Delia Harrington

Apr 23, 2019

Ernie Hudson guest stars in an episode that feels like a classic mission-of-the-week, but struggles with the flash-forwards. Spoilers…

This review contains spoilers.

7.19 Spartan

It’s always a good day to see Ernie Hudson on screen. Arrow brings in the heavy hitter for a crime-fighting caper episode with a classic feel. This Diggle-centric episode is long overdue and makes excellent use of its guest star, multiple timelines, and the show’s accumulated history, playing out similar themes across multiple generations of fathers, sons, and brothers. Over in 2040, however, we see the unfortunate downside to the future tense, where neither characters on-screen nor writers of the show seem to have adequately learned their lessons, making things feel a bit trapped in amber.

It’s hard to work in long-lost relatives seven seasons deep, but a step-father you don’t talk about because you wish he never existed (and you definitely wish you never needed a favour from him) is a pretty good way to do exactly that. The real life DIA definitely does not have guys parachute in to people’s apartments, but that’s never stopped Arrow before. The most compelling aspects of this episode is the chemistry between Hudson and David Ramsey (John Diggle), and the fun, loose, mission-of-the-week feel. It’s worth noting that Dig described the exercises the General made him and his brother do as “Spartan survival drills.” You can tell me that had no effect on his code name, but I won’t believe you.

Seeing Diggle finally learn the truth about his father and step-father, I’m eager to see how he eventually comes to parent Connor Hawke. It felt like we were watching him learn how to be an adoptive father in real-time, as he saw the selflessness with which General Stewart allowed him to hold his image of his father in the best possible light. Ben Turner certainly has skeletons but also redeeming qualities, and it will be up to John and Lyla to find a way to help Connor remember his father well (let’s be real, he will probably make a Noble Sacrifice), and think of the positive things he brought to his son’s life, rather than demonising him.

In the future, it was a huge letdown to once again be brought right up to the edge of a fascinating aspect of that world, only to be kept from seeing it. The idea of a Deathstroke gang seems like so much more than just a cool reference – the mark, the fact that it’s led by JJ, whatever backstory brought it from a person to a local gang (I’m guessing it involves Joe Wilson). Much like the Canaries (please let them be sworn enemies!) why not let us see it? My one hope here is that Connor’s line about not having seen his brother in so long likely means we’re fixing for a major confrontation. Still, it does nothing for a season full of stalling, where we only see the same marketplace and iron catwalks over and over again. So much for world building and story progression.

It was good to see Felicity finally come around and realise how dangerous Archer is, but it felt incredibly late, and robbed the moment of deleting her programme of any real emotional punch. This is like Philosophy 101 stuff. She’s far too intelligent not to have seen the issues earlier – and why did her friends give so little pushback? I suppose it adds to the mystery of how Archer comes back with a vengeance in the future, but for some reason – perhaps the inevitability? – it simply doesn’t feel urgent in the way that some of Arrow’s other timeline-based mysteries have.  

The Ninth Circle must have someone coding for them, because they managed to lock Felicity out of her own programme. There are few in the Arrowverse who can beat Felicity Smoak at her own game … her father? Alena in a double cross? That seems premature. She was eyeing that drive with the Archer root code but I have her pegged more for resurrecting Archer in the future. Perhaps someone else from Helix? Dr Will Magnus, a DC comics reference if I ever heard one?

The other weak link for me tonight was the Emiko story line. I had such high hopes for our female archer, and even higher when I realised she’s Oliver’s sister. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to watch her and Ollie square off, but I’m more emotionally invested in her friendship with Rene than Oliver’s attempt to be her brother. It’s not surprising Emiko killed Dante, but that felt like a very plot-driven action. We’ve spent so many episodes away from her character, and the times when we’ve seen her, very little of it has been spent actually knowing and understanding her. There was a time when as a viewer I felt close to her, through her connection to Rene and her tentative connection to Oliver, even if it was just understanding why she was mad at him. But now it’s been so long that she feels a bit lifeless, and I wanted more for her.

Read Delia’s review of the previous episode, Lost Canary, here.