Ricardo Diaz has been with Arrow since the beginning of season 6, first appearing in the episode that launched the Deathstroke two-parter. Yet, in all that time, Arrow hasn’t given its main villain much screen time. Mostly because half of Diaz’ villainous tenure was used as a red herring of him being a henchman for Cayden James.
In this episode, titled “The Dragon,” Arrow takes pains to correct that misstep by focusing almost entirely on Diaz, with a little side dish of Black Siren and Felicity added in. It’s an episode that probably should’ve happened sometime around the big Diaz twist. Still, it’s a sorely needed installment that finally makes Diaz worthy of his Big Bad status.
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Rags to Criminal Riches
Though the most sensible plot for this episode would be to explore Diaz building his empire in Star City, Arrow takes a very different route. “The Dragon” essentially boils down to a side quest for Diaz, whose accompanied by a very snarky Black Siren. Diaz and Black Siren head to Bludhaven because Diaz wants to join The Quadrant. This is the biggest mafia organization in the country. Yet we’ve never heard of them, which is only slightly more weird than Black Siren disguising her identity as Laurel Lance by wearing a black wig. (Apparently no one in Arrow has ever had a new cut and color.)
As weird and forced as The Quadrant is, Arrow does make them work to the best of their ability. True, Diaz’ attempts to get into the Quadrant are rather dull. It boils down to a series of fetch quests, where Diaz is constantly stonewalled. Plot-wise it’s all rather boring but Black Siren’s constant snarking in the background does spice things up. Yet, the bare bones plot is just a way to let Arrow viewers get to know Diaz and that’s something “The Dragon” does very well.
Diaz doesn’t have the most original beginning. He was raised a poor orphan and is abused by one of the older kids in the orphanage. Diaz has had to scrap and scrounge for every inch and he’s still isn’t respected. Even in the crime world, he’s seen a lowly thug. Diaz’ humble origins are why he’s interested in joining The Quadrant. They represent the high class criminal society and a way for Diaz to move up. As always, Kirk Acevedo does a terrific job playing the barely controlled rage of Diaz as he tries to join the Quadrant and is repeatedly told he’s not good enough.
Arrow is always at its best when the villains are given a parallel to Oliver. In “The Dragon,” the show finds that angle for Diaz. He’s the polar opposite of Oliver in many ways, he was raised penniless and parentless. Diaz had to work for everything he was given and, obviously, he takes great pleasure in mayhem and murder. Yet Diaz and Oliver share the very similar trait in that anger drives them both. At the same time, it also separates them. Diaz harnesses rage into patience and plotting whereas Oliver can be very reckless. Even though Oliver isn’t seen in “The Dragon” until the last couple scenes, Arrow does a great job of showing the differences between the two men.
Oliver’s Risky Promise
Of course, there is some small Star City story tacked onto “The Dragon.” It’s just very lame. Felicity and Curtis are working on their start-up which is, against all evidence to the contrary, still happening. Yet really, the whole thing is just an excuse for Felicity to worry about Oliver firing her and him being out on his own as the Green Arrow. Things get even more concerning when Felicity and Curtis see a news report that shows the Green Arrow being at the center of an explosion.
Emily Bett Rickards does a nice job playing Felicity’s desperation and despair about not knowing what’s going on with Oliver. However, Arrow obviously doesn’t kill off their main character, off-screen. Felicity rushes to their apartment and finds Oliver safe and sound. Oliver tries to calm Felicity and the interaction is a good example of how good the two can be when they’re handled correctly. Felicity has very legitimate concerns and Oliver is being too casual, but they still balance each other out.
In the end, Oliver does tell Felicity he will “always come back,” which is foreshadowing if I’ve ever heard it.
The Dragon is Born
Back with Diaz and Black Siren, the former finally gets fed up with being the Quadrant’s errand boy. He storms their HQ, using the son of one of the crime bosses as a living bomb. (More of this level of ruthlessness from Diaz, please.) Diaz and Black Siren fight their way through the mob’s labyrinthine halls, in some very cool action moments. Eventually, Diaz makes his way to where all the bosses are having their meeting.
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Diaz gives his pitch. “The Dragon” has been a series of monologues from the villain but this (penultimate) speech is one of his best. The word “chilling” has never been so apt to describe an Arrow villain and it’s never been so horrifyingly effective either. Diaz lacks the manic charm of Prometheus, Malcolm Merlyn or even Deathstroke, but he is scary. Diaz is also oddly magnetic as he offers the Quadrant, Star City on a platter. After Diaz kills one of their bosses, he’s offered a seat at their table. Diaz is in, but he isn’t done.
As his last act (and speech) of the episode, Diaz finds his childhood tormentor, Jesse. The years haven’t been kind to Jesse and Diaz is going to make things even worse. Diaz brings Jesse to the top of a building, introduces him to Black Siren and proceeds to taunt and threaten him. It becomes clear though that Jesse hardly remembers Diaz which is a really interesting way is to twist the knife for his character. Jesse is a huge part of Diaz’ history and identity but Diaz means less than nothing to Jesse.
Even if Jesse doesn’t know Diaz, Diaz doesn’t care. He pours lighter fluid all over Jesse and then sets him on fire. All of this happens while a noticeably disgusted Black Siren watches. Diaz might’ve gotten his revenge but he might’ve gone too far to keep Laurel’s loyalty. (If he ever had it.)
What do you think of the Diaz-centric episode? Did it finally solidified him as a villain or are you still not convinced? What about Black Siren? Will the burning of Jesse finally convince her that she’s working with a monster or was she always planning to betray Diaz? What do you make of Oliver’s promise to “always come back?”
Arrow season 6 airs Thursdays at 9/8c on The CW. Want more news? Like our Arrow Facebook page!
(Image courtesy of The CW)