Speedy to the rescue.
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
If there’s been a running theme with my Arrow reviews this season, it’s something along the lines of, “Geez, this series isn’t doing so hot.” The only question at this point is how much, if at all, these remaining few months can redeem Season 6 and its lackluster story direction. With “Doppelganger,” we finally got our first installment that really spotlighted Ricardo Diaz as the show’s central antagonist. That helped bring a little more life into the series. Sadly, the same can’t be said for the return of Roy Harper.
Mind you, I was thrilled when it was announced that Haynes would be returning as Roy Harper this season. Haynes’ presence has been missed on the show in recent years, both because he was a memorable part of the Team Arrow dynamic in Seasons 2 and 3 and because Thea never really made for a satisfying replacement in the vigilante sidekick department. Much of what went wrong with “Doppelganger” boils down to the fact that the writers chose to emphasize Thea’s return to the costumed life over Roy’s return.
Seriously, did Roy actually have more than five minutes of screen time in the entire episode? It’s hard to figure why Haynes was even brought back in the first place if all he was being asked to do was get beat up for a while and then have a very brief (and surprisingly flat) reunion with the Team Arrow crew. From what I can tell, there’s no indication that Roy is actually appearing in the next episode, despite it springing directly from the League of Assassins cliffhanger this week. So again, what was the point of bringing Haynes back for such a brief, thankless role?
Granted, Thea’s arc was handled well enough, with all the expected sibling tension as she and Ollie butted heads over how best to handle Roy’s rescue. If nothing else, it’s nice to see Willa Holland being given the chance to play a more central role after her character has spent most of this season in a coma or recovering from said coma. But again, putting Thea in the costume in the first place never felt like the best move for her. Arrow, like its sister series, is a little too fond of the old “make every single supporting character a superhero or villain” trope. The best that can be said for Thea’s return as Speedy and the League of Assassins tease is that the writers may be setting the stage for her big swan song on the series. As much as Thea has turned into a redundant character over the past couple years, that may be for the best.
As for Diaz, this is where the show is finally starting to build some momentum again. I’ve never had an issue with Kirk Acevedo’s casting, only that the first half of Season 6 gave him so little to do. That’s finally beginning to change. Acevedo’s performance is beginning to stand out more as a result. It’s a nice change of pace to see an Arrow villain who’s so quiet and unassuming 90% of the time, only for that dark, sadistic side to surface the other 10%. Diaz is clearly a man who prefers not to be noticed unless he’s making a statement, and Acevedo plays into that.
It was also nice seeing Diaz actually demonstrate his martial arts prowess for a change. In the comics, Richard Dragon is one of a small handful of post-Batman-level martial artists, and it’s about time we started to get a sense of the physical powerhouse he can be. Hopefully we’ll see some good Diaz/Ollie fisticuffs in the near future.
Another element that seems to be helping the series at the moment is this renewed emphasis on corruption in the SCPD. It’s not a novel subplot by any means, but there’s a greater sense of immediacy to the idea that anyone and everyone in the police department could be on Diaz’s payroll and actively working against the mayor. Frankly, it’s a more compelling story thread than Ollie’s impending trial, which has really stalled out of late.
I wish the same could be said for Black Siren’s latest power play. In general, I’m on board for the idea of Earth-2 Laurel slowly finding redemption and learning to embrace the second chance being offered her on Earth-1. But at this point, her story has become cyclical and repetitive. How many times can we see her flirt with the idea of turning over a new leaf, only to stab her father or Team Arrow in the back all over again? How many times will Team Arrow be gullible enough to fall for her shtick? The last-minute reveal that she’s still working for Diaz isn’t shocking so much as eye-rollingly predictable. After all these months, we need more tangible signs that Laurel is growing as a character.
That speaks to the general state of the show right now. Things are starting to turn around with this pivot towards Diaz as the main villain. But it feels like everything taking place in this episode should have happened months sooner. Neither Diaz nor the general battle for the fate of Star City feel nearly developed enough considering how deep we are into Season 6. The show has a lot of catching up to do. Which, of course, makes this the perfect time to have another two-week hiatus.