Season 4 of The CW’s Arrow has had its highs and lows, and “Brotherhood” on Nov. 18 saw plenty of both. Here is a look at what worked and what didn’t with “Brotherhood.”
What Worked: The very best aspect of “Brotherhood” was undoubtedly that John Diggle got some attention. He ceased to be nothing but “Black Driver” a very long time ago, and he’s been overdue for a story that was not to facilitate either the Suicide Squad or Ray Palmer. In “Brotherhood,” John Diggle finally got his day.
David Ramsey rose to the occasion magnificently. Some of the rather repetitive dialogue given to Digg worked only thanks to the acting talents of Ramsey. He was absolutely the MVP of the episode. If nothing else, “Brotherhood” has established that Arrow is better when John Diggle has something to do.
Stephen Amell is the runner up to MVP, largely for the scene as he grew more and more distressed trying to insist that Andy could come back from his darkness before finally admitting that he personally needs to believe that nobody is ever too far gone to come back. The scene helped to add some present-day intrigue to otherwise dull flashbacks as the episode at least told that Oliver was going dark. If Arrow is going to continue to refuse to show Oliver going dark, relying on Amell for some shades of gray in the present to cast a few shadows on the past is better than nothing.
Oliver and Felicity continue to provide one of the most consistent and delightful dynamics of Season 4. Felicity’s comment about Oliver’s habit of dressing in leather to tie up people being overheard by an older woman who did not exactly look opposed to the idea was the funniest moment of the episode, and that sort of humor being mined from their relationship works to endear without embarrassing.
What is particularly wonderful about the Oliver/Felicity romance – and what “Brotherhood” demonstrated – is that their dynamic isn’t all that different from how they were in their prime as friends in earlier seasons. The friendship is still very much there; now, there’s just an added element of intimacy – both emotional and physical – in their scenes that elevates the stakes without warping the characters for the sake of a love story.
Thea has really blossomed since being let in on Oliver’s big secret back in Season 3, and her interactions with Malcolm are so much more compelling now that there’s some openness between them. Her unexpected meeting with Damien Darhk – whose pop culture reference to Disney’s Merida was perhaps the second funniest moment of the episode – unearthed some new possibilities for her bloodlust arc.
The Thea/Damien Darhk interactions shed some more light on magic. This time, however, it was not Darhk Vader using the Arrow version of the Force to choke anybody. This time, Darhk was the one who came off the worse for the magical shenanigans. Arrow has really needed to give Darhk a weakness beyond his fondness for villainous monologuing, and seeing him weakened and confused by what happened to him when he tried to whammy Thea was a step in the right direction.
Of course, Thea as Speedy putting the whammy on Darhk will not do Oliver as Oliver any good. He’s making a name for himself during regular business hours as candidate for mayor, and it’s only fair that Oliver face the consequences as well as reap the rewards of his campaign. After all, it won’t take any elaborate villainous schemes to suss out how to best hurt a man who defies dangerous men without wearing a mask. Working in the light means that the bad guys will have a much easier time seeing those whom Oliver loves most, and this new twist on the dangers of working to save the city is a welcome change to an increasingly tired formula.
Quite aside from the terrible danger now looming over all of them, the members of Team Arrow 3.0 looked positively fabulous in their formalwear in “Brotherhood.” Laurel’s classic hair and makeup really worked for Katie Cassidy, and Felicity’s overall styling worked to age Emily Bett Rickards up a bit so that she didn’t look like a teenager next to Stephen Amell as she did to a certain extent with the youthful Grant Gustin and the significantly older Brandon Routh.
The ladies didn’t have the market cornered on looking gorgeous in formalwear. Stephen Amell and David Ramsey were positively dashing, and any contrivances that might allow Oliver to actually become mayor of Star City might be forgivable if the new position comes with more frequent events that will require tuxedos for himself and his bodyguard.
What Didn’t Work: The practical handling of “Brotherhood” from Arrow stunt coordinator James Bamford in his directorial debut was so sloppy that the camerawork actually noticeable.
The lack of situational awareness shown first by Quentin Lance and then by Oliver Queen regarding Lance’s work as a double agent for Damien Darhk was kind of appalling. Lance had been threatened by Darhk on suspicion of being a double agent, then proceeded to seize the first bit of information that he saw on Darhk’s desk that was practically written on special “This Is A Trap – Proceed Heedlessly!” stationary and deliver it directly to the Green Arrow. Good guys are a heck of a lot more fun to watch when they’re being thwarted by the devious machinations of evildoers than when they’re making shortsighted decisions.
There were some odd writing choices in “Brotherhood.” The exposition was announced rather than incorporated. Worse, some of the most awkward writing was entirely unnecessary. Laurel exclaiming “Sick!” when Felicity explained the new cameras felt unnatural to her normal speech patterns, and the bizarre tangent about Oliver’s tuxedos was pretty terrible. Unless this was an example of Chekhov’s formalwear and a major plot point will later be reliant on one of Oliver’s many old tuxes, the tangent was a chunk of screentime that could have been better used for just about anything else.
Flashback Oliver using a bullwhip to punish Conklin in “Brotherhood” was a bit much. The best thing about the Oliver Queen action sequences has been the fact that he earned his abilities; the magical whip skills that came out of nowhere jarred.
Ambiguously Accented Woman is as blank as ever, and the development of her character feels clumsily rebooted each episode. Neither Ambiguously Accented Woman nor the dearly departed Vlad ever indicated that there was a sibling in the mix, and so Ambiguously Accented Woman’s despair in “Brotherhood” after learning of Vlad’s death felt like manufactured emotional fodder.
And yes, Ambiguously Accented Woman does now have a name. Until she is notable for anything more than her ambiguous accent and being a woman, however, she will remain known as Ambiguously Accented Woman.
Arrow airs at 8 p.m. EST on The CW. Stay tuned to Examiner for a look at what needs to happen next for Arrow after “Brotherhood.” In the meantime, be sure to check out ‘Arrow’ S04E08: More direction than development in ‘Brotherhood.’