Arrow‘s sixth season has been interestingly uneven and messy so far, but the one consistently good thing about it has been Michael Emerson’s performance as Cayden James. In the beginning, it was easy to just to say Emerson was doing the same thing he always does — playing a cold, reserved brainiac. But as the season has worn on, it’s been clear that isn’t the case. As Cayden, Emerson is bloody terrifying and has brought a tremendous amount of emotion to Cayden’s rather unoriginal quest for revenge. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. In tonight’s episode, we had to bid this tremendously talented actor goodbye.
In an attempt to build to Emerson’s curtain call, “The Devil’s Greatest Trick” features flashbacks to the time before Cayden went full supervillain. While the flashbacks aren’t the strongest (part of me wishes the show would just abandon the gimmick entirely since none of the ones this season have been particularly effective), it does give Emerson a chance to play a different, softer side of Cayden. Eighteen months ago, Cayden was simply a hacktivist who sucked at being a father. Unfortunately, right as he was trying to get his act together for his son, he was arrested, and it fell on his captors to inform him of his son’s murder. Emerson played Cayden’s heartbreak perfectly, and these flashbacks at least recast Cayden’s whole crusade in a new light. Going after Oliver and the city is his attempt at making up for his failures when Owen was alive.
Needless to say, the flashbacks made it clear that Cayden isn’t long for this world, but it takes some time getting to that point. When the episode begins, Cayden vows to detonate the thermobaric bomb above Star City at midnight because Oliver broke their deal when he teamed-up with Sobel. This means Team Arrow has to race against the clock to find proof that Oliver didn’t kill Cayden’s son. However, there’s never any real sense of urgency; Arrow kind of moseys to the episode’s inevitable conclusion.
Luckily, Felicity and Alena manage to find proof of Oliver’s innocence; it was some knockoff assassin who was hired to use a bow and arrow to kill Cayden’s son in order to frame Oliver. With some speedy help from the Flash, Oliver catches Cayden before he leaves the city and presents him with the evidence. Cayden examines the real video and realizes someone in his cabal was responsible for his son’s death. Cue one of the episode’s most contrived story moves: Instead of diving head first into finding the real culprit, Cayden orders Oliver and Diggle to round up Black Siren, Diaz, and Anatoly and bring them to him, or else he will go through with his plan to destroy Star City.
Obviously, Oliver’s tenuous agreement with Cayden James puts him and the rest of the team on a collision course with Dinah, who is on the hunt for Black Siren. Dinah tracks Black Siren down with the intention of killing her, but Quentin and Team Arrow arrive in time to stop her. They need her in order to save the city. From there, Oliver captures Anatoly while Rene and Curtis handle Ricardo Diaz.
With the cabal rounded up, Team Arrow meets up with Cayden, whose hand is glued to a thermobaric bomb detonator as he monologues about finally getting justice for his son. Again, I found Cayden’s quest for revenge rather cliché, but I found Emerson’s heartbreaking speech about what it’s like to lose a child particularly moving — because of Emerson’s super-committed delivery, and not because it was well-written.
Anyway, the quasi-trial of the cabal goes sideways, as expected, when Laurel’s power-dampening collar deactivates and she tries to escape. As the rest of the team tries to round up the other bad guys and Dinah shoots Black Siren, Oliver has one last confrontation with Cayden while William watches on. Afraid that Cayden’s going to blow up the city, Oliver turns and reassures William that everything’s going to be alright. Observing that fatherly moment moves Cayden to back down. Is that turn even remotely convincing? Definitely not. Seeing Oliver in father-mode earlier in the season didn’t seem to faze Cayden, so why should it now?
Saving the city isn’t as joyous as it should be because, well, everything still kind of sucks. Team Arrow is still in shambles as Rene, Curtis, and Dinah continue to refuse to rejoin the ranks and Dinah remains intent on getting revenge for Sobel’s death. Meanwhile, we discover that Ricardo Diaz was responsible for this entire plot to pit Cayden James against the Green Arrow, including killing his son. Diaz pays Cayden a visit in prison and reveals that he did it in order to take over the city and that he has several city officials in his pocket right before he kills him. This revelation makes very little sense. How was Diaz planning on stopping Cayden from detonating the bomb? Was he just banking on Green Arrow being able to stop him? That seems like too much of a risk. Did Diaz intend to rule a city of ash? Either way, Diaz has been a pretty minor player this season, so this twist kind of lands with a thud. However, I’m open to seeing how this shakes out, and I’m definitely excited about a villain who isn’t driven by revenge.
Wall of Weird:
Tonight’s episode ended on a creepy note: Unsurprisingly, Quentin scoops up a wounded Black Siren and handcuffs her in the back of his car because he fully believes there’s still a piece of his dead daughter inside of her. Then, he drives off as she bleeds in the backseat of his car. That’s majorly twisted and may have soured this entire storyline for me.
“Why do you say justice like it’s cold-blooded murder?” —Curtis to Dinah
“I need to know this surrender of yours isn’t a ploy. I’ve had bad luck with that tactic.” —Oliver to Cayden
Note about last week’s grade: In hindsight, I wish I had given last week’s episode a C, because I disliked “All For Nothing” more than tonight’s episode. B- seems a bit too generous.