This review contains spoilers.
John Diggle is more important to Arrow than fans tend to give him credit for. He’s mainly kept in the back, wheeled out to keep Oliver in check whenever he’s being particularly ‘difficult’ and, as the only minority character on Team Arrow, that’s often been a problem. But this year he’s got a costume and a secret identity and, with Brotherhood, an episode more or less dedicated to exploring his four-season-long storyline.
The fact that the through-line of Diggle’s brother, Deadshot and HIVE has been going since the pilot just shows how little effort Arrow puts into dealing with the character on a week-to-week basis but, probably by accident, it does mean that episodes like this have a ton of history to lean on.
The relationship between Oliver and Diggle, similarly pushed to the background more often than not, has always been one of the show’s most interesting. Diggle represents something to Oliver that no one else ever can – he was the first to be brought into the cause, and the first to call him out when things get start to spiral.
To Oliver, Felicity is his girlfriend, Thea his little sister, and Laurel little more than a squatter he’d rather keep in a box at home. Besides being the only other male person on the team, it’s Diggle who he views as an equal far more than the others. Oliver cares what Diggle thinks of him and, as was explored in this episode, he needs to believe that, no matter how far he goes in his quest for ‘justice’ etc., Diggle will still be by his side.
Brotherhood did a better job of exploring this than anything the show attempted to do in season three, simply by just letting the characters communicate with each other. Oliver is slightly softer this year, and that translates into conversations during which he can express his feelings towards those around him. That’s a welcome change, as well as an earned one. It’s so satisfying just to watch the two of them scream at each other.
Darhk is also a great villain to have around in a season like this, with him infiltrating Oliver Queen’s world as much as he does the Green Arrow’s. He fits with the mission statement of season four, and is as sinister a political opponent as he is a supervillain.
So the campaign manager is either going to die or be evil, right? As much as I’d like for Thea to get a stable love interest who isn’t as self-destructive as Roy (or her, to be honest), that sort of thing rarely gets to exist on a show like this. Arrow just loves misery too much. Also, we’ve received news that Colton Haynes will be returning as Roy this season, which will surely throw a spanner in the works.
Ray is also balancing his identities, choosing to keep his old persona dead in the eyes of the world while he works out what his new purpose is. This makes sense in light of his role as member of a group of vigilante antiheroes come January, and again gels well with the message of the season. Anything that adds a little edge to Ray is cool to watch, as Brandon Routh has an inherent lightness that needs to be balanced out with something.
The season so far has been about redemption, and also about doing something useful for the world outside of the costumes and the night-time missions. Diggle exists slightly outside of this, as he always has, and it’s great to get a long look at his story alongside the others every once in a while. The lack of a bow tied on the Andy storyline indicates that there’s more to come here, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Arrow deals with it.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Lost Souls, here.