Star City’s a metropolis in flux, in both the present and the future. Some of these developments are small, some major; some have happened with little fanfare, some with great. Any one of them would, in most circumstances, be the Big Event in your average episode of Arrow, and a lot of them would likely feel worthy of such treatment. You know when it’s snowing, but then there’s also a thunderstorm, so there’s snow and thunder and lightning and hailing and there’s a gust advisory, and then the next day it’s really sunny but also the snow is piled up? It’s a lot, all at once. It seems unnatural. The weather is never this many things. Something’s in the air.
When it’s the weather, what’s in the air is just various forms of water. When it’s a TV show, it starts to feel like something. (A possible relevant note: When I’m recapping something, I do my best to avoid too much behind-the-scenes news so that I’m not anticipating things or forming judgments in advance. I have no idea if there’s any such Arrow news in the ether, I just know that it feels like change is in the wind.) The last two episodes of Arrow—the mini horror movie “Star City Slayer,” and the more meditative “Brothers And Sisters”—both sprint through some pretty major developments, and continue in establishing a new status quo. It’s all the weather at once. The fact that the show comes close to pulling any of it off is admirable, but it also means that some storylines and developments will be shortchanged, and all will feel a little bit crowded.
There’s plenty that works about “Star City Slayer,” particularly Dinah’s anxiety about being outed as the Black Canary, a young William storyline that actually makes sense, and Brendan Fletcher (as Stanley, the Sobbing Star City Slayer) chewing the holy hell out of absolutely all of the scenery. It is entirely too much, but it’s definitely not boring. Yet even with a scene in which the Queen family have to defend themselves from a weepy psycohpath whose daddy issues assert themselves in the form of scary gas using only a glass bottle and some finger movement, the big developments of the episode concern entrances and exits. Let’s review:
- Curtis: Off to a new job. (Officer Nick: Left behind?)
- Weepy Stanley: Caught and imprisoned.
- Dinah: Seriously injured, maybe with an issue with her voice?
- Future Felicity: Probably not dead.
- Current Felicity: Probably pregnant.
- Current William: Off to live with his grandparents. (Maybe that’s a wrap on young William?)
- “Maya”: Actually Mia, Felicity’s daughter. (Last name: Smoak.)
- Connor: Actually, John Diggle’s son. (Adopted, as he later tells the gang.)
So the show essentially jettisons two major characters (young William and Curtis) and one character that seemed to be set up for a longer storyline (Stanley, though he could come back) in an episode that also includes some very violent throat-slashing, the hint of a pregnancy, that crazy glass bottle thing, and Dinah’s Black Canary feelings (complete with Captain Singh cameo). That is a lot. It’s Echo Kellum’s last episode as a series regular, and it’s a subplot at best. Granted, Kellum got a solid showcase a few episodes back, but still. That alone would have been a big deal in previous seasons. In this episode, it’s just part of the melange.
That’s not to say it’s not well-constructed. Using Snotty Stanley to illustrate exactly what may be in store for William if he continues to live with Oliver and Felicity is clever, and while the show has gotten better at handling the young William storylines this season—he even has a personality now!—an exit, permanent or otherwise, can only be a good thing.
But wow, it’s a lot, and that’s largely due to the comically convenient revelations considering the characters in the future storyline. For reference, they are: Future Dinah, Future Roy, Future Mayor Rene, and then it’s literally all kids of characters in the current storyline, and none of them seem to know each other. There’s Future William, Future Zoe, and the only versions of Connor Hawke/Diggle and Mia/Maya Smoak we’ve yet seen. All we need is a Lance and maybe a kid of Thea’s, and then they can face off against Ricardo Diaz Jr. Maybe they can even get Nora Darhk to come over from Legends for a bit.
Let’s break things down a bit, because while the stream of revelations about the parents of all of the people in the future slows to a trickle, it’s still a lot. In this episode:
- The Ghost Initiative goes on an op, then fails, then gets disbanded, then sort of goes on another one, then stays disbanded
- Lyla almost but does not get fired
- Diggle resigns from ARGUS
- We meet Virgil
- We meet Dante
- We find out who the ARGUS mole is; he promptly dies
- Everyone thinks Diaz warned Virgil and Dante, only he didn’t, but then he does
- Diggle tells Felicity and Oliver about the Ghost Initiative and Diaz, she hacks his brain and plans to murder him
- Not-Laurel guesses Felicity is pregnant and makes her eat a banana and a sandwich, then talks her out of the murder
- William and Mia talk stuff out, and he reveals that his parents basically forgot he existed after he left to live with his grandparents (and we see that Oliver called a lot, so that’s a thin), and a Rubik’s cube is involved
- Emiko trusts Oliver just a little and he immediately becomes a pushy, bossy, micro-managing mansplainer who needs relationship coaching from Rene; they later patch things up
- A Princess gets murdered
- Dante knows Emiko, can throw many tiny knives
- Oh, and Ricardo Diaz gets drenched in gasoline through a sprinkler in his prison cell, catches a lighter when it’s thrown at him, and is engulfed in flames
I will not believe that Ricardo Diaz is dead until I see a body. I’ve been burned before. (Get it?) But even that aside, that’s a whole bunch of stuff—and that up there is a partial list. What puts “Brothers And Sisters” a step above the others is that the theme works beautifully with almost every story. Oliver, Rene, and Emiko, William and Mia, Diggle and Felicity, Felicity and Not-Laurel. All center on people treating each other like or acknowledging each other as family. All include honest, kind, tough sibling conversations. All mark a step in an existing or burgeoning relationship. It’s smart writing, character-driven and efficient. It’s still too crowded; it still robs some of the more potent storyline of some potential heft. But unlike “Star City Slayer,” it feels like more than a plot dump with one smart character story.
It also, hopefully, marks the end of the Ghost Initiative, something that never really worked in its post-Suicide Squad iteration. As stated above, I’ll believe Diaz is dead when there’s a body and the show makes it super clear that it’s his, but it also seems like it might be the end of the road for Kirk Acevedo’s Ricardo Diaz, an incredibly engaging actor in a character that was asked to do and be too many things. Acevedo was a great addition to this cast, but Diaz, not so much. If he’s sticking around, here’s hoping they find a much more interesting angle. If not, here’s hoping Acevedo’s next project knows how to use him to better effect.
- So, who threw that lighter? Not-Laurel, right?
- “There are two of you now?!”
- That cassette stuff made me giggle.
- TAMVP: “Star City Slayer,” either Dinah (Juliana Harkavy) or Sweaty Sad Stanley (Brendan Fletcher); “Brothers And Sisters”—kind of tough, actually. Her scenes were short, but I’m really enjoying Not-Laurel in general.