– by David Kozlowski

Arrow Season 5 was a return to form for the long-running DC superhero series on The CW. Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) finally embraced his role as leader, completing a five year transition from murderous vigilante to heroic superhero Green Arrow. A big reason for the show’s resurgence last season was the re-establishment of a grounded, gritty, street-level storyline that pitted Queen against Prometheus (Josh Segarra), a fighter of comparable skill who was constantly one step ahead of Team Arrow.

By abandoning the failed magic and mysticism aspects of Seasons 3 and 4, Arrow focused on hard-hitting, often incredibly brutal hand-to-hand fighting last season, which is a hallmark of this show. Seriously, outside of Netflix’s Daredevil, is there any better fight choreography on TV? So what can we expect out of Arrow Season 6? We already know that the big bad will be Richard Dragon, an absolutely vicious martial artist with deep roots in the DC comics canon.

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According to EW, veteran character actor Kirk Acevedo (12 Monkeys, Oz, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), has been cast as Ricardo Diaz (aka Richard Dragon). It’s an interesting and rather surprising casting; Acevedo is a solid actor (albeit with limited range), but to my knowledge he is not a martial artist, which is a bit of an issue when portraying a character known for his fighting abilities. However, it’s very likely that Arrow‘s creators will modify the character somewhat from his comic book origins, so it’s unclear what we can expect.

In the announcement, Dragon is described as follows:

“A hardened ex-con recently released from prison for crimes he didn’t commit. Ricardo Diaz is bent on taking over Star City’s criminal underworld. A master in hand to hand combat, honed by years of life on the street, Diaz has yet to meet a foe he can’t take down.”

Honestly, I’m a bit confused by this description, there’s an odd contradiction between “crimes he didn’t commit” and “bent on taking over Star City’s criminal underworld.” Is this an innocent man bent toward evil while incarcerated? Unclear. Kind of sounds like a potential redemption story to me, which (if true) is an interesting way to go and parallels the return of Slade Wilson/Deathstroke (Manu Bennett), who’s character will be featured in Season 6, who I expect will pursue a redemption arc of his own.

It’s also important to point out that Richard Dragon, a character that debuted in DC Kung-Fu Fighter #1 (1975), was originally a hero named Richard Drakunovski. He has, at various times, been a thief, a secret agent, a vigilante, and a martial arts teacher who’s trained several DC superheroes. However, the character has been revised several times over the years, to the current iteration as Ricardo Diaz, Jr. — a Seattle-based crime lord who’s father was killed by John Diggle (DC’s New 52 continuity from 2011). It is also unclear whether or not this storyline will be adapted in Arrow Season 6.

Despite my concerns about Acevedo as a martial artist, Arrow’s fight choreographers know how to stage combat, and it’s reasonable to assume that well-staged fights and good editing can cover any of Acevedo’s shortcomings (I hope). However, it will be harder to mask Acevedo’s limitations, as Dragon (unlike Prometheus) does not wear a mask and is generally shirtless, so this limits the use of a stunt double in the more complex fight scenes.

It’s also good news that Dragon is not an archer — like The Flash‘s over-reliance upon Speedster villains, one of the problems with Arrow has been too many villains that are masters of the bow and arrow. Dragon, at least in his comic incarnation, is a notable as bare-fisted brawler. Arrow‘s producers have assembled some really interesting puzzle pieces for Season 6, which includes Dragon, Deathstroke, Sananda Watson (Sydelle Noel) as an FBI agent, and Micheal Emerson (Lost) in an unannounced role, and the return of Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez), Black Canary (Juliana Harkavy), and Black Siren (Katie Cassidy). Intriguing stuff, can’t wait to see how the post-Lian Yu Arrow unfolds.

How do you feel about Kirk Acevedo stepping into the Ricard Dragon role in Arrow Season 6? Let us know in the comments down below!

Arrow returns to The CW on October 12, 2017.

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David Kozlowski is a writer, podcaster, and visual artist. A U.S. Army veteran, David worked 20 years in the videogame industry and is a graduate of Arizona State University's Film and Media Studies.