Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “Disbanded”:

As much respect as last week’s punishing “Kapiushon” deserved, I think Arrow writers were cognizant that Oliver shutting down the team’s vigilante crusade was something of a narrative dead-end. Likewise, there were only so many avenues through which “Disbanded” could undo that, beyond another team-building hour to remind Oliver he no longer has to go it alone. After all, it isn’t as if Chase was suddenly going to stop his own criminal activities because Oliver backed down, and neither Talia nor Evelyn were present to offer said master plan any additional dimension.

Still, bringing the Bratva to Star City in present-day is a good chance to keep some of these Russian elements in the foreground, while offering effective flashback* contrast of how far Anatoly and Oliver’s relationship had changed over the past five years. Judging by the Gregor comparison that Oliver lobs, I’d guess the purpose of Anatoly’s moral degradation serves to remind Oliver how far he might fall without team friendships guiding him away from darker instincts. That isn’t a terribly new sentiment for Arrow to mine, but the concept of Oliver selling his soul (and very nearly Star City) to get back at Chase is an interesting one, and likely could have filled a larger stretch of episodes, if only Season 5 had time.

*If there’s one thing about Season 5 that seems continuity-breaking in retrospect, it’s how hellbent Season 1 Oliver was on following his father’s list. The way these Russian flashbacks are concluding, all sense of urgency to Oliver returning to Star City (by way of staging a trip back to Lian Yu) feels completely lost.

“Plus, we’re an international mafia. I’m pretty sure we could just *pretend* we found you on an island.”

“Disbanded” is primarily Diggle’s hour, and a heavy one for David Ramsey to carry, given that Felicity too has been morally compromised into ignoring Oliver’s backslide. The Arrow writers are good at picking up parallels with story elements no longer in play, and it was smart to compare Oliver’s willingness to seek redemption to the same lessons he imparted to Diggle in prison earlier this season. Granted, it seemed more like “Kapiushon” wanted to re-frame Oliver as a stone-cold serial killer, which isn’t necessarily a debt that can be worked off, but Arrow leaning on Oliver’s need to learn and re-learn how to redeem himself through others is a default setting at this point.

We’re taking off Arrow Season 5 for the better part of a month now, and I’m almost surprised “Kapiushon” wasn’t plotted as the last hour before that stretch, given how much more it left viewers to chew on. I suppose Adrian Chase being outed as Prometheus is a reasonable hook, and I’ll miss having Josh Segarra able to play both costumed villain, and someone who could menacingly interrupt the team at work in broad daylight. Segarra’s clearly having more fun with the manic side of Prometheus, and if that bloody final scene of killing his guards and driving off to “It’s a Beautiful Morning” offers any indication, fully unhinged is worth leaning into.

There are still more than a few plates still spinning in Season 5, between the Bratva, Kovar, Helix and whatever Prometheus’ ultimate plan with Talia is; it just didn’t seem like “Disbanded” had a sense of which story should be most important to Oliver going forward.

AND ANOTHER THING …

  • Oliver had time to dress his wounds and put on a hoodie before anyone could ask a follow-up question about him disbanding the team.
  • Curtis managed to get into the bunker later, so I can’t imagine Oliver capable of locking it in any way that would keep Felicity out.
  • Hey, Susan’s still around. Were we planning to define that character as something more than “love interest,” or … ?
  • Considering there’s another Canary Cry out there, I do hope we’re moving Dinah Drake into a more defined (and permanent) position on the team.
  • Did they say “tranq ammo?” Have they ever established Diggle or Wild Dog using those before?
  • Did Chase know his optic-scrambler thing was stolen, and soon to be unlocked? Is that why “my protection detail got a text message” equals “welp, time to murder everyone with a pen”?

Arrow Season 5 will return on April 26 with “Dangerous Liasons,” airing at 8:00 P.M. on The CW.

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