Team Arrow doesn’t have much to be thankful for this year.
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
You have to question The CW’s decision to air this episode tonight, both because it’s a major American holiday and because it makes for a pretty depressing way to spend the evening. But on the other hand, it’s not as if there’s any time to waste. Arrow needed to set a number of wheels in motion in order to set the stage for next week’s “Crisis on Earth-X” crossover. “Thanksgiving” managed to accomplish that goal while also doing a great deal to address Season 6’s biggest flaws.
Legends of Tomorrow aside, it’s been a strong week for the Arrowverse in general. The reasons seem pretty similar all around. Like Supergirl and The Flash before it, Arrow succeeded this week in delivering a more plot-driven episode that establishes a clearer conflict for the season as a whole. It says a lot that Ollie being arrested by the FBI was just the opening salvo in a night full of dark developments and character conflict. In the process, we now have a two-pronged conflict for Team Arrow to contend with. Ollie faces an imminent trial that could land him behind bars for life (if not put him on death row). And the team faces a resurgent threat from Cayden James, a man who seems to have a very personal grudge against the Green Arrow.
Admittedly, I’m still a bit mixed on James as the season’s main villain, and there’s a part of me that’s still hoping for something more from this conflict. Right now, the character largely works because of actor Michael Emerson. Emerson makes the most of a fairly one-note character, bringing the same quiet, studied menace to the part that served him so well in shows like Lost. But that doesn’t quite make up for James’ shortcomings. Even the attempts to flesh out James’ motivations fall pretty flat here. Haven’t we seen enough villains on Arrow who are motivated by a thirst for revenge over the death of a loved one?
Still, at least this episode established James and his group as a credible threat. He really played Team Arrow like a harp from Hell, tricking them into making themselves look like the villains and spurning a last-minute backlash to the vigilante referendum. I’m very interested to see how the outcome of that vote impacts the series. Saving the city becomes a much more difficult proposition when you have both metahuman villains and the cops gunning after you every night. No doubt there’s going to be an added sense of danger and urgency fueling Team Arrow’s missions once they return from Earth-X.
The real highlight of “Thanksgiving,” however, came with the long-awaited confrontation between Ollie and Diggle. From the moment we learned that Diggle has been relying on drugs to keep himself in fighting shape, it was a given that his tenure as the Green Arrow was going to be short. That all came to a head here as the two had an explosive confrontation in the hospital. Both Stephen Amell and David Ramsey were great in that dramatic scene (as well as the less emotionally charged followup). Their angry shouting match made the most of a relationship that’s had the opportunity to grow and evolve over the course of five years. Best of all, it was easy to connect with both sides of the fight. Ollie is right to feel betrayed and let down by the man he entrusted with a critical legacy, just as Diggle was right to accuse Ollie of ignoring the danger he put Diggle’s family in.
The events of this episode explain why Ollie is back in costume for the crossover. The question is whether his return to the Green Arrow role is permanent. As much as I don’t feel Diggle is cut out to be Green Arrow (especially after learning about his body’s fragile state this week), I’ve been enjoying the idea of Ollie trying to move on from what had been his defining purpose in life for five years. I don’t know that I necessarily want things to simply revert back to normal. Hopefully the writers still have ways of furthering that struggle. At the very least, it’s clear that Ollie will be dealing with the burden of lying to his son.
There were some other great bits of character drama this week alongside the Ollie/Diggle material. Dinah and Quentin had a nice moment as they both commiserated over the hardship of dead loved ones returning as evil, costumed killers. It was also interesting to see the Felicity/Curtis relationship take such a dark turn. Between unilaterally choosing their company’s name and earmarking their seed money for Ollie’s bail, Felicity has done a lot to earn Curtis’ wrath. I do think it would have helped if their startup struggles had received more attention leading up to now, thereby ensuring that this didn’t seem like such an abrupt shift for the two, but it’s a promising shift nonetheless.
Because of this episode, the general tone of Arrow seems about as dark as it’s ever been. It was a wise move, then, to end things on a lighter, more hopeful note by having Thea awaken from her coma. I can’t say I’ve actually missed her presence this season (Arrow has enough characters to juggle already), but “Thanksgiving” needed something to ensure that it was a complete downer. This plot twist did the trick.