Arrow: 7.19 Spartan
After last week's rather lacklustre attempt to do Arrow's take on Birds of Prey, the latest episode dived right back into the Ninth Circle, the conflict with Emiko and revealed a couple more intriguing insights into the future. And it was all the better for it. There is a real energy going into these final episodes that was certainly missing last year.
I absolutely love how barmy the future storyline is becoming. We've got killer robot soldiers in the dystopian ruins of Star City, canaries running amok as the city's guardians and now we learned that Connor Hawke's brother JJ, Diggle's son from the present, is the lead member of the Deathstroke district? I have serious doubts whether this is the inevitable or some future apocalypse that team Arrow will avert in the present, but it is a little bit ridiculous and I love it.
I admit I was a little concerned when I saw the title of the episode. Having a main character named in an episode title is never a good sign and with John Diggle's absence in the future, I wondered if this was David Ramsey's surprise departure from the series, Fortunately it wasn't and we learned that the name was taken from the tough love field trips his step father made John and his brother take after his father died. Having that step father, a four star general, played by none other than Ernie Hudson was a real delight and I enjoyed how easily he fitted in with the rest of the team in the Arrow cave to stop the actions of the Ninth Circle. Hudson and Ramsey had some real chemistry in their father / step-son conflict that really sold a past not explored in the seven years of the show.
The Ninth Circle have quickly become a credible threat as the nature of the season's 'big bad' continues to be developed. Infiltrating ARGUS to steal top secret information about military informants and secret weapon facilities tapped into proper spy drama and the ideas of the Green Arrow and his team going up against a sort of costumed SPECTRE agents is quite appealing. Dante and Virgil made their presence known, even if the latter's Irish accent was a little too on the nose. Since her big reveal, Emiko is starting to grow on me too - an evil archer might be to Arrow what evil speedsters are to The Flash but this show generally has a better track record in that respect and the familial nature of Oliver and Emiko's conflict adds a decent emotional edge to the storyline.
Oliver and Emiko's showdown was another well executed fight sequence; in doesn't have that intense emotional edge that I'm sure will come with the finale but it was impressive to see how violent it was. There was no love lost there. Emiko learning through Oliver that Dante killed her mother saw him dispatched in particularly brutal fashion. I'll be interested to see how she fares without Dante at her side; while she is more interesting as a fully fledged villain, I'm not convinced she can be an effective leader of the Ninth Circle on her own.
Spartan was a decent episode, continuing to build on the threat of Emiko and the Ninth Circle, and heading ever closer to that bleak - and slightly ridiculous- future, with Felicity and Alena starting the next phase of the Archer program after its initial demise. I'm not sure the season has hit the heights of two or five, but its certainly is on form as it nears its end game.