Enter: The Dragon! As Oliver goes about business as usual in Star City on his own for the first time in years, we take a trip into the mind of Star City’s newest Crime Lord—Ricardo Diaz.
Arrow – “The Dragon”, Season 6, Episode 18
Airdate: April 19th, 2018
Director: Gordon Verheul
Writer: Greg Berlanti & Marc Guggenheim
Based on the DC Comics Created by: Mort Weisinger & George Papp
What You Should Know:
Star City is in the iron grip of two-bit criminal, Ricardo Diaz, and Team Arrow has been fully dismantled. As Oliver tries to “get back to basics” as a solo hero, Diaz has higher aspirations.
What You’ll Find Out:
After being relegated to the periphery for most of the season, “The Dragon” finally gives viewers a near-entire episode devoted to the enigmatic villain, Ricardo Diaz. We see the cliché and tired backstory of an orphan child abused by the orphanage bully, burned, shunned, and humiliated. But thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. Through a series of events, the passion and drive necessary to go from a minor drug dealer to the crime lord of Star City are slowly revealed as Diaz’ persona is laid bare.
It is revealed that there is a national crime organization known as The Quadrant that oversees all of the major organized crime in the DCU US, and all Ricardo Diaz wants is a seat at the table. Well, not really. What Diaz seems to really want is validation for his sweat equity, for the security of power and respect to raise him from his lowly, fearful origins into a place of kings.
Diaz speaks about playing “the long game” frequently when advising patience to Black Siren, only to have it revealed that he is being played in a short-con by the Cartier family, a father and his lackey son affiliated with The Quadrant. The younger Cartier sends Diaz on errands in order to gain trust and “establish credentials”, only to eventually reveal that the Cartiers never brought Diaz’s proposal to The Quadrant, but instead planned to kill Diaz and seize his Star City network for themselves. When Diaz is eventually gunned down, however, the dangers of short sight emerge like a phoenix from the flame. Of course, Diaz was prepared for a betrayal and was equally prepared for a rebuttal. For Diaz, this operation is no spur of the moment idea. Years of planning have led to this very moment. A lifetime of planning.
Cartier Jr. is tortured for information, his goons dispatched by Diaz’ pet metahuman, and a location is established for a Quadrant meeting. Diaz shows a brutal and calculated ruthlessness in crashing the meeting, first dispatching the guards by wiring Cartier Jr. with a bomb and sending him inside. Upon approaching The Quadrant members, four well-dressed aristocrats sitting around a square table (an almost symmetrical counter-metaphor for those that draw comparisons between the Justice League and the Arthurian Knights of lore), Diaz was faced with the question, “what if we don’t have any open seats at the table?”, prompting Diaz to do what he has done his whole life—make a seat by shooting Cartier Sr. and taking it the only way he has ever known how.
After earning his seat at the table, Diaz sets out to slay his “Dragon,” in the form of burning his childhood tormentor to death. For all his calculations and callousness, preparations and planning, Diaz is not without a touch of madness, after all.
There is a minor side-plot in this episode revolving around Felicity and Curtis in which, Felicity, newly fired from Team Arrow, tries to throw herself into Helix work to avoid being constantly worried about Oliver’s safety when he is suited up. In the end, Oliver returns home safely and Felicity cries.
What Just Happened?
What we just witnessed is the counter to everything that has been wrong with this season that I was unable to put a finger on until just now. Arrow, by and large, has been about growth and personal development since day one. We have watched Oliver develop from a trust fund brat to a bonafide superhero, from a killer to a protector, from a loner to a family man. We have seen the same development for the majority of the supporting cast. This season, however, has been almost exclusively regression to the mean. Every character in Oliver’s circle have taken steps backward in their development or have stood still with no further development. At least they had done so until today when we saw an underdeveloped character in Diaz blossom on our screens into a fully, multifaceted character worthy of the terror that has been attributed to him through the words of others. By far, the best episode of the season, and coming to us in the 11th hour.
A few minor notes:
– It was not until seeing the episode title, “The Dragon”, that it registered with me that we were dealing with a version of Richard Dragon (whose father in the comics was named… you guessed it… Ricardo Diaz). Richard Dragon has a longer history in the greater DCU, but most recently he appeared in the New 52 Green Arrow comics as a crime lord that took over Seattle and was eventually taken down by Oliver during Jeff Lemire’s run on the series. Dragon’s motivation was having seen his father taken down in front of him by Oliver and Diggle as a child. Then Dragon trained with the League of Assassins and became a major thorn in Ollie’s side for a while.
– Black Siren also saw some nice development in this episode, although to a lesser degree. Her story has been stuck in a fog for quite some time, but with Diaz, she seems to shine as a character beyond the “Laurel but not Laurel” plot device.
Final Thought: I might be too high on this episode, but after months of disappointment, Arrow finally feels like a show with direction and a villain worth fearing again for the first time since the death of Prometheus.
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