Cayden James’ takeover of Star City has lasted quite a while, but that story came to a surprising and poignant end this week. Even better? We learned who has really been pulling the strings this season.
Spoilers ahead for “The Devil’s Greatest Trick,” the latest episode of The CW’s Arrow, which aired Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018!
In his final appearance, Cayden James finally became a rogue worth having around in the Arrowverse. The mysterious, evil hacker has always been drawn with broad strokes, with a seemingly random vendetta against Oliver driving his entire crusade. But it turns out the super-intelligent hacker played by Michael Emerson was a far more tragic figure than most fans expected. His son’s murder was all a ploy to push him into conflict with the Green Arrow, and after realizing it, James is left a broken shell of a man who surrenders—realizing that blowing up Star City to kill the man who killed his son is no way to honor his memory.
It might sound like a trite reveal, but the journey there was actually enlightening when it came to James. The flashbacks returned this week to focus on James when he was first arrested a year ago, while trying to reconnect with his estranged son. We see his failures as a father, which is seemingly what drove him to such drastic actions in the wake of his son’s death. James failed him in life, and thought he could find some closure and redemption with a grand gesture of revenge. It’s tragic, and comes to an even more tragic end beyond that.
Just when it seems like James has come to terms with his mistakes and turns over the bank account info to Oliver to return the money he embezzled from the city, Diaz (aka Richard Dragon) strolls in to reveal he’s been behind pretty much everything—including the death of James’ son. Diaz moved James around like a piece on a chessboard, pushing him into a face off with Oliver designed to distract and destabilize. Kudos to Diaz, because he succeeded on both counts.
James’ story comes to a brutal end as Diaz lays it all out and tells James he’s the one responsible for killing his son—then jams a knife into his neck. It makes sense they’d give Emerson a juicy sendoff (the Lost alum proved to be an excellent guest star), but that was still a surprising twist. The episode's title, "The Devil's Greatest Trick," is a reference to Diaz's role in pretty much everything. He's done it all by remaining invisible, so no one—not James or Team Arrow—were even looking for him. Put simply, he convinved them all he didn't exist.
But, that anonymity is likely coming to an end soon. Arrow managed to clear the board from the James’ arc and set the stage for Diaz. He seems to be a throwback type of villain, aimed at dominating crime in the city. Sure, we’ve seen that before, but Fringe alum Kirk Acevedo brings a menace to the role that could be a whole lot of fun to see.
*So Thea and Felicity were paying so little attention that William was able to wander out of the high security Arrow Cave, then stroll across the city in the middle of the night to where he knows a super villain will be facing off with his dad? C’mon, that was a silly bit of plot. Yes, it served the purpose of helping get James to call off his plan and face his own failings as a father, but what it took to get William there was just silly. Sure, it makes sense William would be scared all things considered, but for a bright kid that was a really dumb move all the way around.
*Dinah continues to go rogue, spending most of the episode tracking Black Siren. She almost kills her, too, if not for Oliver busting in to save the day. This has proven an interesting story for Dinah, though you have to wonder where they’re taking her longterm. If they really do redeem Laurel at some point, is there room for two Canaries?
*Hey, the Flash! Nice little cameo there, and true to form, speedster travel continues to make Diggle nauseous.
*Lance ends the episode seemingly in the wind with an injured Black Siren in his back seat. After all the losses Quentin has suffered in his life, you have to hope he can find a way to redeem Earth-2 Laurel. There seems to be some humanity still in there, and hitching that wagon to Lance was a clever way to ground that story in some human stakes. It’s not just about saving Laurel—it’s about Lance trying to find some semblance of connection with the daughter he lost.
*The moments between James and Oliver where they talk about fatherhood were poignant, and continued to reinforce the theme that has hung over the entire season. It’s made for an interesting evolution turning Oliver into a father (or well, an involved one), and the stories this season have dovetailed nicely around that change.
Up next: Richard Dragon is waiting in the wings, but first Team Arrow will apparently be facing off with, umm, New Team Arrow. Yeah, this should be interesting.