If you have not seen this episode yet and do not wish to be spoiled, do not continue reading!
Oliver gives up his mantle for his son. It’s an interesting concept, even if it feels like we’ve been here before.
In fact, there’s not much in this episode that screams new, but for one key element: Oliver’s growth. Team members are hiding secrets, hidden identities hang in the balance, no one (but everyone) expects the Russian Bratva, a bullet-strewn public attack, a dogged federal agent threatening to turn Oliver’s world upside down; there is a remix factor to just about everything this hour. That said, overall, the episode works.
Following up on Craig’s advance review, one of the highlights of the episode is that each of the main cast, Willa Holland aside, gets something to play. Team Arrow’s relationships are mined to great effect. We explore further the growing partnership between Diggle and Dinah. In the field — a phrase the everyone seemed to have a pool going for who could say it the most number of times — the team has naturally paired off, with Wild Dog and Mister Terrific frequently teaming, and Spartan and Black Canary usually in tandem when Diggle is not running wingman for Oliver. Her concern with Diggle’s ever-increasing reticence to use his gun was both valid and well-founded. John’s broken, and while he’s trying to grit through it, the potential to put her life at risk is very real.
It would appear that none of the team was aware of Diggle’s injury from the explosion on Lian Yu, which seems a bit odd. Given the size of his scar and the fact that some of the other team members likely had to go and help he and Felicity to their feet and into the plane, it’s baffling that they wouldn’t have been checking on his shoulder in the months that have followed. Sure, Diggle’s a proud man who wants to show no weakness, but this was rather prominent. And we learn, it’s also rather permanent: degenerative nerve damage. It’s not that Diggle has a psychological block to firing his weapon, though it’s surely shaken his confidence. It’s that the nerve damage now causes a tremor in his trigger hand, physically affecting his aim and his trigger control. This not only makes things sketchy for him watching Dinah’s back but puts him in a precarious position when Oliver asks his big request later in the episode.
By far, the best interaction this week was between Oliver and Rene, a chat amongst absent fathers. It’s welcome whenever Rick Gonzalez lets down Rene’s gruff defenses and lets his humanity shine through. The scene in the mayor’s office was indicative of the character work this week, much in the same way the buoyant discussion between Felicity and Curtis over coding gigs outside of their night job had fun moments but leaned a bit too cloying. The soft, genuine work on Gonzalez’s and Stephen Amell’s parts to sell the struggle to do right by their children in both extraordinary and ordinary circumstances was affecting and a reminder of how well Arrow can be when it relies on its writing and its players.
Amell was particularly on-point in his scenes with William. Again, we got a lot of the bratty William bristling in reaction to everything going on with Oliver, which can be a bit bracing to watch. Yet both Amell and Jack Moore settle into a better connection this week than last week’s episode and it allows them both to find more levels to play. The moment Oliver starts coaching William in the limo on how to stand up to a gang of bullies with his fists is played for a bit of a chuckle but perfectly reads in Amell’s face, particularly his eyes, the desperation he’s feeling in trying to connect and offer his son more than the basics. Turn to what you know, which obviously speaks to Oliver as a person. That William all but rejects this approach also says much about his future. How does a son deal with his father the “super” hero? Does he eventually get into the family business?
William doesn’t seem interested in either. He wants family and he’s understandably selfish in his worry that Oliver’s actions as Green Arrow put him at high risk to leave his son a true orphan. Specifically now with Oliver’s secret shared with the world. And yet, they manage to get out of the public aspect of the reveal before the hour is out. From Oliver’s charming response about certain Gotham City tech industrialist and playboy Bruce Wayne to Curtis’ name drop of Christopher Chance, aka the Human Target, it’s kind of funny how relatively easy they are able to sidestep this outing. Looking back on Season 1’s “An Innocent Man” and “Damaged,” when Quentin arrested Oliver with evidence of being the Hood, the elaboration that went into the whole ruse to throw Lance and the SCPD off Oliver’s trail to protect his crusade going forward is astounding to how little they have to do this time to call the dogs off. It will be curious to see who released the image. With Rene uncovering that it came internally from Channel 52, that speaks to the research Susan Williams was doing on Oliver last year. Did somebody get their hands on it? Could that somebody perhaps be Vigilante?
We know it wasn’t Anatoly Knyazev. Our favorite Russian returns with a vengeance. Releasing that image to put Oliver in a bind has a sound logic to it, but Anatoly revealing it wasn’t him speaks to potential hope that they can eventually repair their friendship. It’s a bit hard when one friend brings a cadre of military-trained goons to the party and kidnaps a foreign diplomat on an official visit to the city of which the other friend is the chief executive. It’s funny to think of these two in the cells in the belly of the freighter four years ago (eight years by show continuity) and see where they are now. Anatoly and his crew being banished from Russia adds an interesting wrinkle, and it’s fair to expect them back sooner rather than later. David Nykl and what he brings to the part are always welcome.
While Anatoly still offers some deference to Kapuishon, Oliver finds he doesn’t really have the luxury any longer. He knows William’s fears that Green Arrow could get his father killed bear weight, so he knows he has to make a choice. In light of FBI Special Agent Samandra Watson investigating the photo claim about Oliver, and subsequently not buying the all-too-convenient “discovery” that the image was digitally faked, he recognizes the only way to get off her radar is to get off the radar altogether. Oliver retiring as Green Arrow is a well-trod Oliver Queen move. It’s not surprising, but his rationale is far different this time. This is Oliver’s growth, his understanding that more than any other relationship, this person needs him and not the mayor or the company head or the rich boy or the symbol. Though, the irony of asking his best friend with a child of his own to take over the mantle appears to be lost on them. To be fair, baby JJ has both Diggle and Lyla.
Of course, Oliver would ask Diggle to take his place. He’s a leader and as committed to the core of his being in this cause as Oliver. Under regular circumstances, it makes the most sense. But how will his physical condition affect him in the job? And is Dinah going to stay silent while John steps into the hood and leads the team on its missions? Amell says DigArrow is going to be around for a while — at least until the line-wide crossover in November, I’m sure — so the team dynamics should be quite interesting over the next few weeks.
Most of what occurs in “Tribute” has happened before in the series. In some cases, it’s even been done better before. The episode, though, is a solid one because of some great character work and a focus on the team as humans trying to get through the rigors of their lives and counting on one another. To that effort, it’s quite telling that they finally incorporated symbols signifying all members of Team Arrow in the opening title card sequence.