ARROW “THE DRAGON” REVIEW
BY JUSTIN CARTER
In theory, an episode of Arrow centered around the current season’s Big Bad, and illustrating his side of the story, is a smart move. It allows for a perspective we don’t get usually to see. To boot, it shows how the villain moves forward with his goals in truly tangible ways rather than as chunks of exposition in an average episode. The only problem with Arrow is that our villain for the season is Ricardo Diaz, and he doesn’t really have anything interesting going on that warrants a full episode devoted to him.
Arrow and Flash share the same problem this year in that the big master plans of their villains feel almost completely nonexistent. Diaz has been talking up a big game for weeks about his plans to take over Star City and this is where he should be making some big power moves. But instead, we get Diaz and Laurel chasing a carrot on the end of a dull stick — membership of a previously unmentioned crime syndicate known as the Quadrant. The four members of the Quadrant are too poorly defined to be anything other than a bunch of good looking middle aged people in fancy suits. Only one gets a name. Only two get lines. They’re a fit for Diaz’s storyline, but don’t make for engaging villains.
It’s honestly hard to accept the idea that Diaz and these shadowy crime lords have been such a formidable threat to Oliver, or any member of Team Arrow, for so long. By now, the heroes have gone up against villains that far surpass Diaz or the Quadrant, and they’re all too poorly defined to feel like they’re building up to something interesting. To boot, it doesn’t feel like Star City is more miserable under his thumb because Star City doesn’t really feel like a real place. Kirk Acevedo is doing the best he can with the material, talking about how his life was a survival, and also dressing down Laurel and the Cartiers for the privileges they had growing up when he had nothing, but his backstory is fairly boilerplate in terms of crappy childhood. Acevedo can sell the constant exasperation and simmering rage of Diaz, and even channel John Wick at times, but he can’t make his character interesting.
It’s a good thing Laurel is around to at least give Diaz someone to play off of, but why Laurel is working with this guy is anyone’s guess. It doesn’t seem like they’re still hooking up, and she’s constantly throwing shade at how stupid this whole ordeal with the Quadrant is. There’s supposed to be some sort of deeper bond between them, and hints as to how she’s reminded of Zoom when she sees Diaz, but that’s a strange read; unlike Zoom, she has no reason to be afraid of Diaz. She could literally scream his brain open if she wanted to and opt to go on the run, or use that as cred with Team Arrow.
“The Dragon” is a very isolated and focused episode of Arrow in practice, but not really one in execution. Take the scenes with Curtis and Felicity as they make up and work toward being friends again in her loft. It’s good that we’re finally getting around to seeing the halves of Team Arrow come together again, but the interactions we see between the two are so sparse that their normally zippy dialogue doesn’t have that same spark. (Though in the show’s defense, that may be intentionally since they haven’t interacted in a month or so.)
At the end of it all, “The Dragon makes a good case for why Arrow should have shorter seasons. The Diaz story suffers from poor pacing, and what should be a character study into our villain only ends up adding another wrinkle to his convoluted schemes. Diaz talks a big game about how he doesn’t let the his inner monster control him, but both he and the show certainly have.
- This episode seems to be weirdly meta about how uninteresting Diaz is, with he himself at one point saying “I thought I made a bigger impression.”
- Putting C4 in the Cartier kid was a cold move on Diaz’s end, even if the guy deserved it. Just damn.
- Laurel keeps squirming whenever Diaz does something violent, and I have to know why this is. She’s screamed into people’s ears to kill them and is actively aware that he killed Cayden, so watching him beat someone to death with his bare hands or set someone on fire shouldn’t be anything new.
- If you wanted to know if a soda expires, the expiration date’s on the bottom of the can, Curtis.