Diggle's past comes back to haunt him while Oliver gets closer to Damien Darhk than ever before.
With an episode aptly titled “Brotherhood,” Arrow has little use for subtlety in conveying its central themes of the week. It’s not going to lurk in the shadows demonstrating what the idea of brotherhood, both blood and bond, means to Diggle, Oliver, the soldiers on Lian Yu, and others. And there’s no reason to — just as Oliver ultimately decides it’s best to do battle in the broad light of day, “Brotherhood” decides to drive at the heart of its purpose with plenty of force.
So James Bamford stepping in as director feels of a piece with the story being told. Yes, there’s his touted extended one-shots at the center of the episode, but his direction of the entire episode clarifies, rather the obfuscates. He employs a number of smaller yet still lengthy tracking shots, some hanging just a beat or two longer than most TV editing would dictate, to let the choreography of a scene, whether it’s a fight or a conversation, take center stage.
At the direct center of it all is Diggle. Having learned his brother’s true nature (or at least, as true as a file’s notes can be), he feels betrayed. Oliver wants to give him the benefit of the doubt and consider there’s another side to Andy, but with his brother dead, he has little chance to defend himself.
Or so Diggle assumes. When Ray gives the team a lead on a pulled Ghost tooth, he discovers more than expected at Wolfman Biologics. (Ray is still operating under the cover of presumed death, much to the chagrin of Felicity.) While handling a pack of Ghosts and picking up a synthetic compound tying back to a Biologics patent, Diggle has to incapacitate a Ghost to save himself and Laurel. That Ghost just so happens to be Andy Diggle, alive and well…and apparently evil. He attacks his brother and flees, leaving Diggle with his life and a whole mess of questions.
With this new piece of information, Oliver doubles down on his belief that they need to give Andy some leeway. Yes, he’s been presumed dead for eight years and Diggle just discovered he may have been involved in a number of illicit activities, but Oliver believes there must be an explanation for it all. Diggle is less willing to afford his brother that opportunity because, to him, his brother is dead. The man he met at Wolfman was not the Andy he knew.
And if Ollie has little hope of getting on the same page as his brother in combat, Laurel has even less of a chance despite their unusual connection. Yet she gives it the old college try, trying to commiserate with Diggle at the police gala where Oliver is speaking. They both have had previously thought-dead siblings return to their lives, and happened to have been involved with a clandestine group of trained killers.
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Still, Diggle isn’t quite ready to move on from his frustration and simply trust this re-emerged Andy. Losing him led to the darkest period in Diggle’s life, and as much as the idea of him returning is something Diggle has imagined, as he tells Lyla later, Diggle is scared to put false hope into what may be a lost cause.
His brother is a member of Damien Darhk’s army, but Andy isn’t the only one surprisingly involved with Darhk. After learning that Damien’s trust in Quentin is wavering, Oliver has an unexpected possible gift thrown into his lap when Darhk approaches him at the gala. He wants to offer his support to Oliver’s campaign and believes the two can work together to the benefit of Star City. Of course, Ollie is running unopposed, so the offer strikes him as odd, and Damien comes clean with what he actually wants.
NEXT: Everybody wants to save Andy…except for Diggle
He wants Oliver to scrap his plans for repairing Star City’s docks, let that area of the city remain dark, and become Darhk’s. If he doesn’t, Damien will make sure Oliver’s run no longer goes unopposed.
Oliver is actually considering it, thinking he can take down Darhk’s rule from within his organization as a trusted collaborator. Felicity completely disagrees and reminds him of the last time he tried to dismantle an organization from the inside. (Her argument is the clearest sign of what Oliver’s plan will be by the end of the episode. The writers and producers are aware enough of his journey so far and how the audience responded to it to not so immediately repeat a major facet of Oliver’s life.)
Of more immediate concern is Andy, though, and so Oliver offers Diggle an opportunity for them to work together and save him. The duo sneaks off alone to the dock thanks to intel from Quentin, where they find Damien inducting a new group of Ghosts to the organization. He has them all take a pill that makes them his to control. They become practically empty vessels, bending to his will, and the title Ghost becomes all too apt.
Ollie and Diggle are spotted, Andy commanding his fellow ghosts to kill the green one, proving the caring brother he presumably once was is still in there somewhere. The two almost die as Ghosts swarm their location, leading to an all-out brawl — one of Bamford’s longest one-shots of the episode, complete with handheld camerawork. (ASIDE: While I enjoyed the one-shot, it certainly won’t go down in my personal book as one of the better ones I’ve seen in recent memory, and I think Bamford’s directing work is quite strong throughout the episode at highlighting the fight sequences. The one-shot is great, but there are decisions in fights before and after it that I think surpass it. END ASIDE)
The two make it out with their lives, but the botched plan only worsens Diggle’s mood. Particularly knowing Oliver’s desire to get in bed with Damien, Diggle has come away from it all feeling betrayed by two brothers, thinking one is beyond saving while hoping the other, who he is still fighting alongside, will come to his senses.
Oliver still wants to save Andy, though, and luckily, thanks to Ray’s help, he finds a way to do so. Ray discovers a surprising amount of sodium fluoride in the Ghost tooth, which leads him to a building that suffered from increased fluoride levels in the water: Mueller Psychiatric Center.
Ollie wants to attempt another rescue mission, and this time he’s brought the entire team along for the ride. Diggle protests, but with a more democratized Team Arrow this year, he has little choice to refuse their help. But he initially sits out the plan as the team invades the center.
They enter the nest of Ghosts with cameras courtesy of Curtis to identify the soldiers under their masks and find Andy. Their stealthy entrance falters moments into the plan as Thea and Laurel are both spotted. Luckily, Andy is involved in the fray. (For an example of Bamford’s interesting camera choices, re-watch some of these fights. He shoots low to the ground and tracks the action without cutting. It’s not as long as his cargo bay shot, but these concentrated bursts of balletic combat are impressively successful.)
Oliver is facing off with a sea of Ghosts on the upper level, fending them off with the help of Ray, who arrives mid-fight. He eventually flies off to help with the Andy-retrieval leg of the mission, but Oliver isn’t alone. Diggle shows up to lend a hand (and a gun).
NEXT: Is Andy really as bad as his file implies?
The group successfully returns Andy to the lair (where Ray promises to remain dead until he can figure out how he can imbue his life with meaning again, but he won’t mind lending a hand), where he’s locked up. Diggle approaches him, willing to give him that second chance Oliver so wanted him to offer. This is something Oliver wants partially for himself. He needs to know Diggle can have the hope for a brighter future because Oliver needs the hope that they can survive no matter how much of a hold darkness has on their lives.
But Diggle comes away with his suspicions confirmed. He gives Andy the file folder of revelation, asking if everything within it is true. Andy pages through it, hands it back, and tells him that it all is. (Andy is still acting odd at this point, though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the lingering effects of Damien’s mind control have made him buy into some well-crafted lie.)
Yet even if Damien has a hold on Andy, Oliver decides to heed Diggle’s advice and not let the same be true of him. He holds a conference by the docks, announcing his restoration plan. The docks are in the center of the city, and he wants the people of Star City to see he will never stop fighting to save them. And he’s going to do it in the light of day, not lurking in the shadows. It’s a good thing Damien is in the audience, as the message is clearly intended for him.
And at least some crack in Damien’s armor is revealed during the episode. He confronts Thea in the halls of Mueller, attempting to kill her on the spot. But as he goes to touch her, he pulls away, if not injured then at least affected by Thea and, presumably, her ties to the Lazarus Pit.
Thea knows this moment is an important one, so it’s a good thing Malcolm Merlyn is in town. He’s there to help her satiate her bloodlust (asking her to kill a known but free pedophile), but when she makes this discovery, she decides to ask for his help in another form. Her bloodlust disappeared after Damien touched her, and she wants Malcolm to aid her in finding a way to make it permanent. Surely that won’t be dangerous.
On the Island
While all things magical and mystical are creeping into the present day of Arrow, they are also seeping into his time on Lian Yu, albeit in a much slower form. After his forced murder of Vlad, Conklin takes Ollie back to Baron Reiter, but the soldier meets an unexpected hitch in his plan. Reiter tests the two of them with some magical reeds, which somehow point out Conklin is lying about whether he put Vlad up to attacking Oliver.
His punishment is a public whipping by Oliver, who also has the difficult task of telling the woman whose death he faked that Vlad, her brother, has died. He leaves out the part about killing him in self-defense, as he’s going to need her help in procuring a survey map of the island, which will lead them right to whatever Reiter is looking for.
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