Arrow: The Devil's Greatest Trick

"I suspect you're not done thinning the herd."

Cayden's fall was heartbreaking and inevitable. What I didn't expect was for it to be somewhat underwhelming as well.

Only at the end do we learn Cayden's story. He was a man of ethics and ideals even if he didn't have great respect for the law. The implication is that Cayden's desire for justice cost him his wife and a healthy relationship with his son. He risks capture to keep at least one promise to his son not knowing it was the last time he'd see him alive. I think sitting alone in a container in the dark with nothing to do but dwell on the death of my son would drive me a bit mad too.

Structurally speaking, there was no other way for Cayden's story to end. Had he been a mustache-twirling villain he probably would have gone the way of Damien Darhk, and Oliver would have killed him. But he was never evil. He was just grieving. So, Cayden was right after all. It started with the death of his son and ended with Oliver's son, William, saving the day. Seeing William in his father's arms that finally made Cayden realize the futility of his plan. It also meant his story ended not with a bang but a whimper.

Cayden had no intention of getting any of his "compatriots" out of the city before he blew it up. This is unsurprising given that before his son's death he spent most of his time making sure people like Diaz and Anatoly paid for their crimes. Diaz had no problem screwing over his partners considering he murdered Cayden's son just to put this all into motion and Laurel is intent on proving that she's only in it for herself. Poor Anatoly, just wanted some money and a little payback. I knew from the beginning, Anatoly was not the culprit. Despite what Oliver believes, he would never go after a man's son. The problem is, since Oliver believes Anatoly did it, he won't see what Diaz is doing.

I do love the setup for things to come. Kirk Acevedo is far too good an actor to spend the season as henchmen #3. I spent most of the season wondering why they hired him if he was only going to be the muscle standing behind Cayden with a witty line or two. I also love the idea of there being more than one Big Bad for the season. Twenty-three episodes is a long time to string out one storyline. I'm totally on board.

I'm also on board with Laurel's character development. This is a person whose survival mechanisms are all based on not needing or feeling for anyone. She aligned herself with Cayden not out of loyalty or trust but because of the debt she owed him for rescuing her. Laurel confessed to killing his boy because she's at her best with an enemy to fight and as Rene says, she liked pushing his buttons. The same is doubly true of her confession to Dinah. Then along comes a man offering her unconditional love. Her initial response is to push him away before he can leave her. I'm curious to see how Quentin eventually gets through to her because I don't see him giving up anytime soon.

Unless Dinah finds them first. Dinah spent this episode reprising Tina Boland from last year – prizing vengeance over being a cop or saving the city. Her descent into madness leads her to attack Quentin twice in order to kill Laurel. Curtis is not wrong when he says that her justice sounds a lot like cold-blooded murder. Hopefully, Oliver is not wrong when he says she's better than that. It hasn't been the case so far. I was also happy that the "nothing's changed" speeches were kept to a minimum and "at least you've got my back" was nonexistent. Then again, that was mostly due to Dinah's meltdown.

Can I take a moment and get a little gooey over the growing relationship between Oliver and William. When William asked for the truth Oliver gave it to him, and in the end, Oliver checked in with his son before the rest of the team, as he should. As stupid as following Oliver was, I could see an 11-year-old making that choice. Just as I could see Oliver making sure that the last words his son would potentially ever hear would be "I love you." That said if he were my kid he'd be grounded till he was 50!

Then there were the things that didn't work so well.

Like how Diaz, an admittedly high-end drug dealer, knew of Cayden, someone Felicity had never heard of and put this complex plan into motion. A plan that was dependent on Cayden wanting to avenge his son's death to the point where he'd seek out criminals that would include him just to get rid of most of Diaz's competition and leave the city ripe for a takeover. There are easier and far more certain ways as The Huntress proved in season 1. Not to mention, Diaz's master plan was contingent on Oliver figuring out the truth and informing Cayden before the bomb destroyed the city. Did Diaz have a backup plan if Oliver didn't figure it out in time? You would at least think someone smart enough to outwit Cayden would at least have a way out of the city if all else failed. Even Anatoly had a backup plan.

The charitable version is that Cayden was so overwrought with grief that he never checked to see if the footage had been doctored. Also, Cayden's anger over Vincent's defection caused him to speed up his timetable before Diaz could put his plans into motion. Yeah, I can get on board with that. But that could have been explained with a couple of lines of dialogue.

And what happened to the grand plan to bring the city's leadership to the bunker? I’m glad they didn't do it since there would be no way of denying Oliver was the Green Arrow once that happened. Why bring it up if there were no plans to follow through especially since Thea and Oliver talked about moving people to bomb shelters in the last episode. Did the episode run long and this is the result of last-minute cuts? The lack of a saga sell would lend itself to that argument.

It shouldn't be the responsibility of the viewer to headcanon their way around plot holes such as these. We shouldn't have to work that hard. This season has been filled with pretty awesome concepts with rather sloppy execution. Please, please tell me they'll get it together soon. I want my show back.

In the Grand See-Saw of what I loved vs what I disliked, the emotional high points and the potential for things to come outweighed the disappointments.

3 out of 5 digitally altered videos

Parting Thoughts:

Have you noticed how they stopped calling Laurel Black Siren? And now they are starting to style her hair the same way Earth-1 Laurel did. Just sayin'.

Given the only thing we see is him bringing a black market Drug company to heel, Lyla's arguments for detaining him illegally seem a bit weak, but I guess that ship has sailed.

Where was Lyla by the way? I thought we'd at least see her in the flashbacks.

If Oliver didn't recognize Iscove, how did he know he was dead, two minutes later?

Is Alena joining Team Arrow?

We had a very special guest appearance by The Flash although they might have arrived in better shape if Cisco had breached them over.

The dampener that Dinah put on Laurel was a call back to Earth X, right?

The title is a play on Verbal's line from The Usual Suspects. "The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world he didn't exist."

Quotes:

Cayden: "Time, I'm afraid is a commodity you and your city have run out of."

Rene: "That's one way to not get information."

Felicity: "Thank goodness for small favors and gullible bad guys."

Diggle: "He wants Anatoly, Diaz, and Laurel alive."
Curtis: "Or boom goes the city."

Oliver: "Dinah, we do not just execute people."
Dinah: "No. You just let them die."

Quentin: "You're letting the foxes guard the henhouses now?"

Dinah: "I’m counting down the minutes."
Quentin: "Before you try to kill my daughter again?"

Anatoly: "City is about to become crater. If you want to put me in prison, fine. Just out of town, please."

Laurel: "God, you're persistent. It's annoying."

Cayden: "Be a better father than I was, Oliver."

Diaz: "Tell your boy. I said 'hello.'"

Felicity: "Well, we saved the city, again."

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, and anything with a cape.

4 comments:

Profe said...

Oliver and William are my favorite. I literally have written fan fic about them because I love Oliver's clear, unconditional love for his son. I saw a lot of blowback with people acting like William was mentally deficient for going to find his dad in the middle of a huge bomb scare, but I think those people haven't had enough contact with young kids. 12 year olds aren't mini-adults. They still think like kids and when they're scared, they'll still want mama and daddy. Was it terribly dangerous? Yes. Was the timing bad? The worst. But it made sense using kid logic. He's scared and he wants his dad. Most kids think their parents are superheroes. His is a literal superhero. Why wouldn't he want to be with him in the middle of a crisis?

Despite the enormous plot holes, I'm actually enjoying the back half of the season more than the front half. Maybe because the Olicity "Will they, won't they" is over and all the cards are on the table between OTA and NTA. I can't wait for the next episode.

Shari Houtman said...

I agree with you on all counts. It's why writing the reviews have been so hard. There are so many things I'm enjoying this season. William and Oliver being at the top of that list. The only issue I ever had with the way they've characterized William was the whole "bad man" storyline in the first episode but I attribute that more to writers being outside their comfort zones than anything else.

That said, I'd feel remiss if I didn't actually point out the plot holes. As much as I would like to be, I'm not here to be a cheerleader for the show. I've always believed in this show's potential for greatness and I'm disappointed when they miss the mark, especially when it seems to be because of sloppiness rather than risk taking.

Patryk said...

Diaz must be working with somoene else, please let it be Talia or this will be all very anti-climactic. Drug-dealer doctoring a video that a hacker can't detect is beyond plot hole. It's a plot crater. :)

I don't like how they are backtracking on Black Siren and trying to make her sympathetic. I hope Quentin fails.

Billie Doux said...

Just a one-hour reminder of what a terrific actor Michael Emerson is. Plus, I have to admit that until now, I have been sort of hoping William would just vanish between episodes or something -- but this time, I really liked him.