[Arrow] Recap • 518 Disbanded

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By Sara Netzley for Entertainment Weekly

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Five years ago, Oliver Queen left Russia to bring justice to Starling City (via a detour to Lian Yu, the only plausible cover story for his whereabouts for the last half a decade). Before he left, he helped his Bratva brothers steal the drugs necessary to treat a tuberculosis epidemic in a population too poor to afford the medicine, and Anatoly worried about what kind of pakhan he would become without Oliver by his side.

As it turns out, Anatoly was right to be concerned. But the man who wasn’t worried about the ramifications of his new mission? His name was Oliver Queen.

I offer you this introduction because tonight’s Arrow opens without the usual voiceover, as a broken Oliver has disbanded his team after Chase forced him to confess that his mission was really an excuse to indulge his bloodlust.

In the Arrow Cave, Felicity’s face is soft with sympathy as Oliver tells her, John, and Curtis that their lives are worse because of him. He begs them to leave, but John sticks around, sensing this his friend shouldn’t be alone. But Oliver’s adamant, and they quite literally go their separate ways, walking in opposite directions as mournful violins play over the soundtrack.

The team (sans Oliver) convene in Felicity’s loft, which she declares their new secret lair since Oliver reprogrammed the Arrow Cave’s security settings. John insists that Oliver will get over it, and in the meantime, they need to keep the city safe while Felicity figures out how to stop Chase.

At City Hall, Quentin confirms that he covered for Oliver during his disappearance, and now he’s ready to take Chase down. But Oliver repeats that it’s over. “He’s already won.”

Then the man himself strolls in to thank Oliver to granting him bereavement leave to properly mourn his wife. Say one thing for Adrian Chase: He’s bold. And Oliver’s so defeated that he simply takes it, even when Chase tosses a knife onto the mayoral desk in an invitation to kill him. Oliver declines, and Chase smirks that he’s disappointed, then skips off into SCPD protective custody — you know, since Green Arrow killed his wife. He does let Oliver keep the knife, though.

The next person through Oliver’s door is Susan. He does his usual “this is all my fault” song and dance, and Susan (brace yourselves; I’m about to say something nice) is understanding and reasonable about her recent kidnapping, insisting that he’s not to blame. Of course, she does tell him that it’d be helpful if he’d corroborate her statement to police that Prometheus is Chase. But this plan would force him to reveal his identity as the Green Arrow, and Oliver assumes that Chase has already prepared for that. His new plan is to do something unexpected.

Then Oliver tells Susan, “I can’t be with you. My apologies if that’s presumptuous.” Ha! What a great breakup line. Susan pouts and leaves, and if we’re very lucky, this is the last we’ll see of her. Again, imagine how much more powerful this whole story line would’ve been if Susan had been a love interest that anyone in the audience was rooting for.

Oh, and that unexpected plan of Oliver’s? Yeah, it’s opening the town up to Russian gangsters. That’s right! He welcomes Anatoly to Star City, telling him, “I need you to kill Adrian Chase.” Nope, no way will this backfire.

Oliver and Anatoly chat in the Arrow Cave amid the boxes where Oliver’s packed away the costumes that used to hang on the mannequins. He admits that the hood couldn’t contain his monster, and Anatoly doesn’t miss the opportunity to crow. “Such a burden, always being right. Life has no secrets.” He’s pleased Oliver sees himself clearly now and has remembered his Bratva oath. Then he insists on a two-part payment in order to perform the work, and Oliver agrees. Nope, no backfire potential here at all.

At Helix HQ, Kojo presents Felicity with a compilation of Prometheus’ greatest surveillance video hits in the hopes that there’s a shot of him taking off his hood so they can implicate Chase. Alas, he uses optic scrambling tech to pixelate his image on cameras, which is super cool. The women are excited that if it’s tech, they can engineer a solution, although Felicity soon realizes that un-pixelating his face on camera will require her to be in physical contact with his tech.

Since Oliver’s taken his toys and gone home, the rest of the team’s forced to don black hoodies and itchy masks to patrol the city without their usual tech or Overwatch in their ears. They respond to a break-in at a medical warehouse, where they find a group of Russians stealing diabetes drugs. No, they’re not Wilford Brimley’s personal drug delivery team; Anatoly pops up to call John his favorite American and explain that they’re there with Oliver’s blessing.

John takes this badly and crashes into Oliver’s office to announce, “We don’t hire criminals and pay them with diabetes drugs.” So true, Mr. Diggle. So true. But Oliver’s angry to hear that his team didn’t actually disband; he’s willing to sell his soul all day long to see Chase dead, but he won’t let his team dirty their own hands. John’s horrified by the brainwashing job Chase did on Oliver, who insists it’s not PTSD. He says he’s finally faced the truth, and the team is done.

At Felicity’s, Rene’s upset that the company the Bratva stole from is barely hanging on and now will likely have to lay people off, which Oliver knew. And when John and Felicity head upstairs to speak privately, Curtis sneaks a peek at Felicity’s IRC window to get a sense of Helix’s plans.

Upstairs, John says he and Felicity need to present a united front to talk sense into Oliver, but Felicity argues that Chase has always been 10 steps ahead of the team, so maybe they should let the Bratva do their thing.

But their thing, as Anatoly’s explaining to Oliver, is combining two drugs to create an opioid that’s more addictive than heroin. The Bratva gotsta get paid, after all. Unfortunately, John arrived and caught the tail end of that conversation and is more committed than ever in getting the Bratva out and the Green Arrow back.

“The Oliver I know would never let a dangerous group of criminals crawl into his city, let them steal medicine,” he says, begging Oliver to let his team help him. But Oliver explains that his mission was an excuse for a murder spree. “Somewhere along the way, something in me broke,” he says. “I am beyond redemption.” YET AGAIN, he tells John to stand down because it’s over.

And yet again, John ignores him, telling the rest of the team that they need to bring Chase to justice the right way — not to save Chase, but to save Oliver. They get their chance when the Bratva intercept Chase’s police escort home. The Russians open fire on the car, but Team Everyone-Except-Green-Arrow fights them off. Their no-frills approach to crime fighting is effective, particularly Rene and John clotheslining fools with rope and two motorcycles.

Meanwhile, Curtis takes on Chase, who asks, “How’s that husband of yours?” Scariest line of the night, by far. Curtis takes a boot to the ribs, but in the end, he walks away with the tech Felicity and Helix need. Good guy, that Curtis.

He delivers the tech to Helix HQ, having fed Felicity nanites in her blueberry pancakes to track her (creepy, and a violation of the sacred trust of breakfast). Naturally, the scrambler’s encrypted, and to break it quickly, a Helix hacker suggests that Overwatch and Mr. Terrific break into Kord Industries, the company Chase originally stole it from. When Felicity and Curtis are boggled that Helix knows their secret identities, the hacker says it was child’s play. “It took me eight minutes, three for this guy.” Curtis understates, “These hackers are mean.”

Fearing an internal leak, because how else would the attackers have known his location, SCPD decides to transfer Chase into federal protective custody. As Chase leaves the room, he whispers to Oliver that he’s impressed by his move. “This isn’t over,” Oliver whispers back.

Then Oliver storms into John’s home to punch him in the face, and I do not like it when these two fight. Oliver’s furious that John intentionally got Chase transferred to federal custody, but John tells him that he’s not buying the “I’m a crazy serial killer story” that Chase planted in Oliver’s head. “What you need to do is stop pushing me away. Because I am not going anywhere, Oliver,” John insists.

John reminds Oliver that he told him to atone for killing his brother by becoming Spartan, and this is 100 times truer for Oliver and the Green Arrow. “You don’t think you deserve it? Fine. Work to become the man who does.” When Oliver says he doesn’t know how, John says all he has to do is ask for help. Even if this scene treads ground that feels well covered already (how many times have we heard about Oliver’s guilt and desire to change?), John’s unwavering loyalty is lovely to watch.

There’s less loyalty in the air when Anatoly yells at Oliver for letting his supposedly disbanded team get in the way again, and Oliver announces that their deal’s off and his men need to stand down. Anatoly says fine, Chase can live, but the Bratva are still taking the drugs. If Oliver interferes, their prior relationship won’t keep him from being declared a Bratva enemy.

Naturally, Oliver interferes. He tells John, Dinah, and Rene that he’s putting his faith in them to stop the Bratva, and Dinah assures him, “It’s not all on your shoulders. We’re here for you, Oliver.” I’m so glad he listened to John! They suit up in their official gear to keep the Bratva from making off with the second round of drugs.

The Bratva have taken hostages, and Anatoly gives the kill order, forcing Oliver to choose between people and pills. Oliver sends his team in to free the civilians while he fights Anatoly’s men. In the end, Anatoly says if Oliver wants to kill his old life, he’ll have to kill Anatoly. Oliver chooses option B, tripping an alarm so they all have to scurry before the police arrive.

Meanwhile, Felicity and Curtis have broken into the tech company to get the necessary un-encryption. They find it thanks to a T-sphere, and Felicity whips out a doohickey to test it immediately. It works. Huzzah!

Team Arrow reconvene to celebrate the crisp, clear image of Prometheus lifting his mask to reveal Adrian Chase. Dinah offers to walk it into SCPD, while Felicity’s all about putting it on YouTube. And oh yeah, the team’s back in business with one little change: All of their superhero costumes now hang from the mannequins on display. The one exception is the figure in the middle, where the Green Arrow costume belongs. Oliver’s not quite ready for that yet, but he says with his team behind him, he’ll likely be back in business soon.

Then he has one last meeting with Anatoly, who’s headed back to Russia but leaving behind his men, who are furious at Oliver’s betrayal. Oliver refuses to apologize for keeping Anatoly from menacing innocent people for a buck. Then he offers a parental “I’m not mad, I’m disappointed,” telling Anatoly that he’s no better than Gregor.

Anatoly says he became what he had to become. Without Oliver’s presence, Anatoly slipped into corruption and self-interest, while Oliver sans Anatoly tried to atone for his actions over the past five years. It’s an interesting parallel, and between Kovar’s survival last week and Anatoly’s new enmity, it has the potential for a fascinating future payoff.

Once SCPD learn that Chase is, in fact, the Throwing Star Killer, they alert the feds on protective duty. However, Chase, always vigilant (but not, as it turns out, Vigilante — ha!), notices their suddenly tense body language and leaps into action. He whips a pen into one man’s eye, then using his own sling from the gunshot wound he sustained during the Bratva attack to garrote the other one. It’s…impressive.

As a fleet of SCPD race toward the safe house, sirens blaring, Chase calmly drives in the opposite direction, covered in blood and whistling along to the Rascals’ “It’s a Beautiful Morning.” So how many steps is he ahead of Oliver and company now, do you think? Looks like we’ll find out in late April.

Arrows for your quiver:

I want to believe that the blade Chase left with Oliver will turn out to be Chekhov’s knife.

In Oliver’s absence, if John’s the new Oliver and Curtis is the new Felicity, do you agree that Dinah’s the new John? Or is she more obviously the new Laurel? And can we all agree that Rene is and always will be Rene?

Gotta love Felicity’s reason for never wanting all of her surveillance video appearances combined: “The world doesn’t need to know how often I’m at the wine shop.”

Oliver had an awfully fast turnaround on the whole disbanding situation, but you know what? I’ll allow it. I prefer my Green Arrow on the path to redemption, not wallowing in guilt.

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