Arrow: Brothers in Arms

"This is bothering me way more than I expected."

Oliver and Diggle's relationship has always been the bedrock of this show. This is what happens when that friendship founders.

The seeds of Oliver and the NTA's conflict may have been readily apparent but the way it played out felt manufactured and unrealistic. In contrast, Diggle and Oliver's issues are deeply rooted in years of narrative and character development.  This is why it worked so well and hurt so much.  Diggle's problems with Oliver stem from who Dig is as a person not despite it.

Diggle has always seen Oliver's potential as a hero. But he was enough of a pragmatist to see that Oliver wasn't there yet and worked with him anyway. But Oliver's willingness to work with criminals while alienating his friends (among so many other reasons) has eaten away at Dig's faith in his leadership. Lyla is right when she says Dig believes the city would not be where it is if he were still wearing the hood.

To make matters worse, Felicity has become Oliver's conscience. The role Diggle previously held. She can take the emotional temperature of the room and nudge Oliver to do the right thing without getting her head lopped off.  Unfortunately, her focus is only on members of the inner circle whereas Dig's was on the mission as a whole.  Oliver's leadership suffers for it.

There was a lot of talking in this episode and I mean that as a compliment.  I appreciated that there was an attempt to address this like adults. Oliver explained his decision to stay on as the Green Arrow to Dig and gave him a heartfelt apology for stringing him along. Diggle tried to accept it, and when he couldn't, he stepped away to gain some perspective. Even when Dig returned to tell Oliver he did not think he was the right man to protect the city was handled civilly despite their obvious anger. It wasn't until they made it personal – Diggle blaming Oliver's poor decision making for Samantha's death and Oliver pointing out Dig's responsibility for Andy's – that they came to blows. After all that, their respect for each other allowed them to go out into the field together despite knowing that their relationship was fundamentally fractured.

So the question remains, is Diggle wrong? In my opinion, yes and no.

Dig claims that Oliver's focus is split between being Mayor, having a family, and being the Green Arrow. Anyone of those would be a full-time job, and I have no idea when he sleeps. However, being Mayor and the Green Arrow is part and parcel of the same mission for Oliver – to save his city. The better argument is that Oliver puts his family above the city. He's done it on multiple occasions. However, when faced with the same choice, so has Diggle.

What about Dig's claims that Oliver is a better man now but a worse leader? The Oliver of six years ago saw a world in which a magic list branded someone a criminal. Present day Oliver understands that the world is not that black and white. Does his newfound grasp of nuance make him "better"? He's made his peace with killing, and, like I said before, he has no qualms about working with criminals for what he believes is the greater good, and we won't go into the number of times he's stolen proprietary technology or destroyed private property to foil a villain. Is this heroic?

I would argue that his leadership skills haven't changed much over the years. He's still brusque and demanding – believing that constant training and following the chain of command without question will keep his team safe. He's strategic but will jump at any opportunity when he's frustrated. And he has an intimate understanding of his team's strengths and weaknesses in the field with only a minimal awareness of their emotional state. Oliver's frustration regarding his inability to defeat Diaz may have exacerbated his deficiencies, but it didn't create them.

However, Diggle is not blameless. When he accepted the hood from Oliver, he knew he was compromised. He even bought steroids from Diaz so he could stay in the field. Dig can tell Oliver that he did it for the sake of Star City all he likes but in his heart Diggle knows it was because he wanted to be out there just as much as Oliver does. And Oliver is right; those choices put the team at risk.

In our B plot, Dinah and Oliver's uneasy truce continues. With the few cops that Curtis and Dinah have cleared they arrest Anatoly in order to take one of Diaz's main chess pieces off the board and flush out Diaz's other potential allies. They didn't expect District Attorney Armand to be one of them. Oliver confronts Captain Hill and Armand with the knowledge that they are working for Diaz and offers them protection for their assistance. He fires them when they refuse. Considering, Armand brought up the potential conflict of interest with Oliver's impending trial; he really should have seen Armand's press conference coming. I guess they plan to impeach Oliver since they no longer have a case against him.

Curtis and Nick's relationship took a giant step forward. Nick discovers Curtis's secret identity after telling him he thinks all vigilantes are criminals. But after realizing that a corrupt police force cannot protect the city and acknowledging his growing feelings for Curtis, Nick is willing to keep his secret. Why do I think that Nick is not long for this world?

Where does all this leave Oliver? Thea's departure sees Oliver isolated as both Mayor and Green Arrow. Now all he has is Felicity and Quentin and with Laurel's loyalties in flux Quentin is compromised. Both Diggle and Armand tell Oliver that Diaz has already won. With only Felicity and Quentin to back him up against the city's corrupted infrastructure, I'm inclined to agree. It's obvious that The Powers That Be are isolating Oliver for a reason, but I'll be damned if I know their endgame.

Another strong episode. Keep 'em coming!

4 out of 5 vials of vertigo

Parting Thoughts:

The SCPD flat out hit a suspect with their van! That has to be against some kind of regulation, right?

It seems Laurel is still conflicted. Does she want to appease the father she never had or be with the man who loves her as she is? I still think she chooses Quentin in the end.

Whatever his faults, Diaz understands people better than Oliver ever did.

I love a good fight scene as much as the next girl but having over a dozen bad guys shooting automatic weapons from a distance and Oliver and Diggle defeating them with relative ease is stretching the bounds of credibility just a tad.

I'm convinced Big Belly Burger is the only restaurant that exists in Star City. So why are there so few people with big bellies?

Lyla took the news that Dig hacked her work computer surprisingly well considering she heads a government security agency.

Diggle's new career as A.R.G.U.S agent? That can't last long. Their shade of grey is even darker than Oliver's.

What are Diaz and Laurel planning to do with that vial? Plant it on Quentin, perhaps?

Quotes:

I wanted to put Dig and Oliver's whole argument in, but this review is running long enough as it is.

Felicity: "I know this might not exactly be the right time -"
Oliver: "You understand that I'm going to be punching people in about 60 seconds, right?"

Diaz: "You didn't want to torture him a bit. You know, maybe slit his throat? What happened to all that Russian vengeance I heard so much about?
Anatoly: "Is new suit."

Curtis: "I don't like the idea of you doing this without backup."
Dinah: "That or you want to spend some quality time with your new boyfriend?"
Curtis: "We've only been on three dates but, yeah, he's cute, and I don't want him to get murdered. So sue me."

Oliver: "The city–"
Armand: "Is bankrupt, and the idea of you protecting anyone is a joke."

Oliver: "If you work for him then you don't work for me."

Laurel: "You want to home-law-school me?"

Diaz: "I know you’re trying to be the real Laurel, but the one standing in front of me right now... she don't need changing."

Lyla: "Maybe the reason Oliver holding onto the hood bothered you so much is because you think none of these things would have happened if you had been the one still wearing it."

Diggle: "You're right. My frustration was never with the uniform. It was the man underneath it."

Diggle: "I'm sorry I punched you."
Oliver: "I'm sorry I punched you back."

Dinah: "How can a girl that small generate so much mess."

Diggle: "Oliver, for six years I've followed the chain of command without question, even when my heart told me there was a better way."

Oliver: "I hope you find what you're looking for."

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, and anything with a cape.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I thought the great acting from Stephen Amell and David Ramsey hid the fact that the argument was ridiculous and hypocritical and designed to make us not hate NTA's bullshit arguments throughout the season(notice the instances Dig brings up and then watch those actual episodes)..Diggles outburst would have worked at any point in the series except this season...Oliver as been at fault for a lot but this season i can't really see a big mistake he has made...Even last season Chase was a prior mistake that came back to bite him.

Alot of Diggles points were valid but did not make sense in the current context of where Oliver is as a character since season 5.
He used Felicity and William as an excuse for Oliver losing focus when Diggle himself also has Lyla and a young son.

I do like that this fallout may have lasting effects and we may even see the return of Dark Oliver..(season 1 and 2)

Shari Houtman said...

I agree with you about the hypocrisy, but I think it's human nature to bend the truth to suit your argument in a fight. Diggle wanted to be the Green Arrow almost as badly as Oliver did even if he can't admit it to himself.

I just don't see how Oliver defeats Diaz on his own and I don't see anything that would bring Diggle or the NTA back. Like I said in the review. The Powers That Be obviously have a plan, but I have no idea what it is.

You don't think this Oliver is Dark?

Patryk said...

The drug dealer's girlfriend should have shot Oliver and Diggle instead, how stupid of them to forget her.

Anonymous said...

@Shari

I don't know, what constitutes Dark Oliver. Personally i go back to season 1 Oliver prior to meeting Dig and Felicity when he would kill without thought or hesitation. Since then he has been on a pretty upward curve..He flirted dangerously with it last season but that was more so because Adrian brought it out of him.
Oliver is at his darkest when he is alone and stripped of his ties to his humanity (sounds like Buffy)...Which is what the show is currently doing.

To further my Dark Oliver point I like Diaz, not as much as some other villains but he is formidable in his own way..But the Oliver of season 1 would have killed him along time ago...I even think Anatoly refers to Oliver as 'Kapushion' in a sort of reverse psychology way as to not have to deal with THAT side of Oliver's personality.

Billie Doux said...

I thought this was a strong episode and that the Oliver v. Diggle fight worked, unlike the two Arrow crews v. each other. Diggle has been piling up those feelings for years.