NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Arrow” are present in this review
Arrow finally got a chance to revisit another of its best seasons in, “Prochnost”, as well as some of the strongest flashbacks that the show has featured, outside of those that took place on Lian Yu anyway. This episode brings Oliver and friends back to Russia, after a weapon that could destroy the Monitor is theorized to be available there. This also provides the added benefit of reuniting Oliver with Anatoli, delivering another welcome reunion with a legacy Arrow character, before the show concludes next year. Aside from the core team of Oliver, Laurel, Mia and William, Diggle also headlines a subplot back stateside, wherein he brings back another old ally, albeit one more recently featured on the series.
The chance to revisit Oliver’s dark history with the Bratva recounts one of Arrow’s darkest chapters, amid one of its most dramatic (and best!) seasons, namely Season Five. This begins once Oliver decides to bring Mia and William along with him to Moscow, after doing some training with Mia in the bunker. The biggest strength of this episode was how well it positioned Oliver and Mia as a fighting unit, which it did right from the get-go, with Mia learning about Oliver’s many trick arrows and training techniques. This is all the more effective when Arrow fans no doubt know that The CW is already grooming a spin-off series centered around Mia and the future 2040’s-era Team Arrow as well, providing an effective chance to prove that Mia can be every bit as ruthless, capable and engaging a character as her father has been throughout the past eight seasons of this show.
The reunion with Anatoli is similarly effective, with Anatoli actually welcoming Oliver with open arms for once, something that he hasn’t really done in quite some time. I guess it would stall the storytelling too much if Anatoli decided to pick yet another fight with Oliver, but fortunately, that’s a non-issue here, even when Oliver also brings Laurel with him. This is kind of an interesting idea, since Anatoli and Laurel used to work as villains for Cayden James during Season Six, another loose revisiting of a past Arrow season, albeit not one of the better ones. Disappointingly, there’s not much material mined from the tense reunion between Anatoli and Laurel. Instead, despite Anatoli seeming to believe that Laurel can’t truly change, the two act perfectly heroic, watching each other’s backs, and getting the job done. Well, so much for any bad blood between these two then, which seemed to evaporate as quickly as Anatoli’s bad history with Oliver.
In fact, the main reason why Laurel seems to be tagging along to Russia, more than anything else, is so she can be handily set up to betray Oliver, as Lyla commands her to do, on behalf of the Monitor. This is naturally where Laurel learns that Lyla is working for the Monitor as well, falling for the pitch that Earth-2 can be brought back, if Laurel betrays Oliver in some unknown fashion. The question of when Laurel will do this as well is a pretty good one, and it’s even better when Laurel surprisingly doesn’t follow this order either. Instead, Laurel eventually goes back to Lyla, not only refusing to screw over Oliver, but even bringing Oliver and Diggle as well, to show that Lyla has betrayed the both of them! This doesn’t end particularly well however, since Oliver, Diggle and Laurel are all knocked out by surprise blow darts in the final seconds of the episode. Still, at least it was pretty good to see Laurel stick to her renewed principles again, rather than backslide into old habits.
Oh, and I’d be remiss not to mention how cool the various Russia sequences are throughout this episode as well. While trying to secure the plans for a device that could hurt, and potentially kill, the Monitor, Oliver ends up roped into an underground Russian fight club, having to constantly battle massive thugs to move the story forward. This delivers some very tight and exciting choreography, which has to be done in a confined space, especially when Mia later gets to join the fight too! These battles follow a brief sequence of Oliver and Mia being captured by the Bratva agent they were trying to deal with, and Mia having to do the old, “Ring the bell” test, which Oliver also tried to train Team Arrow with in Season Five. Mia actually fails the test too, despite the story moving forward anyway. In the end though, it’s not really about the bell, which Mia has to learn through some sage wisdom from Laurel, with Mia having to come to grips with the fact that she couldn’t save Zoe, and that the present-era Team Arrow is just as flawed and shaky as the future-era Team Arrow can be.
As for the Diggle subplot, it immediately begins on a pretty interesting note, after William points Diggle to an ally he wants to bring along on his heist for plutonium, which is necessary to power the weapon that Team Arrow hopes to wield against the Monitor. That ally is actually none other than Roy Harper, once again having gone into hiding under a new identity. Since Roy has ditched Thea, on account of not being able to contain his bloodlust again, Diggle tries to talk Roy into coming along on the plutonium heist, having to try and reach Roy’s clouded soul once again, and convince him to rejoin Team Arrow, before the Crisis finds its way to them. Roy eventually agrees as well, which is exciting, even though Roy did return to Arrow last season already, so we did see him fairly recently. Still, after Roy disappeared again, it’s nonetheless great to have him back as a regular member of Team Arrow for the show’s overall climax, where he can fight alongside everyone else during the upcoming Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event.
“Prochnost” is a hard-hitting and exciting episode of Arrow, proving that the violent darkness of the Bratva still remains a compelling draw for the show’s storytelling. Mia’s introduction to the Bratva, along with the darker side of Oliver’s checkered past, constantly proved to be an engaging and rewarding journey, particularly when William is also forced to confront the true depths of his father’s darkness. In the end though, Team Arrow once again rises up, stronger and more unified than ever, and now possessing both the blueprints and the powering agent necessary to build a weapon to wield against the Monitor, or so they think. This ends up being a bit moot in the short-term though, since Lyla’s betrayal revelation has been met with Oliver, Diggle and Laurel being easily captured. I imagine that the next episode of Arrow is going to be quite the trip then, now that the Monitor has no doubt figured out what Team Arrow is up to, and will likely be motivated to put their eye back on the prize, as the Anti-Monitor inevitably keeps drawing closer to Earth-1…
- Standout unity between Oliver and Mia
- Intense, hard-hitting trip to Moscow
- Diggle convincing Roy to return to Team Arrow
- Missed opportunities with the Anatoli/Laurel reunion