Friday, 20 November 2015

Review - 'Arrow', S04E07 - 'Brotherhood'

It's probably fair to say that I didn't dislike the third season of Arrow quite as much as some other viewers seemed to - but, still, I do have to admit that it did have more than it's share of weaker elements. So far, though, the fourth season has been a significant improvement in a variety of ways - and, the season's seventh episode may very well be the best, so far.

The fact that this was going to be an episode focused largely on John Diggle was the first clear highlight, for me. Diggle has always been a strong presence on the show - a great character who has, unfortunately, often seemed underutilised. Here, though, we have an episode that directly draws directly from Diggle's own recent past by finally providing some clear answers regarding the assassination of Diggle's brother years earlier - though, of course, the answers we are given aren't necessarily ones that Diggle, or the audience, were expecting.

It was only recently that Diggle learnt that his brother might not have been the good, and honourable, man that he had always believed him to be - with the files that Quentin Lance has managed to acquire for Diggle suggesting that his brother had been heavily involved in a variety of illegal activities. Now, though, Diggle learns that his brother actually wasn't even dead, after all - as, during another confrontation between 'Team Arrow' and Damian Darhk's soldiers, Diggle has the opportunity to unmask one of these 'Ghosts' only to learn that it was Andy Diggle (Eugene Byrd), himself - seemingly alive and well, and working for Damian Darhk.

It does feel a bit like an overly contrived coincidence, admittedly - that, of all of Darhk's 'Ghosts' Diggle could have unmasked, he just happened to stumble across his own brother. But, I think that can be forgiven. It was, after all, the catalyst for this episode's drama - and, it provides some truly great moments for David Ramsey, in particular, as he struggles to come to terms with the thought that his brother is actually alive. Perhaps understandably, given that Diggle has only recently learnt of the horrible things that Andy was apparently involved in, Diggle finds himself feeling increasingly conflicted about his brother's presence. While Oliver is adamant that there may be more going on here than they understand, and that they should try to get Andy away from Darhk, Diggle actually seems to be inclined toward simply writing his brother off, entirely.

It is certainly a fascinating moral quandary that the two men have found themselves in - and, the surprising reversal of the expected roles is also interesting. Oliver's new-found emphasis on holding on to hope practically compells him to try to convince Diggle to give his brother the benefit of the doubt. Diggle, meanwhile, only really sees his brother's betrayal - and, already seems entirely convinced that the good man he believes that he knew was a lie. As interesting as all of this was, though, I do have to admit that it was a bit of a shame that Andy Diggle, himself, would actually only have a small role in the episode. Though, that being said, it is also fairly obvious that we will be seeing more of him in the future. Obviously, there is still quite a bit to be revealed, there.

While Diggle is dealing with some unexpected family drama, there was also room for further developments for Thea as she found herself, once again, beginning to feel the unnatural blood-lust caused by her dip in the Lazarus Pit. I have to say that things certainly took a surprisingly dark turn, here. First, we had Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) returning to Star City to continue in his efforts to help his daughter in his own twisted way - this time, by offering up an unconvicted paedophile that Thea could kill in order to give herself another few weeks of peace. Then, we have her momentarily losing control in public - and, potentially, ruining a promising new romantic relationshp before it had even truly begun. It was a great development for a plot-thread which had been fairly dull up until this point - and, the faint promise of hope, as Thea discovers a potential cure from an unexpected source, also promise interesting developments for the future.

There was also room for some fascinating developments for Oliver Queen's mayoral campaign. When Damian Darhk reached out to Oliver Queen, in his public persona, Oliver suddenly found himself forced to choose between accepting Darhk's offer of support, and potentially comprising his own campaign in the hope that it might allow him the opportunity to get closer to Darhk, or to make a public show of defying Darhk. It may not have been quite as compelling a dramatic turn as some of the others in this episode - but, it was still an interesting new development for a, so far, neglected plot-thread.

Despite seeming as though the previous episode might have been the last we would see of him until Legends of Tomorrow starts early next years, Ray Palmer also got to play a role, here - putting his scientific expertise to good use, before getting the opportunity to put on his ATOM suit, once more. Ray, it seems, is also caught up in his own quandary as, after seeing how easily all of his efforts to build something lasting with his company have fallen apart in the time since he vanished, he is left uncertain about what is role should be in the future. Whether this is the last we see of Ray Palmer before Legends of Tomorrow is something I'm unsure of - but, it was definitely good to see him again, here. The previous episode hadn't been able to do anywhere near enough to address the fall-out of his strange experiences over the past few months.

On top of that, this episode also featured some particularly impressive action sequences. And, we even saw a bit of, much needed, progress on this season's 'flash-back' story, as Conklin's (Ryan Robbins) efforts to frame Oliver for the murder of one his the slave workers backfires, and Oliver is able to steal a map which may reveal the location of whatever mystical artifact Baron Reiter (Jimmy Akingbola) is seeking - it's not much, but it's something. After getting off to a promising start, this story-line does seem to have started floundering, a bit.

Overall, though, this was a fantastic episode of Arrow - if the show can maintain this level of quality going forward, then it might even come to rival the best moments of the fantastic second season. Though, I suppose we'll just have to wait and see.

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