Arrow season 6, episode 13 recap: The devil gets his due

Photo Credit: Arrow/The CW, Diyah Pera Image Acquired from CWTVPR
Photo Credit: Arrow/The CW, Diyah Pera Image Acquired from CWTVPR /

A new episode of Arrow brought the Cayden James arc to an uneven conclusion.

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After an eight-episode stint as Team Arrow’s latest Big Bad, Cayden James (Michael Emerson) was finally defeated in tonight’s episode.  And while not a Pyrrhic victory, this wasn’t one of Team Arrow’s cleaner wins. The city is out of danger and James is neutralized, but there are still a number loose ends left untied. And given the episode’s revelations about James’ past, there wasn’t much satisfaction to be derived from his downfall. Still, “The Devil’s Greatest Trick” did set up some interesting problems for the team to tackle or the rest of season 6.

This week’s episode began with Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Diggle (David Ramsey) breaking into one of Cayden James’ bases. But instead of apprehending/killing him, Oliver learned via Skype that James planned to destroy Star City with his thermobaric bomb. The show then flashed back to reveal that Cayden’s relationship with his son was strained. Like Oliver, he regularly put his mission above his responsibilities as a father.

In the present, Dinah (Juliana Harkavy) ignored the bomb threat to pursue Black Siren (Katie Cassidy). Oliver acquired proof that an assassin killed Cayden’s son.

Although I enjoyed learning more about Cayden James’ pre-super villain life, it really should’ve been presented before now. Michael Emerson is a great actor, but his character was all casual menace and no bite. This episode offered an explanation of why that was, but it didn’t retroactively make his bland characterization any more interesting. If Arrow had established James as being a more nuanced character before now, this episode would’ve had a lot more impact. With the story now complete, I can’t help but feel that Cayden James’ arc something of a misfire.

Photo Credit: Arrow/The CW, Diyah Pera Image Acquired from CWTVPR
Photo Credit: Arrow/The CW, Diyah Pera Image Acquired from CWTVPR /

“We almost have proof I didn’t kill your son”

Oliver showed James proof that someone in his group orchestrated his son’s death. Cayden told Oliver he’d spare the city if he rounded up his former allies for questioning. Oliver and Team Not Arrow narrowly prevented Dinah from killing Black Siren. Oliver captured Anatoli (David Nykl) and he denied manipulating James. William (Jack Moore) stupidly attended Oliver’s meeting with Cayden. In the past, James was arrested while attending one of his son’s basketball games. Black Siren told Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) that she would never be his daughter.

The frequency emitted by Cayden’s detonator deactivated a power dampener that was keeping Black Siren in check. Freed, Siren used her scream to incapacitate the heroes and the villains tried to escape. In the chaos, Dinah shot Black Siren in the stomach, but Quentin spirited her away. Oliver disarmed James before he could detonate the bomb.

Team Not Arrow reaffirmed that they were not rejoining. Cayden returned the money he extorted from the city and told Oliver he was done being a villain. Privately, Diaz (Kirka Acevedo) revealed to James that he engineered his son’s death and his war against Oliver to gain control of the city before killing him.

Even though Michael Emerson gave Cayden James a memorable swansong, the character’s actions really didn’t track in this episode. After spending a third of the season waging all-out war against Oliver, his suddenly giving up didn’t scan. I get that seeing Oliver and William interact was designed to reawaken his humanity, but this a man who was indiscriminately slaughtering people just last week. There was never any indication that he was a misguided but basically good man at heart. One episode worth of development just wasn’t enough to make him feel like a three-dimensional character.

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“Did it ever occur to you that I like who I am?”

As underwhelming as the conclusion of the Cayden James arc was, I am excited to see where Arrow goes next. Having perfectly executed his overly elaborate plan, Diaz has taken James’ place as the season’s Big Bad. The fact that he’s a career criminal and not an actual supervillain is intriguing. He’s not obsessed with killing or punishing Oliver and company, he just wants them off the board. I think that emotional distance makes him a lot more dangerous than some of the show’s past baddies. And I’d be willing to bet he didn’t pull off his big scheme alone so be interesting to see who he’s been secretly working with.

I’m also curious to see the inevitable confrontation between Team Arrow and Team Not Arrow. The next episode preview suggested that the two groups will come into conflict because someone on Dinah’s team crosses the line. Given her unstable behavior in this episode, I’m expecting that someone to be Dinah. My feeling is the two teams will come together sooner rather than later, but I’d be down if the rest of this season is Arrow: Civil War.

Next: Arrow season 6, episode 12 recap: A hero falls

Lastly, I’m both intrigued and anxious about where the Quentin/Black Siren storyline is going. Now that Quentin has effectively kidnapped his daughter’s doppelgänger, I can’t really feel sorry for him anymore. He crossed a major ethical line and I don’t know how we can come back from it. I’m also worried that Dinah will kill him for protecting Black Siren. That would definitely bring the heroes into conflict, but I like Paul Blackthorne so I don’t want his character to die.

Arrow airs on The CW Thursdays at 9 pm.