Arrow, Season 6, Episode 23, “Life Sentence”
If there was ever a season that needed to tie off the story it was telling instead of making a bigger mess, it was this season of Arrow. Part of the hope was that the Diaz story (and to a lesser degree the Black Siren plot) would be finished off, and everyone could start anew next season. Instead, we got everything we didn’t want, and in a hastily assembled package. Here’s everything you need to know about the latest episode of Arrow:
What’s the scoop: The FBI and the vigilantes team up to take Diaz, once and for all. They storm the Star City PD stronghold in a powerful opening, with elements of New Team Arrow, Original Team Arrow, and the feds working in concert to retake the building filled with henchmen and crooked cops. The raid cuts off Diaz at the knees; the only problem is that Diaz is nowhere to be found, so the hunt for the dragon is on.
Meanwhile in B-plot land: Detective Captain Deputy Mayor Mayor Lance must authorize the FBI to operate with impunity to take out Diaz. Of course Diaz knows this, and he plans to use Lance’s not-daughter as a bargaining chip. He phones Lance and tells him if he kicks the FBI out of town, Diaz will let Black Siren go. The FBI wants Lance to ask for proof of life, and they will nab Diaz when he comes into the open, or will track Lance when he’s taken to where not-Laurel is being held (evidently none of these people -– Diaz included –- have heard of smartphones and live streaming. My elderly mother can FaceTime, so you’d think a criminal “mastermind” like Diaz can handle it). Lance goes off script, but not before he tells Ollie he has a pacemaker, so the good guys can track him (unless Lance has a Wi-fi enabled pacemaker it would seem difficult to pinpoint his unit in a city where surely hundreds of people have pacemakers). He gets roughed up and taken to Laurel. As the good guys come crashing in, Diaz tries to shoot not-Laurel, and Lance takes the bullet to the gut.
Sex and the Olicity: Felicity has long been the audience’s avatar in the Arrowverse, and it’s still fun to hear viewers’ thoughts come out of Felicity’s mouth, like when she asked Ollie what his Apology Tour 2018 was all about. Ollie was uncharacteristically nice to everyone (except poor Curtis, who didn’t get an apology, despite the fact that following Ollie pretty much ended Curtis’ marriage). Diggle was offered his own green suit, while Rene and Dinah got complements and apologies for the sacrifices they’ve made on Ollie’s behalf. Emily Bett-Rickards dialed up in these scenes, after the true scope of Ollie’s plans are revealed. It was heartbreaking to watch Felicity so overwhelmed by the situation, but that was exactly the point.
What about the action: Let’s take time out to talk about sloppy directing, here. The action sequences themselves were well-executed; they weren’t the problem. The bulk of this episode took place in the space of a few hours, so Team Arrow’s ability to get in and out of masks and makeup in mere minutes was distracting. Right from the jump, the smoke hadn’t cleared from the initial raid and everybody was not only out of their masks, but had taken off their greasepaint as well (It makes you imagine if the cameras rolled a little longer after the “Clear!” sequence, the members of Team Arrow all rush into the bathroom to wash their faces). Curtis was especially noticeable, because he uses more paint than anyone, and changes his hair. They went back and forth from the base to the field several times, making the series of sudden transformations distracting and laughable, especially when Curtis interrupted a tender Olicity moment to say everyone was ready to go (when it was clear he still had at least an hour of hair and makeup ahead of him).
The big battle was solid, but had its inexplicable moments. If there was ever a time for the return of the boxing glove Arrow, it was when Diaz dared Ollie to shoot him. It would have made all the lame setup during the back half of the season worth it, if Diaz made his dare, and Ollie hit him in the face with a boxing glove projectile that knocked him out and down the stairs. Instead, we got a chase and a martial arts battle in the drizzle, and Black Siren attempting to finish off Diaz, but only managing to knock him safely into the water, instead. Laurel — from any alternate universe — is still the worst.
The episode ends on a number of dark notes. Diaz is on the loose. Part of Oliver’s deal to get immunity for his teammates is that he go to prison for his vigilante activities (I guess this means he wins the ‘I want to be alone’ battle with Felicity?). And Arrow brought back Sara Lance long enough for her to be in the Hospital Hallway of Bad News, to find out Quentin Lance died on the operating table.
What’s next: See you this fall for more of the same! Womp, womp. Maybe we’ll meet the Longbow Hunters, who were introduced in passing, mentioned once and never acknowledged again.
Last impressions: So it feels like Oliver’s incarceration can go one of two ways. Either this is all part of a ruse that the FBI and Ollie have dreamed up to bring Diaz into the open and we’ll resolve it all in the Season 7 premiere, or this is a convenient device to put the star of your show into the background while he’s away shooting the recently announced crossover.
There were some odd choices made as well. Among the few things we know about Diaz is that he is willing to play the long game. He has plans within plans. He built a criminal empire just so he could prove to his childhood bully that Diaz made something of himself (and burn him alive). The last two episodes, Diaz has suffered a few setbacks that have turned him into an impulsive rage monster, complete with flying spittle and bulging face veins.
In the end, this episode was the perfect encapsulation of this uneven season of Arrow: A couple of highlight-worthy moments (the action sequences, Ollie’s apology tour) floating in a swamp of bad decisions, and inconsistent plotting. Thankfully there are some changes happening behind the scenes on Arrow for next year and maybe that new staff can get the show out of the frustrating corner it has painted itself into.