Arrow: Next of Kin

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It’s… an archer in the headlights?

Arrow continues their very different season six with “Next of Kin.” They’ve changed up several things for this season, and that usually smacks of desperation or the show-runners not knowing what to do. Instead, this is working for the most part. There are a few details I have issues with, which I’ll talk about later, but it’s at least an interesting spin on a show that’s been around a while now. There will be a few minor spoilers below. Be warned.

The opening voice-over is still Oliver, but he narrates that Green Arrow is now Diggle. Diggle and the team are still adjusting to that idea, as we see throughout the episode. In the opening sequence, they go after Faust the mad bomber, and Diggle has a pretty impressive stunt worked out with Black Canary. With minimal effort, they capture Faust, proving this is not the episode’s main villain. We also see that Diggle fights really, really well, but doesn’t fire a single arrow. I’m glad they’re not just having John miraculously becoming a skilled archer, although I’ve been wondering how they’re going to handle that.

The team debriefs back at the Lair. Diggle himself brings up the issue of Green Arrow now not shooting, so at least they’re not trying to sweep that under the rug. Diggle assures Dinah that his mysterious tremors are gone, and she grudgingly believes him, although she’s clearly not convinced entirely.

So what’s Oliver doing if he’s not putting on a hood and going after modern bad guys with medieval weaponry? Well, apparently he’s making breakfast for his son. I’m not really sure how much I want to see of Oliver as Mr. Mom. It’s not at all what I watch the show for. But it’s different, and it’s a change that makes sense. It’s nice to see the two of them aren’t continuing their utterly dysfunctional relationship from the first few episodes. William has some worries about actual normal kid stuff, and Oliver doesn’t really handle it that well. Then again, Oliver was never really a normal person, going from spoiled millionaire playboy to grim avenger of the night.

Not needing to come up with lame excuses, Oliver goes to work. He and Quentin find FBI agent Samanda Waston waiting for him. She’s all business and clearly not here to play games. For his part, Oliver looks amused. They spar about last night’s outing by Team Arrow and his alibi for it, and she makes a few cutting remarks before leaving. Quentin points out that some of her concerns have merit, and Oliver asks him to work on those.

Meanwhile at KORD Industries, comic book home of the Blue Beetle and source of all bad tech in the Arrow-verse, there’s yet another break in. The intruder is a woman who clearly enjoys her flashbombs, and she’s on the ruthless side. Dinah, in her improbable position as Lieutenant with the Star City Police, deals with the aftermath of the attack the next day. She also plants a device that lets Felicity and Curtis poke around in KORD’s databases from the Lair.

Oliver and Quentin discuss options for a new problem from Councilwoman Pollard. Quentin has a few good ideas, but Oliver shoots them down. Then he drops in on Felicity at the loft that’s changed hands almost as many times at the apartments on Friends. He barely manages to finish getting her advice about William when she rushes off to help the team, which is a bit weird for both of them. We do get another Big Belly Burger mention out of the visit. One of Felicity’s rejected company names, written on the board behind her and crossed out, is Oracle, the second nod to that computer oriented Bat-character on the series.

An hour later (according to the show) it’s suddenly dark. The sun must set fast in Star City. The team is trying to safeguard a shipment of KORD nerve gas, which leads to a really funny scene of Green Arrow in the cab with a now very nervous driver and guard. They get set up, the truck is stopped, and the team doesn’t handle themselves well. Part of that is John utterly freezing up in his role as Green Arrow and team leader. The bad guys get away with the bad gas. No one seems to even notice the poor driver and guard being killed.

Back at the Lair, Wild Dog rips into Green Diggle, and deservedly so. He really screwed up on this one. Black Canary plays referee among the team, as Felicity gets a lead on who they are dealing with. Facial recognition identifies the leader of the bad guys as “Onyx Adams.” In the comics, Onyx is a former member of League of Assassins who reforms and fights with the good guys, occasionally teaming up with both Batman and Green Arrow. I can see them not wanting to go back to the League of Assassins again on this show, but this was a really boring version of a character who’s kind of cool in the comics.

The team’s failure in the field spills over into Oliver’s job, and he deals with it strengthening Pollard’s position on the anti-vigilante bill. John and Dinah talk while she’s training in the Lair about his injuries and his failure in the field. Felicity unravels more of the mystery of Onyx’s method of operating. It seems like a bit of overkill and borderline obsession to use poison gas for what she does.

Oliver and William discuss the boy’s school problems, and Oliver still isn’t doing well on that front. Their chat gets interrupted by the doorbell (hey, at least it’s not someone kicking in the door or smashing through the window). It’s actually Rene, who is coming to Oliver about his concerns with John’s performance in the hood. Points to Rene for doing something besides just bitching about it.

Oliver drops by the Lair, and his order of errands may well show the new focus in his life. After he talks to Felicity about tutoring William (I can think of a few reasons Curtis might have been a better bet), he talks to John. It’s a big role reversal from many of their past talks, and at least both the characters and the writers acknowledge that. Oliver leaves Diggle with some really inspiring words. As this goes on, Onyx briefs her team, and they all agree that Team Arrow isn’t a threat. Based on what they saw, I don’t blame them for thinking so.

Felicity’s tutoring session goes well, and William apparently has the potential to be a math genius. You kind of have to wonder where those genes came from, as Felicity points out in her babbling, really needs an editor way. After a weird digression about Monte Cristo sandwiches, Felicity rushes off to help the team with their showdown.

After an awkward briefing scene, with Curtis taking Felicity’s job as designated babbler, they head out. Onyx is trying to kill a former teammate who left the team, and she’s using a small-scale Weapon of Mass Destruction to do it. With the showdown happening in a hotel, there are plenty of potential civilian casualties around. But fortunately, Mr. Terrific has gimmicked up some special goggles to counteract Onyx’s flashbomb toys. Diggle almost freezes again, but overcomes it and leads the team to a decisive victory.

Back at the Lair, they start a new tradition to celebrate victories, and the team makes up their differences over recent events. Felicity and Curtis even come up with a solution for the archery issue: a monster crossbow that fires like a rifle but uses actual arrows, not crossbow quarrels. That’s something, I guess. Diggle even mimics one of Oliver’s old training tricks that we haven’t seen since season one.

Oliver and Quentin take a big gamble to head off the anti-vigilante measure. It’s an interesting tactic that places a lot of faith in the people of Star City. FBI Agent Watson continues her anti-Oliver quest, and makes some notes on her big board that could be troubling. Oliver and Felicity take a step forward in their odd relationship. And the final scene has me both thinking it’s really badly written and screaming at one of the characters for doing something amazingly stupid. That’s going to become a major plot-point, I have no doubt at all.

What I liked: The show is daring to make changes, and I respect that. It’s also not random, “Hey, this’d be cool,” it’s stuff that comes from ongoing plots and, for the most part, makes some sense (see below for the counterpoints). William doesn’t take after Ollie much, but at least he’s not being the sullen annoyance he was at the start of season. Quentin is trying really hard to find ways to help the team. IMDB even moved the Green Arrow identity from Oliver to Diggle. Rene going to Oliver made a lot of sense, as did Oliver asking Felicity to tutor William.

What I didn’t: Essentially, Team Arrow is counting on everyone in Star City to be too PC to comment on Green Arrow going from white to black, and too weapon-ignorant to notice he’s switched from a longbow to a crossbow. Onyx is kind of a cool character in the comics, but really boring here. The show does tend to take some really cool characters and toss them aside as one shots with no potential, or just borrowing the names of known characters. The final scene is just breathtakingly stupid and I can’t believe that character is doing that. Why are they listing Willa Holland as Thea if she’s, at best, occasionally lying comatose in a bed, and was barely used last season, for that matter. I like that they moved the Green Arrow title on IMDB, but it’s not cool that the whole team gets their real name/code name listing except Felicity. If there was ever a time to bring Roy Harper back from his exile, this would be it. He at least has the right skin tone and knows how to fire a bow.

I like some of what they tried to do here, but the bads are outweighing the goods at this point. I’m lowering this one to a 2.5 out of 5. This is a mess, and some of it just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

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