“You realize that this is the second time you have prioritized your job over keeping your friends safe.”

Though starting off pretty strong, this season of Arrow has truly been a mixed bag of quality. Between the good (“The Demon”, “Emerald Archer”) and meh (“Crossing Lines”), there have been the bad (“Star City Slayer”, “Past Sins”). With the latter two being the last two episodes, it’s easy to say that this season is on a declining trajectory. But then comes a gem like “Brothers and Sisters” that, despite some bumps, is a reminder to Arrow fans of just how good this show can be.

When examining what has worked this season of Arrow to what hasn’t, it seems that when the story drives the narrative instead of the characters, the show falls into a bit of trouble. That’s not to say there haven’t been good story-driven episodes. After all, the first part of the season was based around Oliver’s time in jail. But this show’s strength is not the plot-focused episodes, rather when character relationships are explored. “Brothers and Sisters” is the perfect example of the latter. Not only do several characters break ground as they try to move forward with one another, but the growth several of them have gone through is put on display.

Oliver shows marked character development this season that really shines this week.

As the titular character, Oliver is definitely the most important cog in this Arrow machine. His transition from Inmate 4587 to Oliver Queen to a deputized member of the SCPD goes far beyond story credentials. Not only is he less angry and rash, but he’s also patient and actually listens before casting his own judgment. This newly developed trait is displayed several times throughout the episode.

He has several good interactions with his half-sister Emiko, wanting to forge a relationship with her but not knowing how to go about it. With Rene’s help, he gets an in. Giving Emiko the information on the suspect in her mother’s murder, Oliver casts the first new towards forging a bond with her. Even if, at times, he’s overbearing with Emiko, the surprise comes where he acknowledges that fault and tries to be there as her brother, not as an answer to her problems. This approach is similarly exhibited when he susses out that Felicity is secretly plotting Diaz’s murder.

Casting aside the casual nature of calling out his wife’s plan to murder someone, Oliver doesn’t try to verbally beat Felicity into seeing things his way. He admits he doesn’t think it’s the right thing to do while, at the same time, looking at it from her perspective. It’s one of the best examples of dealing with conflict in a relationship I’ve ever seen on the show. And for it to come from Oliver, a man who, for the most part, has been that alpha-type persona who can only see things his way, it’s a pleasant treat to see such growth executed on screen.

Another positive relationship that only gets a few bright moments, is the sisterhood between Laurel and Felicity. Again, putting aside their conspiracies to murder a man (albeit one who deserves that and may), the two are really coming across as friends. More to the point, Laurel has embraced her new position as DA (as ridiculous as that whole plot is) and may be turning the corner and be 100% the white hat the now-deceased Laurel Lance was.

And then there’s Felicity.

Felicity being able to process her own actions and realize who she truly is was a positive sign.

Though I’m a huge fan of Emily Bett-Rickards, there have been too many moments where Felicity has been overly simplified as the tech/comic relief (similar to Curtis). But when given a situation weighted with strife, she’s been great. That’s why her arc in “Brothers and Sisters” is so satisfying. It’s completely understandable for her wanting Diaz dead and the conflict at discovering Diggle and Lyla using him instead of making sure he’s locked away is a jarring revelation to her. Couple that with her newly discovered pregnancy and it’s not a surprise for her to be driven to protect her family at all costs. But despite all that, Felicity isn’t a murderer and, when she comes face to face with Diaz with no one to stand in her way, she chooses not to pull the trigger. She realizes who she is and, in that, knows there’s a better way. Sure, Diaz’s being set aflame by an unknown assailant makes her decision moot (for the plot line), it doesn’t take away what she’s discovered for herself as a character.

The character development on its own makes “Brothers and Sisters” one of the better episodes of this season. But it’s the last few plot-driven minutes that put it over the top. Not only do we finally get to see the villainous Dante made flesh, but we also get to see that the man is a verifiable bad-ass, even besting Oliver before making his escape. The fact that he’s played by Highlander’s Adrian Paul is an added bonus. Adding to that bonus is the shocking end where it’s revealed that Emiko’s working with/for him—he tells her “it’s time to come home”—adds that much more flavor to what may be the best season seven Arrow episode to date.


Nota Bene

  • “You know, parents aren’t perfect. They love us the best way they can”. With those simple words, future William breaches the defenses of the mercurial Mia. Not only that but the tenuous bond they form in one scene may be exactly what these flash forward scenes needed to capture my interest. Add to that their discovery of an answering machine tape inside a Rubik’s Cube and the mystery of the future has finally has merit.
  • While I like to pride myself on reading the tea leaves on how a show progresses, I did not see the Emiko/Dante thing. Maybe he has something on her or maybe he was there when no one else was, but for her to insinuate herself into the lives of Oliver and others is a great plot point to kick off the final third of the season.
  • Well, it looks like the Ghost Initiative will be without two of its primary components. Not only is Diaz dead/out of commission after being set on fire, but Diggle proposes to take the fall for Lyla in order for her to keep her job. It’s a smart tactic considering that, after Director Bell being shown to be a mole for Dante, her position at A.R.G.U.S. will give her much more power in ferreting out any other moles in the organization. Besides, John can always be recruited to the SCPD vigilante-approved payroll.