At this point on The CW’s Arrow, any episode that features unique fight scenes and a fresh take on stunt choreography should automatically command your attention. “Brotherhood” was one of those episodes, thanks in large part to its director James Bamford whose main credits on the show are for fight choreography and stunt coordination. This is the first episode he’s directed, however, and if this level of action is just a hint of what Bamford is capable of, I hope he gets more chances in the future.
Tonight’s story, however, wasn’t anything particularly Earth-shattering or even ground-breaking. On any other show, when a character who’s presumed dead for quite a few seasons magically appears alive and relatively well, it’s big news. On Arrow, it’s a staple. The interesting thing this time around is that it’s not a famous comic book character that’s been resurrected, but rather Andy Diggle, the dearly departed brother of Team Arrow’s John “Spartan” Diggle.
We get our first look at Bamford’s eye for action from the director’s chair during an attempt by Team Arrow to prevent Darhk’s Ghosts from destroying Federal cash bound for Star City banks. Later, when the Hoods are infiltrating a tech facility for a sample of the Ghosts’ gene-scrambling chemical, the team discovers Andy’s actually alive but is acting as a Ghost for Hive. Obviously Diggle is shocked at this turn events; equally every surprised is Oliver when he’s handed a case file that paints Andy’s military service in a new, disparaging light. Once John gets over his initial shock, he sets his mind to bringing in his brother to answer for all his crimes; Oliver’s approach is more patient, wanting to give Andy a chance to clear his name. It’s a difference of opinion that establishes this episode’s conflict.
That conflict extends beyond the Green Arrow’s costumed crime fighting and into Oliver Queen’s Mayoral bid as well. Though Oliver’s campaign manager warns him not to rely on his “hippy crunchy” plan to restore the city’s bayfront, the real bone of contention is how Oliver should deal with Damien Darhk’s offer of assistance. This is the first time Darhk is meeting Oliver out of costume, so when he promises to lend the candidate his support in the campaign as long as he leaves the bayfront alone, it’s in ignorance to Oliver’s true mission and, honestly, his true self. And though Felicity chews him out for even pretending to ally himself with Damien, it’s really Diggle’s impassioned plea to stop fighting Darhk in the shadows and start fighting him in broad daylight that gets through to Oliver.
David Ramsey gets quite the opportunity to expand Diggle’s emotional range in this episode. Sure, he has impressive fighting skills, but John Diggle’s true strengths are his loyalty to his friends and his dogged pursuit of justice. In “Brotherhood”, we get to see a somewhat softer side of Diggle as he shares a heartfelt conversation with Laurel (of all people!) about resurrected siblings. It’s a great moment between two characters who rarely get to interact beyond bashing in Ghost skulls together.
In an ill-advised attempt to locate Andy, Oliver and Diggle head to the docks alone, following up on Quentin Lance’s intel from Darhk’s office. They almost don’t make it out of there alive since there are more than 50 Ghosts alongside new recruits who have just popped a little yellow pill that makes them susceptible to Darhk’s control. Here’s a great opportunity to talk about Bamford’s fight/stunt direction, which takes on a much more dynamic, hand-held camera-style look in this episode. The camera is right in on the action, up close and personal, and we see just how visceral the contact is. There’s no long shots or whiffed strikes; you can almost feel the punches hit home. Even Laurel gets to win some fights for once!
Using new technology from Curtis Holt, the team is able to spot Andy Diggle beneath the mask and, thanks to Thea, manages to liberate him from within the Ghosts. They’re doing this all without Spartan since he disagreed with Oliver’s plan to walk into this level of danger for someone who’s thrown his life and family away. Luckily for Oliver, Spartan shows up in the nick of time to save him from taking a bullet, choosing his “green brother” over his blood brother. Even Ray Palmer shakes off his freshly back-from-the-dead funk in order to fly in as (a visually improved) A.T.O.M. and help take out some Ghosts along the way. With Andy safely back in the Arrow Cave, John does indeed learn to his great disappointment that everything in his brother’s file is true. I’m not quite sure where they want to take this plotline in the weeks to come, but I am glad that Diggle has something to do.
Back in the daylight, Oliver takes the lessons he learned from battling Ghosts the night before and brings them to bear during a press conference for his Mayoral campaign. He vows to restore the bayfront since it’s at the center of the city, a place where everyone can see what’s being done, and he says this with purpose right in front of Damien Darhk. Surely Darhk knows that Oliver Queen is no pushover, and he probably knows that he’s the Arrow now, too.
Aside from a mini-plot focusing on Ray’s ongoing struggles adjusting to his new life in Star City, the bulk of the side-plot in this episode focused on Thea. As you may remember, Thea’s bloodlust that resulted from her time in the Lazarus Pit was slaked a few weeks ago when she killed assassins in Nanda Parbat. Now that her urge to kill is acting up again, Malcolm arrives out of the shadows to offer her up a nearby pedophile whom he thinks she can kill with impunity. Instead, a much more interesting thing happens.
So Thea’s just barely in control of her bloodlust – she nearly kills a scummy guy who hits on her at the bar, and I was yelling at the TV to make sure she didn’t accidentally kill Andy – but a curiosity occurs during the episode’s final battle. Damien Darhk shows up out of nowhere and cuts Thea off, trying his best to do his strange magical corruption technique on her. Inexplicably, it backfires; Thea runs off to safety while Darhk is left fighting against his own spell. We later learn, as Thea informs Malcolm, that her bloodlust temporarily disappeared when Dahrk touched her, and that’s a feeling she wants to make permanent.
So in the main storyline, we learn that Andy Diggle is alive and he’s well and truly entrenched in Hive’s Ghosts squad, but we don’t yet know why. We know that Darhk’s powers don’t necessarily work on Thea for some reason, but we’re not sure how that happened. And we know that Oliver Queen is going to fight Darhk on two fronts, both as a candidate for mayor and as the Green Arrow. (I don’t know this for certain, but I definitely suspect that Darhk used that slip of paper in his office to set Lance up, and since Green Arrow and Spartan arrived at the dock, Lance’s days may be numbered.) All these bits of knowledge don’t do a whole lot to advance Season 4’s storyline, and unfortunately the flashbacks are in the same vein.
On Lian Yu, Conklin gave Oliver grief for killing Vlad (last week), even though both guys knew that Conklin was responsible for Vlad’s attack on Oliver in the first place. What we didn’t know was that Vlad was Taiana’s brother; once we learned that, you just knew an emotional scene back at that island cave was about to happen. But before it did, Oliver and Conklin returned to Reiter, who used a magical diviner to learn that Conklin was lying. For his punishment, Oliver took a whip from Reiter and used it to teach Conklin a lesson in front of the entire group.
Back in the cave, Oliver popped in to visit Taiana and give her the bad news. Apparently she and her brother were working as a dive instructor and deckhand when the mercenaries stole the ship, killed everyone else on board, and kept them as slave workers. With that all cleared up, Oliver shared Reiter’s map with Taiana, saying that he needs a detailed survey of the island to find what Reiter’s after. In other words, not a whole lot progressed here either.
The high points of “Brotherhood” were the action scenes and the chance for Diggle to get a little story of his own going on. Unfortunately, most of the supporting cast took a back seat in this hour. That’s not a bad thing, especially considering how focused last week’s episode was. It’s just that this particular rescue mission lacked most of the tension and emotional connection that the rescue of Ray Palmer inspired, and without that, “Brotherhood” just kind of left me with a shrug.
Rating: ★★★ Good
Was it just me, or did you catch a few dialogue flubs here and there? It didn’t sound as crisp and precise as Arrow normally is, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it frees the actors up a bit more.
Ray Palmer: “Is everything always this big?”
Alex: “I’m just glad your brother’s not a killer.”
The scene transitions are solid again this week. Someone has an eye for detail!
Darhk: “Trust is an orchid, beautiful but delicate, requiring ideal conditions in order to thrive. Without them, it dies.”
Wolfman Biologics? A nod to Marv Wolfman?
Laurel: “Want to talk about it? Resurrected siblings are kind of in my wheelhouse.”
Random Bar Scumbag: “You look like the kinda girl where ‘No’ means ‘Yes.'” Yeah he kinda deserved the beating Thea gave him.
Andy: “Kill the green one!”
I love that David Ramsey has one pose that he uses 99% of the time: the Massive Arms Pose. +1 to Charisma
Diggle: “You want to do things differently? Fine. Let’s take Darhk down in the light of day.”
Ray: “I feel like Tom Sawyer watching his own funeral, except in my case nobody really cares.”
Muller Psychiatry? A nod to Otto Muller?
Darhk: “It’s Merida! Aren’t you out a little past your bedtime?”
Green Arrow: “Nice of you to show up.” Spartan: “My brother needed me … the green one.”
All this talk of Andy Diggle and Taiana reminds me of the “Green Arrow: Year One” comics written by the real-life Diggle and featuring the character Taiana.
Oliver: “The fight for Star City won’t be fought in the shadows, it’ll be fought out in the open. And I promise you, all of you, that I will fight to save this city.”