Arrow: 6.20 Shifting Allegiances

Building on the strong focus on season villain Ricardo Diaz last week, Shifting Allegiances saw him up his game further taking down the show's hero and solidifying his role within uber crime syndicate the Quadrant. There were some intriguing narrative developments this week but also a sense of tiredness - perhaps it's just me but for all the hard work Arrow is trying to out in, I'm just not feeling an engaged with the show anymore.

While it was absolutely the right move to redefine itself as the darker, grittier, more violent member of the Arrowverse last season, Arrow seems to have lost its energy; it's a problem with The Flash and Supergirl at times too; the 23-episode format is stretching the narrative a little thin. Only Legends of Tomorrow has managed to keep a consistent vibrant approach, and maybe the slightly shorter season format works. And when you've got fellow darker, grittier superhero shows like Daredevil or the Luke Cage - which even on shorter 13-episode formats have some narrative slumps - 23 episodes of Arrow really does feel like a slog at times.

Season six is still better than three or four, but it certainly failed to deliver on the excellent season five cliff-hanger on Lian Yu and it's taken far too long to get to the best elements of the season, which are arguably the Ricardo / Diaz-Laurel Lance partnership and Laurel's somewhat twisted relationship with alternate dad Quentin. The former was really highlighted in the strong dynamic between the two villains last episode and this episode continued to explore just how broken and co-dependant the latter has become. Just what it means in light of a recent season 7 cast announcement remains to be seen.

Still, while the season has felt very underwhelming at times, Shifting Allegiances continued to indulge in a more stripped back approach; Oliver's attempt to coerce Anatoly and failing and the remaining vigilantes finding a new direction in the fight against Diaz. If I'm being honest, I think the Green Arrow on his own with the rest of the heroes as a separate unit might work better moving forward - though maybe as recurring rather than main characters. John Diggle worked well in his new ARGUS officer role and I loved his rescue of team Not-Arrow and subsequent alliance. With a little less angst and a bit more focus, I enjoyed seeing Black Canary, Mr Terrific and Wild Dog back in action again.

As for Oliver, his journey continued to take a bleaker path but a more interesting one too. His stealthy disarming of a new American beer drinking, baseball watching Anatoly  and subsequent capture gave plenty of entertaining banter between Oliver and his former Bratva ally; there was also a sense that David Nykl was having fun in the role after a somewhat subdued performance this season. Was Oliver's assumption that he wanted Oliver to kill Diaz to give Anatoly his freedom correct? Maybe. Like Laurel, there is a real sense that an alliance with the Dragon is borne more out of feat than respect.

The final fist fight between Oliver and Diaz was brutal, directed in a stripped back, harsh manner with no music to distract from what was happening on screen. It was a moment that really showed just how dangerous Diaz is and ruthless too - stabbing Oliver was a shady move and having his corrupt police force arrest him and move up the trial was a bold twist; he's already physically beaten Oliver, now he's going to crush him with life imprisonment. In reminded me of Bane's brutal beat down of Batman in The Dark Knight Rises.

Shifting Allegiances, like last week's The Dragon, may have come too late in the season to elevate it to greatness, but at least there is real momentum going into the final three episodes. If it keeps things at this level, then we might be getting a thrilling end after a somewhat lacklustre beginning and middle.

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