Arrow: 6.13 The Devil's Greatest Trick
Just over half way through season six Arrow has delivered an episode that feels on many ways like a season finale, at least until the closing scene. While I'm glad it wasn't (it certainly would have finished the season with an underwhelming feeling) The Devil's Greatest Trick delivered a surprise change of direction as the events that had been building up for a number of weeks came to swift conclusion.
Michael Emerson's Cayden James has been a worthy villain for team Arrow but a lot of the ideas surrounding him have been less than stellar. An evil team Arrow should have been spectacularly fun but Black Siren aside, the rest of James league of supervillains have failed to live up to expectations (even the entertaining Anatoly felt wasted). Vigilante only became interesting in his final episode, there was that bad guy from that episode that died a couple of weeks ago and there was Kirk Acevedo's Ricardo Diaz, a man who seemed hamfisted and just a little iritating.
But perhaps that was the point. The episode built slowly up to the reveal that one of James' team orchestrated the murder of his son in order to put the master hacker and the Green Arrow in crosshairs. Flashbacks revealed a strained relationship between James and his son Owen, his days as noble activist taking down corrupt organisations and his incarceration by ARGUS. While there was nothing revelatory about these flashbacks, they did add sympathy to James so that you did feel for him in his ultimate defeat and murder at the hands of Diaz.
I've always liked Acevedo in past roles but he never quite fit in Arrow; now I suspect that was the aim all along. In a manner similar to Ward's transformation in late season one Agents of SHIELD, we saw a very different man in those final scenes as he revealed his true intentions to James and cooly, ruthlessly, took him out. I'm hoping this is the character we'll see moving forward amd hopefully this will result in an upward change of pace and tension in the coming weeks. So far, season six has existed wholly in the shadow of the much improved season five.
To get to that point we saw James make use of his promise to destroy Star City with a deadly bomb, fuelled by his anger at Vigilante's betrayal. It was an intriguing turn of events to have Oliver and the rest of the Vigilantes round up his allies and suspects in Owen's death, particularly when a vengeful Dinah was out to take down Black Siren once and for all. Despite liking his new connection to this evil Laurel last episode, I found Quentin's actions this week frustrating, protecting Laurel at all costs. Yes, her friends and allies were right to try and convince Dinah not to kill Laurel out of revenge, but he seemed genuinely ready to put himself in harm's way for a woman that wasn't his daughter.
For all the drama, there was also plenty of excitement and action as the battle against Cayden James came to a head, leading to a dramatic confrontation in the abandoned theatre. Yes William sneaking in to be with his dad was stupid, but it was his relationship with his father Oliver that ultimately convinced James not to kill everyone. The Devil's Greatest Trick ended with Star City safe, the ransomed money returned, the league of evil disbanded and a chance for the good guys to breathe. I'm actually intrigued to see where Diaz's plan goes next, but season six needs to step things up a gear if it wants to compete with season five.