Oliver and Anatoly have a chat while Diggle teams up with New Team Arrow
“Shifting Allegiances” may be the strongest episode in quite a few weeks because it’s the first one that moves past the squabbling — both the earned and contrived kind — that’s plagued most of this season. The best half of the episode is focused on Oliver’s relationship with Anatoly, which has always been one of the show’s strengths, and the other half is focused on Diggle and New Team Arrow putting their differences aside and working together. Tonight’s episode isn’t perfect, but it has restored my faith that Arrow can pull it together and finish strong.
We begin in Russia, where Oliver is doing a job for the Bratva in order to A) make up for when he screwed them over, and B) convince them to forgive Anatoly. That goes as planned, so Oliver returns to Star City to visit his former friend. To Oliver’s “surprise” (he’s not actually surprised), Anatoly is not excited to rejoin the Bratva and turns down the olive branch. Instead, Anatoly tasers him and chains him to the chair for a long chat.
I really liked the fact that Arrow slowed things down here to focus on this fractured relationship. Oliver and Anatoly were once brothers, but they both made mistakes that broke them. And as was the case when Oliver visited Slade while in prison, you can still see signs of Oliver and Anatoly’s old rapport. For example, Anatoly has no problem pointing out that Oliver’s decision to work alone because he believes Diaz took advantage of the fact that he was distracted by people cared about is stupid. It’s a great, yet understated moment, that’s yet another reminder that Anatoly isn’t a completely antagonistic force.
As we’ll come to find out (and is pretty obvious), Oliver allowed Anatoly to capture him because he wants to convince him to flip on Diaz. Oliver decides to appeal to Anatoly’s sense of honor and argues that Diaz doesn’t have any. At first, Anatoly resists Oliver, but Oliver manages to break through when he says that Anatoly is betraying himself by working with a man like Diaz.
When Anatoly turns Oliver over to Diaz, he decides to give Oliver a chance to take Diaz down by convincing Diaz to let Oliver fight for his freedom. So, Diaz offers Oliver a deal: If Diaz wins their fight, Oliver must leave the city forever, and if Oliver wins, then Diaz will peace out. You know, I was willing to buy Diaz as a big bad villain, but during the ensuing brawl, Diaz says a version of Bane’s “You merely adopted the dark; I was born in it” line from The Dark Knight Rises (he changes dark to hell), which was just silly and severely undercut whatever menace he had. (I thought Arrow had moved past its Nolan obsession). Although Diaz starts out on top, Oliver quickly gains the upper-hand and locks him in a chokehold. But Diaz has one more trick up his sleeve: He pulls a knife out of his pocket and stabs Oliver — a.k.a he cheats, which breaks whatever faith Anatoly had in him.
Anatoly isn’t the only one of Diaz’s associates that turns on him. Laurel, who watched him burn someone alive over a stupid childhood grudge in last week’s episode, is also reconsidering her relationship with Diaz. Thankfully, she may still have an ally in Quentin. Diaz reveals Laurel’s duplicity to Quentin, who is initially hurt but eventually forgives her once he realizes that she’s incredibly scared of her crazy and criminal boyfriend. (Next: A win for New Team Arrow and ARGUS)