[SPOILERS ahead for those not caught up on their Arrowverse viewing.]
To put it gently, Diggle (David Ramsey) has not had it easy between the end of Arrow season 4 and the beginning of season 5. Near the end of season 4, he was forced to kill his own brother, who was an ally of Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough). Upon re-enlisting in the military, he is framed for the murders of his fellow soldiers and put in prison - and now because of Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) creating a new timeline, his daughter Sara no longer exists. Sarah has now been replaced by Diggle's son John Jr, who could now grow up to be Connor Hawke (as seen in episode 6 of Legends of Tomorrow season 1).
In the season 5 episode 'Penance', Oliver was forced to break Diggle out of prison with the help of his wife, Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson). Coming home to the real world, Diggle will be in for numerous surprises when he meets Oliver’s new team for the first time, is inevitably told about Flashpoint by Barry Allen, and confronted with the reality of a looming alien invasion during the four-night crossover.
In an interview with CBR David Ramsey spoke about these things and Diggle’s reactions to them. On the topic of discovering he had a daughter instead of a son in another timeline, Ramsey said:
“I think his relationship with Lyla is solid. Remember, it affects Diggle in such a way where he now has a son instead of a daughter, but he can never miss someone he never had, so I think his reaction to Flashpoint — and he will find out, because secrets aren’t kept very long on the show — is going to be a lot more compassion than you think. Barry used his incredible power recklessly. The response is going to be a lot more compassionate than people might think.”
When asked if his character would confront Barry over Flashpoint, Ramsey hinted at an upcoming episode where much is revealed:
“Yes. The eighth episode of Arrow is going to have a lot of big things coming out of it, and that’s going to be one of them. Yes.”
On the topic of the four-night crossover, where Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) will travel to Earth-1 to fight alongside The Flash, Green Arrow, and the Legends against the alien threat known as the Dominators, Ramsey talked about Diggle’s awe regarding the Girl of Steel:
“How is he going to react to seeing a woman fly across the horizon in a skirt? That’s an even better question! All of this flips Digg out, but I think he’s slowly getting a grip that this is the world that he now lives in and that’s part of his journey as well this season.”
Speaking on Diggle’s return from military life, Ramsey said:
“This transition isn’t easy for him, and I think when he comes back, he comes back ready to come back, but there are some steps and some hoops he has to jump through first emotionally.”
Diggle is still dealing with the guilt of having had to kill his brother; in a way, he felt he deserved to be in prison to atone for his sins. This was only further reinforced when he hallucinated the sight of Deadshot (Michael Rowe) in his cell, who he originally thought had killed his brother years back. Ramsey spoke about how Diggle will learn to forgive himself and ultimately heal this season:
“I think seeing Deadshot is a condition of where his mind is in terms of how riddled with guilt he is. Part of this season is going to be him still getting past that, but I think — with the help of the new recruits, oddly enough — he’s going to find some therapy and get back to understanding what his real purpose is, of community and sense of duty, a sense of honor. I think he’s going to get back to that, and that’s part of what’s going to save him.”
The general consensus seems to be that Arrow itself is back on the right track this season too, despite lower ratings than seasons past. Even though a new team of heroes will take us forward this season, fans can find solace in a return of the familiar street-level grit and characters like John Diggle that made the show great in the first place.
Arrow continues with “Human Target” next Wednesday at 8 pm on The CW.