Arrow – Season 7 Episode 15
Arrow deals with the teething problems associated with the entirety of the team coming to work with the SCPD causing friction between the two groups.
In theory there’s a lot of interesting plot that can be mined from the prospect of a team of vigilantes having to suddenly operate within the confines of the law. Team Arrow have been used to doing things their way which means they can take action without worrying about things like warrants and hard evidence. This is absolutely a violation of the legal system but it also gets results that the police can’t because they are bound by so many restrictions.
One of the conditions of Team Arrow being deputised as far as the Mayor is concerned is for them to follow SCPD protocol which means wearing uniforms instead of costumes, understanding their procedures and using standard issue weaponry out in the field. This raises a red flag for every member of Team Arrow who are used to doing things their way and feel that these rules are akin to tying one hand behind their back as they aren’t able to make use of their unique skills. The question that defines this episode is around why Team Arrow aren’t able to use their costumes and weapons in the field. When the decision was made to deputise them it was in recognition of how useful they could be so it makes no sense to force them to become part of a system they won’t be comfortable with and will be less effective as a result though that argument is the driving force for this episode so it feels deliberate even if it’s somewhat contrived.
Oliver is eager to make the partnership work on account of his unborn child. He doesn’t want to bring a child into the mess of a city that currently exists so is willing to compromise in any way the SCPD sees fit in the interests of making the city a better place for the baby once she’s born. Felicity backs him up on this at least in principle because she understands the motivation behind it even if she doesn’t agree with it. Oliver has also been constantly growing as a person which includes his patience and ability to reason so he looks to give this partnership the benefit of the doubt and hope that any growing pains will be ironed out as time goes on. He basically doesn’t want to write it off without giving it a proper chance which is a very reasonable position to hold. Rene offers the counterbalance to this by almost immediately feeling like the new normal is a complete waste of time.
Dinah struggles the most with towing the line necessary to make this work. She has struggled with being by the book all season as she went from combining vigilante effectiveness with police work to reach a speedy resolution to having to take the slower path involving the need for hard evidence and warrants signed off by authority figures. There’s no denying that this slows down the wheels of justice and she’s painfully aware of that but is also aware that the SCPD is under immense scrutiny following Diaz managing to infiltrate them at the highest level so has to be very careful about what actions she takes. As Captain of the SCPD she has to be seen to be following protocol which means actively opposing the protests of the deputised Team Arrow in favour of a more by the book approach. It’s an unenviable position and Juliana Harkavy’s performance perfectly puts across the frustrations Dinah feels.
Her interactions with Rene serve as a reminder of how great a dynamic these characters have. It’s Rene that notices that there’s something deeper to the way Dinah is reacting to what’s going on which causes her to open up about losing her Canary Cry and feeling like being Captain of the SCPD is all she has left as she associates her effectiveness as Black Canary with that power. This headspace causes her to feel that she has to fully commit to her role as Captain. Rene -and later Diggle- helps her realise that being Black Canary is so much more than having a Canary Cry which makes for an engaging mini arc for Dinah though I am left wondering why none of the various miracle cures we’ve seen over the years aren’t considered. Surely Felicity and Curtis could come up with a chip to fix this.
The limitations of the arrangement become clear after the first field mission is a complete disaster. This is in large part due to Team Arrow and the SCPD not being in sync with one another during the operation. As I’ve said the team are limited by not being able to use their special skills and weapons while the SCPD officers refuse to listen to reasonable suggestions that will make success far more likely. There’s a subplot suggested here that is never explored around the SCPD officers feeling threatened by the forced additions to their team suggesting that their protocols aren’t good enough. In a better episode the conflict created by pride on both sides would have been the focal point of the story.
For that to work there would need to be actual characters on the SCPD side in order to properly explore how they feel about being forced to work with a team who operated outside the law for so long. Dinah doesn’t count as her frustrations are unique to her and she’s very much a part of Team Arrow even though she tries to be otherwise. There is one scene following the field operation where there is a stand-off between Team Arrow and SCPD about who knows best but it’s not enough to sell that conflict as the episode frames Team Arrow’s methods as being the best way forward.
This is clearly what the writers wanted to bring across so on that score they succeed but by doing this they cut themselves off from exploring difficult questions about what should and shouldn’t be done to achieve justice. Following protocol and abiding by the law is a strong argument that deserved to be explored especially as a contrast to the benefits as well as the drawbacks of vigilante justice. By teasing this argument and not exploring it the writers are doing a disservice to it and make this episode ultimately feel disposable as the conclusion of that conflict is spelled out right from the beginning.
Following the disastrous field operation Oliver falls back on some old habits and tortures the prime suspect for information. He gets a confession out of him but it won’t hold up because of what Oliver did to get it. On some level Oliver must know that bit it’s also a symptom of the increasing frustrations caused by a lack of results. Diggle points out that he considers Felicity’s pregnancy a countdown to a deadline whereby the city has to be safe enough to bring a child into it. It doesn’t quite work as a justification for Oliver acting this way but combining it with feeling ineffective thanks to police procedures and it’s possible to see where he’s coming from.
Diggle’s perspective is completely on point as always. He talks about the partnership with the SCPD needing time to settle because it’s important that Team Arrow cooperate lest they wind up back in the problematic situation at the end of last season. The last thing any of them want is for Oliver to be in prison and the team on the wrong side of the law so he urges Oliver to think seriously about making the partnership work otherwise everything that they’ve worked for will be undone.
The resolution of this plot feels really neat and unrealistic considering the available information. Team Arrow take it upon themselves to spring into action in full costume and bring down the villain the old fashioned way. In some ways this feels like a plot that would have been right at home in early season 2 with the added trappings of the current season making for further complications. Despite the SCPD not seeing eye to eye with their latest recruits earlier in the episode this action doesn’t cause any extra issues and appears to be completely above board. This leads to the creation of a vigilante task force that run autonomously but work in conjunction with the SCPD. The Mayor is apparently reluctantly fine with this despite no evidence to suggest that her mind was changed in any way. She is also due to repeal the anti-vigilante law which sort of resets the status quo back to what it was with some very minor differences. Team Arrow are officially sanctioned which is great but the steps that led to that point feel really rushed and forced which feels completely at odds with the meticulous long form storytelling that has made for an enjoyable season so far.
No matter how positive a conclusion the present day events of a given episode come to we are reminded that there is a dark future on the horizon. Every choice made by the characters in the present day narrative will end up contributing to this future in some way and the show wants us to keep that in mind throughout. The future set scenes this week are very limited in terms of plot progression but dripping in strong characterisation. William and Mia have a great brother/sister dynamic that is awkward enough as they are still getting to know one another while still having a level of comfort that comes from finding the family they never know they had. Amusingly William sees a lot of Oliver in her through the way she conducts herself which comes as a surprise for Mia who clearly didn’t know Oliver. Felicity was the only parent she knew so inheriting Oliver’s nature is unexpected though the observation does seem to make her think and possibly feel closer to her roots. William certainly gives her something that she didn’t know she was missing. Mia represents the lost connection to Felicity for William. Through her he is able to contextualise the feeling he has about the mother figure he knew so briefly while feeling a lot less isolated.
The plot concerns them trying to find a microcassette player so that they can listen to the message Felicity left for them. How they go about this highlights the differences in their upbringing with William being naive as to how this marketplace actually works and Mia being the savvy one able to navigate it with ease. It’s a solid contrast that makes for some scenes and I like that the episode flips this around with William’s intelligence presenting a solution that Mia hadn’t considered. On a symbolic level it suggests that together the can find a sense of completeness as people.
Once they achieve their goal and listen to the message it gives each of them some answers to the cause of their abandonment issues even if it isn’t fully explained or entirely satisfying to them. Keeping them apart in order to protect them is about the oldest excuse in the book and we -as well as the characters- are lacking in the context surrounding that decision. I suspect the coming episodes will answer that question so it remains to be seen whether it’s satisfying or not. For now Felicity’s message brings them closer together which allows Ben Lewis and Katherine McNamara to deepen their characters as well as their growing connection through excellent performances. The more time these characters get to spend together the better as far as I’m concerned.
The mystery surrounding the attack on Ricardo Diaz is quickly solved in this episode and it turns out that he is actually dead which feels about right given the brutality of the attack last week. Ben Turner is the eye witness to the murder and will only talk to Evil Laurel about it if she lets him see his son. She manages to achieve this and there is the suggestion that Ben’s son is the kid that Diggle will end up adopting that grows up to become the Connor Hawke that we’ve seen in the future. This suggests that Ben’s days are numbered which is a shame as the character is a good one though that will make it more impactful as well.
Ben tells Evil Laurel that he saw Emiko leaving the prison after killing Diaz which makes her the prime suspect on account of the eye witness account that seems undeniable. The problem is that the only one who knows the truth is Evil Laurel and she’s not exactly the most reliable of sources as far as Team Arrow are concerned. Their scene together is excellent as it’s about who has the most power in that moment. Emiko as good as admits that she did it because she’s entirely confident that she will be believed above Evil Laurel because she has a close connection with Rene and is beginning to create a dynamic with Oliver that works. This puts her on better footing with Evil Laurel who is still regarded with suspicion at best. It’s also worth noting that there will be certain members of Team Arrow who will be less than upset at Diaz’ demise so the deck is very much stacked against Evil Laurel who could only really count on Felicity for backup under normal circumstances though with the death of Diaz even that is in doubt. Even still, Oliver deserves to know that his sister is hiding something from him. Evil Laurel inches ever closer to dropping the “Evil” from her name.
An uneven episode that loses its way with the main plot but excels in meaningful characterisation. The conflict created by Team Arrow working with the SCPD feels very artificial as the rejection of their particular skills and weapons means that the SCPD isn’t getting the best out of their new recruits. Team Arrow feel stifled by the conditions of this arrangement and it creates a lot of friction between the two sides. Oliver is eager to make it work because he wants to help make the city safe for his unborn child so tries to accept the limitations. Their first field mission is nothing short of a disaster because Team Arrow and the SCPD are out of sync during this operation with an unwillingness on part of the officers to listen to reasonable suggestions to increase the chances of success. Oliver falls back on old habits after this which ends up accomplishing very little but supports the idea that he sees Felicity’s pregnancy as a deadline for delivering a city safe for a newborn. This plot is resolved in a really confusing way as it’s not clear why the Mayor would change her mind or what about Team Arrow’s actions were legally defensible. Part of the issue with this is that there are no characters on the SCPD side so the episode frames the argument in favour of Team Arrow which robs the episode of the opportunity to explore difficult questions.
Dinah’s conflict around this plot works really well. She is torn between her role as Captain and her identity as Black Canary. She eventually confesses to Rene that the loss of her Canary Cry makes her feel as if she has to dedicate herself to her role as Captain as she can no longer function as a vigilante. This episode takes her through a minor arc whereby she realises that her worth as Black Canary has nothing to do with her powers. Rene champions it and Diggle reinforces it which helps Dinah commit to her own sense of identity. Diggle is really useful in general in this episode with his particular wisdom helping to point Oliver in the right direction. The future scenes provide an excellent opportunity for Mia and William to bond as siblings while highlighting the differences in both their approach and upbringing. It’s a great dynamic and is enhanced by them finding answers to some extent through Felicity’s message. It may be limited in plot progression but is great for the characters. Evil Laurel finding out that Emiko killed Diaz thanks to information gained from Ben Turner sets up a compelling conflict between the trust that Emiko has built up and the inherent mistrust of Evil Laurel. The lack of sympathy towards a dead Diaz will make this even more difficult as well so this should make for an interesting problem.
- Dinah realising her worth independent of her powers
- Diggle’s usual on point wisdom
- the engaging Mia/William sibling dynamic
- Evil Laurel’s dilemma around how to get Team Arrow to believe what she knows about Emiko
- failing to make good use of the obvious depth in the conflict between Team Arrow and the SCPD
- neatly resolving the friction between Team Arrow and the SCPD
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