This Arrow review contains spoilers.
Arrow Season 5 Episode 12
All season long, Arrow has been rewarding fans that stuck with its flashback gimmick since day one, but no episode exemplified that better than “Bratva.” However, one wonders if the choice to double down on a storyline that’s not yet complete was the right move for the aging CW series.
Since early in the show’s run, coming to a head in the middle of Season 3, Oliver Queen has been routinely revisiting his past with the Russian mafia organization known as the Bratva (Russian for “Brotherhood”). Now that Season 5 has rolled around and the show is coming to the end of the “pre-series” years that the hero was away, we’re right in the thick of the Russian storyline that’s supposed to explain it all. However, with Diggle bringing the gang into yet another international incident, the series had to do its victory lap on that storyline a little early by sending the modern day team to Russia, where Oliver was forced to attone for his past.
The reason I mention that the episode may have suffered for this gimmick, other than the fact that it was impressively light on both the action and cool superhero suits, is that it felt a bit too soon. At the moment, all we know about Oliver’s return to Star City is that a mysterious and highly-trained young woman came to show him how important his father’s list of people to kill is. Meanwhile, he was only in the motherland to begin with to kill Constantine Kovar. Fans are right in the middle of this storyline, so it was jarring to see us go back and find Oliver atoning for sins he’ll presumably commit in the next five or six episodes. To see his relationship still strained with the Bratva and his good friend Anatoly still alive, but only mad enough to punch him, kind of takes the mystery out of anything that’s to come with the all-important flashbacks.
On the other hand, it was exciting to see a self-contained episode that takes our heroes out of their respective comfort zones and ups the stakes of their usual criminal hunting fodder. “Bratva” took the gang to Russia, with the exception of Wild Dog, who stayed behind to inexplicably coach Captain Lance on his media-friendly return to the public. The new setting and catastrophic consequences certainly helped this episode trudge along, but it wasn’t quite enough to make this feel like enough of an event in the Arrowverse. The only lasting trouble that stemmed from it was the loss of Rory, who may as well have looked directly to camera when he told Felicity that he’d be back soon. That was, perhaps, the biggest problem with the entire episode, it was too much of a deviation from the norm for not enough payoff.
That’s not to say that there weren’t a few cool moments. For one, I’m loving the new attitude that Felicity is exhibiting these days. Thanks to her new world-changing allies with the hacker group Helix, she’s got a newfound secret agent persona that’s really interesting. She feels that her seemingly limitless talents can be better served doing more missions outside of Star City, and any viewer worth their salt should agree. Now, it’s obvious that the integrity of the character is in danger here, and we can’t actually root for Felicity to become a super badass femme fatale with ambiguous morals, but it’ll be fun while it lasts. Additionally, the flashbacks showed yet another historic Green Arrow moment when Oliver took down the first name on his father’s hit list, Hideo Yamane.
The “hero” uttered the famous line, “you have failed this city,” and then drove a slew of arrows directly into his heart. Although it’s not typical, I have to admit that it’s a fantastic and refreshing change from the already oversaturated market of superhero origin stories.
Still, with moments of intrigue few and far between, the only thing left to fall back on with the inclusion of “Bratva” is the cliffhanger ending. The episode finally pulled the trigger on giving Oliver Queen a new girlfriend in the form of Susan Williams (sorry Olicity fans, but they clearly had sex). However, she’s a character that’s still shrouded in mystery. It was heavily implied that she’s connected to the main character’s Russia plotline, and fans know for sure that she’s onto Oliver for not being on Lian Yu the full five years he was away. However, thanks to her trusty private investigator friend, she now knows that the first appearance of, what was then called, “the Archer” was in Russia. The odds that both Star City and Russia had both a hooded vigilante and Oliver Queen in the same place is a bit too hard for her to believe, even in a world where Clark Kent’s glasses are all that hide his identity as Superman.
What does this mean moving forward? Can we possibly see a satisfying ending to the flashbacks now that we know who makes it out OK? Will Rory return as Ragman? Was Wild Dog and Captain Lance’s first meeting a little too intense for anyone else? With the latter half of Season 5 in full swing, fans can expect answers to all of these questions (adequate or not) coming very soon.