Arrow: ‘Bratva’ Review
Oaths are for life.
Warning: This is a spoiler review. That’s how this works.
Team Arrow took a trip to good ol’ Mother Russia this week. Yes, Oliver found himself dealing with a current conflict while facing an old one. It was an incredibly packed, exciting hour of Arrow.
The Bratva flashbacks this season have been mighty intriguing. Certainly an upgrade from the flashbacks of season four. Oliver went down some pretty dark places to become part of the Bratva brotherhood. He’s become a much more violent man, which certainly helped him with his training with Talia al Ghul to become the Arrow. These flashbacks have provided the most insight as to why Oliver is such a tortured soul, and how there are parts of his past he’ll never be able to run away from. Especially if you join a Russian mafia.
I have been wondering if and when his Russian escapades where going to affect him in the present. This episode kind of dabbed into a bit of it with the return of Susan Williams fishing for clues in Oliver’s bed, literally. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The real usefulness of Oliver’s past in Russia with Bratva and his vodka drinking buddy, Anatoly was simply his affiliation. After receiving a nice right hook to the face by Anatoly, he used his Bratva status to end Diggle’s troubles and recover the nuke General Walker stole to sell to Markovian terrorists.
Yes, the story in Russia didn’t dig as deep into Oliver’s story as much as I thought it could have, but we still got one hell of an adventure out of it. The plot for the episode was fun. There was an abundance of highly entertaining action, and most of our characters were utilized well. Plus, it was kind of cool to see Team Arrow work outside of their comfort zone. Although I really want to see the season go back and focus on Evelyn and Prometheus, I still found this to be a useful episode because Diggle can finally put his military nightmares to bed, and we can stop seeing him behind bars. While it was great to see Diggle back in action, David Ramsey’s performance was a little extreme. Obviously, Diggle’s need to stop Walker was urgent, but Ramsey should have toned his angry act down a bit. Nice call back having Walker threaten to kill Diggle’s wife and kid just like Andy did. I was glad Diggle chose to arrest Walker, so he could stand trial. Diggle’s storyline this season has been a bit of a bore mostly, and I think the writers knew this, so they used this episode to bury it. Fortunately, they gave us an exciting finale to it, and now we can move on.
Despite focusing on Diggle’s war with Walker and the nuke, this episode was still very much about Oliver and his struggles to keep whatever moral code and humanity he has left. He was busy throughout trying to make amends with Anatoly after the two had a falling out. There was a callback to his encounter with the Bratva in season two, but honestly, I can’t remember what happened back then and how it ties to now. It’s been too long, give me a break. I can’t remember everything. He also spent a fair amount of brooding, and I love that Dinah called him out on it.
Speaking of Dinah, this was her first official mission with the group, and she did great. It helps that she doesn’t need much training due to the fact that she was a cop and she already knows how to fight. She fit’s right in with the team. She rules for being blunt with Oliver on how he can’t change what’s in his past, but he must learn from it. Juliana Hawkavy is already proving her worth in the show. She is one of the smartest casting choices the producers have made.
Roy dressed up as Ragman and got involved in the action this week, yay! That made me very happy. He pretty much took the MVP spot of the episode by saving the day. Now, this is a fantasy. I’m not going to try to put logic into it. I’m just going to accept that idea that somehow his ancient, magical rags were able to contain the blast of the nuke. Unfortunately, his selfless act destroyed the power of his rags, leaving him useless to the team, so now he must leave. This is actually a big bummer. I like this character, and it seems they’re letting him go too soon. But what’s done is done. All I can hope for is his return once he figures out a way to reclaim his bond with the rags again.
It sure was nice to see Paul Blackthorne make his returns as Quentin Lance, fresh out of rehab. His subplot with Rene was surprisingly strong. It slowed down the intense pacing of the episode in a necessary and meaningful way. It established that Lance is never going to be 100% without his daughter. His road to recovery from both Laurel’s death and from alcohol is going to be long and rough. Of all people, how ironic Rene should be the one to stay behind and help Lance with his problems and prep him for his interview with Susan Williams. Then again, Rene was probably the one most persistent enough to put up with Lance’s drmatic outbursts. The connection between the two, being that Lance as a beat cop long ago gave Rene advice instead of busting him for tagging was a pleasant surprise. No doubt, it gave Lance some encouragement to press on with his recovery. Blackthorne and Rick Gonzalez worked incredibly well with each other. This subplot also gave Rene some maturity and depth, showing us he has potential as a dramatic character. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting this partnership to work, but it truly did. Still can’t wait for more moments with Thea and Lance though.
Felicity descent into darkness is growing. Her old hackivist ways seem to be on their way to making a comeback now that she has all that information on the Pandora drive. She put on a very convincing act by posing as a gangster to blackmail one of Walker’s Russian contacts. Honestly, it was quite a turn on, I have to admit. Felicity’s dark turn is something I’m very much looking forward to. I just wonder how far the show is really going to take her. Might she become a villain in the near future? I wouldn’t want that, but I don’t want her dark turn to be something brief and pointless. I’m just happy the writers have made the death of Malone affect her in this manner.
Getting back to the Susan Williams story, I really want to know what’s her deal. Is she working for a villainess organization, or is she just being a snoopy reporter who sleeps with men to get a hot scoop? There has to be more to her than that. Now that she has the evidence to put two and two together on how Oliver could is the Green Arrow, I wonder if the team will be able to stop her from sharing the story publicly. I can’t help but be intrigued by this woman and what her motives might do to harm Oliver.
“Bratva” was filled with so much excitement and action, I could hardly contain myself. I was a great watch. There were a few surprising elements to the episode such as the dramatic side with Lance and Rene, and Felicity’s tough girl act. Dinah proved herself valuable to the team and to Oliver personally. The flashbacks continue to be on point. It’s was cool to see the original Arrow suit in action again as Oliver killed the first person in the book of names. Although the main story was a bit thin, this was a solid effort of fun for the season.