NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Arrow” are present in this review
Arrow took something of a side trip this week, again, after Dinah Drake has officially been inducted into Team Arrow as its new Black Canary. Despite that however, Dinah barely got any focus in this episode, since, “Bratva” seemed to be primarily concerned with tying the flashbacks more into the present-day events, rather than properly moving forward the dynamic of Team Arrow, or pushing forward the grand plan of Prometheus. Immediately, the lack of emphasis on Dinah’s character is especially annoying, since you’d think that Dinah would have a few more hoops to jump through before properly settling in to the Team Arrow ensemble.
Prometheus being put on the back burner so much in Arrow’s back half of Season Five so far is also becoming a small, but increasingly noticeable gripe. The show finally seems to be on its way to recapturing a villain that can legitimately compare with the high point of Deathstroke from Season Two, only now, Prometheus has been pretty much entirely inactive in 2017 up to this point. I guess that Arrow is wanting to shuffle around its character arcs, hence why we’ve had entire episodes dedicated to finding a new Black Canary, getting Diggle out of jail, and in this case, focusing more on Oliver’s past with the Bratva five years previous. Still, with Prometheus once again being a no-show, Arrow feels like it’s becoming a bit distracted. “Bratva” is nonetheless a good episode, though also yet another episode that primarily exists to clean up story arcs that the show no longer has any use for in 2017.
Like I said, the flashbacks were brought into much heavier focus this week, since, even in the present day, Oliver has to go to Russia, alongside most of Team Arrow, save for Rene, who stays behind with Lance after he returns from rehab. Yes, Lance is back, and I’ll get to that in a bit. Regardless, returning to Russia means that Oliver has to reconnect with his old friend and Bratva associate, Anatoli, who is less than pleased to see Oliver returning to his country, after some unknown events that occurred during the flashback period, which we haven’t truly seen yet. Oliver’s actions leading to the death of a Bratva associate at the hands of Deathstroke during Season Two is also another reason why Anatoli is none too pleased to have Oliver trying to enlist the Bratva’s help once again.
In the flashbacks, when things are seemingly better with Oliver’s Bratva connections, we get to see Oliver’s proper beginning as The Hood, with Talia assisting him in taking down a Starling City drug dealer on his father’s list, who just so happens to be visiting Russia at the time. This mostly serves as an excuse for more thrilling action, but it’s the first pieces being laid for Oliver’s vigilante transformation that makes these scenes truly compelling. Once again, we also see the huge contrast between Oliver’s past and present selves put under the microscope in this episode, as Talia probes his sense of anger and vengeance in the flashbacks, something that Oliver has since put aside for his heroic motivations as the present-day Green Arrow.
Team Arrow’s present-day conflict of this episode comes from them fully aiming to wrap up the issue of Diggle’s incarceration, namely by capturing General Walker, after he flees to Russia to sell a stolen nuke to Markovian terrorists. Rory, Dinah and Curtis come along, but mostly just provide support for the core Team Arrow players, Oliver, Diggle and Felicity, who each have major storylines of their own. Oliver, as I said, is forced to try and appease Anatoli enough to get the intel necessary to stop Walker, which means having to dip a toe back into his old Bratva life, briefly going against his principles in the process.
Oliver trying extra hard to hang on to his honour also played nicely into this week’s Diggle storyline, as Diggle becomes increasingly desperate to bring down Walker at any cost. When Team Arrow captures one of Walker’s men, Diggle ignores Oliver’s order not to employ torture, ultimately collapsing into a fit of rage at the frustration of not being able to capture the man who wrongfully sent him to prison. The tense interactions between Oliver and Diggle were a great way to highlight the lines that Oliver now refuses to cross in the name of catching an enemy, even as he now once again occasionally applies lethal force when necessary. Seeing Felicity make use of the Pandora cache given to her by Helix to further the plot against Walker also made for a nice background threat that Oliver isn’t yet aware of. Turns out that Felicity is indeed going to start compromising her own moral compass sooner rather than later!
As I mentioned, Rene played the biggest part in this episode when it came to the new Team Arrow recruits, despite being the one staying behind in Star City. Oliver benching Rene so as not to cause an international incident is fairly funny, and logical, but this also allowed Rene a chance to once again display a more sensitive side. Lance is forced to confront his past when Susan grants him an interview, though Rene offers to help, and pulls no punches at dredging up Lance’s personal issues, leading to Lance refusing to work with him at first. This was nonetheless a smart way to apply Rene’s aggression and brutal honesty in a new direction though, especially when it gives Lance the courage to face his drinking problem and reputation in the mayor’s office, ultimately getting through the interview just fine, especially when Rene convinces Susan beforehand that Lance is a good person. The reveal that Rene actually became inspired to give up a life of crime by Lance in his youth, back when Lance was a beat cop, was a really nice, unexpected touch, and further made this subplot feel very emotionally satisfying. Susan decisively proving that Oliver is the Green Arrow soon afterward is bound to create trouble later though!
After Walker is finally stopped in the climax, thanks to some quick thinking by Rory, yet another character shuffle is made, as Rory’s rags stop functioning after he stops Walker’s nuke from exploding, forcing him to leave the team. He might be back at some point down the line, but now that Black Canary has joined the squad, Team Arrow already has another metahuman agent, and having more than one would bring them too close to becoming another Legends or Team Flash crew. This is annoying, since Rory has been one of the most likable new recruits, so it sucks to see him go. To this end, “Bratva” is still doing extended cleanup among the ongoing storylines more than anything else, though at least it did so in an entertaining fashion. I hope that the show gets back to a proper Prometheus storyline soon though. He’s been a little too quiet lately.
- Oliver keeping his principles amid his return to the Bratva
- Great flashbacks that detail Oliver's first proper Hood mission
- Rene's satisfying personal connection to Lance
- Dinah barely getting any focus on her first Team Arrow mission
- It's been a little too long since Prometheus made a move