Arrow: 4.07 Brotherhood
One of the big successes of season four of Arrow is Neal McDonough's villainous portrayal of Damien Darhk. He plays the sinister evil mastermind, working in the shadows of Star City, pulling the strings of the rich, the powerful and criminal underworld without ever going into full pantomime. And while we still know very little of backstory - his connection to Ra's Al Ghul aside - we got plenty of deliciously evil moments with the head of HIVE this week.
Overseeing the recruitment of new ghosts, we saw just how far he would go to control his forces, using a drug to subdue them to his will and making them impossible to break. But we also saw him as the Lex Luthor-type businessman, making introductions with Oliver Queen as his mayoral rally with promise of success and the threats of disobeying his commands. What was really great about this set up, and that final speech by Oliver at the docks as Darhk watched disapprovingly, was that the villain was now fighting the Green Arrow and Oliver Queen in different personas.
Oliver meanwhile might have toyed with the idea of playing double agent and pretending to use his support but some strong words from literally everyone at Team Arrow soon diswayed him of that idea; memories of his attempt to play Ra's Al Ghul and go all 'dark' opened too many wounds for them to go through that again.
And Darhk also came face to face with Thea this week too, attempting to use his life sucking abilities to kill her. Her bloodlust from the Lazarus Pit transferring to him was a surprise twist and did far more good than her good old dad Malcolm Merlyn who was back for round two of 'I'll prove my parental love by giving you someone new to kill'.
This time it was a peodophile who cheated the system though she chose the sleazy guy who came on to her at the restaurant instead. Poor helpless campaign manager / date Alex didn't know where to look as she kicked the living daylights out of him in the desert cart. Fortunately that guy didn't die and now she has asked Malcolm to help her transfer her bloodlust to Darhk permanently, which is never going to end well.
Oh and Alex - is he evil? Is he working for HIVE? Or is that just a bit too obvious?
Talking of HIVE, Diggle learned last week that his brother Andrew was alive - and a criminal to boot - after believing he had been taken out by Darhk's organisation years earlier. And despite a rather convenient encounter the two brothers came face to face again, even though it wasn't a warm reunion. Despite once being a rival to HIVE, Andrew now seems to be following Darhk but whether it is brainwashing or something far more sinister remains to be seen. The fact that Diggle managed to cage his brother by the episode's end is sure to add some drama for this character in the weeks ahead.
The one thing I really liked about this while drama was that Diggle was ready to write Andrew off from the start. It took the rest of the team and a strongly worded pep talk from Laurel who clearly understood what he was going through to convince him to think otherwise. (Having a sister who worked for a criminal organisation gives her the experience).
Meanwhile we saw a more weary Ray Palmer than last season, trying to pick up the pieces after his 'death'. I can't see him picking up the mantle of head of Palmer Tech anytime soon (he has a spin-off show to head to for a start) but it was great for him to make an appearance as Atom in the big showdown towards the end of the episode. Arrow has always been great at choreographing fight scenes and the rooftop fight between Atom and Green Arrow and a swarm of HIVE agents was pretty spectacular.
Things are getting interesting on the island too even though admittedly, they still feel like a bit of an afterthought to the events taking place in the present. Oliver discovered that the man he killed was the brother of the woman he saved, out for vengeance, while his powerplay with Conklin took on a whole new level as his opponent lost the battle to convince Baron Reiter he was the enemy. Oliver being forced to give Conklin several lashes with the whip was particularly barbaric. The one thing I will say about these flashback though is that while things are infinitely better than last year's Hong-Kong based action, I'm still waiting for something big to happen to make them worthwhile.
Brotherhood stepped up the battle against Damien Darhk in new and interesting ways, particularly the idea of Oliver fighting him as the mayoral candidate for Star City as well as the Green Arrow. Andrew's return holds the promise for some decent drama for Diggle to get his teeth into while Thea's bloodlust looks set to make her the number one candidate for the grave we saw in the season opener flash forward (assuming it isn't Felicity). There's no Arrow next week but then we get the annual The Flash / Arrow crossover the week after so things look very promising indeed!