This post contains spoilers for Arrow.
Check out last week's review here.
Creating an episode that revolves around the primary villain and still somehow manages to feel like filler is a feat, but that’s exactly what “The Dragon” does. Its intention is to help us empathize with and understand what led Ricardo Diaz to be the criminal mastermind he is today. While it does manage to accomplish sharing the facts, it doesn’t do it in an interesting enough way to keep things engaging.
The gist of Diaz’s arc in “The Dragon” is to get a seat at the table with The Quadrant. The Quadrant is a criminal organization that controls all of America. You can think of them as if the Luthors and the Falcones got together to take over the country and did so successfully but in an infinitely less interesting manner. They’re boring and dry with no backstory to make them intimidating, but Diaz thinks joining them is how he becomes less of a loser.
Diaz’ opinion of himself is one of the few things that adds some intrigue to the episode. All of his years out of the orphanage and he’s still trying to prove to himself that he’s worth something. Illustrating how he was treated as a child was Arrow’s way of showing that he was human once. Ricardo Diaz wasn’t born evil, he was made. There’s just one little problem with that narrative. Diaz isn’t a thug as he was described no less than seven times in the episode. He’s just another angry man with a bruised ego and something to prove.
“The Dragon” tried to do what Daredevil, despite all of its flaws, did with Wilson Fisk. You hate him, you know he’s a monster, but you’re granted just the slightest insight as to how he got that way. You see the pain and the sadness of the man underneath the wrath. You see him love and feel and otherwise function as a human being before he viciously murders your favorite character. There were glimmers of that in Diaz as he was explaining his methods and motives to Black Siren, but where Wilson Fisk evolved from his past, Ricardo Diaz remains controlled by it, rendering almost every point they tried to get across moot.
Despite the desperate attempts to add layers to Arrow’s primary villain, “The Dragon” does manage to add a little bit more intrigue to Earth 2’s Laurel Lance. Black Siren is a selfish, savage, relentless murderer, but it seems even she has her limits. We see her noticeably balk several times throughout the episode as Diaz is brutalizing his victims. Credit where it’s due: at least they’re giving a little justification for when she inevitably betrays Diaz for her father and Team Arrow.
Speaking of Team Arrow, they aren’t in this episode. That’s not just because the team has been dissolved because Oliver’s back on his bullshit, but because Oliver Queen is only in this episode for thirty seconds. Now, in those few seconds he manages to make another dumb promise and completely brush off his wife’s perfectly reasonable issues, so don’t you worry if you thought you were going to have to go a week without rolling your eyes at Ollie. He is nothing if not consistent.
Next week we’re apparently going to watch Diaz and Oliver have a boxing match for who gets to stay in Star City. Why? Who knows! Maybe they had to scrap a story and Stephen Amell missed fighting with the Bullet Club (this isn’t how TV works, this is a joke, stop your race to the comments section). Maybe they needed to fill another week! Or, hopefully, there’s more to what’s going on than what the teaser shares. You know what to do if you had thoughts on this week’s episode in the meantime!