At the end of 2017, with the midseason finale of Arrow, Team Arrow was fractured by betrayal and the machinations of this season’s cerebral villain, Cayden James (Michael Emerson). At the beginning of 2018, things aren’t much better. You could probably tell as much from the midseason premiere’s title, “Divided”, that the team wouldn’t be able to get over their betrayals and trust issues that easily. That’s a problem in and of itself, but the gathering of significant forces against Team Arrow make Oliver’s position of isolation a much more perilous and personal one.
But there’s a lot of other stuff going on in Star City: Thea’s up and walking around just fine after her six-month coma, Diggle’s dealing with a debilitating injury, and Oliver’s still trying to balance his vigilante/mayoral/fatherly duties, with varying levels of success. Oh, and apparently the Bertinelli crime family still has a presence in the city, even if it’s not exactly a thriving one.
And that’s where “Divided” kicks off, with a cold open that reestablishes Cayden James’ gang as the new heavies in town. He’s backed by Anatoly, Black Siren, Ricardo Diaz, and Vigilante, not to mention a veritable army of henchmen, though he doesn’t bring the hired guns into Bertinelli’s office to threaten him because there’s really not that much room and, frankly, it would just be rude. Black Siren’s sonic “kiss” and a threat against Bertinelli’s Columbia-enrolled daughter is enough to get his attention and forces him to mull over whether or not to sell control of the port to James, to whatever end.
So while James’ ultimate plans are still rather murky, we are getting bits and pieces here. That’s more than Team Arrow’s been able to put together in their 21 straight nights of surveillance in an attempt to track the James Gang down. It doesn’t help that Team Arrow’s manpower has basically been cut in half, but at least Curtis is still stopping by to help Felicity with new implantable tech that’s supposed to stop Diggle’s tremors from happening; unfortunately, they’re hitting some very expensive dead ends here.
But on the bright side, the team manages to uncover two clues: One, they discover that Black Siren planted a bug in the Arrow Cave, explaining how James was always a few steps ahead and how he knows their secret identities; and two, after a midnight rendezvous with the aforementioned head (and sole remaining member) of the Bertinelli crime family, they’re able to track James’ car through good, old-fashioned detective work. Green Arrow gets the drop on the James Gang for a short while, but this is the moment that the full force of the villains stacked against our heroes is revealed; Oliver is only able to escape by the good graces of James himself, despite literally everyone else’s protests. (Guys, please, we can’t kill the title character in the midseason premiere. You’ll lose your jobs, too.)
The crux of “Divided”, and likely the bulk of the second half of Season 6, is just how Team Arrow is going to handle the overwhelming opposition. Oliver’s the only one in the field right now, and while it helps to have Overwatch walking him through his battles step by step with Diggle manning remote-controlled T-Spheres as a saving grace, the odds seem insurmountable. That’s the argument Diggle makes at least, but hard-headed Oliver insists on isolation.
At least for a little while. A second run-in with the combined forces of the Bratva, Diaz’s mercenaries, the Vigilante, and Black Siren–all of which Oliver barely escapes by the way … Bertinelli is not so lucky–forces him to reconsider his stance. (Fantastic camera work from director James Bamford and his stunt team here. Some of the fighting bits didn’t quite connect, but I always give this show an extra point for ambitious action sequences.)
Now, in any other season of Arrow, the fractured team could easily have gotten together for tough words and stiff drinks after a bad break-up, only to heal their wounds and get back together by the next week’s episode. Thankfully, that’s not what happens here. The divide is deep: Rene still stands by his decision to put his family first (a position which Curtis and Oliver understand, even if they don’t like it), Curtis still can’t trust the three former team leaders after their own betrayal, and Dinah is working out some major issues with her cohorts and the fact that her former boyfriend, once thought dead but now revived as a meta with healing abilities who masquerades as the Vigilante, is in league with James. (Cayden James has some issues with the Vince/Dinah relationship as well…) That’s a lot of drama to just squash and move on. Instead, Mr. Terrific, Wild Dog, and Black Canary are forming their own team, and they’re already all set up in the old Helix lair!