Ricardo Diaz isn’t playing around anymore.
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
Ricardo Diaz failed in his attempt to get Oliver Queen locked behind bars last week, so now he’s resorted to the time-honored tradition established by Arrow villains of seasons past – kill the Green Arrow and everyone he loves. It’s definitely that time of year. “The Ties That Bind” proved to be a solid lead-in to the finale, though there’s a nagging sense that the series is still overly shy about breaking its toys.
The opening scenes set the tone nicely, with each member of Team Arrow enjoying some quality time with their loved ones (save for poor, lonely Dinah) before being rudely interrupted by Diaz’s kill squads. There’s been a lot of teasing and hinting in recent weeks that the show’s status quo will change dramatically in Season 7. At the very least, this episode made it clear that our heroes will need a new base of operations. Both the bunker and Ollie’s swanky apartment are pretty much toast.
But while there was plenty of property damage to go around this week, the physical toll take on our heroes was fairly minimal. That’s my one big complaint here. So much was made of the all-encompassing threat posed by Diaz and his army of loyal police officers, yet Team Arrow survived multiple encounters with the enemy at little cost. At worst, Curtis and his boyfriend both suffered non-life-threatening injuries. At some point the show struggles to establish a sense of stakes and danger when these characters start to feel invincible. It doesn’t really help that Lyla was so quick to provide a disposable army of ARGUS redshirts when the situation called for it.
Not that I necessarily feel one or more Team Arrow members absolutely have to die to give the finale weight, but I think we need some reminder of the threat Diaz poses. And given how badly this season started off on the wrong fitting by wasting Season 5’s dramatic cliffhanger, it would sure be a nice mea culpa if it managed to up the drama and danger here at the end.
All that aside, this episode still offered a compelling look at the endgame of Team Arrow’s war with Diaz. After all the bumps our heroes have hit in recent months, there is a certain satisfaction in seeing them reunited and working as a cohesive fighting force again. Not to mention the appeal in seeing Lyla take center stage and get her hands dirty. There was also just enough focus on Ollie’s struggle to find focus as a superhero without distracting from the larger drama of the Diaz conflict. Even with the series focusing on the full ensemble cast again, the writers seem to be doing a better job of finding balance and maintaining forward momentum.
It’s also a lot of fun to see Diaz grow unhinged. Where once he was the careful, methodical mastermind lurking behind the scenes, he’s basically gone full supervillain at this point. It’s clear that’s going to be his undoing in the finale, as his pride and inferiority complex finally get the better of him. Kirk Acevedo is bringing a newfound intensity to his role. Even if our heroes never really felt like they were in mortal danger this week, Diaz himself oozes danger.
It was also nice to see so much emphasis on Anatoly this week. I didn’t particularly enjoy his presence early on this season, as it often felt like he was being kept around solely to have another familiar face on Cayden James’ crew. But that’s changed in recent weeks as Anatoly has become torn between his desire for power and money and his need to be the honorable man he always claims to be. If any major character is going to die next week, it’s probably him. And it has all the potential to be a great death, capping off a multi-season arc and proving Ollie was right to put his faith in Anatoly.
One other thing this episode made pretty clear is that the Quadrant probably won’t be sticking around as a lasting threat in Star City. Diaz made sure of that by killing two of its four leaders. While on one hand that only elevates him as a threat and illuminates his sadistic state of mind, it doesn’t do much to establish the Quadrant as a credible threat in the Arrowverse. Why do these seemingly all-powerful crime lords leave themselves in the position to be murdered so easily? Why is there no retaliation against Diaz? It feels like more could have been done with this shadowy organization. On the other hand, perhaps the inevitable power vacuum in the criminal underworld will be one of the driving forces of Season 7.
This episode included one more unexpected swerve with the last-minute return of Agent Watson, now apparently a reluctant ally to the Green Arrow. It’ll be interesting to see what her second request is. There’s also the question of what sort of legal jeopardy Ollie opened himself up to by admitting he’s the Green Arrow. After all this, could he still wind up going to prison in the end? An intriguing thought, though it would just add to the disappointment in how “Docket No. 11-19-41-73” resolved itself last week.