In “Next of Kin” Arrow managed to balance Oliver’s completely vigilante-free storyline with all the conflict going on with Team Arrow. In this episode, entitled “Reversal,” Oliver might as well not be even be a character on the show anymore. Oliver’s still around, but despite giving pep talks he’s very much regulated to the background. Instead, the B Team (which are now more like the A Team) take center stage. While it definitely feels different, that uniqueness, like most of Arrow season 6 thus far, is to the episode’s benefit.
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A Double-Headed Villainous Blast from the Past
Instead of Diggle leading the charge, “Reversal” gives Felicity the reigns. It all starts with a very standard Arrow convention in the form of Oliver and Felicity’s romance getting called off for “work.” Felicity gets her date with Oliver interrupted twice. First, Felicity is distracted by the discovery of a body killed by Black Siren (one of many bodies the evil Laurel drops) and later, by the return of Helix’s Alena.
Alena informs Felicity that the man they freed in season 5, the former head of Helix, Cayden James, has gone full supervillain. Cayden has “changed” and he’s planning to do something that will reportedly kill millions of people. Felicity immediately rushes off with Alena to prevent this mysterious evil scheme from happening. Luckily, it just so happens to tie in directly to Black Siren’s recent murder spree.
It’s revealed in quick succession that Black Siren and Cayden James are working together. Cayden James is being played by everyone’s favorite evil, character actor, Michael Emerson, and the partnership is planning to take down the Internet. Evidently, Black Siren’s victims are the keepers of the keys to the Internet database. It’s this last piece of the puzzle that’s probably the least effective moment. It’s buried in a bunch of techno-speak that’s more than likely, highly inaccurate (and full of action movie cliches) but it works to build a standalone episode threat.
Most importantly though, the pairing of Katie Cassidy and Michael Emerson is downright perfect. Emerson’s Cayden isn’t a radically different character than every role he’s played since Ben Linus on Lost, but his creepy, soulless, evil mastermind routine is still so much fun to watch. Especially since it’s now paired with Katie Cassidy’s almost manically evil Black Siren. It’s everything you want in an Arrow villain; the intellectual threat and the bombastic action, split into two characters.
The “New” Overwatch
Black Siren and Cayden aren’t just morbidly amusing, they’re effective too. It takes an all-hands-on-deck approach from Team Arrow and Felicity to take them down. (Alena is incapacitated rather quickly in the first real fight.) The fight scenes with Black Siren continue to be far better than they have a right to be considering it involves a skinny woman swaggering and screeching. Black Siren is just as pleasurable to watch brawling with Diggle’s Green Arrow as she was with Oliver. Also, the point where I get tired of watching Black Siren and Black Canary battle is when I’ve died or have become dead inside.
The real shining point of “Reversal” is how Arrow manages to spice up the typical and rather rote (at this point) scenes of Felicity hacking. Felicity looking concentrated in front of a computer just doesn’t make for exciting TV and since she’s leading the episode, Arrow can only cut back to Black Siren and Black Canary fighting so many times. So while Felicity is in the field, trying to stop Cayden’s “break the internet” scheme, Oliver goes into the bunker and plays at Overwatch.
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Felicity and the team end up reaching the database for all the internet, while Oliver offers support over Felicity’s headset. The episode’s namesake is, in fact, very literal and refers to Felicity and Oliver switching roles. Felicity is the field agent and Oliver is the moral support. While it’s not something the show can keep for long, it’s pretty fun and effective for this single episode. Once again, Arrow gets to show off the more mature and measured side of Oliver as he coaches a frazzled Felicity to victory as she shuts down Cayden’s plan … kind of. At least, Felicity thinks she has succeeded.
It turns out that Cayden never really wanted the Internet to be shut down. He just wanted the firewall on the database to be broken so he could plant some nefarious device in the mainframe. It’s a lot more of Arrow‘s incomprehensible technobabble, but the point is that Cayden got what he wanted and neither Felicity or Team Arrow is in any way the wiser.
Prometheus set a very high bar in the villain department. Yet, even though he’s a very different character and won’t be the only baddie this season, Michael Emerson’s Cayden James is already making an impressive play for that Arrow villain crown.
Speaking of which one of the former owners of the crown, Slade Wilson, makes an “appearance” at the end of the episode. While Oliver and Felicity are celebrating her (hollow) victory, Oliver gets a call. Oliver answers it and tells them he’s on his way. Oliver tells Felicity that it was Slade Wilson. Slade’s found his son and he needs Oliver’s help.
Arrow season 6 has had many good cliffhangers. The tease of an Oliver and Deathstroke’s mission abroad is certainly the best one yet for this year and possibly of the series overall.
Are you excited for the team-up? How did you feel about Cayden James as a villain? Do you like how much time the supporting cast is getting to shine? Do you miss Oliver too much?
Arrow season 6 airs Thursdays at 9/8c on The CW. Want more news? Like our Arrow Facebook page!
(Image courtesy of The CW)