Is ‘Arrow’ Making John Diggle’s Character Stagnant?

Three seasons into Arrow, we’ve seen Felicity Smoak turn MVP, Roy Harper’s evolution into Arsenal, and Sarah Lance die, become a hero and die again. We even saw the rebirth of Thea Queen when her hair went Legend of Korra, Book 4 and she morphed into fierce-Thea over a summer abroad. In the time it took you to learn the three-man weave at basketball camp, Thea learned to turn off physical pain and sword fight trained assassins. How unaccomplished does that make you feel? Now take all those feelings of ineptitude and multiply them by 55 episodes, and you might have an idea how John Diggle feels.

Diggle began as a promising character of color in the series, asserting himself as someone uninterested in “being anyone’s sidekick.” A 40-something ex-Special Forces with hero-diesel build? And he says he’s no one’s sidekick? Arrow had me going on that one. They had me going, that is, until it took under half a season for him to become just that. Not even a particularly useful one either – whenever Ollie excludes him on missions he sits back at headquarters and dreams of being appreciated. “Maybe I’ll get a code name soon,” he thinks to himself, looking up at the salmon ladder. “Or a mask. A mask would do.” It’s embarrassing. On the list of respectable sidekicks, John Diggle’s name falls somewhere under Kimmy Gibbler, Memphis Bleek, and Tails.

He’s strictly there for diversity purposes at this point – they couldn’t get rid of him so they turned him into Cole from Martin, where every time he talks about his job for a mission, everyone yells, “You ain’t got no job!” His presence onscreen solely to say things like “You’re not seeing straight on this one, Ollie” every 18 minutes. The frustrating part is his character had such promise at the start of the show, although let’s be clear – he was never written as Ollie’s equal even in season 1, and the way he was the punch line of Ollie’s daily shenanigans sneaking away in season 1 while Diggle facepalms and says “aw, shucks” was borderline offensive. Heaven forbid we break with the norm and have an interesting Black character that helps Ollie out as an equal. He was always the goofy and hapless counterpart opposite Ollie’s hero-ness, but essential enough to each mission to keep us believing in his utility on the team.

Read more from Jordan Calhoun at Black Nerd Problems