Arrow S05E12 “Bratva” REVIEW
- Quentin returns from rehab and asks Susan Williams to interview him on camera to talk about overcoming his addiction.
- At Oliver’s press conference thanking Chase for helping free Diggle, Susan gets a message revealing General Walker and his men have escaped from custody and gone rogue, with the warhead they tried to frame Diggle over.
- They track Walker to Russia, and the team heads over to stop him selling the weapon to Markovian separatists — although they leave Rene behind to babysit Lance (and avoid a diplomatic incident)
- Oliver meets Anatoli at the airport, but his former Bratva friend slaps him and tells him he’s not welcome, for betraying the brotherhood.
- Felicity uses the hacked information from last week to track down a telecom manager who can give them access to the phone Walker’s using in Russia, threatening to hand over the information about him in the files to the Kremlin.
- They trace Walker and his men to a church, but it’s a set-up and Walker’s men open fire on Oliver and Diggle. They manage with Dinah’s help to overpower the men, but Walker escapes.
- Oliver threatens one of the men with torture to find out where Walker is hiding, but a frustrated Diggle takes matters into his own hands and beats the mercenary to a pulp instead.
- Rene’s coaching of Quentin for his interview doesn’t go well, as Rene’s blunt questioning about Laurel’s death sees Lance storm out the room.
- Rory is concerned at Felicity using the memory stick, and says he thinks she’s crossed a line.
- Oliver strikes a deal with Anatoli to carry out a hit on a local factory in exchange for information about Walker. He returns to the safe house to tell Felicity and Diggle he needs them to not cross the moral line to prove Prometheus wrong that he won’t damage his friends’ moral compasses.
- With Anatoli’s information — and a Bratva goon squad — they track down Walker as he looks to sell the weapon, and disrupt the sale. However, they discover the bomb isn’t with the rebels.
- Walker taunts Diggle to kill him, as Andy did, but Diggle proves himself a better man and spares the general so he can face justice instead.
- Felicity tracks the bomb down to a hanger, where it is set to go off. After her attempts to hack the detonator make things worse, Rory uses his rags to absorb the blast, in the way they protected him at Havenrock.
- However, the Rags have lost their power as a result of the nuclear bomb, and Rory decides to leave the team. Felicity gets a text from the hackers, encouraging her to keep using the files.
- Williams visits Oliver in Russia, and tries to get him to open up in bed about his past. Once she’s back in the USA, her private detective confirms his Bratva membership — and reveals a photograph of the “Archer” in Russia at the same time as Oliver.
- In flashbacks, Talia tells Oliver that Hideo Yamane, one of the names on his father’s list, is in Russia concluding a deal for the drugs he found Thea taking during his secret visit to the Queen mansion. He takes Yamane down, and prepares to return to Starling City to take on the rest, and visits Anatoli to tell him he’s leaving. He finds Anatoli in hospital, beaten by Grigor, and plots how to get revenge…
Arrow seasons are, at their best, like an onion. Stories are slowly revealed as each layer is peeled away, exposing a fresh new strata of storytelling. And probably inducing not a few tears in the process.
With “Bratva”, we start to get a sense of those layers being peeled back. The “Invasion!” storyline and the Prometheus revelation before Christmas, followed by a month’s hiatus, had put some of the show’s storylines on the back foot for a while. But now we’ve seen some of those older layers gone, or at least peeled away to reveal the next level.
So we finally have some movement on the whole Susan Williams: Ace Reporter/Spy thing. We have resolution to the General Walker story. The Bratva storyline in this year’s flashbacks starts to take a new direction for the back half of the season. And Felicity and John’s stumbling towards the dark side, as predicted by Prometheus, begins.
For all Arrow’s still an action show, this was a remarkably character-led episode, where the action – directed by an acclaimed stunt coordinator, no less – was stripped back compared to previous weeks. Look, for example, at Oliver and Dinah’s Bratva-sponsored raid on the factory, told with an absolute economy of action and in one well constructed tracking shot. No big, elaborate, fight sequences in a warehouse needed, but the point rammed home brutally. Through a window, in fact.
“Bratva” sees the gang relocated to Russia in the same way that ’60s ITC serials used to relocate their cast to Holland, South America, Australia or Scotland – largely shot in the same place they usually shoot, but with a different flag in the background and some foreign language signs on the walls. The only thing missing was some stock footage of St Peter’s Square and a Ford Zephyr going over a cliff.
What we got instead was an exploration of some of the lesser-seen character dynamics in Arrow this year, particularly Rene and Lance, with the former left to babysit the fresh-out-of-rehab deputy mayor.
Rick Gonzales has been quietly stealing scenes for a few episodes now, and his performance opposite the always-excellent Paul Blackthorne was spot on, with a tantalising hint of more to come between the pair. Frankly, given how many other spin-offs the Arrowverse is now sustaining, I’d watch these two all day long in their own show.
The departure of Rory, even temporarily, is a disappointing but probably necessary move given how crowded the Lair is getting. With Quentin back, Diggle back and a new Black Canary kicking about, the original new recruits are starting to get overshadowed and Rory, sadly, has been the one whose character has suffered the most, despite Joe Dinicol’s engaging performance in the role.
Removing him from the picture gives Rene, in whom the producers seem to be investing more time and effort character-wise, and Dinah a bit more room to develop.
“Bratva” felt like it marked a significant change in direction for the storyline, as we enter the back half of the season. At times there’s been a storytelling approach that’s been spluttering rather than smooth this year, but this feels like the show’s finally found the right gear and is ready to put its foot down.
- Curtis and Rory trying to be Bratva badasses in the restaurant is marvellously funny stuff.
- Hurrah for the return of Quentin Lance, now out of rehab. The absence of Paul Blackthorne, so often the show’s MVP, has been sorely felt the last few weeks.
- The torture sequence. Arrow turning into an episode of 24 is taking the show to very dubious territory, even by the morally grey standards of Oliver and co. Especially seeing Diggle beating the tar out of the mercenary. Unnecessarily uncomfortable.
- Nuking the rags. Oh, come on.
- So, last week it was the familiar Vancouver skyline. This week, Arrow tries to pass off the aircraft it uses all the time, most notably as the HQ for the “Invasion!” crossover, as one in Russia. You’re not even trying now, Greg.
- So where the hell is Thea? Willa Holland’s been AWOL for two weeks now with the “she’s away doing something out of town” excuse deployed again. The dangers of an ensemble cast…
And the Random:
- In the director’s chair this week is Hollywood stunt legend Ben Bray, who’s been branching into directing in the last year or so. He’s popped up in dozens of film and TV roles, usually playing a Latino thug, but is mainly known as a stuntman and stunt coordinator. Basically, if there’s a big action film with a stunt sequence in the last 20 years, Bray’s had a hand in it. Ironic, given this is probably the least stunt-y Arrow this season.
- This episode was being filmed as the US election took place (albeit being made in Canada). Which makes a story involving Russians doing deal with US politicians, undercover state interference and hacked files feel a wee bit timely, doesn’t it?
- There’s a Lego version of Warner Bros end title card, to tie in to The Lego Batman movie. (In case you didn’t know, the Arrow version of Green Arrow popped up in one of the Lego Batman games, voiced by Stephen Amell)