Arrow: Spartan

“I guess bad news wins this round.”

For once we have an episode where Daddy Issues abound and none of it involves Oliver.

In a show that focuses so intently on familial relationships particularly of the Daddy Issues variety, I was as surprised as Oliver to realize that Diggle had never mentioned his father let alone stepfather before this. It was more surprising to learn that the normally composed Diggle had grown up in such a resentment filled environment.

Diggle grew up believing that General Stewart, played by the estimable Ernie Hudson, was the coward who let his father die and then married the dead man’s wife. To add insult to injury, he then spent the rest of Diggle’s childhood trying to “toughen” both Diggle and Andy up. I may not have lived through survival training but as someone who had a literal Army Drill Instructor for a stepdad, I can attest to both the harshness and the rigidity that must have existed in the Diggle household.

That said, it’s a hard lesson to learn that one’s perspective and reality are not always the same thing. The General was not a monster. He was a man who tried to do right by the family he married into. And he cared so much that he was willing to be the villain so that John and Andy could believe their father was a hero instead of a soldier who made mistakes and got men killed.

Like the present day, the flash forwards revolved around Diggle’s family issues. After weeks of wondering what became of Diggle’s other son, we discover that J.J. has fallen far from the proverbial tree. Connor and J.J. grew up in a military household that put a premium on duty and service. In an act of rebellion, he became the leader of the Deathstroke Gang which, as rebellions go, is about as drastic as you could get. It also feels like history repeating itself. Andy and John reacted to the General in very different ways.  John was determined to prove to him how an honorable soldier should behave, while it seems Andy mastered the fighting and survival skills with none of the morality to balance it out. One can only hope that J.J. escapes his uncle’s fate.

Even Emiko was not immune to the Daddy Issues bug. Dante may not have been a blood relation, but he obviously considered her family. And based on what we’ve seen, his love for her extended to grooming Emiko to take over the Ninth Circle. However, her unwillingness to sever ties with her old life appears to be a continual bone of contention between them. And his attempt to solve the problem backfired while simultaneously achieving his goal. Instead of giving Emiko clarity and purpose, her focus shifted to avenging her mother’s murder. Oliver’s Hail Mary to save Emiko gave her that opportunity. Vengeance achieved, Emiko now seems more committed to the Ninth Circle than ever. Too bad Dante won’t be around to see it.

The one possible exception to our Daddy Issues theme is Felicity. She wants a life outside of the vigilante shadows and she thought the Archer program would help her get there. Yet when her invention is stolen and used for nefarious purposes, she wonders if she has become her father. The answer is a resounding no since she was willing to destroy her creation then risk the possibility of it being used for evil. Just for the record, how does someone as intelligent as Felicity not realize how dangerous a program like Archer could be until after the Ninth Circle got their hands on it?

And on a side note. Just when I thought my distrust of Alena was misplaced, she proves me right. She may be well-intentioned but is there any doubt that Alena is responsible for Eden Corps/Galaxy One’s eventual possession of the Archer program?

Which brings us to whatever Galaxy One’s current plan is. Despite his ability to decimate the Canaries, I was a little shocked at how easily Galaxy One’s terminator was defeated in last week’s episode. Learning he was just one of hundreds brought the threat level back up to “Oh God, oh God, we’re all going to die!” parameters. Especially since there aren’t many Canaries left and Team Arrow is not what it once was. I imagine the newly hidden explosives will play a major role in Galaxy One’s ultimate demise but at what cost?

While it makes for great storytelling, every journey into the future is another reminder of Team Arrow’s failure to make Star City a better place. J.J. is a gang leader while Mia and Connor swap stories about their messed up childhoods. The Archer program has made The Glades a police state and Star City a dystopian horror show. It certainly lends credence to the Mayor’s argument that Oliver’s return to Star City made things worse and not better.

I know I’ve spent a lot of time on character rather than plot but I must admit I was particularly impressed with how tightly written this was. It succeeded in furthering the season-long arcs both in the present and future while focusing on the development of multiple characters in the context of a singular theme. It may not have been a perfect episode (I’ll always have nits to pick) but it is certainly one of the most well-crafted episodes Arrow has produced in a while.

4 out of 5 power units

Parting Thoughts:

Oliver and Emiko’s fight was particularly brutal. And either Stephen Amell has upped his hand to hand skills or he’s grown a lot less precious about his stunt double performing.

Dr. Will Magnus is straight out of the comics. And really is the world’s foremost authority on robotic engineering.

Deathstroke territory? Did Slade go bad again? Or was J.J. just trying to piss Dad and Uncle Oliver off?

Also, Mia talked about the awkwardness of Diggle family dinners in the present tense. Does that mean John and Lyla are still around?

Structurally, I understand why Rene and Oliver haven’t talked about Emiko but considering that she means the most to the two of them, it is surprising.

Does Oliver keep “Classified” folders just lying around?

Quotes:

Felicity: “Well, I’ve hacked enough government servers in my day to know that this is the Department of Defense. Not that I do that anymore, because I work with the SCPD.”

Stewart: “Now where are you? Working with the cops? Playing vigilante? That’s no career. That’s a dead end. No offense.”

Mia: “OK, Public Enemy Number One, sit tight.”

Virgil: “Pistol beats keyboard, Darling.”

Felicity: “You must be General Stewart, AKA the stepfather that John hasn’t told his closest friends about."

Connor: “Are you ever going to let me off the hook?”
Mia: “Doubtful.”

Mia: “John Diggle has one son in Knightwatch and another who’s leader of the Deathstroke Gang. That must make family dinners interesting.”

Oliver: “I’d imagine his files are really, really classified.”
Felicity: “'Really, really classified' sounds really, really fun. I’m on it.”

Stewart: “I wanted you to be prepared. And it paid off. Look at you now.”
Diggle: “Really? We’re captured and probably going to die in here.”

Diggle: “Go to hell.”
Dante: “Hold that thought.”

Stewart: “You all right, John?”
Diggle: “Why did you give him the code?”
Stewart: “A thank you would be good enough.”

Alena: “It’s like we’re tracking the DNA of a DNA tracker. This is so meta.”

Felicity: “Oh my God. Oh my God. I am my dad."

Connor: “I guess there are perks to having a gang leader black sheep brother.”

Stewart: “John”
Diggle: “Yes, sir.”
Stewart: “Call your mother.”

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

2 comments:

Nick said...

This episode also confirms that John Diggle is John Stewart, if the Crisis crossover left any doubt in anyone's minds.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Stewart_(comics)

Shari said...

Oh My God! How did I miss that? I claim sleep deprivation.