Season six of Arrow hits the ground running and continues to sprint despite the occasional stumble
The Show: Arrow
The Network: The CW
The Genre: Superhero
The Challenge: Give a show four episodes with which to draw you in, impress you, challenge you, make you feel something deeply. Four episodes for the chance to find out if you care what happens to the characters you’re watching enough to become invested in the story. If after all that, it does none of those things for you? Then no biggie. You gave it a good shot and you can move on. But if you love it, you’ll be glad you stuck around.
The Premise: Arrow, which is based on the DC Comics series Green Arrow, follows Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), a former billionaire playboy, the current mayor of Star City, a father, and a hooded vigilante known as the Green Arrow. Season six picks up five months after a series of explosives were set off on the island of Lian Yu. After returning to Star City to raise his son as a single parent, Oliver works alongside his fellow vigilantes and friends to save Star City from criminals and to root out corruption.
Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) is a technical genius, supports the team while they’re in the field, is Oliver’s main love interest, and has been part of the team since the early days of the show. Army veteran John Diggle (David Ramsey) is Oliver’s closest friend and has been with him since the start of his crusade. Over the years, Team Arrow has expanded to include other vigilantes.
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The first four episodes of season six of The CW’s Arrow had the difficult task of resolving the (literally) explosive cliffhanger of season five while also attempting to organically move all of the characters into position for one of the largest twists on the premise in the show’s history. With Oliver wanting to devote the bulk of his time to raising his son, he gives up the mantle of the Green Arrow and passes it on to his close friend and fellow vigilante John Diggle.
The catalysts for these changes are the season’s main villains ‒ Cayden James and his partner Black Siren. The character arcs and drama that drives them to come about naturally through the stories in the first four episodes. But as previous seasons have shown, the quality of the villains and how they drive the team and story can make or break the show. So far, season six of Arrow has delivered on the drama and action but will the villains and the main story be compelling enough for fans to continue tuning in every week?
Oliver’s personal life has always been at odds with his nocturnal activities as a vigilante and season six puts a new spin on that
Oliver’s family and how he balances it along with his chosen nighttime profession as a hooded vigilante with a bow and arrow has been at the heart of Arrow since the very first episode. Every season of the show shakes up that dynamic along with the team dynamic, and season six is no exception. Last season, Team Arrow was expanded to include dishonorably discharged Navy SEAL Rene Ramirez (Rick Gonzalez), meta-human and detective Dinah Drake (Juliana Harkavy), and bronze Olympic medalist and tech genius Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum).
The team has yet to be expanded in season six but Oliver giving up the mantle of Green Arrow to raise his son William (Jack Moore) has shaken up the team in its own way by leaving a void for Diggle to fill. With Thea (Willa Holland) in a coma, the Queen family has been reduced to Oliver, his son, and caretaker Raisa (Kathleen Gati). Oliver’s newfound freedom from being the Green Arrow has also made it easier for him to romantically pursue Felicity again without the doom and gloom of being a vigilante. At the same time, he and his team are under FBI investigation for their alleged actions as vigilantes.
Slade: “Be patient but be prepared.”
Oliver: “For what?”
Slade: “Choosing between being the man that people need you to be or the father that your son needs you to be.”
Oliver: “What do you mean by that?”
Slade: “You and I walk between two worlds but we can only do that for so long.”
Initially, Oliver leaving Team Arrow was rather jarring as the show. But the writers managed to effectively sell his decision. Black Siren and Anatoly returning to attack Star City in the first two episodes quickly drove home to Oliver that he can’t be risking his life every night as the Green Arrow anymore. Having his son in the picture has completely changed his perspective. It’s new territory for Oliver and it’s been interesting watching the character adapt. Stephen Amell has also been pushed in new ways as a result and so far he’s risen to the challenge of selling a less moody, more grounded Oliver. It’s a far cry from the more lighthearted comic book character but it’s another step in that direction.
Without Oliver leading Team Arrow, it’s also opened up the character to finally pursuing Felicity again. In the past, the show has gone back and forth on the characters being romantically involved with varying degrees of success. The constant “Will they?/Won’t they?” question began to drag down the show at times and there was a real danger of that happening again. The existence of William led to their original breakup and using him as part of the reason they get back together feels appropriate. Watching Felicity try to fit into Oliver’s new family brings back memories of their early season four material. It isn’t overblown, doesn’t take over the show, and feels natural. And in the background, FBI Special Agent Samanda Watson (Sydelle Noel) is quietly uncovering the truth about Oliver and his friends like a ticking time bomb. Things should get very interesting once it finally goes off.
David Ramsey has been a series regular since the very beginning and steps into the spotlight as the new Green Arrow with relative ease (even if Diggle doesn’t)
At the end of the second episode, “Tribute,” Oliver decides to step down as the Green Arrow to focus on raising his son. He chooses his good friend John Diggle, who had been with Oliver from the beginning, as his successor. First, he was hired as Oliver’s bodyguard. Not long after that, he joined Oliver’s crusade in a support role both in and out of the field. A few years later, he was officially given the codename Spartan.
When asked, Diggle immediately accepted the mantle of Green Arrow to carry on Oliver’s legacy. Unknown to Oliver, Diggle is suffering from degenerative nerve damage from a wound he sustained while saving Felicity on Lian Yu. Diggle fully takes over the role as the Green Arrow and leader of the team in the third episode, “Next of Kin.” Despite some early issues with making leadership decisions, Diggle was fully settled into his new role by the end of the episode. As part of helping Diggle ease into his role, Curtis and Felicity made him a crossbow. A crossbow more closely matches his weapons of choice (guns) and personal experience as an army veteran.
“My name is Oliver Queen. After five years in hell, I returned home with only one goal: to save my city. But I couldn’t honor that commitment and honor the promise I made to the mother of my son. So I asked the best man I know to help. His name is John Diggle, and he is the Green Arrow.”
Moving Diggle out of a supporting role and into a leading role after so many years was unexpected yet also fitting. Out of all of the possible successors to Oliver, Diggle makes the most sense. He has more experience than anyone else on the team and has been part of Oliver’s crusade the longest. David Ramsey has always been a strong member of the cast and has done his fair share of action sequences. So it isn’t too surprising that he’s jumped right into playing the Green Arrow without any difficulty. Stephen Amell’s willingness to let his co-star take some of the spotlight away from him also shows an admirable commitment to the story they’re telling this season.
Brilliance in acting and the overall development aside, we aren’t without some reservations about this particular subplot. Diggle has kept his injury a secret from the entire team except for Dinah. That makes us question Diggle’s mental state. It puts him and the team in danger. Right before Diggle was about to tell Oliver about his condition, he was offered the mantle of the Green Arrow. To complicate matters even further, Diggle has been secretly taking injections of a mysterious substance to help steady the tremors he experiences from the nerve damage. While all of this may lead to some satisfying payoff, we can’t help but feel that the team keeping secrets from one another has been played out on this show. Secrets always cause more harm than good on Arrow and it’s disappointing to see that plot device still being used even if the people keeping secrets have changed.
While the effectiveness of Cayden James as a villain still remains to be seen, Black Siren simply isn’t a compelling enough character as currently written to be a recurring villainess
Arrow has been working to set up its sixth season villains for a while now. Cayden James (Michael Emerson) was first introduced (in name only) as the leader and founder of the hacktivist group Helix. Black Siren (Katie Cassidy), Earth-2’s Laurel Lance, was introduced in season two of The Flash and used again in season five of Arrow as a recurring antagonist. The first episode of season six, “Fallout,” quickly revealed that Black Siren survived the explosions on Lian Yu, was shot and presumed dead by Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne), and was saved by James. The exact nature of their partnership, as well as their shared interests, remains a mystery. Cayden was officially introduced in the fourth episode of the season as a man that tends to hide in the shadows and has others take the fall for him. Black Siren enjoys a more direct, hands-on approach to her villainy.
“Ok. Well, unless our Laurel is mysteriously back from the dead ‒ something I wouldn’t put past either of the Lance sisters ‒ Black Siren is not only not dead. She is not on Lian Yu.”
Since James doesn’t fully appear until the fourth episode, it’s difficult to say how effective he will be as a villain. Michael Emerson is the go-to actor for playing a creepy, menacing psychopath and he plays Cayden James masterfully. He’s already a character that we love to hate. So far, James is very much in the same vein as other characters Emerson has played in the past. But he pulls off that type of character so well that we’re willing to forgive the Arrow creators for any initial similarities to those characters. If you need someone to play a creepy psychopath, Emerson is the man for the job.
Katie Cassidy’s Black Siren, on the other hand, stands in stark contrast to Michael Emerson’s Cayden James. While James coldly manipulates events menacingly and unpredictably from the shadows, Black Siren acts as his direct contradiction. She is a blunt instrument used to create chaos and misdirect Team Arrow. Perhaps that’s the point. Katie Cassidy does well enough with what she is given but she isn’t given much. The character often fills her screen time using her sonic scream, smiling menacingly, facing off against Dinah, and constantly bringing up the fact that Earth-1 Laurel is dead to torture Quentin. Earth-2 Laurel simply doesn’t have enough depth as currently written to be a good recurring villainess.
Perhaps with some clever writing, a more fleshed out backstory, and a story arc that goes beyond teaming up with the current season’s big bad Black Siren can be elevated to be more than the one-note villainess she currently is. Unfortunately, in the first four episodes, the character and all the subplots surrounding her feel like a tired rehash of things we’ve already seen.
Final Verdict: Arrow’s sixth season delivers on the action and darkness the show is known for but the inclusion of Black Siren as a recurring villainess is questionable at best
Many shows never reach season six and those that do can often feel like a shadow of their former selves. Arrow has not only made it to its sixth season but it’s managed to so with most of its dignity intact. From the elaborate stunts and action sequences that have been with the show since the beginning to the continued evolution of Oliver Queen and his crusade, Arrow is mostly on point in the first four episodes. The timing of Oliver’s decision to pass the Green Arrow mantle on to his friend Diggle in “Tribute” feels right and well-earned. Oliver and Felicity rekindling their relationship in “Next of Kin” and “Reversal” also feels appropriately timed and fits where both characters are at. Tying that to Oliver’s newfound role as a single parent works well to balance out the issues they had related to William back in season four.
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Not everything works as well as we’d like it to. None of the issues are deal breakers but they do give us pause about what the rest of the season may look like. The team keeping secrets from each other was played out several seasons ago and it’s unfortunate that it’s back in some form yet again. The inclusion of Black Siren as a recurring villainess currently feels like a poor decision given how weakly she’s being written. Her inclusion has also resulted in a rehash of Quentin’s story arc in seasons four and five. Paul Blackthorne does an amazing job as a grief-stricken Quentin but he deserves far more at this stage. Black Siren once again teaming up with the season’s big bad makes her inclusion all the more baffling.
If we look past these flaws, there’s a lot to love in these first four episodes of Arrow. There’s an obvious weight that has been lifted from Oliver’s shoulders this season. Stephen Amell has stepped up his game by turning out a softer spoken, more relaxed Oliver. The season premiere, “Fallout,” written by Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle, immediately got us back into the action and caught up with most of the major characters relatively quickly while still putting the characters first. Quieter scenes between Oliver and Felicity and Oliver and his son stand out especially well. They also help set up Oliver giving up being a vigilante in the following episode. Michael Emerson’s portrayal of the cold, calculating psychopath Cayden James in “Reversal” already has us captivated despite his limited screen time.
So we’re going to take a deep breath and strap in for what looks set to be a solid season of Arrow, while also hoping they put Katie Cassidy and Paul Blackthorne to better use and put an end to characters keeping secrets from each other.