Arrow Season 6 Episode 17 Review: Brothers in Arms

Oliver crosses a line he may never come back from and loses his best friend in an explosive episode of Arrow

This Arrow review contains spoilers. 

Arrow Season 6 Episode 17 Review

No one can hurt you like a best friend. They know every ugly thing you’ve ever done and all the worst thoughts you have about yourself when you’re feeling down. A good argument is a hard thing to write, and the truly devstating ones are built on the kind of deep characterization that comes from knowing the players as well as we know our own friends. This episode may be hard to watch, but it had me yelling at the TV right alongside Oliver and John, and that’s exactly how we should feel watching a deeply gratifying, long-simmering fight like this one. 

It should come as no surprise that when John and Oliver threw down this week, it was the most gutting loss of Oliver’s year of losing friends and alienating people. The question is, can he ever come back from his worst misdeeds, like bringing up John killing his own brother? That kind of cutting comment should take a lot to heal, and unfortunately the only lesson Oliver Queen seems to learn from any of this is to keep calling everyone who disagrees with him a child.

NTA took a back seat this week, and yet Dinah and Curtis still have more warmth in a short scene together than OTA has had most of this season. Either things are getting stale on set or OTA is made up of fantastic actors, because OTA’s chemistry has been lackluster all season. I still enjoy the parallels between Dinah and Oliver’s personality and leadership style, and I hope Curtis and others continue to use that comparison to check Dinah when needed. With the good cops cut loose and John considering other ways to serve the city, NTA could be seeing an influx of new members, and they need to keep their heads in the game. I’m excited to see how the vigilante boyfriends situation plays out for Curtis, because that man is clearly dad material

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Not looking so great in the dad department? Quentin, who keeps giving intel to his doppeldaughter without even realizing it. Meanwhile she’s cozying up to Diaz – I’m sure this version of Laurel will stay morally ambiguous for as long as humanly possible, in an attempt to fill the Malcolm Merlyn-shaped hole in the narrative, and the Katie Cassidy-shaped hole in our hearts.

Lyla’s return is welcome, though a bit confusing. She really should be more upset by John exploiting their relationship to breach security and then never bothering to come clean about it. She also shouldn’t have to trick her husband into telling her how he feels. Where has she been all season? Where’s their time travel-gender-swapped kid? There’s certainly always an unrealistic aspect to superhero shows, but character keeps it grounded. Why aren’t these two new dads dadding out together all the time, swapping advice and bad jokes?

Felicity has gone well beyond doubling or tripling down on her stance as an Oliver apologist. She used to share the role of Oliver’s conscience, along with Diggle, and she was even the more outspoken of the pair. It seems once they resolved their relationship, her loyalty became unquestioning. That’s a disappointing characteristic for an otherwise smart, opinionated, interesting character that bucks so many conventions of the genre.

The main event, Oliver and Diggle’s fight, far surpassed my expectations for intensity and truth telling, especially when it comes to taking shots on Oliver. I was pleasantly surprised that there was only one real fake out from the trailer – the shot where John appears to shoot Oliver. All that other aggression played out in a straightforward and highly satisfying way.

It’s tiresome watching Oliver be so obtuse to everyone in his life. He keeps using words like whine, lecture. He becomes incredibly condescending as soon as someone disagrees with him. This is what makes this episode so amazing: for once, Oliver doesn’t get to be right just because he’s in charge. Diggle speech is so amazing because he knows Oliver better than anyone else. He sees through his BS and knows where all the bodies are buried, and for once he doesn’t hold anything back.

True to form, their fight is only temporarily resolved by Diggle continually being the bigger man. Diggle apologizes first and suggest that he defer entirely to Oliver. While their team up was absolutely one of their best fights scenes in a long time, I thought that when ollie said “I cant do it alone” we would see the two work together in some new, symbiotic way, maybe even taking a cue from the Amazons. Instead, they worked together less than they had so far in the fight, with Oliver essentially taking out the supply solo. I guess Oliver meant he couldn’t do it without his real best friend, his special exploding arrows.

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It’s telling that Oliver doesn’t recall John dissenting and continually reigning him in over the years, pushing him away from murder and blind vengeance and toward a sense of justice. Part of that is the kind of revisionist history we all tell ourselves, but I think a big part of it is also that Oliver is a pretty self-centered person. So many of the arguments this season have revolved around ego, and when it comes from John, even Oliver is hard-pressed to find a way to dismiss what his best friend has to say. If he hasn’t listened to Diggle, I can’t imagine that anyone can get through to Oliver at this point.


4 out of 5