I’ve had misgivings about this season of Arrow since the premiere, and the midseason finale episode 6.9 “Irreconcilable Differences” has done little to set my mind at ease.
In my review of Episode 6.1 “Fallout,” I complained about false drama, including false cliffhangers, and what seemed to me to be generally sloppy writing. Thea was in a coma that we knew she would eventually return from (she did). Ollie was outed as Green Arrow—again—a charge we were certain he was going to beat—again. With the flashbacks to Lian Yu eliminated as a major driver of the present-day drama, the story itself has seemed to flounder. I never expected to say that I missed the flashback structure. But, the truth is, I do. There is something—some fundamental something—that seems to be missing this season so far.
Before I get into the finale episode, let’s talk about everything else that’s happened since the premiere.
Even though the photo of Oliver Queen as Green Arrow is determined to be a fake, Ollie is shaken enough by FBI agent Samanda Watson (which sounds a lot like Amanda Waller, doesn’t it?) to ask John Diggle to assume the mantle of Green Arrow for a while he concentrates on being a dad to his son William. John was about to confess his nerve damage from the Lian Yu explosions to Oliver, but then decides to keep it to himself in order to help Oliver.
Anatoly shows up in Star City, and this time he’s Oliver’s enemy instead of his friend. This particular story arc seems to serve little purpose, and Anatoly is acting strangely out-of-character, in my opinion. He shows up again in the midseason finale. More on that later.
Diggle begins injecting himself with experimental, and illegal, drugs to control his tremors. Since he’s no archer, Felicty and Curtis invent an arrow-firing crossbow he can use during missions, to continue the ruse that he is the Green Arrow.
Team Arrow defeats a group of rogue CIA operatives led by Onyx Adams.
At the request of Slade Wilson, Deathstroke, Oliver helps him locate his son Joe, who is thought to be held captive by a group of mercenaries. Turns out, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, and Joe is not a captive but the leader of the group. We get some Arrow-style flashbacks here, in which a younger Joe witnesses his dad carrying out a contract kill while on a father-and-son camping trip, a childhood trauma that led to Joe becoming the mercenary commander he is today. We also find out Slade has another son, Grant, and when Oliver and Slade part company this time, Slade is going to track down both of his sons.
Black Siren returns, as expected. Now she’s working with Helix’s Cayden James, whom Felicity helped get out of Argus prison. I’m still confused about this one because I thought Cayden was someone else in Season 5. Maybe this was all explained and I missed it. This year, he’s played by Michael Emerson, from Lost and Person of Interest. He’s not stretching too much as an actor this time. He’s playing another computer wizard, only a villain in this iteration. I like Michael Emerson, but do not really understand the character’s motivations. I’m getting too old to accept “crazy, bent on world domination” as a sufficient character sketch. His initial gambit to “destroy the Internet” turns out to have been a ruse to lure Felicity into breaching some great computer firewall that apparently he was unable to breach, so that James could install his own personal backdoor for—well, for reasons.
Dinah discovers that Vigilante (remember him from last season? I got him and Prometheus confused all of last year) is actually her old partner and lover Vincent Sobel, who she thought was dead. Turns out he was changed into a metahuman just like Dinah during the particle accelerator explosion. She keeps this information from Team Arrow. Turns out she’s good at keeping secrets. She’s kept John Diggle’s tremors a secret for a while as well.
Oliver ends up being arrested under charges of vigilantism for being the Green Arrow by FBI Agent Watson, even though the photos were revealed as fakes. Felicity, who has been starting up her own company, also called Helix, with Curtis, uses angel investor money to pay Oliver’s bail. The trial is delayed. After Diggle is injured, Oliver suits up as Green Arrow again (probably not the wisest course of action considering his pending trial), after promising William that he wouldn’t. While being Green Arrow once again, Oliver and Team Arrow foil another terroristic act by Cayden James and Black Siren, who have placed a bomb at a Billy Joel concert. Only, it turns out that the bomb is fake, and the cops guarding the stadium aren’t really cops, and there is a big fight that Team Arrow wins. Only, the bomb was really a fake, and I can’t, for the life of me, recall what this was all about.
Diggle’s secret nerve damage is revealed to the team. Curtis wonders why Diggle didn’t come to him, since he was the person who created the tech that allowed Felicity to walk again. Now I’m wondering the same thing. Choosing to buy drugs illegally instead of going to Curtis and Felicty makes zero sense. The writers having Curtis lampshade that fact wasn’t the best idea either. I wouldn’t have thought anything else about it until they brought it up.
Then we have a refreshing break away from our current narrative for the “Crisis on Earth-X” crossover event, which was a good one. Oliver and Felicity finally get married (along with Barry and Iris).
Then we are dropped back into the midseason finale episode.
This season has been a mess so far, simply put. It’s all over the place. It seems that the Cayden James/Black Siren storyline is meant to be the season-long arc, but there’s really no unifying through line to be found. The appearances of James and Evil Laurel seem random and pointless. Even in this midseason episode, in which Quentin Lance is kidnapped by Laurel and Cayden James, with his ransom meant to be some Great Technological Maguffin, an object that Team Arrow predictably sabotages. James knows about the sabotage because Laurel planted a surveillance device in the Arrow Cave during one of their previous battles. Then Black Siren helps Quentin escape. So, this was another pointless and unfathomably complicated caper executed by James. I think maybe I’m just supposed to believe Cayden James is playing chess while the rest of us are playing Tic-Tac-Toe. The truth, I think, is that the writers didn’t have any more of an idea than I did where this was all going.
The first sequence in “Irreconcilable Differences” is the reception celebrating Oliver and Felicity’s marriage. And this was genuinely a nice moment, except for Curtis developing a drinking problem all of a sudden, now hopelessly torn up inside over his divorce from his husband. An internal emotional struggle we’ve referenced approximately zero times before this episode.
Then, out of the blue, and with no previous setup or foreshadowing by the writers, we find out that a member of Team Arrow is testifying against Oliver. The “old” members of Team Arrow—Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle—end up spying on the “new” members—Dinah, Curtis and Rene. They discover that Dinah has been meeting up with Vigilante. But, she’s not the snitch. That turns out to be Rene, who is being threatened by Agent Watson, his little girl held over his head. All of this drama, the secrets, the betrayals, the inner turmoil, later comes to a head in the Arrow Cave, with Dinah, Curtis and Rene all leaving the team. Because of the hidden camera, which we’ve known about since the fake bomb plot, a new Legion of Doom-type team formed of Cayden James, Black Siren, Anatoly, Vigilante and Ricardo Diaz, get to watch the drama play out. Diaz was Diggle’s drug dealer, in case you’ve forgotten.
Because everyone is acting out of character, and because the villains conveniently get to watch the dissolution of Team Arrow on CCTV, I have to believe this is another false cliffhanger. I don’t think Team Arrow has broken up at all. And I don’t think Mad Dog is going to testify against Oliver Queen. This is all a set up for Oliver’s ultimate exoneration, and for the ultimate defeat of Team Cayden James, even though the villains seem intent on absolutely nothing that I can tell. This will all be revealed to have been one of Oliver’s own elaborate plans that he’s never demonstrated the intelligence to pull off.
At this moment, I’m not sure that I even care how it all comes out. There have been some great moments this season. And I genuinely like many of the characters on this show. The ratings continue to plummet, however, and the viewers aren’t wrong.
I’ll be back for the remainder of the season. Unless something drastically changes, this will probably be my last, even if the series gets picked up for a seventh season. It seems to have run its course.