Season 3 of Arrow may have let me down, but Season 4 has shown great improvement. While not yet matching the heights of Season 2, it’s definitely been a return to form, for the most part. The latest episode, "Brotherhood", combined spectacular action, memorable directing, and a well-performed character driven-story to deliver the best episode of the season yet.
Warning: this review contains spoilers.
The most notable parts of "Brotherhood" were the action scenes. The episode was directed by James "Bam-Bam" Bamdord, the show’s stunt and fight coordinator. It was his first time directing an episode himself, but he left his mark. Arrow has always boasted impressive fight scenes and stunt work, so to have the man responsible for those behind the camera really brought out the best in the action sequences. Just like Lexi Alexander, who brought a sure-handed, cinematic confidence to "Beyond Redemption" 3 weeks ago, Bamford’s direction was fresh and invigorating. The climactic showdown at HIVE’s HQ will go down as one of Arrow‘s most memorable sequences, featuring awesome hand-to-hand combat and great camera work. For example, the fight between Thea and Andy, from hallway to the inside of an elevator and back outside to another hallway, all in one long uninterrupted take, was breathtaking.
The central story dealt with Diggle’s brother, Andy. Diggle-centric episodes always stand out because he’s such a great character. He’s usually the moral center of the show, often acting as Oliver’s conscience. But this time, he was the one with the moral crisis, and Oliver had to be the one to tell him to give family the benefit of the doubt. This role reversal was effective and showed how much Oliver has grown, especially now that he’s the Green Arrow. The Andy Diggle storyline has been an ongoing mystery since Season 1, and we’ve been getting breadcrumbs for years (Deadshot, HIVE, etc). With HIVE being the main antagonists this season, I hoped to finally get some major progress on that front, and I’m not disappointed. That’s one of the things Season 4 has over Season 3: moving the story forward substantially and at a faster pace.
Speaking of which, the flashbacks have also been more meaty than Season 3’s (though not as much as Seasons 1 and 2—not yet anyway). Last week, the flashbacks were disappointingly brief and almost negligible. This episode, though, the flashbacks featured both consequences and plot advancement, making them more promising than they’ve been since last year. Hopefully they live up to that promise.
I had mentioned in both my reviews of Gotham and Agents of SHIELD how much I prefer it when plot threads are interconnected and don’t play like completely separate stories. I’m happy to report that this was very much the case in Arrow this week. Oliver’s run for mayor is a great story to follow this season, but up to this point it had felt detached from the main story. This is no longer true, after Oliver locked horns with Damien Darhk not just as the Green Arrow, but also in his role as a mayoral candidate. Similarly, Thea’s bloodlust arc, a remnant of her dip in the Lazarus Pit last year, was made relevant to the Darhk story—it appears she’s immune to his deadly magic, making her a possible weapon in defeating him. Hardly any character this season is not connected to the HIVE threat in some way, and it gives the show a sense of focus and direction. Even Ray Palmer, who last year was mostly a detached side-plot, contributed in a relevant way. Not only that, but his motivation for leaving Star City (to be on Legends of Tomorrow) was logical and heartfelt.
All in all, "Brotherhood" was the best episode of Season 4 yet. Hopefully this is not the last time I’ll say that phrase this year. If it keeps this momentum going, it’s going to be another great year for Arrow.
Rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent)
Notes and Observations
- Seeing Ray get a solid explanation for leaving the show only makes me wish Sara hadn’t been shuffled off so haphazardly.
- It was a great shot, but did Laurel really jump off a building and land unscathed?
- Neal McDonough continued to exude charisma as Damien Darhk. He’s such a riveting villain.
- "My brother needs me. The green one." I just… have some dust in my eye…
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