Arrow Season 7, Episode 19: \
Warning: Full spoilers for Arrow Season 7, Episode 19 below. If you need a refresher on where we left off, here’s our review of Season 7, Episode 18.
Arrow went through a bit of a lull period early this year, as the show transitioned away from the extended prison storyline and tried to establish a new status quo for Oliver Queen and friends. It’s been a fairly bumpy road these past few months. But as is so often the case with the Arrowverse, the momentum is rapidly accelerating as the season finale looms. Far more than just a Diggle-focused side-story, “Spartan” may well be the most jam-packed and eventful installment of Season 7 so far.
I honestly wasn’t expecting much from the Diggle storyline this week. On the surface, the show suddenly throwing Diggle’s long-lost stepfather into the mix doesn’t sound like the greatest use of time this close to the season finale. But General Stewart turned out to be a valuable addition to the series, in no small part because of the always likable Ernie Hudson. Hudson did a great job of conveying that strained relationship between stepfather and son and bringing plenty of warmth to what could have been a generic military man role. Both he and David Ramsey lent authenticity to a relationship we had no reason to believe even existed before this episode.
There’s also the fact that General Stewart’s debuted gelled with the escalating nature of the conflict between Team Arrow and the Ninth Circle. Dante and Emiko really stepped up their game this week. The thing about Arrow villains is that they rarely have a big picture beyond tormenting Oliver Queen and/or taking control of Star City. Truly global threats are few and far between, so it’s nice seeing a larger sense of scale to the Ninth Circle’s plans. General Stewart’s debut fit very neatly into that larger picture and helped reinforce that this problem is much bigger than a feud between a terrorist group and a team of costumed vigilantes.
The other neat thing about General Stewart’s debut is that it introduces a plausible explanation for why the “Diggle is actually John Diggle Stewart” fan theory could actually come to pass. I have some more thoughts on that twist here.
Then there was the big plot twist, with Emiko killing Dante and clearing the field to become the main villain of Season 7. This is where “Spartan” left me feeling a little more cold. On one hand, an already fast-paced episode was made even more eventful with this latest major status quo shakeup. On the other, it seems a shame to eliminate Dante from the picture so soon after his debut. Adrian Paul was clearly having a lot of fun in the role and I would have liked to see his rivalry with Ollie be rekindled again.
Building up Emiko is definitely going to be the last big challenge for Season 7. To date, she’s a character who works better in theory than execution. Too much of what makes Emiko stand out in the comics has been lost, and it’s not clear Sea Shimooka really has what it takes to shoulder the master villain burden all on her own. She’s got the physicality down, but she has yet to show the level of screen presence necessary to rival characters like Ricardo Diaz or Dante himself. I want to be more invested in the Ollie/Emiko relationship than I actually am right now, and that’s a problem with so few episodes remaining.
It’s easy to see from the Felicity storyline how the writers are preparing to bid farewell to the character, Felicity’s arc this week was very much about weighing her desire to make a larger impact on the world against the dangers posed by inventions like Archer. Like Curtis before her, Felicity’s exit is shaping up to be less about a dramatic falling-out between her and team Arrow and more her decision to carve a new path for herself. That seems like the wiser move, though there’s still the question of what exactly is going to compel her to leave Ollie behind (especially with baby Mia on the way).
There was also some interesting interplay between the main storyline and the flash-forwards this week. We see her in the future trying to stop her greatest invention from being abused, even as in the past Felicity makes the crucial decision to kill the Archer program. This basically serves as a retroactive form of redemption for future Felicity, showing that Archer grew out of control despite her best efforts to contain and destroy it. No doubt present-day Felicity is going to regret buddy-ing up to Alena very soon.
In general, the flash-forwards worked well this week. There really does seem to be a correlation between the number of characters included and the overall quality of these subplots. This week the focus remained largely on Mia and Connor, allowing their relationship to grow. There’s also the promise of a big showdown between Connor and JJ Diggle, who’s now thrown his lot in with the Deathstrokes. That should be fun. The whole Connor/JJ dynamic is also very intriguing in light of the revelations about Diggle’s relationships with his father and stepfather. There’s a lot about this whole situation with Diggle adopting Ben Turner’s son and raising two boys that has yet to be revealed. Hopefully that’s something we’ll see elaborated upon. If not this season, then at least before the series wraps this year.
Arrow Season 7 is rapidly heating up before the big finale. This episode is satisfyingly packed with new twists and turns, along with a healthy dose of Diggle family drama. The highlight was definitely seeing Diggle come face to face with his stepfather and come to terms with the truth about his troubled childhood. That played nicely with new revelations about the future of his sons. The decision to kill off Dante and position Emiko as the sole main villain of the season is less exciting, but hopefully this twist will work out for the best.
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