Wednesday, November 18, 2015

REVIEW: 'Arrow' - Diggle Learns More About His Brother While Damien Darhk Meets Oliver Queen in 'Brotherhood'

The CW's Arrow - Episode 4.07 "Brotherhood"

Team Green Arrow's ongoing battle with Damien Darhk is complicated by a shocking revelation. Thea's bloodlust returns and she loses control in front of Alex.

Over the years, James Bamford and his skilled team of stunt professionals have done a phenomenal job at bring all of Arrow's action sequences to live. This show knows how to execute high stakes action set pieces well. And now, Bamford is making his directorial debut on the show. So of course, the creative team gives him an episode that is filled with some truly stellar staged fights. Bamford captures those moments in a very technically proficient way that is so great and captivating to watch. The show has always highlighted its fights and what they mean for the various characters in such a strong way. But this episode increases the appeal of those sequences. Not only do those moments stand out well but the emotional moments between the characters also land phenomenally. Bamford did a great job with this episode. In fact, this episode showcases just how much more talent he can give to this show.

The story of "Brotherhood" centers on Diggle learning that his brother, Andy, isn't really dead at all. H.I.V.E. staged his death in order to recruit him into their organization via a drug that makes him obey all orders. He is just the latest character to be brought back to life on this show. That's a trope that has become all too common as of late - because of the resurrections of Thea, Sara and Ray. Thea coming back had a purpose in the third season. And now, that action has some major complications that the show is really invested in exploring. Sara and Ray's revivals felt necessary because they had signed onto the spinoff series, Legends of Tomorrow. But the show didn't need to revive Andy. Diggle got the answers that he had been searching for in the previous episode. He learned that his brother wasn't the man he thought he was. That was devastating but it gave him some closure. Now learning that Andy is alive is a completely surprising revelation that Diggle doesn't know if he can handle. He's not sure how to react. He finally has his brother back after all of these years hoping for him to return. And yet, he returns a monster. Even in his drug-induced state, he still needs to be culpable for some of those actions.

That leads to an interesting debate over whether Diggle wants to save his brother. The rest of the team always fight for their family. Oliver has done everything in his power to keep his family safe. Sure, that hasn't always gone his way. But it's still how he wants to believe. Meanwhile, Laurel did whatever it took in order to get Sara back - including putting her in the Lazarus Pit and fighting literal monsters in order to safe her soul. Diggle is different. His love for his brother has been a prominent part of the character since the very beginning of the series. But he also doesn't want to get his hopes up just to be even more devastated later. He doesn't know what Andy has become. The brother that he knew died a long time again. This man who stands before is just a soldier for Damien Darhk. Is that person worth saving? Is it worth getting the rest of his family's hopes up again after how much pain Andy's death caused? Can Diggle ask the rest of the team to risk their lives just to help him rescue a man who may not need to be saved?

However, the rest of Team Green Arrow doesn't turn away despite the severity of the situation. They want to help Diggle because they understand just how important family is. They know how terrifying and dangerous Damien is. They still want to take that risk so that Diggle can come to understand his brother better. They see firsthand just what Damien does to his ghosts in order to make them so susceptible to orders. It's a pill that takes away their free will as well as some of their DNA. That's why it's so hard to identity any of the ghosts' bodies even after they commit suicide to avoid talking to the team. It's a pill that they don't know if they'll be able to reverse the effects. But they have an opportunity to thwart whatever Damien has planned next for the city. Oliver and Diggle take on the ghosts alone at the docks to keep the mission simple. When that doesn't work out, they bring the whole team together to infiltrate the ghosts' base of operations. It's a facility filled with trained soldiers. The team needs as much help as they can get in order to rescue Andy. It leads to a fantastic sequence where everyone faces off with multiple opponents. In the end, Thea is able to knock Andy out and Laurel drags him to safety. As fantastic as this sequence is to watch for the action choreography, it also shows just how far these people have grown. They fight as a team now.

All of Team Green Arrow need to stand against Damien if they have any hope of stopping him. Right now, they only speculate about why he wants Star City to die. The theory is that a dead city would make the perfect headquarters for a nefarious organization. Oliver represents resistance to that strategy with his mayoral campaign. Oliver Queen and Damien come face-to-face for the first time in this episode. Damien believes he can walk up to Oliver and tell him what to do. He believes that's possible based on everything that Oliver has been in the public eye over the years. Oliver even considers agreeing to Damien's terms because it would allow him access inside Damien's organization. That's how the old Oliver would want to handle this. But Oliver is a part of a team now. He is able to listen to Felicity and Diggle's opinions. That helps inform his decision on this matter. It's because of them speaking openly that he regains his confidence with his original plan and goals for this city. He doesn't want to be manipulated by Damien. He simply wants to make this city great again while standing in the light. There is a time and place to save the city in the shadows. But right now, Oliver is waging war with Damien on two fronts - and he shouldn't be underestimated in either of them. That's what makes his character arc this season so engaging. The show took a risk by making Oliver and Felicity an actual couple and by no longer having the Arrow as the leader of a team. But that's a risk that has paid off immensely because it opens the characters up to being so much more than they were before.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Brotherhood" was written by Speed Weed & Keto Shimizu and directed by James Bamford.
  • Andy is capture by Team Green Arrow and locked up in a cage. Diggle does confront him over what happened in his past. He gets the confirmation that he feared. It's going to be a long road before Andy is recognizable as the brother Diggle once knew.
  • Ray is not going public with his big return from death because he wants to have a purpose before doing that. He doesn't get that until he's fighting alongside the Green Arrow in the field. That means Felicity is still going to be the head of the company.
  • Thea's bloodlust is starting to return. She loses her cool when a guy tries hitting on her while she's on a date with Alex. But Thea also learns that Damien can take away her bloodlust. That's something that he actually fears. He touches her and his powers go away. That should be important for the future.
  • Oliver doesn't really need to campaign because he's running unopposed for Mayor. And yet, he is still making an effort to show the city that he is determined to make it better. That is very admirable.
  • In the island flashbacks, the soldier who convinced a worker to attack Oliver is punished for that action. And then, Oliver steals a map of the island that is crucial to the big plans for the season. It's not all that exciting of a story.
  • Again, those action sequences were plentiful and beautiful to watch. My personal favorite was the one take battle between Thea and Andy that included a trip up an elevator.