'Arrow' 6×17 Review: Pull Your Head Out of Your Ass

There are few things that I consider sacred on Arrow. Original Team Arrow. Oliver and Felicity. Oliver and Diggle. The things that drew me into this show. The things that are the reason I’m still here watching this show.

Over the course of six seasons, I’ve gotten used to Arrow making missteps in its storytelling. Where they sacrifice character for plot and don’t even think twice. There’s no point. Hard to believe, but there was a time when Arrow let its characters drive the plot. Where there wasn’t a plan etched in permanent marker. Where they learned how to adapt to what works and what doesn’t. Which is how it’s supposed to be. But Arrow hasn’t had that logic for several seasons.

The characters are the beating heart of this working machine of a television show. They’re the ones that are supposed to be the focus. They’re the ones that are supposed to come before everything. They’re the ones that dictate what happens and why because it’s their decisions. And it’s not enough to force a character to do something — something that is out of character — and say the character is driving the plot. When you allow the character to drive the plot, you let them be themselves. The decisions that they make are decisions that you know the character makes. Because you know the character. Kind of how Arrow let Oliver and Felicity find each other. They trusted in those characters. They let those characters be themselves, and eventually that brought them together as a couple. And this show has been the better for it.

When you don’t let your characters be themselves you get a little something we call out-of-character, which is defined as “Inconsistent with one’s personality, disposition, or usual expected behavior.” Basically, you get bad writing and an unawareness of your own character.

We’ve seen Arrow fall victim to this out-of-character ridiculousness before. Oliver. Felicity. The show has mishandled them before, among others. But what Arrow has done with John Diggle in “Brother in Arms” goes far beyond that. Because in having Diggle behave the way he did and think the way he did in this episode, it goes against everything that he stands for; it goes against everything that defines his relationship, his brotherhood with Oliver.

From recent interviews, Arrow producers have made it damn clear that the intention this season is to separate Oliver from the people he’s closest with. For whatever stupid reason, I don’t know. It’s more of the same from a show that’s in its sixth season. A show that can’t seem to stop recycling storylines when there are infinite possibilities and stories to explore. Arrow can’t seem to find fresh ideas for its core characters. You know, Oliver, Diggle, Felicity, Quentin. The ones that remain that have been there from the start. It’s always more of the same. Hell, this show can’t even remember to acknowledge those characters. (Where’s Smoak Technologies? I’m still waiting.)

We’ve gotten this whole “Oliver being separated from his loved ones” routine before. It’s outdated. It’s been done. Oliver, as a character, is far beyond this storytelling. In the course of six seasons, Oliver Queen has grown to be an incredible man. He’s not perfect, but the growth that he’s undergone as a man and as a hero has been inspiring. He’s had his missteps, but there’s no denying that Oliver’s growth over these six seasons has been beautiful to watch. And yet this show has the audacity to question his heroism episode after episode with these snide quips about his leadership and holding his past against him. It goes against everything that Oliver’s redemption arc represents. Hell, even Stephen Amell is confused as to why everyone’s mad at Oliver. Line forms behind me, Stephen.

But back to John Diggle. Because the thing that I’m pissed off about the most at this current moment is how Arrow is doing wrong to John Diggle and to the fans that have loved him for six years.

In “Brothers in Arms,” we got to see the boiling over of emotions that Diggle has been harboring for some time. It disguised itself as jealousy over Oliver being the Green Arrow and not him and manifested into something even more ridiculous. You see, Diggle blames Oliver for everything bad that’s happened recently. Diaz. Team Arrow splitting up. The Vertigo issue. You name it, Diggle blamed Oliver for it.

This is not my John Diggle.

What John Diggle IS: A kind, honorable, courageous, forgiving man that loves his family (which includes Oliver) with his entire heart. Someone who would die for those he loves without a moment’s hesitation. He’s also an imperfect man that can let his emotions get the best of him, but he knows his heart. And he does the right thing.

What John Diggle IS NOT: Someone that pushes his own insecurities on others. Someone that blames his brother, his best friend, for all of the terrible things that have happened in his life. Someone that would dare hurl painful, brutal words to hurt his brother. He’s not someone that believes that Oliver is a terrible leader. He’s not someone that would walk away from his brother.

John Diggle spent the majority of this episode not understanding why he was upset at Oliver. And yet, he blows up at him and chooses to hurt him in the most painful ways with his words. The first suggestion from Lyla, he runs with. Has to be that Diggle blames Oliver for everything. Because he doesn’t have another option. With that thought in his head, he chooses to make it truth and run with it.

“This team, this mission, it’s all of us. It doesn’t matter what anyone’s wearing.”

Oliver was serving up some serious truth tea in this episode, which is a complete role reversal with Diggle. Diggle is usually the one doling out advice while Oliver becomes irrationally angry. But for Oliver, it was in character. For Diggle, it’s not. Not the way this played out.

Oliver and Diggle are brothers, first and foremost. No matter what the hell happens on this show in this season or the next or when it inevitably comes to an end, Oliver and Diggle will be brothers. This show started with them. And it will end with them (and Felicity, cause the OGs.)


Fix this, Arrow.

Other Thoughts

  • Love the banter between Felicity and Oliver in the field.
  • Also the touching. Felicity just cannot keep her hands off her man. Can’t blame the girl.
  • OTA remains the best part of this show.
  • OTA is the only reason I’m still watching this show.
  • Diggle doesn’t know why he’s upset at Oliver. Of course he doesn’t, because the writers don’t even know why.
  • “This team, this mission, it’s all of us. It doesn’t matter what anyone’s wearing.” PREACH OLIVER.
  • Am I supposed to find this Diaz guy intimidating? I still don’t.
  • “Don’t be all Oliver Queen on me now.” Curtis can kindly stop using Oliver, an actual hero, ‘s name ever again. You wish you were worthy, you peasant.
  • Any episode where Lyla is present the episode is significantly better (Edit: Except this one.)
  • God, Quentin is so delusional. Glad to see that hasn’t changed. Sarcasm.
  • Oliver and DIggle are truly blessed to have amazing wives like Felicity and Lyla.
  • That verbal brawl was an exceptional scene acting wise. Stephen and David killed it. But the writing was garbage and out-of-character.
  • “Pull your heads out of your asses.” We all know Felicity is in charge here. Even the boys know.
  • Also, thanks Felicity for the inspiration for my review title.
  • Maybe Black Siren isn’t as evil as she appears?
  • No, she really is as evil as she appears. No idea where this storyline is going.
  • In the verbal fight, everything Oliver is saying is rooted in truth. Diggle is reaching because he’s upset.
  • I don’t recognize this John Diggle. This is not my John Diggle.
  • “Thanks for having my back.” The one moment where I thought these writers could save this episode and get my boys back on track. Don’t taunt us with lines like that when your intention is to assassinate characters.
  • Diggle says Oliver has become a better man but a worse leader. If Diggle is going to be the best version of himself he can’t do it with oliver. WHAT?
  • Why the hell is everyone mad at Oliver? WHY?
  • These writers are so focused on separating Oliver from the people that care about him that they don’t even care that they’re assassinating characters.
  • “You’ll always have me. I’m not going anywhere,” Felicity says. That is until Arrow decides to force her away from Oliver in another out-of-character, recycled storyline.
  • Never thought I’d dislike an episode where Oliver and Diggle were the focus. Good job?

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

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