Arrow – Season 7 Episode 19
Arrow introduces a figure from Diggle’s past and has Felicity consider wonder what her legacy will end up being.
It’s definitely a cliché for TV shows to introduce parent characters in later seasons in an effort to manufacture drama in an environment where writers are running out of ideas. I don’t believe that the Arrow writers are running out of ideas at all but the introduction of a Stepfather for Diggle that has never been mentioned before strikes me as something of an odd choice this late in the game.
There is definitely purpose to this introduction beyond the obvious source of tension for Diggle that the writers can explore. We know from the future time period that Diggle will adopt Ben Turner aka Bronze Tiger’s son so this episode acts as a tutorial for sorts in how to be an adoptive father in terms of recognising how different raising someone else’s child is to raising a biological one. General Stewart (Ernie Hudson) is immediately presented as a fair minded man with a lot of affection for the son he adopted which makes Diggle’s resentment of him come across as irrational. This was an interesting and refreshing choice as typically the audience perspective is skewed in favour of the familiar character with the misconception being revealed to them at the same time as the audience. Instead Diggle is painted as being unreasonable to begin with and Felicity quickly reveals that he doesn’t know the full story about the mission that is the root of that resentment.
Their initial conversation sets this up nicely by having the focus be on family. Stewart mentions Diggle’s decision to leave A.R.G.U.S. and devote himself to Team Arrow as a dead end that stopped what was going to be a promising career. Diggle immediately goes on the offensive by stating that he made the decision for his family which isn’t something that Stewart would know a lot about. It’s a harsh and loaded statement that comes ahead of learning the nature of their relationship. Stewart ends the conversation by stating that he always has time for his family which sets up him proving that by the end of the episode.
Oliver tries to play devil’s advocate in order to get to the bottom of why Diggle resents General Stewart so much. It’s a thin line that needs to be walked as Oliver wants to be reasonable about a man he has just met while also being the supportive friend that Diggle needs. The Oliver/Diggle relationship has always been interesting because they challenge one another by not blindly accepting everything the other says. This comes into play here and Diggle isn’t initially prepared to hear that from Oliver because he stands by the judgement he has made about the sort of man General Stewart is.
The episode forces them together throughout in order to challenge Diggle’s perception of his Stepfather. Dialogue points out that they have spent very little time together since Diggle moved out so there has never been any attempt to resolve the tension between them. This offers a semi-reasonable explanation for why Diggle has never mentioned General Stewart before; he basically wants to forget the man is part of his life so acts as if he doesn’t exist. It’s not a healthy approach but it’s also a perfectly relatable one. There are constant examples of how reasonable General Stewart is such as him dismissing Diggle’s hostility as something he is used to and willing to put up with and taking the opportunity to point out how proud he is in the midst of a hostage situation. This also highlights how important an influence Stewart was on Diggle. Whether he wants to admit it or not he probably joined the military because of Stewart though he would definitely be motivated by wanting to honour his father by following in his footsteps as well. Diggle talks about the Spartan training drills that were instrumental in giving him the skills that help him survive to this day so the influence of General Stewart on Diggle is definitely significant.
Casting Ernie Hudson in this role was something of a master stroke as he is innately likeable in pretty much any role he plays so on a meta level it makes Diggle seem even more unreasonable given the natural charisma of the actor. He blends in perfectly to the dynamic of Team Arrow as a helpful presence with a strong moral compass. Stewart’s input into the Team Arrow mission is valuable as well so his presence in this episode feels necessary which helps counter the potential assumption that he’s an addition designed only to heighten tension for Diggle once the writers are out of ideas. His work to bring down the Ninth Circle adds scale to the organisation as they are a problem the U.S. Military has on their radar so they feel much bigger than a problem to be dealt with locally by costumed vigilantes.
Naturally there is a reconciliation by the end of the episode. Diggle asks why he didn’t set the record straight about what really happened on that mission and Stewart tells him “every child deserves to believe that his father is a hero”. He sticks so completely to that belief that he allowed Diggle to hate him up until this point because he didn’t want him thinking badly of his biological father. Stewart believes that Diggle became a hero because he grew up believing that but Diggle acknowledges that the man he is today is due to Stewart’s work raising him. It’s a poignant moment that is wonderfully acted and gives Diggle something to think about when he takes on Ben Turner’s child.
It’s impossible not to mention the significance of the name Stewart in this case. There has been a long held fan theory -given credence in the “Elseworlds” crossover that John Diggle would end up being the Green Lantern by the name of John Stewart. Introducing a Stepfather by the name of Stewart strongly suggests that this is the direction that will be taken by John Diggle at some point in the near future. I have mixed feelings on this as I have issues with revealing that a newly created character is actually a well known comic book character because it devalues their development as an individual who becomes important to the mythos in their own right. John Diggle has earned his place in this show and is one of the strongest characters so turning him into John Stewart feels like a disservice to that. It may not turn out that way and I’m hopeful that it doesn’t though it seems likely.
The future plot continues the Diggle family drama by having the next step in Mia and Connor’s journey take them to the Deathstroke gang. Connor gets in by using JJ’s name and talks about the strained relationship he had with his brother because of their differing views on Diggle’s effectiveness as a father. This is setup for the inevitable introduction of JJ into the future time period to hopefully add further context to this relationship. It’ll be interesting to see how Diggle’s decisions have positively influenced Connor but negatively influenced his biological son.
Focusing on the Mia/Connor dynamic helps make the future scenes feel much more concise. Their troubled family histories creates common ground between them and Mia is beginning to understand the reasons behind his earlier dishonesty. The strong hint that there is an attraction between them is somewhat out of place but they make for an engaging pairing when it comes to working together and their dynamic is completely natural with lots of interesting subtext to it. The setup of the tech infused soldiers as a near invincible army is interesting enough as well even if it will likely lead to a cop out defeat for them as they’ve been set up as being insanely powerful.
Felicity’s contribution to the episode in the present day is all about forging her own path independent of Team Arrow that she can be proud of within herself. This is clearly setting up her exit at the end of the season while also offering compelling plot at this point. Archer is something she sees as her legacy so is focusing all of her energies on that which leaves her blinded to the negative applications that it could have. It isn’t until the Ninth Circle steals it and uses it to benefit them that she sees that it can be used to facilitate terrible things. It certainly isn’t what she had in mind for her legacy and she makes the choice to destroy it to keep it out of the wrong hands before refocusing into coming up with something else.
The potential to rebuild is definitely there as Alena points out after saving enough information to start fresh. Felicity doesn’t want to do that as she would rather have her legacy be the creation of something inherently good. What that amounts to is unknown as we have already seen what Archer will become but it’s not immediately obvious why that will happen. It could be that Alena takes it upon herself to recreate the program before losing control of it herself or it could be that Alena has been working for the Ninth Circle all along and only playing along with Felicity to gain control of her ideas. The Ninth Circle definitely have a technical genius at their disposal and Alena would be a good fit for that considering her skill level is comparable to Felicity.
Emiko is the weak link in this episode as there isn’t enough time spent allowing her actions to make sense. Her connection to Dante is still unclear as we’ve seen him taking orders from her as well as giving her orders. If they’re supposed to be equals then that hasn’t been made clear but it seems immaterial now as Emiko kills him after learning that he killed her mother. All of this needed more development as it begins and ends so quickly. The episode also fails to focus on the most interesting connection has to Team Arrow. Focusing on Oliver is the wrong move as her connection to Rene is far more interesting. Rene still wants to believe that she’s fundamentally a good person despite all evidence to the contrary as he can’t accept that she’s as bad as he appears to be and understands that she has had a difficult life. By the end of the episode he claims to have seen her true colours despite not doing enough to make this revelation mean something. There was so much scope for added weight to this that just wasn’t made use of.
A strong episode that makes good use of a newly introduced figure from Diggle’s past and uses this to add texture to the relationships in the future plot. The reveal that Diggle has a Stepfather could have easily felt contrived but the episode makes his presence feel necessary and does enough to justify why he was never mentioned before now. Diggle is set up as being unreasonable in the way he treats General Stewart which was an interesting choice as normally the viewer perspective would be the same as the character. Instead the viewer goes along with General Stewart’s perception and waits for Diggle to catch on. There are many examples of how reasonable he is before the inevitable reconciliation which further exemplifies this. Stewart’s work on bringing down the Ninth Circle also adds extra scale to the organisation as they are a U.S. Military problem rather than simply being a local issue for Team Arrow to deal with. The suggestion that John Diggle may actually be Green Lantern John Stewart now that he has a Stepfather by that name is something I have mixed feelings about as it would devalue the contribution of Diggle by revealing that he has been a different character all along. Stewart and Diggle’s relationship feeds into the future scene as Diggle could use his Stepfather’s example as inspiration when it comes to raising an adopted son of his own. It’s clear that this influence is positive on Connor though the future plot establishes that there’s resentment on JJ’s part as he doesn’t have a lot of respect for his biological father. Focusing on the Connor/Mia dynamic in the future scenes makes them feel more concise and their interactions are a lot of fun to watch.
Felicity is focused on creating a legacy separate from Team Arrow in the present day scenes. This obviously sets up her exit at the end of this season while also having her realise that she has been blinded to the dangers associated with Archer falling into the wrong hands. We know that this will definitely happen in the future though with Felicity destroying it in this episode it’s unclear how that will be. There’s a suggestion that Alena will be somehow responsible whether that be by accident or acting against Felicity in some way. The Ninth Circle clearly have a skilled tech expert at their disposal. It would make sense for this to be Alena as she has skills comparable to Felicity. Emiko is the weak link here as enough time wasn’t spent on her relationship to Dante to have any of this make sense. It’s unclear whether she was working with him, for him or if he was working for her. It doesn’t matter as such because she kills him for killing her mother which means that this will likely always be something that remains undeveloped. There is also focus in the wrong direction as the most interesting connection Emiko has to Team Arrow is with Rene rather than Oliver. There is mention of Rene wanting to see the good in her before realising that it may not exist but the realisation isn’t allowed to be given the weight it deserves so it falls somewhat flat.
- focusing on General Stewart’s perspective and having Diggle catch onto the truth
- Ernie Hudson’s effortless charisma in the role of General Stewart
- the strong reconciliation moment between Diggle and Stewart
- their relationship clearly informing Diggle’s approach with his future adopted son
- focusing on the Mia/Connor dynamic helping make the future scenes feel more concise
- Felicity looking for a positive legacy and not clinging to a project that can be misused in the wrong hands
- the Emiko/Dante relationship remaining undeveloped
- failing to focus on Emiko’s connection to Rene despite that being the more interesting
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