There’s no denying that this season of Arrow has been miles above last season, where it felt like Oliver had really been abducted and forced to live a lie by the Dominators. Season 6 has a theme of family, which has lent itself well in terms of parenthood, romance, and friendship.
But there’s just been something off in the past couple of weeks. “The Devil’s Greatest Trick” managed to pinpoint several problems with this current season, including New Team Arrow, Quentin’s delusion, and the villain problem.
One of the main issues of Arrow this season continues to be the dysfunction that is New Team Arrow. When they were a part of the team at least they were pushed to the sideline. Now, with this show actively putting them in the forefront in their own team, their pettiness, hypocrisy, and flat out stupidity is on full display. And, honestly, it’s affecting my viewing experience.
The problem isn’t that there’s a New Team Arrow — rather new members on the team. The problem is Curtis, Rene, and Dinah — mostly the first two — and how they’re being betrayed as the immature children while Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle are the adults that have — multiple times — reached out to them to try to mend fences and take the high road. But the children have thrown temper tantrums and tried to blame the parents for everything that’s going wrong.
Then you have Quentin’s character spiraling into hopelessness and delusion when it comes to Black Siren. You’d think Quentin would know better by now. You’d think — especially seeing everything Black Siren has done — that he’d know that this Laurel isn’t his Laurel. You’d think that he’d see a woman that had nearly killed Dinah and had killed countless others and see that she’s not the person he thinks she is.
But there’s also an issue with the big bad. Cayden James, who I thought was supposed to be Felicity’s villain, has suddenly come to an end. He was supposed to be the big bad, although he’d been underwhelming. Now you have Richard Dragon, who I don’t find intimidating at all. Arrow, who thought they were doing something intriguing with a band of villains, suddenly has a villain problem.
As a viewer, I want more character moments from the characters that I’ve grown to love over the past six seasons. As a series, there’s no way that you’re not thinking of your very best season — season 2 in this case — and wondering how you can replicate that success. The simple answer is character focus; emotional focus. But it’s also doing right by the characters, which includes making sure they don’t feel like someone else. That was a huge issue for Arrow last season, in which its main characters often felt like other people.
The start of this sixth season was promising, as we got a glimpse of Oliver as a father, Oliver and Felicity’s reunion and marriage, and Diggle’s emotional and physical struggle. Those were things that evoked honest emotion. They didn’t feel forced. They felt genuine. And, as a viewer, I gave a damn.
As we head into a three week hiatus, I can only hope that Arrow manages to rediscover the magic that has always made it a show to be reckoned with, albeit not recently. I can only hope that I can manage to care the way I used to.
Let’s break down “The Devil’s Greatest Trick,” which includes Quentin’s delusion and Cayden’s downfall.
There’s Hope, Then There’s Delusion
If there’s one thing that’s being overlooked it’s Arrow’s poor handling of Quentin Lance, a character that was once an honorable and genuine man. A character that now, unfortunately, feels like a shell of his former self. This isn’t the Quentin Lance that I remember.
Quentin has experienced almost enough grief to even begin to rival Oliver, with losing Sara — twice — and losing Laurel and having to deal with heart issues, losing friends, and a slew of other things that have certainly tested him. But you’d think those experiences would harden him to reality. That he’d see this Black Siren and recognize that she’s not his Laurel. Not even close.
One of the things you have to admire about Quentin has been his hopefulness in life. Given everything he’s experienced in his life, he’s something that sees hope and wants to cling to it. But there’s a difference between hope and delusion, and he has literally stormed that line with this Black Siren stuff.
Just because Black Siren looks like his Laurel doesn’t mean that she’s anything like her. Just because her eyes look like his Laurel’s eyes doesn’t mean that there’s his Laurel’s kindness in them. Just because Quentin wants to will Black Siren to be his Laurel doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.
Black Siren, who I admit has shown signs that she might not be that cold hearted bitch, has done some pretty unspeakable things. And yet Quentin is willing to overlook that because he’s blinded by hope and grief. He’s not seeing reality. Black Siren might end up becoming a better version of herself at the end of this, but she’s not going to ever be Laurel Lance of Earth-1.
Now, Quentin has essentially kidnapped Black Siren to force her to be his Laurel? What in the actual hell is going on? Please, Arrow. Stop ruining characters for the sake of storylines.
The Villain Problem
Over the course of its five seasons, Arrow hasn’t had perfect big bads. Ra’s al Ghul and Damien Darhk are a couple names that come to mind. The concept of them as villains worked on paper, but it didn’t translate as well on screen. Then you had villains like Slade Wilson and Adrian Chase, who ended up being the best villains this show has seen. It was more the opposite. They were surprises fueled by sensational performances.
This season, Arrow has a villain problem. It’s not just the execution. It’s the concept. I don’t understand what Arrow is trying to do here with this band of villains. The midseason finale set it up to be some grand thing, but all it appears to be now is uneven and confusing and uninteresting.
Cayden James was a different kind of villain. One that was alluded to last season with Helix, his weapon was his intelligence. And he entrusted a group of villains to help him carry out his plan, which just ended up being vengeance for his son’s death. This episode served to clear Oliver’s name in killing Cayden’s son. But it also served as the end to Cayden James as Richard Dragon made sure of that. And, shocker, Dragon was the one that killed Cayden’s son. For no apparent reason whatsoever. So Arrow.
Right now I have absolutely no idea what’s going on. Maybe that’s what Arrow intended. Or maybe that was an unfortunate consequence of trying to juggle so many villains. We still have Dragon, who appears more bark than bite. We still have Black Siren, who seems destined for a redemption arc. We still have Anatoly, who doesn’t appear to be as consumed with a takeover. So what the hell is happening here? Honestly, it just feels like a mess. So I’m going to need some clarification and a fix.
10 Things About “The Devil’s Greatest Trick”
- I just don’t understand why Quentin is convinced that Black Siren can be his Laurel. He’s concerning me.
- William will always have to deal with that fear of losing his dad in the field. Can’t say enough about how well this dynamic has been this season.
- Also, I need more Felicity and William. They’re just too cute.
- It’d be nice to get a reminder that Oliver and Felicity are married every once and awhile. Just saying.
- Why do I have a bad feeling about Alena?
- Arrow is doing a disservice to its characters that actually serve a purpose when trying to force NTA on us.
- Also, Rene needs a damn wake up call. And a slap in the face. Trying to blame Oliver for this mess. Get over yourself.
- So Cayden isn’t our main big bad? Well, that story was short.
- So Richard Dragon killed Cayden’s son? Color me not at all shocked.
- Am I supposed to find this guy intimidating? Because I don’t.
- I’m ready for Original Team Arrow to kick New Team Arrow’s ass. And any other result is both ludicrous and unbelievable. Bring on March 1.
Arrow airs Thursdays at 9/8c on The CW.