This season of Arrow has seen its share of villains. From the Longbow Hunters to the Star City Slayer, Team Arrow has had a diversity of foes to contend with. Hovering over all of them, though, has been Dante. He was referred to often by Ricardo Diaz, but didn’t make his first appearance on the show until relatively recently. And with the introduction of Dante, we’ve also heard the name “The Ninth Circle”…
If you’re anything like me, you likely lost your mind and ran screaming around your living room when you heard it. If not, well, then you clearly haven’t read Benjamin Percy and Otto Schmidt’s Green Arrow run. I highly recommend checking it out, if you haven’t yet. (John Diggle is particular awesome in it!) It’s now available on DC Universe, or you can check it out here.
As with any good mafia-esque organization, what exactly the Ninth Circle does and the extent of their influence and breadth of their reach is ever evolving. But in the comics, at least, the Ninth Circle considers itself to be a legitimate business—a bank, even.
Banks are able to execute difficult transactions, use international monetary laws and loopholes to their advantage, and make purchases beyond the purview of the everyday marketplace. Think of the Ninth Circle as the little known, highly organized group that funds and profits off of the many large-scale crimes that take place across the world. In the comics, Green Arrow operates largely out of Seattle. Although it’s presently unconfirmed, I feel confident assuming the Arrowverse’s take on the Ninth Circle is Star City-based.
With Team Arrow no longer working in the SCPD Headquarters, could this mean that one of them will wind up employed by the Ninth Circle? I think there’s a slim-to-none chance of that coming to pass. If I may be allowed to sidestep into wild speculation territory for a moment, what I think is more likely to happen is the “Archer” program Felicity has been working on somehow gets caught up with the Ninth Circle. Since we now know Felicity won’t be a part of next season, perhaps this level of corruption of her work is what finally sets off the future we’ve already witnessed this season?
Let’s assume a member of Team Arrow is destined to get tied up in the Ninth Circle. After all, it’s basically what happens in the comics. If the show follows suit, I doubt it would be a conscious choice, and the experience is rarely pleasant in any sense of the word. Traditionally, the Ninth Circle kidnaps its recruits and forces them into service in place of something more community driven—like the world’s most twisted recruiting drive at what has to be the worst high school’s job fair.
The Ninth Circle is famed for obscuring their identities with masks. Readers who are familiar with Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s New 52 Batman can probably draw some parallels between the Ninth Circle and the Court of Owls, who also have a thing for masks. It’s not the first parallel Arrow has shared with the Dark Knight over the seven seasons (so far!) that the show has been on the air. Best of all, masks could be used to squeeze one last mystery from this season of Arrow by having someone trusted cover their face and betray Oliver Queen et al only to be revealed near the final episode.
The Ninth Circle shares another tradition with characters we all know and love from the world of Batman—they engage in a baptism ritual. I would even go so far as to describe it as a “rebirth” in and of itself, only a really freaking painful one. Imagine a Lazarus Pit-type situation with more lava and less green-hued magic. It would be interesting to see this on the show, but so far there’s been no indication that it’s going that direction. It seems unlikely that Emiko suffered this kind of mutilation given what we’ve seen of her so far, but if third-degree burns over the body are a reality for some members of the Ninth Circle then the masks are getting a little easier for me to understand.
Though they do make me wonder about Emiko Queen.
Having watched the season thus far, we know at least three members of the Ninth Circle: Dante, Virgil and Emiko. Besides their allegiance to—and leadership of—the same organization, they most definitely do not hide their faces. In fact, the only time we’ve ever really seen Emiko Queen wear a mask…
…was when she first debuted on the show and was chasing the Green Arrow.
Could that have been a really subtle hint? Maybe it’s a reach, but still, if there’s a chance we have been told from the very beginning exactly who Emiko Queen is and where her true heart lies, then I’m left wondering what other clues are going to pay off as we enter the final leg of the show’s penultimate season. And, of course, how much trouble the Ninth Circle is ultimately going to cause for our much beleaguered team of heroes.
Arrow airs Mondays at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. CST) on The CW. For the latest Arrow news, features and conversation, click here.
Ashley V. Robinson writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our weekly television column. You can find her on Twitter at @AshleyVRobinson and on the Jawiin YouTube channel.