Arrow S05E18 “Disbanded” REVIEW
Essential plot points:
- Oliver locks the team out of the lair after confirming he’s disbanding it, despite Diggle’s best efforts to convince him otherwise. He changes the security codes so nobody can get their gear.
- The rest of the team reconvenes at Felicity’s apartment where Diggle convinces them to carry on their work – taking on Chase and protecting the city. Felicity heads to Helix to do the former.
- Chase visits Oliver at the Mayor’s office, having been put in protective custody following the death of his wife. He challenges Oliver to murder him, but a broken Oliver won’t do it.
- Helix reveals all the data it’s captured on Chase to Felicity… including video of him unmasking. But his face is pixelated because of a scrambling device he uses.
- Oliver breaks up with Susan after seeing her for the first time since his ordeal, blaming himself for what happened to her. Then he meets Anatoly at the Lair, asking the Bratva to kill Adrian Chase for him. The Bratva agrees, but for a price.
- The team is tooling up at Felicity’s flat when they get word of a raid on a pharmaceutical company. When they get there, they try to stop the Bratva from stealing diabetes drugs, but Anatoly tells them they are there at Oliver’s invitation.
- A furious Diggle confronts Oliver, who says he brought in the Bratva to prevent the rest of the team losing their soul the way he has. John calls for Felicity’s help in convincing Oliver, but she’s reluctant to try and change his mind.
- The team get word that Chase’s custody team is transporting him so they launch a raid — only this time, it’s to protect him from the Bratva. They do so, and in the process Curtis’ T-Sphere grabs the encryption device from Chase.
- Because of the raid, Chase is taken into the Witness Protection Scheme by the US Marshals, and an infuriated Oliver punches Diggle, before John manages to convince Oliver he’s not as alone and damaged as he things.
- Curtis tracks Felicity down to Helix’s base, with the encryption device taken from Chase. They discover the software on it is blocked, but trace back a decryption key to Kord Industries.
- Oliver asks Anatoly to stand down, but he refuses, so he reunites the team and asks for their help in stopping the Bratva.
- They head to a warehouse containing the other drugs the Bratva needs to combine with the first stolen shipment to create a new, highly addictive heroin replacement, and take out the Bratva – with Oliver sounding the alarm so Anatoly has to flee.
- Meanwhile Curtis and Felicity raid Kord Industries and download the decryption key, revealing Chase’s unmasking video. Dinah takes the video to the police, while Felicity uploads it to YouTube.
- Oliver reactivates the Lair, putting everything back where it was – except his costume, which he admits he’s not ready to wear again. Yet.
- The Marshals protecting Chase get word that he is actually Prometheus, but he kills them and, splattered in blood, escapes as the police arrive.
- And in flashbacks to Russia, Anatoly asks Oliver to help the Bratva steal TB medicine to give to children struggling with the disease in one last raid before he leaves for Lian Yu. After doing so, Anatoly admits he fears for what he’ll become without having Oliver as his conscience.
The hardest bit of a show telling parallel, back-and-forth stories is keeping track of where we’re meant to be in timelines. Juggling that during a crucial final sprint finish to the end of a season is even more fraught. So kudos to the producers of Arrow for wrapping up what could potentially have been the most complicated coda to the show without dropping any balls.
At times, “Disbanded” feels like it is tidying up some continuity loose ends before we wrap up season five. As we’ve mentioned before, the big problem with the flashbacks was that, after this season, they either need to be canned or they’d lap themselves, stretching that long spell Oliver spent travelling around the world on the world’s most violent gap year into belief-defying realms.
So the confirmation that Oliver voluntarily returned to Lian Yu to give himself an alibi for the last half-decade, and that the Bratva helped execute his exile as reward for his helping them, tidies up that loose end and, presumably, allows us to focus on a flashback free ride going forward.
Too often the Arrow flashbacks have been more on-the-nose than a PR executive doing coke lines in a nightclub toilet. Something Oliver does, experiences or hears in the past just neatly ties into what he’s doing in the present.
Instead, we get the reverse of that here, with Anatoly in the Oliver role of his previous actions being balanced with his modern-day motivations. The idealistic Anatoly of the past, keen to use the Bratva for good in a struggling Russia, becomes the corrupt, cynical Anatoly of 2017 – not because of Oliver, as Chase has made Oliver believe, but because of an absence of Oliver.
It’s the continuation of last week, where Chase burned the Bratva tattoo off Oliver with a blowtorch. Now divested of any physical ties, coming face to face with what the Bratva has become under Anatoly leaves Oliver without any emotional ties to them. Faced with a choice of siding with gangsters or his friends to get what he wants, he ultimately opts for good.
David Nykl’s performances as Anatoly in past and present are spot on here — standing out in an episode chock-full of good performance.
Everyone gets at least one moment to shine in the story, be it a one-liner from Rene and Dinah over who gets to be the new Diggle, or the ever-reliable Paul Blackthorne offering Chase a square go outside the Mayor’s office.
But the two stand-outs are Stephen Amell and David Ramsay. The latter goes without saying, but Amell – not always the most expressive of actors – does a great job of showing the broken, weary, desperate Oliver, especially during the early scenes and the brilliant confrontation with Chase in the Mayor’s office.
If anything, the Broken Oliver storyline could have done with just another week of him sitting moping or taking extreme measures with the Bratva, to emphasise the depths he’s gone to if we’re going down the full redemption storyline.
But without the redemptive storyline, we wouldn’t have got that cliffhanger and, as the show goes on its Easter break before the back-five episodes… what a cliffhanger.
That final scene, with a blood-splattered, almost demonic-looking Chase driving towards Star City, whistling along to a cheery song, is as strong a visual as the show has ever achieved. We mentioned last week there’s shades of Patrick Bateman about Josh Segara’s performance, and it’s never more obvious than there. He looks properly psychotic, which is exactly what the character needs to be.
- David Ramsay. The expanded cast and the splitting of Diggle off into his own storyline earlier this year has unfortunately sidelined him this year from having any really meaty scenes, but once again David Ramsay reminds why he’s one of the best things about Arrow. To be honest, we’d have had no problem with a couple more episodes of him in charge of the team…
- That finale. From Chase flipping out and killing the marshal with a pen to the use of “Beautiful Morning” by The Rascals, it is pretty much note perfect. They don’t tend to use pop songs in Arrow very often, which makes its use even more notable.
- Lyla is once again noises off — this time providing the rest of the Arrow crew with some ARGUS gear so they can take on the Bratva.
- Given the absolute ubiquity of it, not just on TV but in adverts, billboards and on the internet, does the idea of über-nerd Alena not knowing what “Winter Is Coming” is a reference to seem legit to anyone?
- Curtis’s T-Spheres can now add pickpocketing to their list of useful skills. They’re going to be more useful than the sonic screwdriver at this rate.
And the Random:
- Once again Arrow gives one of its long-time crew members the chance to step into the director’s chair, with bold results. This time its veteran stuntman and stunt arranger JJ Makaro, who regularly doubles for Stephen Amell. After directing a couple of The Flash episodes last year, he takes charge of Arrow for the first time, with hugely impressive results.
- We don’t get the traditional Arrow theme this week over the opening titles, just emphasising how broken Oliver is at this point.
Review by Iain Hepburn