Arrow Season 4, Episode 7 “Brotherhood”
Written by Speed Weed & Keto Shimizu
Directed by James Bamford
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm ET on The CW
Arrow‘s desperately needed a “back to basics” episode in the light of all its extra curricular nonsense lately, which culminated in the messy, wildly disappointing “Lost Souls” last week. “Brotherhood”, thankfully, is just what the Doctor (the Darhktor?) ordered, hearkening back to earlier Arrow episodes, where a straightforward narrative offers an opportunity to actually spend some time with core characters, rather than see its priorities divided between its own stories, and the worlds of other shows. Bringing Andrew Diggle back to life initially seems like another unnecessary Arrow trick, but it ultimately provides a thoroughline to the show’s core values, a return to form this show’s desperately needed.
Those values, of course, center around the idea of family: and as Felicity and Ray uncover what makes the Ghosts a “family” of sorts (at least genetically), Diggle and Oliver spend much of the episode locked in a philosophic debate on what that word actually means. Is it something that inspires ultimate loyalty – and if it does, should it? When Andy shows up at a Ghost during a battle with Darhk’s men, John finds himself face to face with an idea he’s admitted he’s “played with” for the last eight years: his criminal brother was alive, and had abandoned his wife and child for a secret career in H.I.V.E.. That’s not an easy revelation to get over – and as Diggle continuously pushes back against Oliver’s attempts to help them recover his brother, Arrow finds new found thematic resonance with arguably the most important relationship on the show.
Andy’s involvement with H.I.V.E. also gives Diggle something he’s never had before: organic emotional stakes in the larger conflicts of Arrow‘s world. We’ve had hints of it before with Lyla, but Andy coming to life breathes life into a character arc that’s usually been isolated from the Big Bad stories of the show. This is huge for Diggle’s character: not only does it give him a voice in the central conflict between Oliver and Darhk (one different, and more important than that of a side kick), but it allows the show to explore the dichotomy of ‘family’: they can be our best friends, or they can be complete strangers, but the bond remains sacred, and should be protected as such.
Of course, Arrow‘s done this story a dozen times, usually with parents: Thea and her father, Oliver and his parents, Laurel/Sara/Quentin in whatever combination you’d like to pick – and while they’ve worked to varying degrees over the years, it’s helped establish those ideas as part of Arrow‘s core philosophies. It gives the show the personal touch it really needs to give the show a beating heart under its smokey-eye makeup and leather costumes: and as Arrow‘s become more and more about the latter over the years, seeing those core values come to life again through Diggle and Oliver’s discussions about Andy’s potential fate is a pleasure to watch.
It gives Arrow a pathos it has direly lacked this season: for the first time this season, it really felt like Arrow was concerned about Arrow, and not pushing other characters around for Legends of Tomorrow (save for Ray dropping hints about needing to “find himself”, only the 48th time we’ve heard that on this show and The Flash so far this season). Of course, considering the next entry, “Legends of Yesterday”, is all about launching said spin-off, “Brotherhood” may not exactly mark an extended run of focused episodes – but at least for a moment, it’s nice to see Arrow close its circle a little, and tell a story close to home, especially one centered around such an underutilized character like John Diggle.
The other stories of “Brotherhood” are a mixed bag: with such a focus on Diggle’s turmoil regarding Andy, there isn’t much room elsewhere for movement. And what movement we do get, with Darhk trying to push himself closer to Oliver Queen’s campaign and threatening Quentin, is halted every time the show cuts away to the island nonsense; am I supposed to care there’s a man with sticks telling Oliver to whip a man like a slave? Do I care about surveying an island, or that Oliver killed that woman’s sister? As always, a trip to Lian Yu is the only thing Arrow needs to do to effectively kill its momentum: that, or anything involved with Thea’s on-again/off-again blood lust (which is somehow tied into Darhk’s powers and actually helps her), of course.
For the most part, however, “Brotherhood” benefits from having its feet lodged firmly in the present for a moment, concerned with the priorities of its main characters rather than entrenched in the origin stories of others. And with the larger threads of H.I.V.E. and Darhk appearing to stream line a bit in this hour, there’s still hope Arrow can pull itself out of the season-long funk it’s been in since O.G. R’as dropped Oliver off the side of a cliff. It’s been awhile, but “Brotherhood” offers glimpses of hope for what may be to come.
- This episode was directed by James Bamford, longtime stunt choreographer on Arrow. With it come some uncharacteristically long shots during fight scenes, which are pleasant enough, but feel out of sync with the show’s normal visual tone, as well as paling in comparison to both Banshee and Daredevil episodes from this year. Still – it’s fun to see some kinetic fight sequences on this show.
- Although… those fight sequences do come at the cost of the Ghosts, who’ve gone from unstoppable monsters to regular ol’ idiot bad guy fodder in this episode.
- One more thought on the fight scenes: ’twas painfully obvious by Speedy’s lowered head there was a stunt double used in her long shot – which is understandable, but completely ruins the moment every time the camera looks straight on at the top of her head. (oh, and since when was Laurel unhittable as Canary? She’s been getting the shit beat out of her all season!).
- Oh hey, there’s The Atom!
- Remember when Lyla was something other than a lame housewife?