Arrow : 6.19 The Dragon
The whole broken team Arrow arc has been one of the most frustrating elements of season six. But what of the brighter aspects of this storyline has been the emergence of Kirk Acevedo's Ricardo Diaz, who began life as one of Cayden James's thugs before revealing his true identity and swiftling taking control of Star City. And this week saw Arrow strip back all the multi team dynamics and conflicts to focus on the show's villain and his evil accomplice Laurel.
What could have easily become an unnecessary filler episode became a intriguing two hander between Diaz and Lance. Ironically, it was the handful of scenes with the core cast that felt unnecessary; it was nice to see Felicity and Curtis working together again, the snippets of the Green Arrow tearing his at through Star City's criminal element or the scene where Oliver reassured Felicity that he would always come back to her, but the episode might have been served better without them.
Because this was Diaz's story. The episode began with him as a boy, bullied by another boy in the orphanage where he her up before the present day saw him take a road trip with Lance to Bludhaven to gain an audience with mysterious uber criminal organisation The Quadrant. This new organization, the criminal empire that spans the entire country could open up new possibilities across the Arrowverse - depending on how this story plays out - and I liked that Diaz's aspirations weren't just limited to one city.
It was a lot of fun to see the ruthless, cool confidence Diaz and Lance exuded when encountering Ashton Holmes's smug Eric Cartier, his conduit to The Quadrant. But what elevated this episode was that there was enough vulnerability in these two characters to make you genuinely care about them - not too much mind you; they are both ruthless killers - but between Diaz's tortured past and Lance's obviously discomfort at how far her boss would go, there was a sense that neither were quite wholly evil as they portrayed themselves to be.
In fact, if this led to a Lauren Lance / Ricardo Diaz spin-off, I'd certainly be interested. Both Acevedo and Katie Cassidy gave some of their best performances this season, fierce and confident in the face of their enemies, while subtly conveying deeper feelings underneath; the scene where Diaz lit childhood bully of fire was particularly powerful, Cassidy portraying a Laurel that was deeply uncomfortable with what was happening.
The assault on the Quadrant quarters was also spectacularly fun, Diaz using Cartier as a human bomb to take down the enemy and then confidently finding his place at the table was a triumphant moment for this bad guy, one I hope leads to bigger things in the final four episodes of season four.
The Dragon was a very different kind of episode, but one that was well-executed and absolutely succeeded in bringing depth to Ricardo Diaz. Now that we have more of an understanding of the villain and Oliver is back to his one-man roots, I'm hoping season six of Arrow manages to up its game after a very mixed year so far.