Airing in the US on The CW, Thursdays 9pm, No UK air date confirmed as yet
Writers: Sarah Tarkoff & Emilio Ortega Aldrich
Director: JJ Makaro
Essential Plot Points:
- Olly and Dig storm James’ hideout only to find he’s gone. James appears via a remote link and goes full Bond villain. He will detonate the thermobaric bomb above Star City at midnight.
- So that escalated. Just not as quickly as we would have liked it too.
- Back at the cave they’re still frantically working the video to try and find out who produced it. It’s going to be close.
- James briefs the remains of his team. He tells everyone to stay close to their phones and they’ll be airlifted out before the bomb detonates. We’re SURE this won’t end badly at all.
- And then…FLASHBACK! To 18 months ago at Helix. Cayden is happy, well adjusted, cheerfully fighting crime via his keyboard. He gets a call from his son and goes to pick him up.
- It turns out James missed a basketball game from his son. He’s separated from his wife, and there’s tension between him and his son due to James’ refusal to talk about his work. He swears he’ll be with his son the next night at the finals.
- Back in the present, Quentin and Thea are coordinating the search. Oliver calls Thea and tells her to assemble a list of essentiual personnel to bring to the Arrow Cave. They’ll figure out how to explain the Mayor has access to that…later.
- James’ associates, meanwhile, have figured out their airlift is late and make their own arrangements.
- On the streets, Dinah is beating the living hell out of every thug she can find to get information about Black Siren. Curtis and Rene arrive and fill her in; Felicity’s told them about the bomb and they’re going to help find it. Dinah tells them both she loves them and to back off. She wants Siren more than the city.
- In the Cave, Felicity and Elena finally decipher the footage and find the real face of the killer. Someone dressed as Olly, with a bow and arrow. They figure out the assassin is surely dead by now and locate James, making a run out of the city. They have no chance of catching him.
- But a friend does…
- FLASH CAMEO!
- Barry drops Dig and Olly in front of James’ car and confront him. They show him the footage and…James buys it. The footage was created by someone in his organization and that leaves Laurel, Diaz or Anatoly.
- So he tells Dig and Olly to round them up or he’ll blow the bomb anyway.
- At the Cave, Olly tells William the truth and heads out. They need Diaz, Black Siren and Anatoly.
- And to get them, they need Rene, Dinah and Curtis. Diggle makes the call, Curtis fills him in on Dinah’s plan and they realize they need to find her first.
- Black Siren is getting ready to get out of the city when Dinah finds her. They go AT IT and Dinah is close to bringing her down when Quentin shows up to protect Laurel. She puts him down, HARD only for Olly to immobilize both Laurel and Siren as the others show up.
- They fill Dinah in as Felicity gets the location of Diaz. Olly tasks Rene and Curtis to go get him, Quentin and Dinah to guard Black Siren and he and Dig will bring in Anatoly once they have the location. Olly calls James to beg for time and…
- Elena warns James to be careful as he’s heading out because Argus may have his scent…
- In the present, Curtis and Rene take down Diaz without breaking a sweat.
- Dinah secures Black Siren and Quentin, because he’s amazing, makes it clear he’ll defend Laurel from anyone and anything, even though he knows what she’s done.
- At the cave, William whines about where Oliver is. Thankfully, Felicity gets a location on Anatoly and we cut to…a rooftop! And terrible Russian dialogue!
- Olly confronts Anatoly and accuses him of setting up everything. They’ve got all of them and call James. Unseen, William overhears where the rendezvous is going to be and heads out. Because of course he does.
- William shows up at the rendezvous. He’s panicked and wants his dad. James tells Oliver its appropriate that he be here for the end, given that this started with James’ own son.
- FLASHBACK! To James watching the final and being arrested. He asks to be given a few moments to watch the game and is denied. He’s cuffed, put in a car and driven off.
- Dinah and Quentin bring Black Siren to the drop off. Siren tears Quentin apart, telling him that she likes who she is. But, interestingly, she also tells him this so she never has to find herself killing him…
- The team bring Diaz and Siren in. James rants and is about to detonate the bomb when Black Siren confesses.
- At the Cave, Felicity and Elena notice something odd happening with the frequency James’ detonator is pushing out.
- At the meet, James correctly spots that Laurel is lying. Felicity realizes the detonator is interfering with Laurel’s power suppressing collar. She tears it off, takes everyone down and escapes.
- The criminals scatter and the team go after them. Anatoly takes down Curtis and Rene, Dig goes toe to toe with Diaz and outside, round two of Black Canary vs Black Siren kicks off.
- Diaz gets away as Quentin finds Dinah beating the living hell out of Black Siren. He pulls a gun, Dinah takes it off him and shoots as Laurel screams and…
- The scream puts Dinah through the windshield of a nearby car, knocking her out. Laurel is shot in the chest. By her ‘father’s’ own gun.
- William grabs the detonator but James takes it from him. Oliver calls his son to him and hugs him as James explains how utterly he failed his own son. He realizes, at last, that the man responsible for everything he’s been seeking vengeance for is himself. Oliver takes the shot, knocks the detonator out of his hand and disarms him.
- It’s over.
- At the cave, Oliver has an actual genuine honest to God nice moment with William.
- He checks in with the team and it emerges that James is being walked into booking and all three of James’ partners are in the wind. Dinah is adamant they need to get Laurel first because she confessed. Rene, kindly, points out what only she can’t see; Laurel was pushing James’ buttons. She storms out, and Curtis and Rene reluctantly follow.
- The following day, Oliver visits James in prison. James hands over details of the account where the city’s money was held and best guesses on where the others have run to. He asks, in return, for a chance to visit his son’s grave. Olly agrees and as he leaves, James asks him to be a better father than he was.
- James, black bagged and in a freight container, is told by Argus that his son was murdered. They leave him, bereft, in the dark.
- Quentin gets into his car. Black Siren is bandaged and handcuffed in the back. He tells her that the hesitation she showed when killing Vince proves that there is a piece of his daughter in her. And he’s going to get it out…
- In the cell, James notices the camera turned off and…Diaz walks in. Diaz explains that everything has led to one thing, to one question;
- Why destroy a city, when you can take it over?
- He has city officials on his payroll and he has big plans. Planes that start with killing James, just like he killed his son.
So…this is an odd one.
The James plot is done, it’s down, it is out of here. We get a resolution on everything (well…see below), James permanently off the table and the reveal of the big main season villain. Plus Dinah, Quentin and Black Siren get a ton to do which is all pretty good.
But, by and large, this isn’t an episode that works.
The reason for that is a very definite choice that’s been made with the story arc. Namely, to have James be a character we deal with for the first half of the season, only to be revealed to be a front. That’s a smart technique usually, after all The Flash is doing the same thing from the other direction with DeVoe’s various bodies right now. However, here it plays as anti-climactic.
After 13 episodes, the big reveal we get on James is that he was duped and played in an almost inconceivably obtuse plan to destabilize the city for takeover. That’s a smart idea, and God knows Kirk Acevedo is a fantastic actor who is going to be a great adversary. But it feels muted. After spending a half season with James, his elaborate plan and frequently no sense of urgency whatsoever this conclusion manages to feel both rushed and unearned. We like the symmetry of it being about Olly and Cayden’s sons but the flashbacks feel weirdly perfunctory and the reveal on Diaz has none of the shock value they were aiming for There have been zero clues he was the mastermind here, and as a result no sense of vindication when the puzzle is solved. Instead we’re just told and the episode ends on the weirdly muted, undramatic murder of Cayden James.
It’s not helped by yet more terrible stock Russian mobster dialogue and the dread promise of Anatoly returning at some point. Worse still, outside the police, the vigilantes and the bad guys Star City remains empty. Compare this to the stadium fight just a few episodes ago and you can see just how strange it is. Worse, it renders the threat abstract. Cayden James’s threat to destroy Star City is basically him attacking a lot of empty offices, warehouse and parking lots with the occasional worried cop wandering past.
So, the episode fumbles the gear change pretty badly but the personal plots work far better. Even William being shoehorned in actually works surprisingly well and it’s nice to see Olly shift from normal voice to Arrow voice depending on if he’s talking to his son or his enemy.
Better still, Team Newbie continue to impress, especially Juliana Harkavy as Dinah. She and Katie Cassidy have the exact antagonistic chemistry Olly and James, and Olly and Diaz, lack and it makes both their fights spark with emotion. Plus Quentin’s choice to save his ‘daughter’ is a welcome payoff and escalation to the plot he’s been circling all season. Paul Blackthorne has been patiently waiting for a good plot for a while now and this looks to be it.
So, on a personal level this works. On an arc level it just works. Not a bad ending to the James plot but not the one it maybe needed. Still, the show tries for something unusual and while it misses, the effort is at least commendable.
- The transition from Cayden in the present to Cayden in the past is a lovely, graceful camera move.
- That is a HARD, crunchy fight between Black Siren and Black Canary that Olly and the others interrupt. Plus those arrow hits look very nasty. Top marks as ever to to the stunt team.
- The William plot! Kind of works!
- FLASH CAMEO!
- More Kirk Acevedo is always good news
- …Soooo…Olly and Dig wait a full night before raiding James’ hideout?
- ‘Next time I come to city I hope it is ash.’-Anatoly basically shouldn’t talk.
- William playing with an arrow.
- No one noticing that William sneaks out.
- Where’s the bomb? The colossal city killing bomb? The one it took MONTHS to assemble? The one that there is no mention of whatsoever at the end of the episode?
- ‘Ones and zeroes never lie.’ Oh Cayden. You poor sweet summer child.
- JJ Makaro has directed for Arrow and The Flash.
- Sarah Tarkoff has written for Arrow, where she’s the story editor, Freedom Fighters: The Ray and wrote Vixen: The Movie.
- Emilio Ortega Aldrich has written for Arrow and Freedom Fighters: The Ray.
- The episode’s title is derived from this line from classic neo noir The Usual Suspects: ‘The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.’
- ‘…Besides the other good reasons like KILLING IS BAD’
- ‘Why are you telling me this?’
‘Because I never want to find myself enjoying killing you.’
- ‘Dinah, we don’t just execute people.’
‘No. You just let them die.’
Review by Alasdair Stuart