John Diggle is the least-flappable character in the Arrow universe. He’s been through it all: war, divorce, and a brother’s murder. These life-changing events happened before the series began, though, leaving few present-day conflicts in Dig’s life to explore. That’s why his role is often relegated to mission assistance or love advice for Oliver. (Still, David Ramsey makes the most of these limited moments. Even when he’s short on dialogue, he’s long on head-shakes and side eyes.) This week’s episode, however, turns the spotlight on Diggle as he comes face-to-face with a ghost from his past.
“Brotherhood” opens with a security guard driving a truck full of cash at night in a desolate area, so you know things aren’t looking up for the security guard or the cash. (After Oliver becomes mayor, I hope he outlaws late-night truck-driving. It’s the second-most dangerous job in Star City.) The Ghosts arrive on scene, hijack the truck, but don’t actually want the cash — instead, they burn it.
At first, Oliver and Company aren’t sure what to make of this development. They later conclude that H.I.V.E.’s plan to cripple the city isn’t for monetary gain, but to create an abandoned metropolis that can then serve as H.I.V.E.’s base of operations. This “guess” was a little too specific to be a misdirect, so I’m thinking that’s exactly what H.I.V.E. is planning.
Though Team Arrow has cracked H.I.V.E.’s vision board, Felicity is still stuck on the DNA-less Ghost tooth Dig found back in “Restoration.” Felicity calls Ray for technical assistance — she needs help locating the missing genetic data — and I wish that I could have technical assistance to translate the Felicity-Ray science-speak. All I know is that Team Arrow needs to find a chemical that can “unscramble” the DNA markers. It’s patented by Wolfman Biologics, which means that just like last week, Team Arrow has to break into a company to steal a patented technology. (At this point, I’m beginning to wonder if this season’s big bad is actually patent lawyers.). Speedy, Black Canary. and Dig infiltrate Wolfman Biologics and end up tussling with more Ghosts. Black Canary makes her way to the lab with the chemical and, thanks to Dig’s interference, narrowly avoids being shot by a Ghost. After he takes the Ghost down, Diggle removes his mask … and it’s his “dead” brother, Andy!
Back at the lair, Dig stresses over what to do. Oliver sits firmly in the let’s-go-save-your-brother-from-H.I.V.E. camp, but Dig isn’t sure his brother is worth saving, especially in light of his alleged criminal past. The Andy who Dig knew is dead, so he doesn’t see the point in a rescue mission.
At first, Dig’s refusal to help his brother escape Damien Darhk’s grasp seemed particularly cold. But in a moving sequence later in the episode, a tearful Diggle reveals what’s really unforgivable about Andy’s fake death: to team up with H.I.V.E., he abandoned his wife and child. Ramsey handles this scene well. Dig is overwhelmed with emotion, but never quite loses that ex-military man reserve. Diggle’s disappointment is heightened by a subsequent confession to Lyla that he used to daydream about a Lazarus miracle, which would allow him to bring his brother back the way it did Thea.
Not that the Lazarus miracle is working out so well for Thea, who’s still struggling with the bloodlust. She’s managed to avoid killing anyone since the “spa trip” to Nanda Parbat, but she comes pretty close while fighting a Ghost in the beginning of the episode. (She catches herself at the last moment.) Whatever progress she’s shown is not enough to quell Malcolm Merlyn’s concerns. He shows up unexpectedly at Thea’s apartment in a suit and tie, carrying a file folder full of information about a local pedophile, like he’s hosting a To Catch a Predator spinoff. He basically suggests that, if she has to kill someone, why not make it a pedophile? Malcolm is the world’s best worst dad. She, quite understandable, wants him to leave.
Still, Thea’s got to figure out how to quench the bloodlust. She goes on a sweet date with Alex, and when he leaves to take a call, a creep approaches her. When the creep won’t stop pestering her, Thea mercilessly pummels him. Before she manages to kills him, though, Alex returns to the scene and stops her. I’m guessing brutal violence isn’t a turn-on for Alex.
Anyway, he has much less exciting issues on his mind, like Oliver’s speech at the police union’s benefit dinner. (I know Stephen Amell’s mouth was moving during this scene, but all I could hear was tux tux tux. The man can wear a bow tie.) Afterward, Oliver is making nice with the crowd when Damien Darhk introduces himself; he requests a one-on-one meeting. Away from the banquet, Darhk pitches Oliver on an alliance to help save the city. Before they part, he warns Oliver that he should reconsider his campaign platform to clean up Starling Bay, but doesn’t explain why.
Later, Oliver wonders whether he should join forces with Darhk to take him down from the inside. If this seems familiar, it’s because it is familiar. As Felicity points out, Oliver tried that route last year with the League of Assassins. She thinks if Oliver makes a deal with Darhk, he won’t be able to bring hope and inspiration back to Star City. Diggle agrees. He wants Oliver to fight Darhk “in the light of day.”
Too bad nobody really listens to what Dig wants. Team Arrow decides to rescue Andy from a Ghost hideout in an abandoned psychiatric ward. Dig doesn’t want them to take the risk, but they’ve decided to do it anyway — even without Dig’s help. (As much as I love Team Arrow’s devotion to Dig, it’d be nice for them to respect Dig’s choice to let Andy go.). All of the Ghosts wear face masks, which makes it difficult to find Andy. Luckily, Felicity hooks Team Arrow up with special infrared cameras that use facial recognition software. Eventually, Dig joins the fight at the psych ward because his “brother” needed him. He doesn’t mean Andy; he’s talking about Oliver. (The line was predictable and cheesy, yet I still ate it up.) Even Ray joins the melee in his super suit. Working together, Team Arrow successfully captures Andy.
Arrow stunt coordinator James Bamford directed “Brotherhood,” so the episode’s stunts, including the fight sequence inside the psych ward, truly stand out. The stuntwork is playful and fluid in a way I haven’t seen in previous episodes: One fight stumbles into a moving elevator; and in another scene, a truck appears out of nowhere to knock down a Ghost. Bamford shot these scenes with a handheld camera, close enough to the action that you could almost feel each blow. The only downside to that stule? The herky-jerky effect left me feeling a bit queasy.
When the fight ends, Diggle confronts Andy about his criminal past and his faked death. “Help me understand,” he pleads. He wants to know what’s true about his brother. “All of it,” Andy coolly replies. As tears roll down Dig’s face, he says nothing more.
Thankfully, Dig’s other “brother” decides to take his advice and fight Darhk in the light of day, as Oliver Queen. At a speech announcing his initiative to clean up Starling Bay, Darhk watches intently from the crowd. During the same event, Thea approaches Alex and asks him to be patient with her. She just needs time. Turns out, Thea’s bloodlust can be satisfied by something other than murder: Damien Darhk’s magic.
Oliver whips it out for Conklin. Flashback girl loses a brother, but gains a name!
- Felicity to Oliver at the police union benefit: “This has to be better than how you usually spend your nights, dressing in leather and tying people up.”
- Alex to Thea, on keeping their relationship secret from Oliver: “Be glad your brother’s not a killer.”
- “Deadly bingo?”
- Oliver, after Lance compares his speech to the Green Arrow’s: “Maybe I should get him to endorse me.”
- I enjoyed the dynamic between Oliver and Darhk. It’s fun to see Oliver show a bit more of his alpha-male side.
- Thea’s fight scenes are nicely executed and choreographed. The show has handled her transition to Speedy so well.
MISSING THE MARK
- “Resurrected siblings are kind of in my wheelhouse.” Ugh, Laurel, why would you be so glib and/or proud about such a terrible choice?
- I love a slow burn, but these flashbacks are really trying my patience.
NUMBER OF SHIRTLESS STEPHEN AMELL SCENES: 0 (the real reason why Dig was crying)
Arrow returns on December 2. Until then, come find me on Twitter and tell me what you think what Oliver should outlaw as mayor.