‘Arrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 5 Episode 12: ‘Bratva’
It’s time for another installment of Pointed Commentary, the feature where returning Arrow watcher Chris Haley and newcomer Emma Lawson dig into the stories of Team Arrow as they clean up the filthy, crime-ridden streets of Star City.
This week, Oliver and the Arrow Babies make a trip to Russia with the new Black Canary in tow! Will the stop the sale of the stolen nuclear weapon? Also, Quentin Lance is back from rehab! “Bratva” was directed by Ben Bray from a script by Oscar Balderrama and Emilio Aldrich.
Chris: Hello, dear Arrow-Heads, and welcome back to Pointed Commentary! An awful lot of action and excitement this week, Emma. What did you think?
Emma: I actually quite enjoyed this episode! I think it helped that everyone looked so stylish in their jetsetting outfits. Plus I adore Anatoly, especially when he punches Oliver. How did you feel about this week’s episode, Chris? Better than last week?
Chris: Surprisingly better than last week! I enjoyed it quite a bit, though I’m not certain I can immediately say why. As always, I’m hoping our discussion will bring me some answers. Did anything jump out at you as making this a stronger episode?
Emma: I do think the dialogue was much better this episode. Fewer cringeworthy lines! We also had some conversations between characters that we don’t usually get to see interacting, like Rene and Quentin Lance. You can pretty much pair Rene with anybody and it’ll be entertaining. I also really enjoyed their trip back to Russia, and seeing some of the more concrete aftermath of Ollie’s choices.
Chris: Before we get into Russia, I want to agree that the combo of Rene and Quentin was the highlight of the episode for me. What is it about Rene’s character that allows him to work as such a great foil for the other characters in all of these one-on-one scenarios? He’s been the show's “have a good scene” secret weapon. Is it because he’s the character on this show that seems to react to things the most like a real person?
Emma: I would argue that Rory also reacts to things like a normal person, particularly when he first joined Team Arrow. There was a ton of “wait, what?” from Rory at exactly the things that we’ve questioned so much. I think Rene works so well with everyone because he won’t take anybody’s crap, but he also genuinely wants what’s best for people, so he’ll do what it takes to help them while also giving them much-needed snark.
Chris: Hmmm. I’m going to paying closer attention to this development moving forward. I agree about Rory, but maybe Rene’s personality being a little more… noticeable makes his interactions reverberate more? I’m not sure if that makes sense, but I think you get what I’m saying.
Emma: Rene is more of a personality, for sure! I just notice Rory because I have a giant crush on him.
Chris: This show is just running over with attractive people. That much is for certain. Even the ugly people on this show are only “TV ugly.”
Speaking of attractive people with personalities that lend themselves to interesting interactions, this week was our new Black Canary’s first mission as a member of the Arrow Babies, and not only was she a huge asset and a total ass-kicker, her one-on-one scene with Ollie was great! Could she possibly, finally be the voice of reason and obvious self-awareness he needs in his ear to make him (and the show) better?
Emma: Their scene together was fantastic, I agree. It’s so rare in a show like this to meet someone who doesn’t have some long complicated relationship with Oliver, and her newness means that she can see him in a fresh light, without baggage. She sees a lot of the great things about Ollie that we’ve noted in previous recaps --- like he can actually be a great leader! --- without all that being clouded by the knowledge of all the problematic things he’s done.
As a cop, and as a vigilante who had been chasing her own demons for years, she also understands what it’s like to make choices that you didn’t think you’d ever make. I like them together. It’s also nice to see Oliver interacting with someone his own age after spending lots of time with the Arrow Babies. There’s a mutual respect there that’s really lovely.
Chris: Exactly. As much as I gripe about the things that bother me on this show, I still really want to see it be as good as I think it can be, and there are a lot of good pieces to the puzzle just sitting here waiting to be utilized properly. If they can keep Ollie and Dinah’s interactions and relationship focused like this, it could really benefit the show as a whole.
That scene this week where Dig and Felicity have both kind of made a mess of things and then Ollie has to go try to deal with it, and then does so, in really able fashion, even at the expense of his own feelings and conscience, shows the kind of relentlessly determined and endlessly capable hero and leader they seem to want us to see him as. He’s basically supposed to be this universe’s Batman, and I like nothing more on this show than when they treat him as such and show us why we should see him that way, instead of just trying to tell us that that’s how we should view him.
Emma: Relentlessly determined and endlessly capable is the perfect way of describing it. When I watched that scene with Dig and Felicity, I thought about what a good captain Ollie would be. (I may or may not have been watching a lot of Star Trek lately.) He’s the one who should be making the tough decisions and supporting his team in being the best they can be. Sometimes that means delegating to them, and sometimes that means doing the dirty work himself.
The reason this comes up is because in Russia, where they’ve chased General Walker and his men, Dig beat a guy (maybe to death?) while attempting to get information, and Felicity straight up pretended to be Bratva and blackmailed a guy, also for information. I’m sure Dig has beat up a lot of guys in his past and let his anger get the best of him, but it seemed like a new and big step for Felicity. Oliver never wanted them to have to cross that line.
Chris: The Felicity bit did not seem as egregious to me as I think they wanted it to. Maybe they’re just wanting to plant the seeds of her taking off down a darker path, but I didn’t think she was actually crossing a line, because it wasn’t like she was really going to kill that guy’s family. Did I misread what was happening? I mean, wasn’t she basically just lying and bluffing and pretending to be something scarier than she actually is?
Emma: No, you read it right. But has she ever blackmailed anyone before or made anyone that terrified? I’m actually completely cool with her actions, she got the information she needed with no one getting hurt, but my reading of that scene was that she had never seen herself as being capable of that kind of thing before. She’s usually the one coordinating and providing information to everybody else, but this time she couldn’t do that without doing some sketchy IRL work threatening a dude.
I don’t think Oliver would even really care except for the fact that she was clearly uncomfortable with what she had done. That’s what he was picking up on.
Chris: I guess I was just surprised Rory was so shaken by it, but I assume that was to play up their later interactions in front of a nuclear device.
Emma: I think Rory sees some similarity between himself and Felicity, and it’s something that Rory would never do. Once he got over Havenrock (as much as one can get over the destruction of their family and friends and home and entire town), he and Felicity had a nice little friendship.
They did have a frantic moment in front of a nuclear bomb this episode. The nuclear device that General Walker had stolen, framed Dig for, sold to terrorists, and then stole back was triggered, and Felicity couldn’t disarm it. She was ready to try and fly a plane to get it somewhere else, but Rory remembered that his rags survived something similar at Havenrock, so instead he got ready to sacrifice himself as he encapsulated the bomb in his rags and hoped for the best. Felicity’s fear of repeating her mistake with Havenrock is what reminded Rory that he could actually save the day.
Chris: I know this show doesn’t seem to do that kind of cliffhanger, but boy would that have been one hell of a cliffhanger if they’d ended this episode right as the bomb is about to go off.
Emma: That would have killed me. I’d be drinking so much more wine than I am right now.
Chris: Hahaha, I would have definitely spent the next week assuming Rory was going to die and being bummed about it, but as it stands, he didn’t die! Hooray! But his rags are broken. Boo. What do you think he meant when he said he was leaving, but he’d be back? Are the rags going to get better, or are we to assume he’s going to go learn to be a rag-less vigilante?
Emma: I think he’s going to investigate the history of the rags and try to discover what gives them their power, but it looked like he didn’t pack the rags? Or maybe the bag Felicity noticed was just his clothing and toiletries and the rags get packed in a carry-on for safe keeping.
I hope the rags get fixed; I made a note of how awesome Ragman’s entrance into the big Russian fight this episode was! It’s a different style of combat from everyone else on the team. I like that diversity.
Chris: Yeah, I get disappointed they don’t make better use of him like that more often, because he’s clearly the most useful/powerful member of the team, but then I have to remember that these shows have a budget to consider, and then I get bummed out.
Emma: Ragman’s magic rags are definitely more costly to film than Oliver punching or shooting someone, it’s true. I just pretend Rory is stringing people up and getting all cloth tentacle-y on them in the background somewhere.
Chris: Your Arrow adventures are much more entertaining than the ones I’m watching, I bet.
Emma: Mine aren’t restricted by production, only by my imagination!
Speaking of things happening on and off screen, I’d much rather have not seen Oliver and Susan Williams in bed together. Yuck. She visits his office at the beginning of the episode, complaining about their relationship “not progressing” and then spends the time post-coitus at the end of the episode trying to sneakily investigate his wild body of scars and tattoos. Not the time, Susan!
Chris: I mean, to be fair, if I saw this rich, handsome dude (who is also the mayor) naked for the first time and he’s just covered in gnarly scars and godawful tattoos, I’d probably be asking a lot of questions as well. I’d also be living a very different life, but that’s an adventure for another time.
Emma: Okay, but that many scars clearly equals some kind of trauma! You can’t just casually be like “oh hey, what happened?” right after getting out of the bone zone. That’s gonna be a Story.
Chris: Agree to disagree. Kind of related, we wondered if we were ever going to see her again last week, and now here she is! And she’s still being devious behind his back. And she’s probably figured out he’s the Green Arrow! What do you think: is the whole thing just a story to her, and she’s never had any feelings for him, or is it going to be one of those things where she ends up sacrificing herself to protect him, or just dying in general because of Prometheus or some such?
Emma: I’d much rather see her being a self-interested jerk journalist who sexed him up to get a scoop, but she’s probably going to die, let’s be real. What do you think?
Chris: Yeah, once she knows who he is, unless she’s going to reveal next episode that she’s got wombat powers or something and put a mask on, I’d say she’s as good as dead.
Emma: Chris, now I’m rooting for her. I’m rooting for her to have wombat powers. Don’t make me like her!
Chris: My power is to give people hope. Awful, horrible hope.
No Thea (except in a flashback), but we did get the return of Quentin this week. He’s back from rehab, and he brought all of his usual “able to act circles around the rest of the cast” powers with him. Glad to see him back, or do you want to see things stay focused on the newer cast members?
Emma: I like Quentin. He’s been through some rough stuff, and caused some rough stuff, but he’s a good dude with a good head on his shoulders. We got a really nice story about him from Rene, who actually met Quentin back when he was a beat cop taking down punks like Baby Rene. He gave that boy a pep talk and pointed him on the right path, although who knows if Quentin would think he’s on the right path now?
Rene also kept calling Quentin “hoss.” Is that a thing?
Chris: It’s certainly a thing down here in the South, but we know Quentin has lived in Star(ling) City his entire life and I’ve always been under the impression that this show is taking place in the North, if not the Pacific Northwest (or, you know, being filmed in Canada), and I didn’t imagine it would get used in that part of the country as much, if at all, but maybe I’m being regional dialect-ist unintentionally.
Emma: I always imagined Star City to be somewhere on the Eastern seaboard. If it’s in the Pacific Northwest they should have more trees. I didn’t notice any particular locations from my living in the city that they actually film in, but there was a scene under the SkyTrain.
Lots of slang is definitely restricted to certain regions, and even certain groups within those regions. “Hoss” is not a word I’ve ever heard in Canada or anywhere in the PNW. I imagine Rene is hip to different cultures, though, and he would have traveled some when he was in the military.
Chris: Y’all have something called a “Sky Train”?! I assume that’s like some kind of monorail, but holy cow does that make it sound so much more whimsical and fun!
Emma: It’s like the L in Chicago only with a way cooler name! It also got stuck today because of our epic snowstorm, so go ahead and make fun of Canada.
Chris: I would never. I love Canada. And for anyone that isn’t familiar, I’d say the best equivalent nickname synonym I could give for “hoss” would be Rene calling Quentin “big guy.” In my experience, it’s generally used for people that are older than you, like a big brother type, or for dudes who are literally big guys.
Emma: That fits for Quentin.
What else did we miss? Anatoly decided that Dinah was his new favorite American, so he seems to like her as much as we do. Talia got Ollie to take out a drug dealer back in Flashback Russia and convinced him to abandon his brotherhood. And Oliver got to say his first “You have failed Starling City!”
Chris: Oh yeah, there was all that flashback stuff that was so forgettable that I completely forgot about it all. I guess it still matters, though, because we still haven’t seen what happens with Ollie and Dolph Lundgren. I think he’s due for at least two more episodes, so we can look forward to that happening five years ago.
Emma: Dolph was delivering treats to the production office recently, so he’s definitely back for a few more episodes. Cannot wait! Ollie also has to kill Gregor and then break poor Anatoly’s heart when he leaves the Bratva to go back to America to finish his father’s mission.
Chris: And Dolph appearing in the episodes is like a treat to me, so we clearly have reasons to keep watching. Okay, Arrow-Heads, let us know what you thought in the comments and be back here next week. Same Arrow Time. Same Arrow Recap Column.