Arrow's back! And it delivers an episode full of what makes this show great while still having supposedly smart characters do stupid things for plot reasons.
Okay, so with all the hype leading up to this episode I expected something a little bit more... explosive. And while the episode did have a lot of that I'm still a bit underwhelmed. I'm guessing I'm not going to mind that so much on a rewatch, and really, on a Dig centric episode I should have expected that. He's the straight man, Oliver's the drama queen.
The emotional journeys the characters have are solid, especially Dig. Seriously, every scene with Dig and Layla was absolutely amazing. The chemistry is great and I'm completely buying the "old married couple." I'm glad we got some flashbacks from Diggle's point of view, even if their Afghanistan looked a lot more like every other offworld planet from Stargate. (With bonus Ben Browder!) In one episode they managed to set up, explore and get us to invest in the Dig/Layla story. And yet how can it work when Layla has so few qualms about "the end justifies the means."
I was mostly underwhelmed by the Suicide Squad, probably because they were seriously underused. We've met and enjoyed all of these characters before and it feels like they didn't get a chance to shine except for Lawton. It was a surprise to get so much nuance for him, and a sense that despite being a contract killer he does have a sense of honour. When he told Oliver they're similar all the way back in season 1, maybe he wasn't so wrong. (They're more dissimilar now because Oliver's changed.)
One of the things I like best about Arrow is talking frankly about moral ambiguity and letting the good guys lose while not making their villains gleeful evil caricatures. And this episode was full of that: Dig was forced to participate in a lot of "end justifies the means" and we didn't get an ending that proved him absolutely right. Waller does bad things for good endings, and Layla has very few qualms about that.
On the SC side of things I'm glad Oliver was allowed to emote beyond anger and usually presented calm. Glad that Sara didn't let him get away with that shit. And how cute are Felicity and Dig together? I want an episode where they do all the world-saving!
Unfortunately there's a lot of characters doing dumb things because plot, really. Amanda Waller get several of these: bringing together a squad of criminals to do your dirtiest missions? Brilliant! Having a way to control them? Even better. But why would you specifically design your mission in order to get most of them killed? I mean they managed to sneak in Lawton's fancy handgun and they couldn't manage an actual GPS tracker? I mean you probably don't come by a guy with his skillset that often. It's fine that he's expendable in case things go wrong, but that was dumb and felt a bit like drama for the sake of drama. And then she's shocked that the guy with a mask that looks suspiciously a lot like Slade's but without an eye, using Slade's old handle and leaving a trail of bodies to Starling City actually is Slade Wilson? Come on!
Then Oliver: breaking up with his highly trained assassin girlfriend to protect her from his superspy enemy because the crazy guy with the vendetta would totally think he doesn't care at all anymore (ugh, this trope needs to just die die die - looking at you, Farscape), burning his Bratva contacts and thinking he can do this all alone again (let's not undo character development, writers, please!) and possibly just not noticing that Dig took a trip. Do they really expect us to believe Felicity "please save Oliver" Smoak would not call Sara and Roy anyway? And Laurel hanging out in a bar on the regular after like 3 weeks of being sober? Not fond of the plot anvil of Oliver and Waller knowing each other for a long time either.
And it feels like the writers are trying to sell us on the Oliver/Sara relationship a little too hard. I can't tell if that's because she's sticking around long-term or because she's gonna bite it by the end of the season. Either way their chemistry doesn't really work for me in a romantic way.
Next week: Birds of Prey! Helena's one of the most fun recurring characters, I can't wait to see what kind of crazy she brings this time!