Sunday, November 17, 2013

Arrow - 2.06 - Keep Your Enemies Closer - Another Wish Checked? - Review/Episode Awards

Arrow is having a terrific season. The pacing is better than season 1 and the character changes have been for the most part a huge improvement. New characters have similarly been impressive. In fact, there are only a few items still left on my wish list. One of those is Diggle. Last season, Diggle started out as a strong character, in part because he was the only one who knew Oliver's identity. While he was not an equal partner to Oliver in many episodes, he did get many juicy scenes to work with and shone in them. Then somewhere around midway, he started becoming slightly more in the background as the focus shifted on other characters. While he did have episodes where he was more central and even had a starring role in an episode, it sometimes felt like the writers were not sure what to do with his character. Oliver had the main action sequences and Felicity, the information, while myriad others had the drama parts. Enter this season and in the first 5 episodes, not much changed except in episode 2 where he got to fight China White and his ending banter with Oliver was notable. However, in the other episodes with the exception of plane jumping and talking with Lyla, his main role seemed to be exposition, "black driver," and scene wallpaper. In the fifth episode there's an entire scene in the Arrow Cave where he doesn't say one word. In fact, for most of the scene he doesn't even look at anyone as he stands in the far back with his back turned. When in that episode we finally do get a noteworthy Oliver and Diggle scene of them drinking vodka, it cuts quickly to a lame flashback and then ends. Argh!

Most of this lack of Diggle time can be reasonably explained though. This season Arrow is twice as busy, with more subplots and far more characters needing to share the spotlight because of it. With Oliver's Arrow transformation, Laurel's break down, Sara's return, Quentin's new job status, Roy's hero initiation, Moira's trial, Thea's club management, Queen Consolidated's collapse, and Blood's Big Bad impersonation, there is hardly room for anyone else. The only other main character without a clear storyline this season is Felicity and the writers are not going to let an opportunity to showcase her go by. (Heck, when Oliver finds out about Diggle and Carly's breakup half the conversation is with Felicity.) I can understand that sheer time constraints alone mean that not everyone gets a spotlight moment, but perhaps Arrow is too busy currently. Add in a Quentin-centric episode and 2 that focused a lot on Sara and there's little wiggle room. Not that I am complaining about those episodes since they were amazing. However in a season where the emphasis is on how these characters' lives and attitudes have changed post-quake, nothing much has changed about Diggle. Of all the characters, he seems to be the least affected by the quake and the one most likely to be overlooked in a scene. In fact, it sometimes feels like they are just adding him in to meet a time quota because even when he's on screen, he has remarkably little to do. After 5 episodes, I felt like my dream of having Diggle as at least a partial driving force in the plot was going unchecked this season. And then came episode 6.

Almost every episode in which Diggle is personally connected to the story contains Deadshot and this one is no different. After Lyla is caught in a Russian gulag while trying to assassinate/capture/get marksmen tips from Deadshot, Diggle must rescue her. The remarkable thing about this Diggle-centric episode is actually the amount of time he is on his own interacting with people who are not part of Team Arrow. It opens up insights into his character and gives some much needed character growth. Right from the beginning, it is Diggle who is commissioned with the job by potential important player, Amanda Waller. If she becomes an essential plot point later on, he will be the closest connected to her at least starting out. I also loved how it was Diggle who went undercover in the prison instead of Oliver. Not only did it make sense but it kept Diggle out of the exposition role he plays so often. The reveal that Lyla was his ex-wife gave him ample motivation in this episode as well as filling in some of the gaps in his back story. Plus it was a complete shock to me, making it that much more poignant. But of course, it is the scenes with Deadshot where Diggle soared. The opening scene in the freezer, where Digg's rage is clearly evident and yet he is impotent to act on that rage is impressive. For a man of action there can be no worse feeling than to know that the object of your vengeance for so long is within eyeshot but still out of reach. I am shocked that when the guard released him, he didn't at least attempt to punch Deadshot, although at that point he was so cold he could barely stand much less win a fight. Then to have no choice but to pair with your brother's killer in order to find the woman you love - egads, that's good conflict. I really like how Lyla acknowledged how hard working together was for Diggle. The Deadshot ending scene was equally potent where Diggle's personal honor code required that he allow Deadshot go. By the way, I have real problems with that scene because according to hero code, anyone Deadshot kills from this point on should be on Diggle's conscience. Does anyone really believe that Deadshot is reformed of his assassin ways? More true to form would have been to lock him up somewhere and call the police. I know they were in a rush but surely they could have trussed him up in the police vehicle near the airport and called as they took off. Still Digg wouldn't have gotten the HIVE info without letting him go and that is an exciting angle.

In the end, this episode was everything Diggle I hoped it would be. It gave us insight on the character, fostered interactions with people outside Team Arrow, created a new potential story line, and showed character growth. It did its job, but where does that leave my wish list? I guess optimistic is the best answer. I'm not ready to check it off the list without seeing real follow up to this episode, but there's a lot to work with now. I would love to see either the Amanda Waller or HIVE angles pursued into a sustainable story line for Diggle. They are the quickest way to incorporate Diggle into a main plot point and comic book fans seem excited about them both. Plus Amanda knowing Oliver's alter ego gives them some leverage over Team Arrow that might provide excellent external conflict. They could conceivably blackmail Team Arrow into helping them later. I could also see the connection with Lyla being important in the long run if ARGUS and Arrow start teaming up more regularly or if they continue to need military information. I just hope they don't kill her to jumpstart any mytharc. I'd rather her become an interesting character in her own right and have a purpose beyond motivating another vendetta. Of course there is a great possibility of Deadshot returning to Starling City as well, which would also up the emotional ante and since Deadshot was far less cartoonish this episode, I'd even be glad to see him back instead of rooting for his immediate demise like in other episodes. There are so many ways to make Diggle an essential part of the storytelling and I hope the writers use them to create a stronger character. If not, at least let him in on more of the fight scenes please. There is so much more this character can do than just spout exposition and watch other people's conversations.

Episode Awards:

Grade: B+

Best Scene - Diggle ends up in a freezer after a prison fight, and sees Deadshot there
-Frankly Diggle owns the top 5 scenes of the night as is fitting for a character-centric episode. However this is my pick because of the sheer hatred and impotency to do anything about it in the scene.

Best Non-Diggle Scene - Moira tells Thea that she cannot break up with Roy

Best Moment - tie - Quentin lets Roy go / Slade and Shado are alive

Least Favorite Moment - Isabel crashes the Team Arrow escapade

MVP - Diggle

Best Guest Character - Deadshot
-This will be part of next week's review, but I liked Deadshot better here than in any previous episode because he was more real, less cartoonish.

Best Use of a Minor Character - Anatole
-I hope he comes back in the present. Love all his lines but especially:

Anatole: "If Oliver vouches for you, you're my second favorite American."
Anatole: "From what I hear, she was trying to break in." Diggle: "Why?" Anatole: "I do not know, but clearly she had issues breaking back out."
Anatole: "It's full of violent psychopaths and killers…and that's just the guards."

Best Fashion Accessory - Felicity's hat when she lands in Russia

Biggest Shock - Lyla is Diggle's ex-wife / ARGUS knows Oliver's alter ego

Best Reason to Avoid Russian Gulags - tie - the food and hanging with the guy who killed your brother

Best Death - Deadshot kills the guard with an icicle

Best Confirmation - Slade and Shado are still alive

Best Flashback - Sara gets Oliver to betray Slade and Shado for Ivo to Oliver's shock

Worst Sound Editing - Diggle tells Oliver to get down in the fight

Best Action - Oliver takes out the guards to help Diggle escape and then everyone starts shooting

Best Answer to a Previous Mystery - Deadshot: "I don't miss."
-So Andy was caught up in something that got Deadshot hired. Great answer leading to further mystery.

Biggest Awww Moment - Diggle says he will always come for Lyla
-Lyla: "You came for me." Diggle: "Always have. Always will."

Best Quote - Diggle: "Thank you. You had my back." Oliver: "And now you know what it feels like."

Most Common Sense - Moira: "Thea, your social life is not going to be the determining factor in my trial."

Burning Questions -

Why doesn't Oliver hear Diggle as he's being tasered?
Why would the Japanese Imperial Army put all their serum on one sub or not make more when the sub went down?
Why did Diggle let Deadshot go instead of appeasing his honor and his conscience by having him arrested? He didn't have to kill him to keep him from killing people in the future.
What did they tell Isabel when leaving Russia about Lyla joining them and the fact that they are all beaten up?

Best Snark - Isabel: "I think she can take the night off. Don't you?"

The "Duh, Oliver" Award - Oliver: "So we're not doing the 'what happens in Russia stays in Russia'?" Felicity: "We're still in Russia."

Other Great Lines -

Felicity: "I'm sorry to interrupt your 'hullh'. I need to talk to you about your plans for this evening with Mr. Harper."
Oliver: "We are going to have to work on your excuses."
Quentin: "Thanks. It's been awhile since I arrested you. I forgot how good it feels."
Diggle: "Oliver, what are you doing?" Oliver: "Just need to help a friend."
Diggle: "Oliver, her tagging along does not help matters any."
Diggle: "The only thing that's impossible is us leaving this country without this woman." Anatole: "I like this guy. We have…we have no word for optimistic in the Russian."
Felicity: "Just thinking out loud, but are we sure this is the best plan we can come up with?"
Diggle: "Felicity, Lyla isn't my friend. She was my wife." Felicity: "Explain that sentence."
Isabel: "Do I strike you as someone who needs to cuddle?"
Deadshot: "If I say she's in there, what's keeping you from shooting me?" Diggle: "Honor. You should try it sometime."
Thea: "What are you doing here?" Roy: "Good question. I've gotten a lot of calls from prison, but never from my girlfriend's mother."
Moira: "You've not only survived. You've flourished. I think a lot of that has to do with Roy. So as your mother I forbid you not to see him."

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