‘Arrow’ 6×22 Review: All You Need Is OTA

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I’m a woman torn. I’m a woman torn between a show that, most of the time, infuriates her to no degree but can, occasionally, manage to do something right and remind her of the show she fell in love with years back.

Welcome to my weekly viewing of Arrow season 6.

While most of this season has been infuriating and laughable — whether it’s because of Diaz as the punk ass Big Bad or the horrific writing of its characters — there’s just something about the end of seasons that Arrow seems to do so well. The beginning is usually promising, the middle is rocky as hell, but they usually manage to pull it together by season’s end and deliver some good stuff. It’s almost as if 23 episodes is just too much.

Seriously, Arrow and other shows could really benefit from a 16-episode season where there isn’t this need to fill an extra seven hours of crap that makes no sense or angers a fanbase. Just tell the story you need to tell. Without dragging it out. And part of that is The CW’s fault for giving these 23-episode seasons. For these superhero shows, it just doesn’t work. There’s too much unnecessary bulk that hinders a season more than it helps it.

With that said, Arrow’s penultimate episode of season 6 (“The Ties That Bind”) was probably one of the more well-rounded episodes in recent memory due in fact to the focus on characters and how they were the ones that drove the plot. Hell, it even reminded me what it felt like not to hate the Newbies. For like a second. It certainly helps when they’re doing the job and not trash talking the people that got them there.

But perhaps the most important reason why this was one of the better episodes of late was because of the focus on the core three, the beating heart, of Arrow: Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle. Seriously, anytime the show focuses on the thing that defined it as a success many years ago, you can feel it. I felt it in this episode. I felt the emotion, the connection, and there was even a moment — however fleeting — that I was concerned about Diaz hurting Oliver and Felicity. A fleeting moment, as I said.

This show is at its best when it’s focusing on the characters that got it here. “The Ties That Bind” was so beautifully crafted around Oliver & Felicity’s marriage and Diggle & Lyla’s marriage, and it managed to once again beautifully parallel the two relationships. These characters — their actions, their motivations — drove the plot. Everything they did, how they communicated, what they learned was all based on who they are as individuals dictated the events that unfolded. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it should be. Always.

But even a solid episode such as “The Ties That Bind” was hampered by the fact that Arrow is shining the spotlight on the worst big bad this show has ever had. It’s laughable and embarrassing everytime this show tries to make me believe that Ricardo Diaz is menacing or threatening in any way.

Let’s break this down further and talk about why the only thing Arrow needs is OTA, how marriage means a partnership in every sense, and how Diaz is an embarrassment to villains everywhere:

All You Need is Oliver, Felicity, & Diggle (& Lyla, Too)

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I have two modes when it comes to Arrow: 1) All-in; 2) Not interested. One guess as to which one of those is brought forth by the focus of the literal beating heart of this show: Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle. (I’d also like to add Lyla into the mix because she’s an honorary member of the team, and Diggle’s badass, smart-as-hell wife.)

When it came to OTA (not the other stuff), “The Ties That Bind” was simply glorious. This was the kind of episode that manages to keep me hooked to this show because I don’t want to miss moments like this. Even when I have to sit through an hour of hell — or nearly fall asleep during an hour of boredom *cough* Diaz *cough* — these are the episodes that remind me that, somewhere, deep down is the Arrow I fell in love with . You want to know how I know? Because the three components of said heart are still there!

The reason I started watching Arrow was the intrigue. The intrigue of this grounded superhero show and a really attractive superhero. But the reason I stayed — and the reason I’m still here — is because of Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle. They’re the reason that I’ve spent six years of my life watching, talking, and writing about this show. That’s how much I care. And that’s something rare. Even when I despise this show, as of late, these three characters keep me coming back and keep me caring.

Nevermind the Noobs. Nevermind the ridiculous villain this show continues to insist is “threatening.” This episode was all about Original Team Arrow. This was a damn OTA lovefest. Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle working together again. Oliver and Diggle. Felicity and Lyla. Oliver and Felicity working through marital issues like the healthy couple they are. Diggle and Lyla continuing to prove why they’re couple goals. I felt like I was dreaming.

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But the only thing I’ve ever really needed from this show is OTA. That’s all I need. I don’t need excess characters that suck up air time and storylines. I don’t need pointless drama for the sake of drama to “keep me on my toes.” All I need are Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle to remind me why I kept watching this show in the first place. Just as they sometimes need a reminder of what they’re fighting for, I needed a reminder of what I’m still watching for. And “The Ties That Bind” gave it to me.

“We’re married…there’s no alone anymore.”

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Perhaps the only thing that hasn’t been tainted this season on Arrow has been Oliver and Felicity because, let’s face it, at this point they’re untouchable. The writers tried to throw some shitty curveballs their way and saw how well that worked out. It’s like they realized, hey, our fans actually want to see a married couple working together — out in the field, as a family.

Well, it’s about f***ing time!

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When it comes to good writing — I mean the kind of writing that’s beneficial to the characters in the long run and not merely something that’s a passing phase — it’s important that you understand your characters like the back of your hand. You need to be conscious and understand everything that they’ve gone through in the past six years — personally, relationship-wise, etc. If you don’t know them, you’re going to ruin them.

One thing I can say about “The Ties That Bind” is that it addressed a storyline that, yes, has been addressed before in Oliver’s concern about Felicity. But there was something different about this one. There was a new factor introduced: William. More than that: Diaz attacked Oliver, Felicity, and William in their home while they were eating dinner. This isn’t the first time Felicity’s been in danger. So why did Oliver react that way? Because she’s been in danger as Overwatch but not as Felicity Smoak-Queen.

When Felicity opted to go with the team instead of into hiding with William and Raisa, you could see a sense of concern wash over Oliver. But he wasn’t going to fight her on it. She can make her own decisions and as much as he wants to protect her, he doesn’t make her decisions for her. Look at that, character growth.

But there was a definitive flip of the switch when Felicity went headfirst into the middle of a gunfight to retrieve a valuable piece of intelligence that could help bring down Diaz. She almost got shot by Diaz, but Oliver, as usual, saved her. After that, there was this palpable sense of tension that vibrated between the two of them so much that everyone was too quick to leave the room when Oliver wanted to talk to Felicity alone about going out in the field. Ugh.

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Oliver didn’t like that Felicity went head-on into a firefight after she’d promised not to. Not that she hasn’t been out in the field before or held her own on several occasions. Again, he was concerned about her safety and even tried to convince himself this was justification for him wanting to work alone. But then Felicity Smoak-Queen — goddess that she is — laid it all out in glorious fashion:

“We’re married. We’re supposed to be each other’s strength. So there’s no alone for us anymore,” Felicity says.

Bingo! Marriage is about being a partnership. It’s about supporting each other even when you don’t agree, it’s about protecting each other, and it’s about accepting that when you’re in a marriage, it’s not just you anymore. There are two of you.

I appreciate that, while Oliver was in the wrong, his intentions were understandable and came from a place of love. That’s the kind of stupid that I can accept. Because it’s based in the character’s DNA. We know that Oliver Queen will do anything to protect those he loves, especially Felicity. We know that Oliver Queen has done some stupid shit in the past to protect those he loves, including Felicity. And that’s something that’s not only understandable but commendable because it shows that this show does in fact understand its characters, it just chooses to sometimes ignore them.

Leave it to John Diggle to be Captain of the Olicity ship as he knows exactly what to say to make Oliver think about his actions when it comes to his relationship with Felicity. Because, simply put, Oliver can be stupid. I love him. But he can be real stupid sometimes. Sometimes he just needs a slap in the face to start using that brilliant brain of his. But bless Diggle for reminding Oliver that Felicity is his strength, not his weakness.

“You’ve been there for her tonight the same way she’s been there for you as Overwatch,” Diggle tells Oliver.

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And it’s true. Oliver and Felicity have always protected each other. From the very beginning, they’ve protected each other. Albeit in different ways, but they’ve only desired to keep each other safe. So while Oliver has the right to be concerned about his wife’s safety, he doesn’t have the right to demand that she not act on her volition. And the great thing is, he didn’t. Instead of questioning her reasoning for staying behind while the intelligence was decrypting, Oliver chose to remain by her side because this was something she needed to do. He understood that. Just as Felicity has understood what Oliver has to do as the Green Arrow — including putting himself in harm’s way — Oliver has to understand what Felicity has to do as Overwatch. It was a beautiful moment that showed growth in a character that I’d never thought could get here — well, without Felicity.

And because that moment wasn’t a true moment of growth — complete with verbal confirmation from Oliver himself — we got a lovely scene at episode’s end where Oliver owned up to his misstep.

“I shouldn’t have pushed you away. I should have trusted you to keep yourself safe. And I should’ve trusted my abilities to keep you safe,” he told Felicity.

Oliver Queen is someone that learns through experience. He usually has to mess up before he can grow from a flaw. This was one of those moments. Oliver has never been married before (no, Nyssa does not count), and this is something that he had to learn on the job, so to speak. His instinct has always been to protect Felicity, yes, and sometimes that’s included pushing her away. But now they’re husband and wife. Things are different. You can’t push away your spouse. There’s no more one-man show. You’re a team. You trust in each other. You are each other’s strength.

Well, seems like their marriage is going to face another test as it appears that Oliver — who went to FBI Agent Samandra Watson for help in taking out Diaz — confessed he was the Green Arrow to protect his city and will likely be heading to prison as the finale fades to black and a bleak hiatus awaits.

An Embarrassment to Villains Everywhere

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It’s a damn shame that such a solid episode like “The Ties That Bind” had to be led by perhaps the worst villain I’ve seen on Arrow. But, don’t worry, I didn’t let it ruin the otherwise glorious hour. Honestly, I’m kind of glad that Diaz has been forced upon us this season. Because you know I like to write some good shade.

The simple fact of the matter is that Ricardo Diaz is a terrible Big Bad. He’s a punk ass loser that is in no way menacing or threatening. He’s whiny, annoying, and quite frankly sucks at being evil. This is a guy that, just in this episode, hid in a van while a whole slew of his “people” did the dirty work for him.

And I just keep wondering: How the hell did this guy get to this kind of power? How are people actually afraid of this guy? Why is Arrow insulting my intelligence here?

I do not and have never found Diaz threatening in the slightest. Now, Cayden James, on the other hand, I found extremely terrifying. He was a different kind of villain that I feel was taken away from us when we really could’ve used him. He was the Prada bag we’d always dreamed of and then was replaced with the cheap knockoff in Diaz.

This annual Big Bad is supposed to be someone that we believe can actually get close to defeating Oliver Queen. The Big Bad will never win, but they’ll come close. Diaz is not that Big Bad. He’s not a worthy adversary for Oliver. This show has dumbed itself down to the point where we’re expected to believe that this weasel can actually face Oliver Queen and live to face another day? There’s no way you could ever convince me that this tool could actually defeat Oliver Queen. Not the Oliver Queen that took down Malcolm Merlyn, Slade Wilson, Ra’s al Ghul, Damien Darhk, and Prometheus.

Diaz is an embarrassment to villains everywhere. He’s not worthy of the title villain yet along Big Bad. He’s like Oz hiding behind the curtain. He’s nobody. And he’ll always be nobody. Well, he’ll always be that shitty Big Bad from Arrow season 6.

Other Thoughts

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  • Queen family breakfast for dinners are my absolute favorite thing.
  • Also, omelettes are definitely Olicity’s thing.
  • “I just wanted a night, one night, to remind myself what I’m fighting for.” GOD KILL ME. FANGIRL DOWN.
  • It gets better. DYLA DATE NIGHT.
  • No, I don’t care about Curtis or Rene’s date nights.
  • But I can appreciate the hockey love (and Zoe’s love for hockey)
  • Another reason to f***king hate the laughable Diaz: Ruining Queen Family Dinner!!
  • Seriously, all Oliver wanted was one night to enjoy a nice dinner with his wife and son. F**k you Diaz.
  • Felicity protecting William is giving me all the damn feels.
  • “I had him.” “I know you did honey.” DYLA IS GOALS.
  • I really wish Rene wasn’t an insufferable know-it-all because I love how he is with him
  • “Wanna know the cool thing about sound waves? They bounce.” Dinah always has nice one-liners. Still not a fan of her.
  • “I’m not going anywhere.” Damn right, Felicity. This is your fight, too.
  • “Kick. His. Ass.” YES WILLIAM.
  • They really have to lock their damn bunkers. This shit is getting old.
  • “This guy’s got an army.” So has every other big bad you’ve faced, Oliver.
  • “Let’s put all of that aside and get this done.” Don’t you dare tell me Oliver Queen isn’t the mature one here, when it comes to the Noobs. Don’t you dare.
  • Oliver working with Anatoly…I’ve missed this.
  • “So you switched from careful and precise to loud and messy.” THIS LADY BESIDES BEING EVIL IS SMARTER THAN DIAZ.
  • “Can I say it for old times sake?” NO CURTIS. NO, YOU CANNOT. THAT IS NOT YOUR LINE.
  • Diaz remains behind like a fucking wuss. Makes everyone else do the dirty work. Like seriously? What kind of villain are you? You’re doing a terrible job.
  • “If things go south, I’ve got you to back me up.” I love power couples fighting together. Dyla and Olicity for the win!
  • Even when he’s choking Anatoly, he’s not threatening. Seriously. Also, Anatoly could kill him in a few moves.
  • Can we stop acting like Diaz is indestructible here? He’s a punk ass wuss.
  • I understand Oliver’s concern about Felicity — she’s his whole world — but come on, we all know Felicity can hold her own.
  • “It’s nice to see how you and John work together.” You and me both, Felicity.
  • “Also, getting divorced helped.” Not the advice Felicity and Oliver will be taking, thank you very much.
  • LYLA. MICHAELS. DIGGLE. We are not worthy!
  • Felicity saying “Frack it” and getting her ass in there and getting that damn drive. SHE IS A QUEEN.
  • Oliver. Saving. His. Damn. Wife. AHHHHH.
  • “We’re married. We’re supposed to be each other’s strength. There’s no alone anymore.” PREACH FELICITY.
  • “You’ve been there for her tonight the same way she’s been there for you as Overwatch.” PREACH JOHN.
  • When I said your focus was split, I didn’t mean throwing away everything and everyone that gives you strength.” JOHN DIGGLE LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.
  • Even when punk ass Diaz is rolling up in here threatening to kill Oliver, I’m not afraid. Loser.
  • Oliver can’t get mad at Felicity for doing her job when she doesn’t for him doing his job.
  • “William needs you.” “William needs us.” I AM CRYING.
  • OLIVER CARRYING FELICITY I AM NOT OKAY SEND HELP PLEASE.
  • “You’d do anything to keep her safe.” Well, at least Diaz isn’t a complete moron. Even he understands that Olicity is endgame and OTP.
  • Diaz can never fight a fair fight. He had to rely on gas to get an edge on Oliver. And even then, he couldn’t outsmart him or Felicity.
  • “We love you, William.” GOD I AM DYING.
  • “I shouldn’t have pushed you away. I should have trusted you to keep yourself safe. And I should’ve trusted my abilities to keep you safe.” “I still have a ways to go.” OLIVER GROWTH.
  • Seriously, why is everyone afraid of Diaz?
  • OLIVER IMPLICATING HIMSELF AS GREEN ARROW TO SAVE HIS CITY.

Arrow airs Thursdays at 9/8c on The CW.

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