ARROW Returns to its Family Roots With “Brotherhood”
By Justin Carter
Back in my review of last year’s mid-season finale, I noted that Oliver had a really bad blind spot when it came to his family. He wasn’t able to accept that his parents were involved in Malcolm Merlyn’s plans to destroy the Glades, and he wasn’t able to fully buy that his sister was capable of killing the woman he loved. Neither of those ended particularly well for him–watching your dad commit suicide or getting shot by your mom rarely do, and ditto taking a sword to the chest for your sister. With the only other Queen family member getting over her “issues” (we’ll come back to that), Arrow needs to put another character with family issues through the emotional wringer, and since Sara drove off into the night last week, that leaves Diggle.
At its heart, the show is a series about families. The Queen and Lance families have broken and come apart more times than can be counted, the Smoak family is making an effort to reconnect. The Diggles have been slightly messed up than the others (no one can beat the Merlyn or al Ghul families in that contest), but the reveal of Dig’s dead brother Andy being involved in some shady stuff certainly added a wrinkle to proceedings. All his dealings in the Middle East didn’t earn him any friends over at HIVE, and Dig has spent the past two years assuming they had him killed. As it turns out, HIVE didn’t kill Andy, they brainwashed him. Or he willingly joined them, I’m still not entirely sure how that goes.
The show establishes that Damien Darhk gets new recruits for his Ghost soldiers by having them take mind altering pills, which, combined with the cyanide pills in their teeth and their lack of identification, is a neat way to play around with guys like these having so many disposable henchmen. But Andy, when he finally does meet his brother face to face at the end, seems like he’s trapped somewhere between still being controlled and trying to regain his old self. That part didn’t entirely gel with me, and since the end is the only time that Andy and Diggle actually see each other face to face, it’s hard to get a good read on what’s going through his head. This is probably an episode that should’ve put the flashback focus on Diggle and his brother instead of Oliver and…whatever the heck is going on at Lian Yu.
Diggle’s always been the show’s stand-in older brother for the other characters, so it was nice to see the rest of the team pay that back in different ways, particularly Oliver and Laurel, since they have the most experience with dead siblings coming back to life. Dig’s only problem is that he tends to view things as black and white, as they could be. While it’s helped him in the past in helping the others get over themselves, that proves to be a big problem for him here. The episode does a good job of making both his and Oliver’s views on Andy valid without ever making one more right than the other, which is appropriately undermined at the end when Andy confesses that everything in the HIVE file on him was all true. It’s a heartbreaking moment because even though the show has been playing a very slow burn with this storyline, it felt like Diggle was getting some real progress with uncovering dark secrets that haunted him.
On the subject of haunting secrets, it looks like Thea’s may have an upside to them. Her bloodlust is returning after a few dormant weeks, so of course Malcolm suggests the best way to get some relief is for her to off a pedophile. This being Merlyn, I was half expecting the guy that Thea beat to near death at the bar to be the pedophile, but it’s just a regular dick, which makes his subsequent beatdown even better to watch. Thankfully, the show doesn’t play around with the moral crisis a second time, instead letting her pain become a strength by weakening Darhk during his Kalima Time. That was actually a pretty cool reveal that had me rewind the scene again to see it, and it’ll be interesting to see how Thea and the rest of the team takes advantage of this down the line.
This episode was directed by the show’s fight choreographer James Bamford, and for his first time, Bamford does a pretty good job. The direction is good, and it’s always clear what’s going on when the action goes down; the episode shines when it’s Team Arrow going up against the Ghosts. An infiltration mission with the Arrows and Canary is well shot, and that continues when the plan goes to hell and everyone (including Ray, who just shows up out of the blue) gets down and dirty. Here’s hoping that he gets some more episodes to direct in the near future.
“Brotherhood” may not entirely stick the dynamic its title would suggest, but it certainly goes a lot towards giving one of its underdeveloped characters an emotional payoff they’ve been desperately needing. Sometimes, closure is all you need, even if it’s not the kind you expect.
- Thea’s boyfriend absolutely has to be evil, right? He’s surprised when she beats that dude to near death, but not enough to call the cops, so points for that?
- Wouldn’t it have made more sense for Malcolm to have just brought the pedophile to Thea? He had to have known she’d say no.
- “I’m a recently undead billionaire CEO!” I still want Brandon Routh to play Batman at some point, because he just sorta nails Bruce Wayne.
- From now on, or at least until they give it an actual name, I’m calling Darhk’s heart-sucking-power thing Kalima Time. It fits.
- “At least your brother’s not a killer.” Oh, Alex, if you only knew.
- Arrow returns the week after Thanksgiving with its half of the Flarrow crossover “Legends of Yesterday.” See you then!