Arrow: 6.09 Irreconcilable Differences
Arrow devoted the first 10 minutes of its mid season finale to the wedding of Oliver and Felicity. It was chock full of lovely moments, from the 'back in the land of the living' Thea to Rene's very sweet speech to the happy couple. It worked for a number of reasons; to pay off on the sudden double wedding at the end of last week's superb Crisis On Earth X, giving the necessary focus to this huge moment in the lives of the two core characters and, in the context of this episode, show the wider team happy and united before it all fell apart.
Irreconcilable Differences wasn't the strongest mid season finale in the show's history but it was a decent set up for the direction if the season while bringing to a head some of the plots running through the first seven episodes (the wedding aside, there was no mention of last week's crossover, which seemed to exist largely in it' own bubble, as was also reflected in Supergirl and The Flash too).
The reveal that one of the team had agreed to testify against Oliver was certainly a surprise, as was Oliver and Felicity's open willingness to spy on their friends and allies. The hurt caused by Evelyn Sharon's betrayal last season continued to run deep and certainly made apparent the divide between the old crew (Oliver, John and Felicity) and the new. It's almost as if the show remains afraid to fully commit to these new heroes two seasons in, and that's why, the episode ended with Dinah, Curtis and Rene quitting the team over this violation of trust.
Not that Rene or Dinah remaimed innocent in all this. While I understand that Rene might agree to testify against Oliver to stop the threat of the FBI cutting his access to his daughter, I don't understand why he didn't confide in the team afterwards to help the team find a way out of this predicament together. And Dinah's secret meeting with her ex lover turned 'The villainous Vigilante saw her exposed to the team too. Now that she is out on her own, I wonder if his influence might take back down the darker path we first saw her in when she was introduced in season five.
We also got more of big bad Cayden James and Black Siren stepping up their game in their war against Star City. He's a very different villain to Prometheus but still enjoys the same Machiavellian mind games and it certainly worked in breaking up team Arrow come the episode's end. There was also some interesting interplay between Quentin and Laurel as the deputy mayor became a bargaining chip against Oliver. Quentin seemed to genuinely break through Laurel's psychopathic facade with a shared story of childhood birthday cakes that crossed two alternate Earths. The fact that she let him go rather than kill him could suggest the start of her redemption, though I much prefer her as a recurring villain these days.
The final reveal evil team Arrow at the end was a little lacklustre through. Black Siren and maybe Vigilante aside, there weren't any decent villains of note, though I do like the idea, if not the execution.
Irreconcilable Differences was a decent, if not stellar midseason finale, a character study more than an action packed climax to the year. Arrow at this point is still better than seasons three and four, but it hasn't managed to capture the heights of season five. Of course, that took an upward turn in it's second half, so maybe season six will do the same when it returns next year...