ARROW 6.12 Review “All for Nothing”

Damnit, Anatoli!

This post contains spoilers for Arrow.
Check out our previous review here.

DCTV isn’t always the best at setting up convincing stakes. Arrow has admittedly done better than its counterparts (and often!), but even they have people coming back from the dead all willy-nilly alongside plots whose drama lasts maybe an episode or two. In the past they’ve neglected those solid, chest-clenching moments to make way for interpersonal drama and Oliver Queen’s stupidity. Season six certainly still has that interpersonal drama, but with Oliver being less of a moron, the show’s been given some opportunity to play.

“All For Nothing” is representative of what Arrow can do when it gets out of its own way. It’s also almost an acknowledgement of past mistakes. Gone are the days of all despair and no hope. We’re now to a point where they’ve found a balance between setting up stakes that actually matter while still weaving in some hope that things might actually turn out okay. If you managed to sit through seasons three and four of the show you know that things inevitably turn out alright, but there was no through-line to get them there. The formula back then was: despair, Felicity crying, Oliver yelling, more despair, Dig tossing in some sage advice, and then a miraculous finale with a functional Green Arrow that would last for perhaps an episode or two into the next season before he was back on his bullshit.

Oliver is still a dummy from time to time, but when faced with an impossible decision in “All For Nothing”, he makes the right one. Felicity and Curtis devise a plan to get the data from Cayden James’ servers and find the location of the bomb. Small problem: they need someone physically at the server to download the information, and Cayden’s already suspicious of Vince’s allegiance. All the same, Vince’s motive has always been justice, whether he was murdering people to get it or not. He agrees to get the data, and even manages to do so successfully, but he gets caught right before managing to escape.

Vince’s capture means OTA and the B Team have a decision to make: save the city or save the man who made saving the city possible. As mayor and protector of Star City, Oliver makes the call to send OTA after the bomb. As girlfriend and partner, Dinah makes the call to go after Vince with Curtis and Rene. Both are right to make the decisions they do, and both teams fail.

There’s agony in every direction in “All For Nothing”. Quentin Lance has to deal with the fact that Black Siren is never going to be his Laurel after she melts Vince’s brain with her canary cry, while Dinah has to watch her partner die for a second time. Meanwhile, Oliver hasn’t slept in days and the one chance he had to save his (now bankrupt) city has slipped through his fingers. And yet, with all of that, there’s hope.

Felicity and Alena are able to find more than just the location of the bomb in the information Vince transmitted back to the team. Hidden in the code is the video that was sent to Cayden James that led him to believe that the Green Arrow murdered his son, and there’s more. It turns out that the video has the same digital signature as the altered photo given to the FBI to implicate Oliver as the Green Arrow. Both of those things raise more questions than they do give answers, but they also mean that Vince’s death wasn’t for nothing.

Oliver goes to Dinah to check in and give her this news, but it turns out logic doesn’t matter after watching the person you love die for a second time. When Oliver brought Dinah onto the team he convinced her that there was another way to deal with her suffering. In turn, Dinah convinced Vince that he didn’t need to be a murderer to get the justice he was after. But his death convinced Black Canary that both she and Oliver were wrong.

Once again Arrow fakes us out with an angsty episode title, and once again I’ll give credit where credit’s due. There will always be missteps in shows, particularly ones with twenty-three episode runs, but this show seemed virtually unsalvageable back in season four. Since the premier of season five it has gradually pulled itself up by its bootstraps and headed in the right direction. Dinah’s decision to becoming a killer is going to either drive the wedge further between the two factions of Team Arrow, or it will bring all but her back together. We’ve got Roy Harper’s return on the horizon as well, serving as a desperately needed addition to the OTA side. There’s fallout in every direction of Star City, but the hackers have a direction and the heroes have a glint in their eye. Whether those glints are hope or murder is a completely different story.

If you had thoughts on the episode, you know what to do!