“Even death’s not permanent anymore.” Famous last words in Star City these days. Sara Lance has come back from over a year in the ground, Ray Palmer didn’t die in an explosion but merely got shrunk, and now Andy Diggle has rejoined the land of the living. This week’s Arrow was another tale of resurrection, and offered further strange insights into the world that Damien Darhk’s arrival has ushered in. Although another back-from-the-dead tale should strain the credulity, especially in Arrow’s once grounded universe, this episode actually offered some interesting insight into the character of the man they call Dig.
It was John Diggle’s wonderfully, quiet sense of dignity that drove the hour. He is an honest man, a warrior who fights for right and believes in doing what’s right no matter what the cost. And that’s why it hit him like a ton of bricks when we was given a report from Captain Lance that showed that his brother had a criminal enterprise that was so large it was supposedly threatened H.I.V.E. and Darhk. How could Andy, a family man who had so much in common with his big brother, lead such a double life? Or is that a triple life? Because as we learn this week, Andy is still alive.
David Ramsey once again anchored the hour playing Diggle’s struggle trying to understand the brother her apparently never knew, and more importantly, what to tell his brother’s widow and his son. We don’t get an answer as to why Andy was posing as a security guard for the rich and famous when he was basically an international crime boss, and the eight year date since Andy’s murder seems a little off considering that last year’s Starling City flashback saw Andy very much alive, but those trifles pale in comparison to the bigger question: Is Andy Diggle a zombie?
Of course, that’s “zombie” in a traditional sense, a dead person controlled by a wizard or shaman, and not “zombie” in a Romero sense. Andy Diggle does not eat anyone’s face (this week). The inference made by Darhk, that nobody’s going to come looking for the new recruits into his Ghost army, seems like a fairly pointed hint at their origin. I mean who looks for a dead person? Note too the robotic way Andy responds to John’s interrogation, there’s absolutely no emotion in Andy’s end of the interaction, or any recognition for that matter. It would have been nice if the script had let that get played out a little more, but I guess the writers thought it better to play it aloof than to be too obvious.
The other dangling thread is how Darhk is going to deal with one of his men going missing? Particularly the one whose last name is Diggle, the one that Capt. Lance asked about no more than a week ago. Surely this will come back to haunt, right? Darhk will note who it was that was taken, who might have cause to do the taking, and who they might be associated with.
As much as this week’s episode dealt with Diggle family turmoil, it also put some serious holes in Darhk’s forward momentum. I saw someone remark on the Arrow subreddit that Darhk has managed to establish himself as quite the evil presence even though he technically hasn’t done much yet. Darhk was up to old tricks again this week, but finding himself genuinely stymied for a change. He approaches the mayoral candidate Oliver about giving up his “hippie crunchy” program to revitalize the Star City waterfront or else insert vague threat. Oliver defies him pretty handily with an effective speech about defeating those working against the city by beating them in the light, and not fighting them in the shadows. Perhaps this is a different Arrow after all.
But Oliver had an easier time dealing with the dark side than the other Queen. Thea’s blood lust returns, and although she’s initially able to control herself, she kind of loses it while on a civilian date with Oliver’s campaign manager. Some guy walks up to her and says, “You look like the kind of girl where no means yes,” which is a line so laughably bad and so purposefully rapey that he’s practically begging to be taken apart League of Assassins-style. Would it not have been more compelling if Thea had nearly taken the head off of someone that didn’t deserve it?
Malcolm was back in town to convince Thea that the best way to take her blood lust away was to kill someone horrible and outside the reach of justice, like a pedophile with many accusations and no jail time. It seems that the show is struggling to find something to do with poor Malcolm, once the feared Dark Archer and the now almost useless as Ra’s al Ghul, he’s reduced to doing secretarial work for Thea. On the other hand, there is a compelling development in that Darhk tried to do his life-sucking thing on Thea and failed. Instead, he took away her blood lust. Is there a way to make that permanent? Smells like more research for the head of the world’s most cunning group of assassins!
In terms of other wasted opportunities, Ray Palmer spent much of the week trying to explain why he didn’t want to take back his life and his company. The obvious reason is because he has to go off and be a Legend of Tomorrow, but like with the whole Sara Lance resurrect, Ray’s uncertainty in doing the obvious feels like something the show has to do rather than something that comes from a compelling and logical place story-wise. It will be nice once the mega Flash/Arrow/Legends crossover unfolds in two weeks*, because then we might not have to sit through too much more of this world-building stuff.
*Programming note: there will be no Arrow next week. Both it and The Flash are taking the week off for [American] Thanksgiving.
On the bright side though, the combination of Ramsey’s efforts and some solid direction by James Bamford, this week’s Arrow was a definite winner. For the record, Bamford is Arrow’s fight choreographer, so he’s probably had it in his head for a while all the ways he’d like to show off all those great moves and fight scenes he’s prepared for the show over the years. Bamford put the emphasis on getting his camera in close to the action, the latest in a variety of stylistic choices that have shown a tremendous flexibility and resiliency in the show. Despite some of the narrative choices, Arrow remains a well put together effort technically.