Warning: This contains spoilers. For how to watch Arrow, click here.
Ever since Oliver made Diggle the new Green Arrow and then took the hood back once he realised his son was okay with the whole thing, tensions have been simmering between the pair. Those tensions finally reach boiling point in this episode, which leaves the two “Brothers In Arms” (per the title) in a very dark place indeed. It remains to be seen whether the events of episode will have a long-term impact on the show, but that certainly looks like the intention.
The episode kicks off with Dinah assembling a team of honest cops and taking down Anatoly, with back-up from Oliver and Diggle (okay, Spartan, but it’s really hard to refer to Diggle as Spartan – he’s just… Diggle). They arrest Anatoly so easily that you wonder why it took them so long to get around to it, but there you go. When they get to SCPD HQ, Captain Hill (who is, lest we forget, on Diaz’s payroll) is taken aback and says she didn’t authorise the arrest, but Oliver says he did. But then – d’oh! – DA Sam Armand shows up and lets Anatoly go, because there wasn’t an official arrest warrant out on him and Oliver is still under indictment. Could DA Sam Armand also be in Diaz’s pocket? (The answer is yes. Evidently one of The Dragon’s powers is enormous pockets.)
With Anatoly free, he and Diaz straight-up murder one of Dinah’s honest cops to send a message. Dinah receives said message loud and clear and takes her squad of honest cops – including Curtis’ new boyfriend, Nick Anastas – to a secret hideout for their protection. Curtis comes too, mostly just to hang out with his new dude. But there’s a problem: during a casual conversation, Nick reveals that he’s anti-vigilante. Curtis: visibly crushed.
Back at the Arrow Cave, Diggle tries yet another one of his passive-aggressive hints that he wants to get back in the Green Arrow suit. This time it’s, “Look, Oliver, if you need to spend more time at City Hall, I get it, man. Keep your focus there, I can cover us here.” Oliver tries to shut him down (“My focus is fine”), but Diggle presses harder. This time, Oliver finally snaps and flat-out tells him that he’s not giving up being the Green Arrow. He tries to say that they’re all a team and Diggle’s a part of it, he helped build it, what does it matter what someone’s wearing. Diggle says he guesses it doesn’t and walks off. Felicity: “That’s the moment you were waiting for? That one?”
(Side note: Wouldn’t it be hilarious if Diggle just showed up in his own home-made Green Arrow uniform, right alongside Oliver? You missed a trick there, Arrow writers.)
Anyway, Oliver has more important things to worry about than Diggle throwing a strop. Diaz is pushing Vertigo on the streets of Star City and apparently taking in a million a day. The plan? Shut down Diaz’s Vertigo supply and take out his cash flow. Diggle, still sulking, heads home to see if Lyla can help. He has a heart-to-heart with her and tells her he can’t figure out why Oliver not letting him be the Green Arrow (like he promised, waaah) is bothering him so much. You and us both, Diggle. Wait, no, hang on. It’s narrative convenience, isn’t it? Yeah, that’ll be it.
Meanwhile, having just told Diggle that he’s not spreading himself too thin, Oliver tries to hit Diaz from both sides. He calls a meeting with both Captain Hill and DA Armand and says he knows they’re working for Diaz. They’re surprisingly upfront about it. Hill says her family are being threatened and Armand says his son has cancer and Diaz is paying the bills. (That seems like something Oliver should maybe have known, but let’s let that slide.) Oliver says he can protect them, but they’ve obviously been watching the show, because they say no, he can’t, they’re going to keep working for Diaz, thanks all the same. So Oliver fires them both. That might be his ballsiest move as Mayor to date. Nice one, Oliver.
Meanwhile, in the Not-Laurel subplot, Black Siren is still hanging out at Quentin’s place. She tries to get the information about the honest cops’ hideout from Quentin, but he’s not quite that stupid. While he’s out of the room, she texts Diaz (who’s still in her phone as “Ricardo Diaz”) and tells him she doesn’t know where the cops are. Quentin then tries to get her to leave the house, get some sun, maybe get a job? She counters that she’s never had a real job in her life, and he comes back in with Laurel’s law books and reminds her that she’s Laurel Lance now and can walk into a legal job. Not-Laurel: “So you’re going to home law school me?”
Back at the Arrow Cave, Diggle is working out some aggression by punching something. Oliver apologises and gives Diggle a more detailed explanation, telling him that he meant it when he gave Diggle the hood, but when he became the Green Arrow again, he realised it was a part of him and that it made him the best possible version of himself. Diggle appreciates the apology and it seems everything is fine, so they head off to squeeze a drug pusher (via information from Lyla) who might know the location of Diaz’s Vertigo operation.
However, when they get there, Diggle goes super-psycho on the guy in an attempt to get him to give up the Vertigo lab and Oliver tries to reign him in. As Diggle gets mad at Oliver, the dealer’s girlfriend shoots him, saying her loyalty is to Diaz, not to him. (Does she, like, get jailed for murder as a result of this? We never find out.)
Needless to say, back in the Arrow Cave things are not going well. Oliver and Diggle start blaming each other for what just happened. Diggle is super-upset. Oliver is, like, chill, dude, but Diggle refuses to chill, working himself into a lather because Oliver wouldn’t back his play. Worse, he thinks that Oliver didn’t back his play because it wasn’t his play. Now, Grodd knows Oliver has plenty of flaws, but that doesn’t really seem like it’s one of them. Anyway, Diggle strops off again.
Back at Quentin’s apartment, Diaz pays Laurel a visit and the weird vibe between them continues. It seems like he’s… seducing her? At any rate, he’s bringing her food and paying her compliments. One interesting note is that she warns him off putting the pressure on Quentin, so she is genuinely starting to feel protective towards her “daddy”. The creepy daddy issues in this subplot continue to be off the scale – Diaz even picks up on her studying the law books, noting how she’s trying to “make daddy proud”. It’s okay if you want to vomit at this point. We’ll wait.
Diggle has another chat with Lyla (who realises he hacked her computer a few weeks ago and is surprisingly okay about it). He can’t work out why he’s so angry and he’s worried about what he’ll say or do the next time he sees Oliver. Demonstrating some Thea Queen levels of perception, Lyla points out how terrible everything is at the moment (the team broken up, Rene in hospital, Diaz running rampant in Star City) and says maybe the reason Diggle is upset is because he feels none of that would have happened if he’d been the Green Arrow. Lyla is nothing if not supportive and that is some grade A Diggle flattery right there. She probably has a point about the first two, though.
So, having gotten some clarity, Diggle returns to the Arrow Cave for another go at Oliver. This time he’s a lot more rational about it and this time, crucially, the audience can see right and wrong on both sides. Diggle tells Oliver that being the Green Arrow was supposed to be about saving the city and now that he’s gotten married and is raising a son and is the Mayor of Star City, he’s spreading himself too thin. (That sort of ignores the fact that Diggle too is married and raising a son, sorry, daughter – or whichever way round it is – but let’s not go there right now). You can tell from Oliver’s face that some of these blows are landing and Diggle continues, pointing out that the way Oliver leads alienates everyone around him, gesturing to the empty Arrow Cave. He reels off Oliver’s recent poor decisions: putting the team under surveillance, failing to save Vigilante, letting Not-Laurel and the money slip through his fingers. He tells him that if what he’s doing isn’t 100 per cent for Star City then he’s not the hero that it deserves and he never will be. Oliver’s starting to get a little riled at this point and says Diaz is running the city and Diggle is still whining about not getting a promotion. He adds that Diggle bought drugs from Diaz and hid his drug problem while he was the Green Arrow, noting, also, that Diaz took over Star City while Diggle was in the hood in the first place.
Things are getting pretty heated at this point. Oliver brings up Rene and Diggle reminds him that he put Rene in the hospital. Oliver says Rene pulled a gun on him, once again completely failing to mention that he also swung a bloody great axe at him in the same fight and, if he’d connected with that, we might have found out how 2041 Oliver lost his arm a lot sooner than anticipated. Anyway, they’re really going at it now. Diggle basically reminds him that William’s mother is dead because of a decision he made. Oliver lets than sink in, then steps forward and coldly says: “My trail of bodies doesn’t include my own brother”. And that’s it – the fight turns physical. Diggle punches Oliver in the face and the pair start pounding on each other, smashing up at least one of Felicity’s monitors and a costume case in the process. Felicity shows up at that point and gives them one of her trademark talking-tos, saying they need to pull their heads out of their asses. Oliver and Diggle both apologise, but the damage has clearly been done. Fortunately, Felicity finds the location of Diaz’s Vertigo lab, so they can put their differences aside for the moment and beat up some bad guys.
At this point, the show cleverly dovetails the two subplots, as Oliver and Diggle taking down the Vertigo lab is smartly intercut with Diaz’s men attacking the hideout where Dinah and Curtis are holed up with the honest cops. Oliver and Diggle agree that they have to trust each other to take down the lab and everything goes smoothly, although there’s a fun fake-out where it looks like Diggle is about to shoot Oliver and he shoots a bad guy instead. In the end, they blow up the lab using explosives and a timer arrow. Job well done.
Meanwhile, it turns out Diaz had a mole on Dinah’s honest cop squad after all. In all the confusion, Curtis gets shot and Nick finds out he’s Mr Terrific when he lifts up Curtis’ shirt to get a look at his wound. As superhero reveal scenes go, this was pretty cool and relatively unusual – we don’t see nearly enough superheroes’ secret identities getting exposed through their shirts being undone. It turns out Nick is okay with vigilantes as long as they’re as cute as Curtis. Anyway, Dinah sonic screams a hole in the wall (another pretty cool bit) and the honest cops all escape.
Back at the Arrow Cave, Diggle still isn’t done. Even though they’ve both apologised and proved they can still work together with their Vertigo take-down, Diggle isn’t prepared to work with Oliver anymore. He tells him that the truth is he’s become a better man, but a worse leader. He says he respects the fact that being the Green Arrow allows Oliver to be the best version of himself, but says that if he’s going to be the best Diggle he can be, then it can’t be with Oliver. To his credit, Oliver recognises that they’re past the point of no return and he tells Diggle, sincerely, that he hopes he finds what he’s looking for.
And that’s pretty much it. There’s a ridiculously cute scene between Curtis and Nick (“I don’t know how I feel about vigilantes, but I do know how I feel about you”), which only makes you fear for Nick’s chances of making it to the end of the season alive. He also reveals that Hill has fired all the honest cops on her way out the door. (Surely that’s not binding, if she’s already been fired?) Then there’s a scene between Lyla and Diggle, where she solves his problem of what to do next by asking him to work alongside her at ARGUS. And then there’s the cliffhanger: First, Oliver turns on the news to see that Amand and Hill are calling for his impeachment, because terminating their employment directly impedes the prosecution of his activities as Green Arrow. And then, we cut from the TV to the Lance apartment and it turns out that whole thing was Not-Laurel’s idea. “I guess reading all those law books really paid off.” Got to hand it to Not-Laurel – she’s a quick study. Diaz says he has one last surprise for her and shows her a vial of Vertigo. Laurel: “There’s one left…” Diaz: “And I know just how to use it…” Whatever could he mean?
All in all, this is an excellent episode, particularly for this season, which has often felt unfocused. It now seems that all roads have been leading to this Oliver / Diggle split, and while they’re never going to be enemies, it is looking like they won’t be friends again, at least not to the same degree. At the very least, it seems certain that the season finale won’t be hitting a giant reset button and putting Team Arrow (and The Outsiders) back together.
One thing that’s worth highlighting is the quality of the acting. David Ramsey, in particular, really sells his argument scenes, especially the latter ones, where his frustration stems from his failure to break through to Oliver. It’s unusual to have an argument like this, where there’s right on both sides and the fight carries strong emotional impact because we know exactly what these two have been through over the course of the past six seasons. It’ll be interesting to see where the show goes from here and exactly what the writers have planned for the season finale. Tune in next time when Oliver hits rock bottom. Again.
Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
– Trick Arrow Watch: During the raid on the Vertigo lab, Oliver busts out a cool multi-exploding arrow that opens up mid-flight and fires what looks like several mini ball bombs. It’s just a shame the resulting explosion effects aren’t quite up to the task – there should have been one per ball.
– Still no Rene. Okay, so Team Arrow have been banned from visiting him, but shouldn’t Curtis and Dinah at least be stopping by with some flowers? Maybe Rick Gonzalez is on holiday.
– Six episodes to go. Predictions for the finale, seeing as we’re in the home stretch? We can take a Diaz defeat for granted, but everything else is very much up in the air. It’s been announced that Caity Lotz (Sara Lance) will be making an appearance, though, which suggests Not-Laurel will have a big part to play.
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Photo: 2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.