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)
Meanwhile, Rene finally leaves the hospital and returns to work with New Team Arrow. Since the new guys can’t attack Diaz directly, they decide to go after his operation. Believing Diaz probably is looking for a new drug supplier after Oliver and Diggle took down his Vertigo business a few weeks ago, New Team Arrow sets their sights on a Glades gang called the Scorpions; however, when they break into the Scorpion’s warehouse, they discover that the gang is trafficking high-powered Kasnian weapons. The situation quickly takes a turn when the Quadrant shows up and starts killing the Scorpions and tries to take down New Team Arrow in the process. Thankfully, Diggle and his ARGUS men arrive in time to save them, which means one thing: It’s team-up time!
Diggle, who apologizes to Rene for everything that happened (half of which was Rene’s fault to begin with, but whatever), briefs New Team Arrow on the Quadrant, which they believe is importing weapons into Star City. However, upon further investigation, they discover that Diaz and the Quadrant are actually using Star City as a way station to export weapons, which is even more dangerous.
So, New Team Arrow and ARGUS join forces to take those shipments out before they can leave Star City. Well, everyone except for Rene, who is having a hard adjusting to being back in the field because he’s worried he’ll die and leave Zoey alone. While Rene spends time with Zoey, the other guys head out into the field. And in a surprising development, they actually manage to destroy the entire drug shipment. This might be the first competent thing New Team Arrow has done since they became New Team Arrow. Then again, this should tell Dinah, Curtis, and Rene something since they weren’t able to pull this off alone. If only Supergirl were here to swoop in and explain that the S on her chest means “Stronger Together” as a way of making them all understand that they’re best when they work together. Given how tonight’s episode ends, however, I suspect it won’t be too long before all of Team Arrow is reunited.
Witnessing Diaz cheat is more than enough to convince Anatoly to flip sides, but alas his change of heart arrives too late. Diaz decides he’s not going to make Oliver leave the city after losing to him. Instead, he’s going to hand him over to the police, order his men in the courthouse to revoke his bail, and move up Oliver’s court date. So as the episode ends, the wayward Team Arrow members watch as Oliver is marched into the police station in handcuffs and placed into a cell, where he’ll stay until his goes on trial. Do you think Oliver’s finally starting to realize his big mistake?