Arrow Season 6 Review (Spoilers)

  • Series: Arrow
  • Season: 6
  • Episodes: 23
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Willa Holland, Echo Kellum, David Nykl, Paul Blackthorne, Michael Emerson, Kirk Acevedo
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

Due to circumstances beyond my control I missed Arrow last year and as well as the rest of the CW DC shows, so the DVD release was my first chance to watch Season 6, and it was not good. I try to be positive in all my reviews, and I will keep to the attitude and promise here, but this past season of Arrow really shows the program’s age.

The season starts with everything status quo – Oliver is mayor of Star City and managing his new team as the Green Arrow. If you were wondering what happened on Lian Yu, the series gives you a few flashbacks and that’s it. Thea is in a coma – everyone else is fine, and the series doesn’t even mention that Malcolm gave his life to save Thea. We guess. Because she’s the only one who is still injured. Oliver’s one-time girlfriend, Samantha, and mother of his child is dead. With her dying breath, she asks Oliver to care for her McGuffin, oh sorry, I mean their mutual son William. Because, yes, this season, Oliver has a child. William starts out as an annoying and spoiled child, though to be fair, he just lost his mother and he’s been introduced to a new father who basically came from nowhere. However, Oliver, with Felicity’s help manages to get through to William, so the two at least seem to be close by the end of the season.

It’s Deja Vu all over again and once more a villain is introduced, who seems unstoppable – only to be completed defeated halfway through the season. And to make matters worse, Cayden James is killed in police custody. This reveals the “real villain” a drug pusher, mobster, and gang leader with ideas above his station. Ricardo Diaz is not a compelling villain – he’s the type of bad guy Oliver ate for lunch in Season 1. Plus, in the current climate – a Hispanic villain who personifies everything that racists claim about Hispanics is not exactly the best choice for a season-long villain. At least Cayden James was compelling (he reminded me of Felicity’s father, Noah Cutter, aka “The Calculator”, actually).

The other theme of the season is family. But in this case, it’s the breaking up of families. Cayden James manages to break up Oliver’s team. First Rene (“Wild Dog”) leaves after admitting he decided to be a witness against Oliver in his trial (Oh, did I forget to mention? Oliver is accused of being the Green Arrow and is due to be put on trial.) Rene was pressured to testify because he was told he’d never see his daughter Zoe again if he didn’t. Apparently, no one in Star City hs ever heard of witness tampering, because you simply cannot do that.

Cayden James briefly assembles his own powerhouse of bad guys that look like Star City’s own Legion of Doom, including: Black Siren (Laurel Lance from another Earth), Vigilante (who turn’s out to be Dinah Drake’s former police partner and boyfriend), Ricardo Diaz (introduced as a drug dealer and thug), and Anatoly Knyazev. As alluded to before – most of these characters will end-up dead as Diaz takes over from James as villain of the season. Diaz also brings in The Quadrant, four super-mobsters who allegedly control the entire country. He manages to kill one member of the Quadrant and his son for a seat at the table, and latter kills two more members – threatening the last remaining member.

Meanwhile, Quentin Lance attempts to convert Black Siren to being his Laurel. And she does at one point claim to be Laurel in the public eye – claiming she was held hostage for two years. Quentin’s love for his daughter is a two steps forward one step back situation, though in the end it seems Laurel is willing to go against Diaz and help her father.

In Oliver’s world, having exiled Rene, he does the same thing to Dinah when she decides to kill Black Siren for killing her boyfriend, Vigilante. Even Curtis gets fed-up and walks out. Wild Dog, Black Canary, and Mr. Terrific form their own superhero team. It’s cute, but they are the B team for sure. And when Felicity discovers that one reason they’ve had so much trouble all season is that the bunker was bugged, honestly, everyone should have come home. When Oliver is dosed with Vertigo and starts hallucinating, including seeing Adrian Chase, and imagining Felicity dumping him – it should have brought the team back together. And considering how badly Oliver’s been behaving during most of the season, the Vertigo seems to have been introduced far earlier than the episode stated it was. But alas, for plot reasons, though his team seems to understand a bit more – they don’t return. And even John Diggle has left to join Lyla at ARGUS.

Thea, who is missing for much of the season, eventually awakens from her coma, only for Nyssa al Ghul to show up with a warning: Athena has formed a new group – The Thanatos Guild, which wants Thea’s blood to lead them to a mysterious box and a map. Felicity describes the box as “the box from Hellraiser” which is the best pop-culture description on the show since a Lazarus Pit was described as a “magical jacuzzi”. By the end of the episode, not only has Team Arrow found the box, opened it, and figured out how to read the map that seems at first to be blank – but Thea, Nyssa, and Roy Harper who has suddenly arrived – leave, for good, on a mission to destroy what the map reveals – the last three remaining Lazurus Pits. The entire episode comes from nowhere and reads like a backdoor pilot, at least for a mini-series. And since I’ve come to really like Thea and I like Nyssa – it’s a mini-series I’d watch. But, really, the entire episode seems to be an excuse to get Thea off the show. This makes me sad.

Oliver and Felicity also apparently get married this season – for real. Though I say, “apparently” because their marriage was during the 4-series crossover event which is not included on the DVD set. The Arrow episode of the crossover is the only one included, so it more or less makes no sense. I look forward to watching the entire crossover – but I won’t see it until all three remaining CW shows are released on DVD in late August or even September. Warner Brothers/CW needs to do with the crossovers what the BBC does with the Doctor Who Christmas specials: release them on a separate disc within a few weeks after the special airs. Then they also need to include the episodes on the respective series box sets. I would gladly shell out money for a “movie version” of the crossover. I’d even buy it if they retroactively released each crossover to date – the crossover often feels a little out of continuity anyway, they are great stories, and like the comics the idea comes from – it’s the type of thing fans will pick-up as a collector’s item even if they aren’t normally interested in the individual title(s). Plus – more money, just saying. And yes, also put the crossover episode on each season set. I wouldn’t mind owning it twice, once in the series each story comes from, and once as a complete movie on DVD or even Blu-Ray.

Meanwhile, especially once Cayden James is out of the picture, Diaz consolidates power – he has Black Siren kill Vigilante, whom he’s figured out is an undercover double-agent. He extends his control over the police force, city hall and the DA’s office. Anyone who gets in his way, Diaz kills off as he consolidates power. But the problem with this plot is two-fold: first, Diaz is basically a mobster or gang boss – no more, no less. He doesn’t have the scary psychopathic planning laser focus as Adrian Chase from last season – yet the plot seems about the same as just last season. Diaz really is more like the type of two-bit hoods and connected yet corrupt business people and officials from Season 1. Also, but the entire story reminds me of the Batman graphic novel Dark Victory – which did a better job of showing a vigilante superhero new at his job cleaning up a corrupt city. For Green Arrow, for Oliver to step back, distance himself from everyone, and attempt to clean up Star City by himself? That simply makes no sense. It also destroys what Oliver has built and what makes him work as a hero: his team.

In the end, Oliver is tried for being the Green Arrow. Diaz has a corrupt judge in charge of the case, and a prosecuting attorney who while probably not corrupt will try every trick in the book to win her case. The best bit of the trial? Christopher Chase, the Human Target, showing up to save Oliver’s butt. After the trial the team starts to realize that they need to work together again. Oliver even loops in Diggle who brings in ARGUS. Oliver also manages to get Anatoly on his side. And yes, David Nykl is brilliant – and compelling as Anatoly. In the last two episodes, everybody works together. Even the FBI is brought in. The team gets Diaz’s list of corrupt officials, who are subsequently arrested by the FBI. But Diaz himself gets away – in one of those “they never found the body” moments. Quentin Lance is killed saving Laurel. Oliver also throws himself under the bus, bargaining for immunity for his entire team, by publicly admitting he’s the Green Arrow and being sent to prison by the FBI officer they have been working on. With Diaz loose and Oliver in prison – the entire season feels like a transitional one. We will have a Season 7, but it may be the last.

Read my Review of Arrow Season 3.

Read my Review of Arrow Season 4.

Read my Review of Arrow Season 5.

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Book Review – The Flash Season Zero

  • Title: The Flash Season Zero
  • Author: Andrew Kreisberg
  • Artist: Phil Hester, Marcus To
  • Line: CW DC Verse
  • Characters: Barry Allen (The Flash), Caitlin Snow, Felicity Smoak, Suicide Squad, Capt. Cold (Leonard Snart), Heatwave (Mick Rory)
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 04/23/2017

Based on the CW TV Series, The Flash Season Zero is a series of short stories set during Season 1 of The Flash. The first story takes place only nine months after Barry gets his powers, and has Barry and his friends at S.T.A.R. Labs facing off against a defunct circus who’s performers have been turned into Metas by the Particle Accelerator accident. The story of the performers: a strong man, a snake wrangling girl, and the ringmaster, is a good story. The powers – related to their places in the circus – are interesting, and the way that Barry and Caitlin work with the performers, especially the snake girl, works. This isn’t a black-and-white, us-verses-them, good guy/bad guy story. These “bad guys” have their own point-of-view and they were given a raw deal before the particle accelerator exploded. The only issue with this first story is that it’s set so early, it’s hard to remember things like who knows Barry is the Flash, and it’s weird to see Iris with Eddie. (Talk about your doomed relationships.)

In the second story, “Smoak Signals”, a mysterious Nemesis comes after Felicity. Barry rescues her from certain death, then helps her out, but the story just ends without revealing who is after Felicity or why. I’m thinking it might have been Bree (Bug-Eyed Bandit) but I wasn’t sure. Still, it’s great to see Felicity and she and Barry have great chemistry.

“King Shark”, a crossover with the Suicide Squad (Cap’t. Boomerang, DeadShot, Cupid) and a more traditional Amanda Walker, is a surprisingly sympathetic view of the character. It’s definitely a different story, but if you ever wanted to get an idea of what Jaws would be like from the POV of the shark, then this story is for you.

“Black Star” gives us a lot more background on Caitlin (as does the final story, “Melting Point”) and another, in the end, sympathetic “villain”. Caitlin’s involved in a secret military project that goes horribly wrong. The particle accelerator explosion doesn’t help matters at all. It’s also an interesting SF story of a human combined with machine that doesn’t fall into a lot of the known tropes.

After the darkness of the previous story, “A Day in the Life”, shows Barry trying to have a relaxing day off, when he ends-up rescuing people instead. However, Barry inspires a young boy that he rescued to rescue someone else. It’s a light and happy story that is perfectly placed in the collection.

“Ice and Fire” is background about Leonard Snart (Capt. Cold) and Mick Rory (Heatwave). I could hear Wentworth Miller as Snart. This shows how the two met, their opposing views on how to commit heists, and their friendship. It also shows Detective Joe West coming up against the two again and again and being unable to get enough evidence for an arrest and conviction of the two. It’s a character-driven piece that works.

The final story, returns us to character background on Caitlin, as we meet a professor and mentor of hers, as well as some of her classmates. It’s a classic “mad scientist” story, or science without compassion or consideration of consequences story. Not my favorite genre, to say the least, but it’s good to see Caitlin and Cisco together for the story and to get an idea of what makes Caitlin tick.

This is the second time I read this collection, and I really enjoyed it. The characters are in character especially considering the book is set before and during Season 1 of the The Flash. The stories are a bit longer than the ones in Season 1 of the similar Arrow TV Show tie-in. This allows them to develop plot and character more. I also felt the characterizations were more spot-on with the television series than the Arrow tie-in, and accurately portraying the characters is essential for a good tie-in. Recommended to fans of the TV show.

Flashpoint – Is there more to be revealed on the CW DC Shows?

I have now caught-up on the current seasons of all four DC CW shows. And I’ve noticed something. The Flash mentioned Flashpoint at the opening of the season, and Barry attempted to reverse Flashpoint. But his attempt failed. The Flash is now in an alternate reality – Cisco, as Vibe, is much more powerful than he was last year when he was first discovering his powers. In some ways it’s like that character has skipped ahead in time. And that’s not all – somehow, as a result of Barry messing with time – Cisco’s brother Dante is dead, killed by a drunk driver. Meanwhile, Caitlin is exhibiting cold powers – and she fears she is turning in to Killer Frost. And at the Central City Police Department a new guy is in charge of forensics and he’s a total, well, you know, to Barry. By the mid-season finale, we know a lot more about this guy who’s suddenly appeared from nowhere.

But it isn’t just The Flash that’s in a new reality. Arrow is also subtly changed. One thing I’ve noticed – last year on Legends of Tomorrow they visited future Star City – where they met future Green Arrow Connor Hawk (aka John Diggle Jr) and there was a skyscraper called Smoak Technologies. Due to Flashpoint, Diggle now has a son – John Jr, not a daughter, Sara. Felicity has also lost Palmer Tech – and in last night’s episode, Curtis mentioned he and Felicity were working on a start-up company (he mentions this as a cover for his Mr. Terrific duties to his husband) which Felicity seems to know nothing about. But easily, that could be the spark of an idea for her – especially if she pulls back from Team Arrow for other plot reasons. Flashpoint seems to be bringing the Arrow universe closer to the disaster we saw in last season’s Legends of Tomorrow. And let’s not forget – this season’s bad guys on Legends are the Triumvirate of Evil: Reverse Flash (from Season 1 of The Flash); Damien Darhk (from Season 4 of Arrow); and Malcolm Merlyn (aka “The Magician” in the comics, but he’s been hanging around Arrow since the beginning). I don’t think this is a coincidence. I think it’s all related to Flashpoint (which was a world-ending event in the comics and the animated movie).

I suspect since we also saw Damien Darhk in the Legends of Tomorrow last season; and he’s clearly working with the Reverse Flash this season, and later with Malcolm Merlyn. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I think something is going on. I suspect time travel is most definitely involved. And I think the disappearance of Rip Hunter is also involved. I would love to see Rip return, maybe with his father, Booster Gold. I think the time paradoxes are only getting started and they will get more and more complex.  The four shows, but especially The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow, will have a bang-up complexly-related “super-crossover” feel by the end of this season. Maybe they will even change the “Supergirl is it’s own universe with no other Heroes” left over from last year when Supergirl was on CBS. Have I mentioned how that never made sense?

But I have to say, I love, just love, how all the DC shows are inter-related, just the way the comics are. Yes, you could just watch one or two of the shows – and you wouldn’t be lost. But when you watch all four, everything is connected. Also, just as is traditional for DC – all the Heroes know each other: they know each other’s real names; they know each others allies, friends and family; they know each other’s superpowers; and they work together when needed to overcome major threats (as in this year’s 4-part crossover event). That’s something that’s always been important in the DC Comics Universe. The heroes cooperate with each other. They don’t see each other as threats or rivals. When I first read Justice League International (later Justice League America / Justice League Europe) in the late 1980s and early 1990s – every hero, from the most powerful like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, to the ones who really had no powers at all, like Blue Beetle and Booster Gold were members of the Justice League. In between the two extremes were a lot of single power individuals such as Fire, Ice, Black Canary, Vixen – all of whom were female. There were many minorities in the League as well, including John Stewart – the Green Lantern at the time and an African American. And there were the magic users: Zatanna, Dr. Fate, etc. There was something for everyone, and a well-balanced League. Young Justice, the animated series, although it had a modern aesthetic and look, also reflected the width and breadth of the Justice League with many female and minority characters or both (Rocket and Bumblebee are both African American young women). The CW Shows have women and minorities on every show. And the women are not simply there as set dressing or to be rescued by the “male hero” – they are smart, educated, career-oriented women (reporter, scientist, computer expert), minorities have viable roles (engineer, army veteran), and Legends of Tomorrow has a balanced team of women and men with minorities on the team. Plus, you have to love a team of self-styled “screw-ups” who manage to be heroes, um, excuse me, Legends, anyway. The CW Network is doing a better job at this point of doing live action DC stories that Warner Brothers is doing with the films – though Suicide Squad was fun (though Arrow did a suicide squad storyline in it’s first or second season) and I have high hopes for Wonder Woman.

Felicity Smoak – Role Model for Modern Women and Girls

 

Felicty Smoak, the IT Girl on CW’s Arrow, is one of the most realistic portrayals of a woman who’s working in a traditionally male-dominated field, and the best portrayal of a “hacker”/IT Geek I’ve seen on television or in the popular media.

As a person, the fictional character of Felicity, is smart, nervous around the opposite sex, confident in her abilities, and talented.  She’s not perfect, but – unusual for the Super Hero / Comics genre – she’s not there simply to be rescued by Oliver Queen / The Arrow every week.

Unique to Felicity, unlike nearly every “Computer Geek” one sees on TV or in the movies – she isn’t entirely self-taught, and she doesn’t use her abilities like it was magic.  She has a college degree – from MIT, no less, one of the most difficult universities in the country to get in to and a university known for it’s rigorous curriculum.  You don’t party all the time and graduate from MIT – you just don’t.  I love that the writers and producers of Arrow gave Felicity a college degree.  In an era where having a university education is increasingly devalued, and even mocked – Arrow‘s heroine is college-educated.  I simply love that.  And she is a positive role-model for young girls that they can go to college or university, they can get an education, and they can succeed.

I also love that rather than using technology and computer science like magic (and ill-thought-out magic at that), in Arrow, Felicity explains what she’s doing.  Not only did she study computer science in school, but she went above and beyond and learned how to do additional things.  Felicity has practical skills alongside her education.  Yes, the way technology and Felicity’s skills are used to help Oliver sometimes bend credibility – but it is a superhero TV show.  I don’t expect the tech to be perfectly accurate.  But it’s nice to have the “techie” not be a geeky guy, nor someone who simply suddenly learned to hack for fun, but a beautiful, intelligent, young woman giving Oliver the advice and help he needs.  Oliver has few, if any, computer skills – Felicity backs him up with the skills she has.  Neither can do everything but they make for a good partnership.  John Diggle also helps, by providing not only military skills, knowledge, and experience – but often being the voice of reason between the three main characters.  If both Felicity and Diggle tell Oliver he’s wrong – he’ll re-think his plans.  And if Felicity criticizes Oliver – he will listen.

The other aspect of Felicity as hero is that what she does and who she is – is possible in the real world.  A young girl cannot grow-up to be Wonder Woman, or a Vampire Slayer, or any other super-human female hero.  A young girl cannot grow up to be Spiderman or Superman either.  And while it might be hard to study and get good grades and work hard to gain a scholarship to get into a university like MIT, it’s not impossible.  It’s difficult, yes, but not impossible.  And a young woman studying at MIT, make no mistake, is not going to find it easy to graduate either.  Top universities such as MIT have a rigorous curriculum, it is hard work.  No one gives you a college degree – you earn it.  University degrees are earned, step-by-step, day-by-day, class-by-class and there are no short cuts.  Not for a real degree. Later on in Arrow, Felicity remarks on how hard she worked simply to get a job in the IT department at Queen Consolidated.  And it is hard.  For women, a job in technology or science – any field dominated traditionally by men, it is incredibly hard to make it.  Women consistently also have to prove themselves and prove their abilities to others.  But it’s possible.  Which is why I think Felicity is a terrific heroine.  And why I think she’s one of the most inspirational women and role models for young girls.