Oliver is almost nowhere to be found in tonight’s episode, “The Dragon.” Instead, the episode’s titular villain takes center stage in an hour that’s supposed to flesh him out a bit and get us to care about his villainy. I’m not entirely sure if the episode succeeds in that regard because, at the end of the day, the main point of it is to also introduce a new evil criminal organization for the final stretch of episodes.
“The Dragon” begins by flashing back to Ricardo Diaz’s time in an orphanage 32 years ago where an older kid bullied him and made him feel like a loser. As you expect, this gave Diaz quite the complex, which still resonates 32 years later. He calls the fear that he lives with the Dragon, and he’s determined to conquer it no matter what because he never wants to feel powerless. So in the present, he’s fighting for respect and power by taking a trip to Blüdhaven with Laurel in order to pitch himself to the Quadrant, a massive criminal enterprise that controls all of the crime in the country. He hopes crippling and seizing control of Star City will fulfill the price of admission. He’s wrong.
Diaz and Laurel meet with the greasy Eric Cartier, the son of one of the heads of the Quadrant who forces Diaz to audition before even granting him a meeting with his father. Not only does Diaz have to figure out where the feds are keeping one of the Quadrant’s men, but he also has to break into said safe-house to find him. Even though Diaz explains why he wants to join the Quadrant, Laurel doesn’t get it because they’re treating him like a dog and making his do tricks for it. I will say I loved Katie Cassidy’s performance throughout the entire episode. Her apathy for Diaz’s quest was great; however, the show still hasn’t explained why she’s so loyal to Diaz and this episode doesn’t explain that either.
In a very predictable turn of events, Eric Cartier kills the Quadrant’s goon and tries to kill Diaz; Mr. Cartier thinks Diaz is nothing more than a “street thug,” a phrase both he and his son repeat many times in the episode. Thankfully, Diaz was wearing a vest and survives the attempt on his life.
As the prophet Aaliyah once said, “If at first you don’t succeed, brush yourself off and try again.” And that’s exactly what Diaz does, ignoring Laurel’s suggestion that he abandon this foolhardy attempt at joining the Quadrant. So Diaz does the predictable thing and attacks Eric’s hideout, tortures him, and lectures him about he doesn’t know what it means to fight for survival. If it wasn’t clear already, Diaz is still very much driven by the trauma he suffered as a child, but his hang up is so severe that even Laurel seems concerned as she watches him beat Eric to a pulp. (Next: Fiery revenge)
Continuing down a very predictable path, Diaz uses Eric to attack the Quadrant’s meeting, where he comes face-to-face with the four heads of the family (Eric previously referred to the Quadrant as a family). Even though Mr. Carter has no interest in hearing Diaz’s pitch to join the Quadrant since he just killed his son, the black woman at the table gives Diaz a minute to say his piece. And Diaz uses that minute to repeat what he’s been saying the entire episode about how Star City is open for business. By the end of it, Mr. Carter is far from impressed and starts calling Diaz names, specifically “street thug” and “loser.” That pushes the Star City crime lord over the edge and he kills Mr. Carter, opening up a seat at the table in the process. Although his methods are a bit uncouth, the black woman who allowed him to speak grants him Mr. Carter’s vacant seat.
However, Diaz won’t be satisfied. As the episode ends, he visits the guy who bullied him when he was an orphan and sets him on fire. Thus, he has slayed the one responsible for creating the Dragon in the first place. This needlessly vengeful move worries Laurel, and you get the sense that she’s starting to wonder if she made the right decision by hooking up with Diaz professionally and romantically. From our point of view, whatever sympathy we were supposed to feel for Diaz is obliterated as this latest murder reminds us he’s just a monster.
Meanwhile, Felicity, who was fired from Team Arrow last week, doubles down on Helix in order to distract herself from how worried she is about Oliver in the field on his own. On the one hand, this leads her and Curtis to bury the hatchet and start working together again, but on the other hand, this plan doesn’t work because she can’t escape how scared and powerless she feels. Emily Bett Rickards gave a heartbreaking performance, especially when Felicity thinks Oliver died in an explosion while out in the field.
Obviously, Oliver didn’t die, as Felicity discovers when she rushes back to his apartment to see if he’s there. Oliver selfishly ignores her concerns about him being out there alone and makes her the same promise he made William: He’ll always come home. Unlike Diaz, Felicity isn’t able to kill her dragon (a.k.a. conquer her fear) and must instead sit uneasily with it as Oliver, well, is Oliver.