He’s quietly grown to become the season’s big bad, but up to this point, we didn’t really know a whole lot about Ricardo Diaz. All that changed in “The Dragon,” which pulled back the curtain on the psyche of what drives the man who now rules Star City.
Spoilers ahead for “The Dragon,” the latest episode of The CW’s Arrow, which aired Thursday, April 19, 2018.
Fear, self-doubt and one massively deep inferiority complex. It might not have made him entirely relatable, but if nothing else, we now have a much clearer view of exactly what drives Ricardo Diaz. This episode tabled pretty much all of the core cast and turned the spotlight on a road trip featuring Diaz and Black Siren. The duo hits the road as part of Diaz’s efforts to up his station and join an elite group of crime bosses. But it’s the reason he cares at all is the real meat of the story.
Thanks to a quick flashback, we learn Diaz grew up in an orphanage and was mercilessly bullied by his older roommate, an experience that pushed Diaz to this day to be tougher, meaner and smarter than everyone around him. He brought that tenacity to Star City and managed to outsmart pretty much everyone to take control of the city from within. He brought it to his meeting with the Syndicate, and essentially willed himself a seat at the table with this insanely powerful group of crime lords.
The reason for it all, though, is simple. Diaz is simply trying to prove he’s not still that loser kid who gets beat up at night when the nun’s aren’t looking. He’s spent his entire life trying to process and move past that trauma, and he’s sees the only way out as trying to find respect in the eyes of others, even if he has to take it by force. It was arguably one of the better episodes of the season, a fact made even stranger by the fact that Oliver, Felicity and the gang were barely in it at all. Kirk Acevedo has had to carry Diaz on sheer charm up to this point (luckily the guy has buckets of it), but now we finally know what makes this guy tick.
The story ends full circle, with Diaz tracking down his childhood bully and literally lighting the man on fire in retribution for his sins all those decades ago. This story is basically a vignette showing a bit more of Diaz’s endgame and actually explaining why we should who this guy is aside from Generic Crime Boss. And thankfully it works in spades. Diaz revels in brutality, but it’s because it’s all he knows. He works the long game, and stresses patience time and time again to Laurel, because he’s willing to do anything to never be that powerless child, again.
Even wait 32 years to finally snuff out the kid who picked on him in school.
*That theme of powerlessness also carried over into the story of Felicity this week, as she grappled with a sense of helplessness after seeing a news report about an explosion with the Green Arrow nearby. With Oliver taking his mission back to basics, she’s now on the outside looking in while he’s in the field. It was a compelling story, and makes sense, but seemed to be shortchanged a bit by the focus on Diaz’s story. It’s wrapped up with Oliver promising to come home, much like he’d done in the past with William. Compelling stuff, but still rushed.
*We learn via some nifty Curtis exposition that Rene is getting out of the hospital. So he’ll likely be back soon, hoss.
*Diaz’s gambit works, and he’s now landed a seat at the table with the Quadrant. As for Star City, that means things are likely about to get a whole lot worse.
*After working both sides the past several weeks, it’s looking more and more like Black Siren might fall on Diaz’s side when push eventually comes to shove. She also has some legit chemistry with Diaz, which was a bit surprising.
*Felicity and Curtis’ start-up is still creeping along. Look for that plot to keep popping up.
*Next week: Oliver goes one-on-one with Diaz for the soul of the city, apparently?