NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Arrow”, including a major character death, are present in this review
Arrow’s themes of family drama continue to stay strong in, “Spartan”, which shifts the focus away from the Queen family and the Black Canary family, and instead spotlights Diggle and his own surprising family connection. The title of the episode really says it all here, as Diggle is forced to reach out to his stepfather, a U.S. Army general that now works for the DIA, in order to try and allow Team Arrow to stay one step ahead of the Ninth Circle. This also coincides with Felicity losing Archer to the Ninth Circle, forcing her to re-evaluate her legacy, and the actual implications that her creation will hold for the world at large.
Arrow’s really been hitting a superb high note over its past few episodes, and that high note was sustained here, with, “Spartan” once again being another fantastic episode for the show! DC fans will also get tickled by the introduction of Ernie Hudson as Diggle’s stepfather, General Roy Stewart. Hudson really makes this great guest role count, playing beautifully off of David Ramsey, who also delivers a highlight performance as Diggle in this episode. Not only that, but Diggle having a stepfather named, “Roy Stewart” also continues to nicely reference the growing likelihood that Diggle is, in reality, the Arrowverse’s version of John Stewart, one of the most iconic Green Lantern characters from DC Comics lore! Since this past Winter’s Elseworlds crossover event seemingly confirmed that Diggle is a Green Lantern on Earth-90 at the very least, it’s very cool to see the Arrowverse continuing to tease an upcoming Green Lantern connection, even if we’re seemingly no closer to seeing an actual member of the Green Lantern Corps. appear in the Arrowverse anytime soon.
Outside of the enjoyable Easter eggs though, Diggle nonetheless steals the episode on his own merits as well. Forced to admit his own difficult family connection to Oliver and the team, Diggle must try to sort out his family drama, while Team Arrow frantically searches for a lead on the Ninth Circle’s next move. Making matters worse is the fact that the episode begins with Virgil stealing the Archer prototype from Felicity and Alena, giving Emiko and the Ninth Circle everything they need to start tracking down a series of DIA assets, in order to secure a bio-weapon that can eat through anything. After Oliver, Rene and Dinah secure the supposedly targeted asset, a ruse leads to Diggle and General Stewart being captured instead, where they’re interrogated and tortured, before Stewart gives up the security codes for the bio-weapon, in order to save Diggle’s life.
Diggle’s latest emotional challenge keeps paying dividends throughout this episode, as his opinion on Stewart is constantly forced to shift. At the start, Diggle believes Stewart is a hypocritical, self-righteous hard-ass who doesn’t truly care about his family. Over time however, the combined appeals of both Oliver and Stewart lead to Diggle coming to realize that Stewart always cared about him more than he believed, and that the tale of military heroism that Diggle believed about his birth father was actually a lie. Upon the revelation that Stewart allowed Diggle to believe that his father was a hero, so he could become one himself, the two finally make peace, in a beautifully earned dramatic moment towards the end of the episode. Emiko and the Ninth Circle get away with their sought-after weapon, which is yet another loss for Team Arrow, but at least Diggle gets to mend a strained family connection, giving him a rewarding new character evolution, just in time for Arrow to begin approaching its final season.
Felicity also got a pretty solid story arc in this episode, as she tries and fails to defend Archer from the Ninth Circle. Despite Felicity doing what’s necessary to track down her technology, and allowing Team Arrow to try and repel the Ninth Circle from the bio-weapon they seek (even if they fail), Felicity is nonetheless eventually faced with a fateful choice; Allow the Ninth Circle to get away with Archer, and try to salvage it later, or destroy everything that she’s worked for, in order to save lives in the short term. Naturally, Felicity chooses to remotely delete Archer, after Team Arrow sets up some signal boosters to make that happen, even if this doesn’t make much of a difference with the Ninth Circle at this point, since they’ve already claimed the weapon that they were seeking. This is an interesting curveball, since Archer is obviously a clear and present danger throughout the flash-forward storyline. The fact that Alena saves the root code for Archer however may suggest that she’s actually the catalyst to Archer eventually ending up in the hands of Galaxy One, rather than Felicity herself. It would be especially interesting if Felicity’s biggest mistake with Smoak Technologies isn’t necessarily creating Archer, but allowing Alena onto her payroll.
Regarding the flash-forward storyline here, it’s once again a frustrating weak link in an otherwise superb Arrow episode, once again failing to really make the most of a lot of its story ideas. Nonetheless, after the resistance becomes occupied with trying to prevent Galaxy One from enacting their latest plan to destroy Star City, Mia decides to try and go to the market for a power module necessary to repair a super-soldier helmet, after Felicity has trouble hacking into the helmet that Mia procured with Laurel during the previous episode’s flash-forwards. Connor accompanies Mia as backup, revealing that his adopted brother, John Jr. is actually the leader of the Deathstroke Gang, and that he can use that connection to get the necessary module. The flash-forwards in this episode seemingly entirely exist to continue retconning the potential future for Star City that was formerly glimpsed during Legends of Tomorrow, where Oliver is apparently still going strong as the Green Arrow (albeit with a missing arm), and John Jr. is Connor Hawke. The Deathstroke Gang also existed in that future, though they were led by Slade Wilson’s son, Grant Wilson in that case. Could that future still also come to pass? Either way, it’d be nice if we can get some more interesting flash-forwards again.
Even if the flash-forwards continue to lag behind every other story development however, “Spartan” is still an awesome Arrow episode overall, providing a standout Diggle storyline, while also nicely furthering the plot of the Ninth Circle. It would appear that Emiko is indeed being positioned as the season’s big arch-villain now too, after Oliver reveals to her that Dante was the one behind her mother’s death, yet still fails to bring her back to the heroes’ side in doing so. Instead, Emiko simply responds by murdering Dante with her arrows, after getting everything she needs to keep working towards the Ninth Circle’s ultimate plan. With Dante out of the picture, Emiko truly is the head of the snake now, meaning that Oliver and Team Arrow seemingly have no other way to bring down the Ninth Circle now, beyond taking Emiko down with them. Even if Archer is neutralized (for now), Emiko’s plans show no sign of slowing down either, leaving the Ninth Circle more dangerous than ever, even after one of their greatest masterminds has finally met his end.
- Diggle confronting and mending his relationship with his stepfather
- Oliver's latest appeal to Emiko only making her more dangerous
- Felicity doing the difficult thing and remotely destroying Archer
- More tedious, unrewarding flash-forwards