Arrow recap: 'Spartan' serves Diggle family drama in the present and future
Tonight’s Arrow begins rather dramatically. On this very stormy night in Star City (The Good Fight is shaking right now), Green Arrow and Spartan interrupt an exchange between Virgil, a Ninth Circle agent with a very on-the-nose name, and some government leaker. As the rain pours down, Green Arrow and Spartan engage in a brutal and bone-crunching brawl with some hooded and faceless Ninth Circle goons. In the end, they manage to secure the A.R.G.U.S. drive that Virgil was after. Unfortunately, Virgil manages to flee the scene.
In terms of visceral excitement, nothing in “Spartan” comes close to matching that entertaining and atmospheric scene. But that’s fine because the Diggle-centric episode, which was written by Benjamin Raab and Deric A. Hughes, delivers on the emotional material, thanks to David Ramsey and guest-star Ernie Hudson’s great performances. Furthermore, even the flash-forwards continue their upward swing. Let’s dive in!
Following their alleyway fight, Team Arrow realizes that the hard-drive the Ninth Circle was after actually belongs to the Department of Defense, specifically the D.I.A. Coincidentally, Diggle knows a four-star general who works for the D.I.A. and might be able to help them: Hudson’s General Stewart. But General Stewart isn’t just anybody from Diggle’s past. He’s his estranged step-father, which is news to Oliver and the rest of the team because Diggle has never mentioned him before.
As we learn in the episode, Diggle doesn’t talk about him that often because he hates him. It turns out that General Stewart was his father’s commanding officer and, according to Diggle, left his father to die on a mission abroad. Six months after his death, the good general started coming around the Diggle home for dinner, eventually married his mother, and proceeded to put both John and Andy through rigorous training that was supposed to turn them into real soldiers. Needless to say, it doesn’t sound like General Stewart made Diggle’s childhood easy.
Unfortunately for Diggle, that disappointment continues in the present because Stewart says he can’t share any information with them. Well, he can’t until the Ninth Circle attacks Smoak Technologies and steals ARCHER from Felicity and Alena. After that happens (and the D.I.A. saves the women), Stewart becomes an open book with Team Arrow and reveals that the hard-drive contains the names of D.I.A. assets, which doesn’t do much to help his very frosty relationship with Diggle, who doesn’t trust him. What I found very interesting about this episode is how Stewart’s presence sends Diggle right back to behaving like a teenager. Even Oliver is surprised by the contempt Diggle has for this man and urges his brother to give Stewart chance because, you know, Oliver has a blind spot for family. Diggle’s wariness of Stewart is very reminiscent of how he treated Andy after he first found out he was alive.
Now that the Ninth Circle has ARCHER, they can track them down using their DNA and don’t even need the drive. So, the team heads out to check up on all of the assets. However, it turns out that this was just an elaborate plan to lure the general out because the Ninth Circle ends up kidnapping both Stewart and Diggle.
The Ninth Circle is the worst, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their opening move is torture. Dante breaks out the cattle prod and electrocutes both men until Stewart gives up the location of an experimental bioweapon that can essentially melt through anything. At first, Stewart resists the torture, but once Dante turns his attention to Diggle, he breaks and shares the information because he can’t bear to see his son hurt. Once Dante leaves, Stewart cleverly uses his shoelace to cut through their plastic cuffs and the two of them make their escape right as Team Arrow shows up to rescue them.
Once back at the bunker, Oliver shares some newly acquired information with Diggle: His father didn’t die a hero on the aforementioned mission. In reality, Diggle’s father died because of negligence and Stewart is the only reason they made it out of there. Alas, Diggle doesn’t have too much time to process that information because Felicity and Alena manage to track ARCHER, which leads them to the Ninth Circle and the location of this deadly bioweapon.
While Stewart hangs back at the bunker, Team Arrow heads out into the field to confront the Ninth Circle. One fancy hallway fight later, Oliver finds himself face to face with Emiko, who is making away with the weapon. She orders Dante to flee with the bioweapon while she stays behind to finish her brother. The ensuing fight is classic Arrow goodness and ends with Oliver pinning Emiko down and telling her Dante was responsible for her mother’s death. But before they can actually talk about it, Dante returns and saves Emiko. But don’t worry, we get some resolution: Emiko murders Dante, who uses his dying breath to reveal he killed her mother so that Emiko would give all of herself over to the Ninth Circle. Now, we’re left to wonder whether or not this will affect her loyalty to the evil organization.
The toxic nature of Emiko’s relationship to the Ninth Circle — a group which was responsible for her mother’s death but still calls itself her real family — is an interesting comparison with Diggle and Stewart’s repaired relationship. As the episode ends, Diggle apologizes to Stewart, who reveals he lied about the way Diggle’s father died because every son deserves to believe their father is a hero. That warms Diggle’s heart and the two men leave on good terms.
Unfortunately, the Diggle family drama doesn’t stop there. In the future timeline, we learn that Connor’s brother John Jr. is a member of the Deathstroke gang. Apparently, Deathstroke’s legacy endures in the future and inspires legions in the same way that the Joker’s does on Batman Beyond. Anyway, John Jr. bristled at his father’s high expectations and rebelled by joining the gang, which put him at odds with Connor, who works for good A.R.G.U.S. It turns out that Connor and John’s relationship is even worse than it appears because John tries (and fails) to have his brother killed in tonight’s episode. Hopefully, we’ll see Papa Diggle pop up in the future soon and learn what the hell happened to the Diggle family and how he and Felicity feel about Connor and Mia’s love connection.
The last thing about tonight’s episode that’s worth touching on is the Felicity of it all. After the Ninth Circle steals ARCHER, she realizes that her only option is to destroy it, which hurts her so much because she thought ARCHER was her way of making a difference outside of Team Arrow. “I love Team Arrow, but it is not enough. I need to do something separate that can still do good,” says Felicity in a moment that feels like the show is finally starting to prepare for her eventual departure. Unfortunately, in the wake of the mission, it seems as though she’s lost that opportunity because she decides to give up on ARCHER since it can be used for evil. As we know though, this won’t stop Galaxy One from getting their hands on it in the future and using it to create an army of ARCHER-programmed sentinel-like things.
Wall of Weird:
- Alena makes a copy of ARCHER’s root cope, which probably explains how the program survives in the future.
- Arrow namedropped Dr. Will Magnus in tonight’s episode. In DC Comics, he’s the creator of the Metal Men, a group of robots. On Arrow, he’s simply referred to as a robotics specialist who expresses some interest in buying Smoak Technologies and ARCHER before Felicity destroys it.