Remember last week when Arrow delivered arguably one of its best hours of season 6? Where it finally seemed to understand its central hero, Oliver Queen, and deliver some outstanding character moments all around? Good times.
Do you also remember when I wrote that there was no way Arrow would be capable of delivering two solid episodes in a row? How this episode was bound to be a complete and utter failure? Well, I guess I’m psychic. Or just really used to the same old bullshit.
I mean, I knew this episode (“The Dragon”) was going to be bad. Especially when an episode is focused mostly on a boring, spineless, in-no-way-threatening villain like Diaz. But I wasn’t prepared for this level of bad. The level of bad where it’s not even entertaining in the slightest. God save me from this boring ass episode of television.
Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever been more bored by an episode of Arrow. And there have been some real duds. I was more focused on the NFL Schedule Release Show than this mess of an episode where Arrow forgot about its own hero. But this episode was so boring that it had me falling asleep. And I can say that that has never happened to me.
Diaz is completely undeserving of this hour of television. He’s easily the worst Big Bad that Arrow has ever had on this show. He’s not terrifying or threatening in the slightest and there’s no legitimate reason as to why he required an entire episode of backstory. I have no desire to learn about Diaz’s backstory nor his current story. The whole Dragon logo behind the Arrow title card was vomit-inducing, to say the least.
Not to mention this show is trying to convince us — or maybe themselves — that Diaz is a Big Bad worthy of Oliver Queen, which is laughable to the point of cardiac arrest. Diaz is a punk. Oliver is a skilled badass. Are you trying to compare the two on a level playing field? Are you trying to tell us that this should something other than an overwhelming win on Oliver’s front? Are you questioning my intelligence with this?
Arrow has been hit and miss this season with a crop of good episodes, decent episodes, and bad episodes. Episodes where one minute they understand their characters and allow them to drive the story and the next minute they’re shoved to the side in place of some stupid plot that has no place on this show. Season 6 had potential. But the more I watch this season, the more uneasy the feeling in my stomach becomes. Wasted potential is maddening. And Arrow is maddening.
Did I mention that Oliver Queen, the titular hero of this series, didn’t appear for 53 straight minutes of this episode. And when he did, it was for less than two minutes. Even The Flash hasn’t pulled that shit.
It’s completely maddening that these producers/writers have no idea what they’re doing right now. Arrow’s strength has always been its characters. But this show will just as easily ignore them as they’ll utilize them. Characters are expendable in place of plot on this show, and there’s nothing more infuriating than that.
Since I despised every part of this episode except for Felicity and Oliver at the end, I’m going to spend this review talking about what I would like to see from this show moving forward. And by forward, I mean season 7 when Beth Schwartz takes over showrunner duties (and this show finally finds a pulse again):
A True “Back to Basics”
With Beth Schwartz taking over as showrunner of Arrow in season 7, it’s an opportunity for a clean slate and a new direction. Schwartz has always been an Arrow writer that has been pro-character over plot, which gives me hope for season 7. But I’ll continue to remain cautious until this show proves otherwise.
Arrow has thrown the term “back to basics” around a lot, but they don’t seem to know what that really means. Season 5 was a blown experiment as they failed to pinpoint what the actual “back to basics” was. This season, they’ve channeled “back to basics” as meaning lone-wolf Oliver, which interestingly only really lasted three episodes in the series. So anytime this show wants to reunite Oliver with his team (mainly Felicity and Diggle), I’ll be all the more happier for it.
When you talk “back to basics” what you’re talking about is a return to something in the past that was productive and successful. When I think about productive and successful seasons I think back to season 2 almost immediately. That second season, to this day, remains my favorite because of how brilliantly it executed the balance of character and plot while delivering an intimidating Big Bad and a sense of high stakes that genuinely had me concerned but oh so holding onto the edge of my seat.
So when I’m talking “back to basics,” I’m talking about that balance. That balance of characters and plot, where you don’t force the characters into situations that are unlike them and call it in-character. But, perhaps most importantly, the thing that made season 2 so damn amazing was the team of Oliver, Diggle, and Felicity, who became the beating heart of this show and reminded us that while, yes, this was a show about a superhero, it was also a show about the person under that hood. Season 2 managed to take these situations and develop its characters and put them in situations where they were allowed to grow. It didn’t push them aside for something shiny and new.
I’d love to see Arrow return to its former glory, where Team Arrow (Oliver, Diggle, Felicity, Roy) are at the forefront. Honestly, take the Newbies away. They’re not contributing anything to the story, at this point. Or force them off screen or to some eight-episode web series. Arrow was so good because it managed to, in between these missions, allow these characters to just exist and be themselves giving us brilliant moments that are still gif-worthy. Not to mention, we were promised Felicity story not pertaining to romance and the best this show could do was thrust Curtis upon her when this should have been her storyline.
I’m just a girl standing in front of a show asking it to love her.
Less Plot, More Character
When I think back on the time when Arrow was at its best, it was when it was letting its characters drive the story and being careful not to overstep them with plot. And I feel like a damn broken record at this point, but it’s a point that cannot be stressed enough. The key to a successful show are the characters. If you have the characters, you’re golden. If you know you’re characters inside and out, you have the potential for something truly special.
As a showrunner, producer, or writer it’s your job to take a look at how your characters can be utilized in a particular storyline. Who should this episode focus on? What can we do with so-and-so here? Where’s the focal storyline in this episode? It’s not something you decide beforehand and then force a character into. You have to let the characters decide. That’s the difference between a show like Arrow and, say, Timeless. Timeless takes a look at a story and think about their characters before deciding how best to adapt this storyline to fit their characters. It makes for great television and fantastic character development and opportunity to shine.
Something else that Arrow needs to focus on next season is taking a step back and really taking a look at its characters. Just sit down for a couple of days and really outline who these characters are — not who you want them to be for this episode or what not — but who these characters actually are to their core. Especially when it comes to the beloved original characters, which continue to drive this show.
There have been too many times on this show in the past couple of seasons where these characters — characters fans know like the back of their hand to this point, mind you — have been completely out-of-character. And it’s without purpose. No lesson learned. It’s merely done to serve a plot point that they wanted to execute. No matter that this character would never do that or say that or even think like that. If they want drama, then it must be okay. Damn these characters’ morals and beliefs if it means we get to have shouting matches with great acting or angst that’s been done too many times.
Please, Arrow. Please, Beth. Don’t forget to put the characters first. Allow them to guide the story. It’ll be authentic, easy, and satisfying for all involved.
A Worthy Adversary for Oliver
When it comes to Big Bads, Arrow has usually been pretty solid. Sure, some have been better than others (aka Slade Wilson and Prometheus have been the best). But usually the Big Bad has managed to feel, in some way, a worthy adversary for Oliver. Someone that you believe poses a threat — be it physical or emotional or a combination — to Oliver. Because the first rule of crafting a worthy Big Bad is making sure your villain is strong enough to take on a skilled, experienced, badass of a hero.
There is nothing that I’ve seen or this show could do to convince me that Ricardo Diaz is someone that is a worthy adversary for Oliver Queen. There is no way in hell that this show could believe that Diaz could realistically take out Oliver Queen. Right? Oliver Queen. This is the same Oliver Queen that defeated Slade Wilson, Damien Darhk, and Ra’s al Ghul. Worthy adversaries. You don’t expect me to believe this punk, who is dealing with his bullying issues, has what it takes to outsmart and outfight the Green Arrow?
This season’s Diaz is a far cry from last season’s Prometheus, who ended up being one of the best villains ever on this show. The way that Arrow handled Adrian Chase in the final episodes of last season — aka, the only episodes that mattered or were worth a damn — was not only impressive but meaningful. Chase served as a parallel to Oliver forcing him to question the man he had become. It was psychological warfare, and it was executed to perfection. There it built that personal connection, even if it didn’t extend prior to that season. Then there was also the physicality of it all. Chase was someone that could hold his own in combat, which made his and Oliver’s fight scenes believable and also added a level of risk to the situation. Though it was certainly the psychological aspect that gave Chase the edge.
Another solid Big Bad and the one that put this show on the map, Slade Wilson, worked because of the personal connection he had with Oliver. There was deep-rooted history that we saw gradually build over the course of two seasons that left us with a meaningful payoff. But aside from the personal connection (which was incredibly important) was that Slade Wilson was physically imposing. This was the man that taught Oliver almost everything he knows. Slade could fight. Slade could, and has, defeated Oliver before. So it showed us, the audience, that this is someone that could very easily defeat our hero. It added a high stakes to that second season that really carried that show.
Hell, even Ra’s al Ghul and Damien Darhk, and Malcolm Merlyn to that point, were all worthy adversaries of Oliver’s. Whether it was through sheer brute force or magic or intellectually, they matched up well with Oliver in a way that allowed them to get the upper hand before Oliver ultimately won out.
So I’d appreciate it if Arrow could deliver us a Big Bad worthy of going up against Oliver Queen. A Big Bad that we’re genuinely concerned about because he/she could take out Oliver. Otherwise, what’s the point? If we know Oliver’s going to win or if it’s too easy for him, then he/she wasn’t a worthy advesary to begin with.
- I’m not interested in Diaz backstory at all. Stop wasting my time and precious airtime.
- Why does Curtis have to be thrust on Felicity? She doesn’t need him.
- GET OFF YOUR DAMN HIGH HORSE CURTIS
- DO NOT APOLOGIZE TO CURTIS FELICITY.
- Felicity is too good for this world. This show doesn’t deserve her.
- WHY IS THIS WHOLE EPISODE ABOUT THE DRAGON GUY? THIS IS ARROW, AGAIN THIS SHOW FORGOT THAT.
- THAT DRAGON LOGO BEHIND THE ARROW TITLE CARD? WTF IS THIS SHIT?!
- Seriously, I’m paying more attention to the NFL Schedule Release than this episode.
- Curtis pretending to care about Felicity’s feelings. Can this show decide what the hell Curtis is? Or just realize they’ve made him an asshole?
- “I’m dying here.” -Where Felicity accurately describes my feelings about this stupid episode.
- Dragon is such a worthless villain. You expect me to believe this guy can match-up with Oliver Queen? Oliver Queen, who took down Ra’s al Ghul, Damien Darhk and Slade Wilson? THAT IS CUTE.
- I have zero interest in any part of Dragon’s story.
- What is that weird shit going on between Diaz and Black Siren?
- OLIVER QUEEN APPEARED 53 MINUTES INTO THIS EPISODE ON HIS OWN SHOW.
- How do you spell bullshit? A-R-R-O-W.
- “Felicity, I will always come back.” AKA the only worthwhile scene in this entire episode.
- I’m laughing because The CW put that Olicity kiss in the promo for this awful episode as a last-ditch effort to get some viewers. Pretty sure it lost them before the 53-minute mark.
- Next week’s episode promo shows Oliver vs. Diaz. If the result is anything other than Oliver easily and handedly defeating Diaz than this show will have officially jumped the shark.
- Is it season 7 yet?
Arrow airs Thursdays at 9/8c on The CW.