Arrow Shifting Allegiances Review
The CW‘s Arrow: Season 6, Episode 20: Shifting Allegiances dealt with major themes like honor, terror, and trauma as both heroes and villains revealed deeper weaknesses. Pacing issues aside, the emotional element was strong. This episode felt appropriately eerie, and more disturbing than the last.
In Shifting Allegiances, Oliver (Stephen Amell) wanted to use his own underground network through Anatoly (David Nykl) to get at Diaz (Kirk Acevedo). Instead, Anatoly turned on Oliver and remained elusive as to his allegiance. Was he with Bratva, or Diaz, or Oliver? Anatoly’s allegiance stayed murky till the end because he sides with strength of character, with honor. While Oliver’s character has been questioned all year long, Diaz made it clear that he lacked honor.
Almost all of the previous villains displayed a sense moral balance. They had a code. With Slade Wilson it was eye for an eye. Damien Darhk was all about order among chaos. Diaz on the other hand, brings a knife to a fist fight. He rose to the top of the underworld, yet he cannot rise to the level of character displayed by his enemies. Oliver and Anatoly exposed Diaz as a dishonorable opponent.
That is what Quadrant Captain Lydia Cassamento (Gina Ravera) meant in The Dragon episode. There, Diaz was overcoming victimhood. Shifting Allegiances showed that tormented Diaz has become the tormentor. He petted a clearly disgusted Laurel (Katie Cassidy) in front of Lance like she was his concubine. He toyed with Lance, making him worry over an consequential request. Diaz just wanted the mayor to be thoroughly fearful. He also enjoyed the fight with Oliver. Beating each other bloody was like exercise to Diaz, then he reneged on every part of the agreement that he proposed. The point is, Oliver is fighting a different animal – a wild one.
The fight scene between Oliver and Diaz was gritty and untamed. It told its own story. We watched a street fighter versus a trained assassin. Oliver was superior, but gave too much, while Diaz was scrappy and fought for every inch. You could see Oliver was thrown off his game. Also, let’s not forget, the knife.
Oliver may have been beaten, but Rene (Rick Gonzalez) was definitely broken in Shifting Allegiances. Rene struggled with PTSD in this episode. He could not function as a vigilante because he was genuinely afraid of dying. When Rene admitted his fear and incapability to his teammates, he showed a fundamental difference between he and Oliver as leaders.
Being introverted and stubborn, Oliver would die before admitting a weakness. Diggle (David Ramsey) would have to shame, beg and berate him into opening up about his fears. Whereas Rene volunteered his feelings to Diggle. Rene is naturally warm. The emotional maturity that Rene displayed should have given Diggle whiplash. See, Oliver, this whole sharing your feelings thing is easy.
In Shifting Allegiances, Diaz outed Laurel as his henchwoman, but that was not the disturbing part. With Laurel, everything she said to Lance in his office resembled speech by someone in an abusive relationship. She was genuinely terrified of Diaz in a way that paralyzed her. When she said “Do you think he gives anyone a choice?”, it was hair-raising. Earth One Laurel Lance was not afraid of bad guys. She made it her mission to face them and prosecute them. She was a warrior in the courtroom. This Laurel, however, is a servant, and submissive. Lance (Paul Blackthorne) said it: “You can bring walls crashing down… you’re afraid of thug like Diaz?”
Diaz is not mystical, but he showed that he is inhuman nonetheless. So, Laurel acquiesces to his demands, and stiffly endures humiliations just to survive the allegiance she chose, but cannot safely leave. In the scenes between Acevedo and Cassidy, the undercurrent of intimate terror was palpable. Meanwhile, the scenes between Cassidy and Blackthorne were powerfully played with earnestness. Plus, the characters are swimming in less pools of hypocrisy than before with Earth One Laurel, so, it works as we watch their allegiances shift toward each other.
As for the pacing issues, the episode bounced between hot and cold too quickly. There were suspenseful moments when we waited for people to show their choice. That was good, but at times there was an unnecessary injection of frenetic energy into purely conversational scenes in the bunker, or on the mission, or over cake. People were chewing through exposition like crazy. (I needed subtitles.) Also, why were Wild Dog and them practically yelling when they were supposed to be sneaking around in the warehouse trying to get the Scorpions? Learn to whisper people. Other than the pacing, the episode was a well-scripted, well-choreographed emotional roller coaster where it counted.
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