing the personal connection when considering the problem and asking Dinah what she would so in that situation. Again, it’s a very adult approach and shows a willingness on their part to take a different approach to Team Arrow. Ultimately they decide that taking information from Vince is an acceptable risk after it turned out to be correct which makes the connection between Dinah and Vince more interesting as fodder for future drama.
Vince’s motivations are still very much in question. Previous episodes have established that he is very black and white in his approach to crime fighting so the long game approach in taking down Cayden James doesn’t seem to suit his style in the Vigilante persona. I find myself wondering why he doesn’t simply kill Cayden James when he’s not expecting it but there could be some other reason that he needs to be kept alive for now. The Outsiders and by extension the audience don’t have all of the required information to judge whether his shifting allegiance exists for plot purposes or not. It’s also possible that he’s playing both sides for his own reasons so there’s still a lot to come from this. Whatever happens the whole thing won’t be easy for Dinah which does enhance the villain portion of the season as there is a compelling connection between the heroes and their antagonists.
Team Arrow are definitely struggling with reduced membership but are better off now that Diggle is back in the field. This episode focuses less on them than it does the other members but we still get some element of them scrambling to solve problems with fewer resources. Ultimately this episode is more about Oliver’s attempt to protect the city as Mayor and as Green Arrow. He is presented with a problem that affects both identities and does what he can to resolve the issue.
Cayden James’ citywide hack that threatens to upset the entire infrastructure is a great threat as it is difficult to fight and has widespread consequences for a lot of people. The threat is made in person and apparently the only way to stop it is to give Cayden James 10 million dollars. The scene where he makes the demand to Oliver in person is really well done thanks to Michael Emerson’s excellent acting. His delivery of his lines is casually threatening with emotion only betrayed when reference to his sone is made. This show could definitely be doing more with this actor and this character but what we’re getting is far from terrible.
The most interesting thing about the ransom demand is that it has nothing to do with the money itself and everything to do with Oliver. Cayden James blames Oliver for the death of his son and demands the ransom as a way to get back at him for this in a very publicly humiliating way. The one thing giving Oliver a chance to get the upper hand is the fact that he had nothing to do with his son’s death so he delays his decision until there has been a chance to prove that. Sadly this falls through and Oliver is forced to wire the money which marks a definitive victory for Cayden James that will have definitely consequences for Oliver in the coming episodes especially after making a point of telling the city that they will weather this crisis and don’t negotiate with terrorists. There is also the problem of the 10 million dollar loss being enough to bankrupt the city so Oliver’s decision is definitely rich in potential.
Another problem Oliver had to deal with was William finding out that he has been lying about resuming the mantle of Green Arrow. William reacts pretty much as expected for someone who learns that his father has been lying to him for an extended period of time and it creates a rift between them. Oliver apologises for lying but not for getting back into the costume because he genuinely believes that it was the right thing to do and points out that the only reason he did it was because Diggle became injured. All William sees is the lie and observes that Diggle isn’t injured any more so resolving this becomes an uphill struggle for Oliver.
His approach is initially passive as he feels that the situation will be better tackled once William has had the opportunity to process it a bit. This is something Felicity doesn’t agree with as she sees him sitting silently and wants to say something but can’t find the words. The episode gets into parenting approaches through Oliver and Felicity discussing how best to handle the situation. Felicity is very much on the side of approaching the problem head on and talking it out where Oliver wants to leave it for a while to let the dust settle.
Both approaches are valid enough at least in the context of this episode. William is seen calmly considering what he has learned and keeping his distance indicating that he may not be ready to discuss it. Felicity is able to deliver an interesting perspective on the situation after experiencing being lied to by her father. She points out that the life choice wasn’t a problem but the lie was and Oliver would do well to understand that this is where the problem lies.
This works really well as a plot because it explores Felicity’s role as William’s stepmother and what that means for her. Clearly she isn’t sure where the line is in terms of being involved in his upbringing because she only recently entered his life but has a desire to make her presence felt and do right by him. It’s an interesting internal conflict for her that results in her taking Oliver’s advice on giving him a chance to process what he has learned.
Eventually when Oliver and Diggle are in the field William comes to her so that he can see what it’s like from her side. They connect over the fact that they are the people left behind when Oliver puts his life in danger. Felicity’s monologue detailing how she handles the constant fear of loss is an excellent bonding moment for her and William and it gives us something we rarely see on Arrow; an outsider perspective. Felicity isn’t out on the field because she’s handling the technical side of the missions and keeping an eye out for potential obstacles so sometimes her job involves looking on helplessly as those in the field are overwhelmed when fighting a losing battle.
Felicity points out that she worries constantly because that’s natural but also keeps hoping that Oliver will come back. It’s the only way she can continue doing what she’s doing and in her view it makes the relationship stronger because nothing can be taken for granted. “Heroes don’t always make it home” she says before looking at Laurel’s costume which serves as a constant reminder of their own mortality and how much danger they are in all the time. She is well aware of the possibilities but also trusts in Oliver’s skill and knows that he is fully capable of handling himself in a combat situation. The way she telegraphs what his next moves will be shows how well she knows him and that she has paid attention to the way he operates to make herself feel more secure. Seeing the action from the perspective of Felicity and William adds an extra dimension to it by showing just how skilled both teams are. The focus is on the onlookers rather than the participant which feels unique enough to drive the point home. Emily Bett Rickards is amazing in this scene showing a side to Felicity not often seen as well as adding a maternal edge to dealing with William.
The talk clearly gives William the necessary context and allows him to accept the reality of what Oliver has to do in order to keep him as well as the city safe. He talks about his fear of becoming an orphan being behind his disapproval of Oliver’s double life but with Felicity in the picture that won’t happen so he feels a little better about it. I’d like to see William sitting next to Felicity observing how his father operates as Green Arrow because their dynamic is one that is working.
An excellent episode that makes good use of having two crime fighting teams and approaches the story in a really mature way. Curtis, Dinah and Rene finding their own way to operate as a team is necessary and compelling. Their consensus based approach makes sense given their focus on trust and the episode does a good job balancing the positives with the negatives. Vince as a source of information shows how they can be divided on an issue but also how they can work through it together and come to an understanding. There’s some work to do before they truly trust each other but there’s a sense that they are moving in the right direction. The decision to have both teams comfortable with sharing information makes sense and shows a mature approach to achieving their goals.
Cayden James’ attacking the city with coordinated hacks makes for an interesting problem as it is a difficult one to fight and has widespread consequences. Oliver being extorted for 10 million dollars as a way to get to him is intriguing as well especially considering that Cayden James might be wrong about Oliver’s involvement in his son’s death. Seeing him defeated and wiring the money despite defiantly stating that he doesn’t negotiate with terrorists brings all sorts of potential for consequences. The approach to Oliver’s relationship with William is interesting as well as it shows how inexperienced he is as a parent but how hard he is trying. The lie he told is definitely a mistake but becoming Green Arrow clearly wasn’t as far as he was concerned so that creates a more nuanced apology. Felicity’s talk with William about how to handle being left behind when Oliver is in the field was the highlight of the episode and offers a unique perspective on Team Arrow.
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