History continues to repeat itself in interesting ways in Arrow’s penultimate season. In the flash-forward storyline, Future-Rene was involved in a very Undertaking/Genesis-like plot to blow up Star City. Now in tonight’s episode, Oliver finds himself going through what Diggle endured in season 4: realizing that your sibling is actually evil and possibly beyond the point of redemption.
At the top of the our, Oliver and Emiko are enjoying some quality brother-sister bonding time, which is code for “sparring.” However, their fun dynamic — Oliver reveals more about his past while she remains pretty guarded — gets disrupted when Laurel shares her suspicions about Emiko with Oliver later on. As we are reminded in this episode multiple times, Oliver has a blind-spot for family (remember how he doubted his mother’s involvement in the Undertaking?), so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he initially rejects Laurel’s accusations.
Of course, once that seed is planted, Oliver has no other option but to investigate. So, he tails Emiko and sees her infiltrate Palmer Tech with Dante. By the time he makes it inside, though, they’ve already departed with whatever it was they came for and blew up the lab. But this little trip wasn’t all for naught. Inside the lab, he finds a scientist who uses her dying to breath to warn him that the Ninth Circle needs to be stopped — which leads us into this week’s DC Comics explainer.
If the Ninth Circle doesn’t immediately ring any bells, that’s because the evil organization/bank is a very recent addition to the DC universe. Introduced in 2016’s Green Arrow: Rebirth #1 (written by Benjamin Percy, with art by Otto Schmidt), the Ninth Circle is comprised of corrupt executives from multinational corporations. In other words, they’re the perfect villain for comic book Oliver, who is a bleeding heart liberal. Furthermore, in the comics, Emiko’s mother Shado has ties to them, too. The show, however, goes in a different direction on this part. (ASIDE: It is incredibly on the nose for Arrow to name a member of the Ninth Circle “Dante” and I love it! END ASIDE)
After debriefing with the team (TL;DR: Rene doubts that Emiko is evil and Felicity comes to Laurel’s defense), Oliver decides to just confront Emiko directly. She tells him that Dante took her in and trained her after Robert Queen abandoned her and her mom all those years ago, and now she feels indebted to both the Ninth Circle and Dante. This is enough for Oliver to believe her, but he becomes more convinced after Dante tries to kill her when Team Arrow show up.
Of course, that little bit was all a show. Oliver eventually discovers a signal disruptor in the bunker, which shut down Felicity’s ARCHER system, and immediately realizes that Emiko was the one who put it there. The two come to blows in a stunning fight sequence that lands hard because Stephen Amell makes you feel how upset Oliver is over this betrayal. He thought he was building a bond with his sister, but it was all a lie.
NEXT: Another Ninth Circle twist
Writers Sarah Tarkoff and Elizabeth Kim’s script actually does a great job of digging into both Oliver and Emiko’s perspectives on this twist. Even after Emiko betrays them, Oliver remains committed to helping her find some redemption because he thinks this will be his chance to make up for his family abandoning her when she was younger. The fact that Oliver feels responsible for his family’s sins is very Oliver. However, the thing that separates this from similar stories from the past is that Amell makes it apparent that Oliver feels more level headed than before. He’s aware of his blind-spot for family, but he also knows that if there’s a shot at redeeming Emiko, he has to take it, which is very heroic of him. Furthermore, I liked the fact that the show acknowledged that we’ve been down this road before with Diggle’s brother Andy.
For Emiko, this episode uses flashbacks to reveal exactly what’s driving her to side with the Ninth Circle over her family. After training with Dante, who reminds her that family isn’t defined by blood, Emiko meets with Robert and pitches him on creating something called Queen Material Inc. While Robert loves her idea and points out that he wished Oliver shared her interest in the business, he says he can’t help her because Oliver is supposed to inherit Queen Consolidated and he’s worried about what would happen if people found out she was his daughter. This hurts Emiko, who already felt abandoned by him. As a form of retaliation, she decides not to warn him that Malcolm Merlyn is planning on blowing up the Queen’s Gambit after receiving a tip from the Ninth Circle. And just like that, we realize how much Robert’s abandonment affected her.
Eventually, Team Arrow tracks Emiko, Dante, and the Ninth Circle to an airplane hangar, which is their staging location for a plan to unleash eight sarin gas-carrying drones over Star City. When Team Arrow launches their attack, Dante activates the drones and flees the scene, leaving Emiko to care of things on her own. Even though Emiko rejects Oliver’s pleas to work with him again, it’s clear she’s not too far gone because she does spare Rene’s life.
In the wake of the semi-failed mission, the team discovers that there weren’t any casualties from the one drone they failed to stop because its target was an abandoned building. In other words, this was simply a weapon’s demonstration. For what? Who knows! All we do know is that Emiko is moving onto bigger and better things. It turns out that she’s actually the leader of the Ninth Circle (!!!), and at the end of the episode, she tells Dante they’re going to focus their attention on Felicity’s cutting edge surveillance program, which tracks DNA. Uh-oh, I can already guess where this is going…
Wall of Weird:
- Emiko’s last destructive act was to release surveillance photos that showed Laurel working with Ricardo Diaz, which turns up the heat on her simmering identity crisis.
- Felicity hires Kacey Rohl’s Alena at Smoak Technologies, and the two start working on improving the ARCHER program. Alena justifiably points out how creepy it is before signing on.
- Superhero Insider: Black Lightning ends as The Flash, Supergirl deal with new foes
- Arrow recap: Team Arrow rises in the revelatory and future-set ‘Star City 2040’
- Arrow recap: The team struggles to work with the SCPD