“I control the Dragon. It doesn’t control me.”

After weeks of Ricardo Diaz (Kirk Acevedo) being a somewhat nondescript villain in desperate need of some kind of throat lozenge, with little time spent on his development as a character, “The Dragon” does a complete 180, exploring all that makes Diaz the titular beast, and what prompted him to become Star City’s newest crime boss.

We begin at an orphanage in the city, 32 years ago, where a young Ricardo is having a rough time, with a fellow orphan Jesse (Beni Gottesman) bullying him, and just generally treating him like dirt. With burn marks on his arm, Diaz is at the bottom of the pile, and just when it seems as though things can’t get worse, Jesse takes the only photograph he has of his deceased father and burns it in a bin.

From these flames, The Dragon is born.

In the present day, Diaz has found a partner (in every sense of the word) in Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) and together the two are working to build Diaz’s empire beyond Star City. To do this, he plans to enlist the help of The Quadrant, the world’s most powerful business empire. However, it appears that Diaz is merely a small fish in a big pond, when the big boss sends his young son, Eric (Ashton Holmes) to put the businessman through his paces – which basically means Diaz doing them a lot of favours and getting nothing but bullets in return. In an effort to open up Star City for “business”, Diaz must force his way into The Quadrant’s headquarters, and prove himself worthy by any means necessary.

While in essence there isn’t much going on in “The Dragon” it goes a long way into Diaz’s psychology, and why he feels the need to reach such heights. From a young age he has been told how worthless and small he is, carrying this feeling around his entire life, as it manifested itself into ‘The Dragon’ inside his mind. We see the pain of a man who has had to fight for everything in his life, who has known what it is to be hungry enough to kill for what you need – at his core, Diaz is still that bullied child, wanting power so that he will never be nothing again. This episode does a lot to humanise Ricardo Diaz, but at the same time, it cements him as probably Arrow’s most ruthless villain, as we see him blow someone up, shoot a hell of a lot of people, and literally set a guy on fire, all in the name of progress.

Not to be outdone, however, we still have to spend a little (somewhat pointless) time with Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) and Curtis (Echo Kellum), as the two reunite on their long-forgotten business, Helix Dynamics. Yes, in amongst the deep psychological trauma we see from Diaz, we spend some filler moments with the geek squad, as they try not to talk about the team situation and work on whatever their company is making. For the most part these scenes are obviously here for a little comic relief, but in reality, the episode doesn’t really need them. The only other purpose they serve is to remind us that Oliver (Stephen Amell) is working alone, and his wife is quite rightly worried that he may not return when an explosion leaves the media wondering about the Green Arrow’s fate. In a two-minute scene, the couple discuss Oliver’s new ‘lone-wolf’ identity and back-to-basics attitude, and the fact that Felicity feels of more use when she is performing her duties as Overwatch, rather than watching the vigilante’s antics on the news. However, all this does is highlight the damage done to Felicity’s character over the past few seasons – with her Overwatch identity taken away, very little of the character actually remains beyond ‘Oliver’s love interest.’

VERDICT:

Unnecessary filler aside, “The Dragon” gives us a much-needed look at Ricardo Diaz is more detail, allowing the audience to see him as a rounded, human character, with real motives behind his plans. Acevedo plays the character incredibly well, managing to balance the dramatic portrayal of the lasting effects of bullying and the mental and physical scars it can leave, with injections of light-hearted comedic moments.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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