Arrow: 8.05 Prochnost
This week on Arrow, Oliver Queen takes the kids on vacation to Russia where they have fun with corrupt generals and Bratva fight clubs. Yes, tgere's certainly a large pinch of salt required, but the final season has been so entertaining, having Oliver and his daughter from the future tag team in a death match against six brutal killers just feels part of the package at this stage.
The plan to get plans to a weapon to defeat The Monitor feels a little convoluted at this point in the narrative, but I'm enjoying Arrow's greatest hits theme, particularly when we get the return of Anatoly (David Nykl). Oliver's friend turned enemy turned friend again. Since we last saw him, he's retired from the Bratva, learned pina colada-making skills from an extended sojourn to the Maldives and now runs a bar with no customers that smells of cabbage. Anatoly has been a welcome presence since season one and I'm glad to see him back on Oliver's side. Nykl and Stephen Amell always bounce off each other well and it's great to revist that dynamic at least one more time.
I'm also loving Oliver taking Mia under his wing. The tennis ball arrow shooting montage was a fun way to open the episode and while there were a few well-worm narrative beats before the end - such as trying to send her and William away when things got too tough - I liked how he continued to guide her path even as she took the same steps as her father, right up to the brutal cross the line ritual from season five. It was cheesy but inevitable to have them tag team against Bratva's most dangerous fighters with some nice call backs to how William first met Mia last season.
Joseph David-Jones' Connor was absent this week, but I was able to appreciate just how well Ben Lewis' William and Katherine McNamara's Mia are settling into the present day dynamic. They both play extremely well off Amell as the awkward grown up kids enjoying that lost connection and provides as much humour as it does tension.
Anatoly wasn't the only old face back this week, as Diggle recruited Roy Harper back into the fold. Roy's latest reintroduction did feel somewhat forced, though the sentiment around Diggle's attempt to rehabilitate him was a nice sentiment. The sub plot to steal plutonium was a little weak too, but it did set up his return ready for the upcoming Crisis On Infinite Earths.
The good thing about this final season is that for all the high stakes and drama, it still feels like Arrow. As the grittier elder sibling in the Arrowverse, it is noticeably darker and more violent and that was certainly the case when the Bratva were involved. Arrow's fight sequences are always well executed and that was apparent in the enclosed, almost claustrophobic cage fights and Mia's attempt to get over the line. But is also feels in keeping with the character journies. While the mission may have been motivated by a way to stop The Monitor, at its heart was Oliver reconnecting with his kids and Laurel battling her past to become a hero, ultimately betraying The Monitor and Lyla.
Talking of betrayals, the episode's final moment was terrific, not just in the unexpected betrayal but the way in which the heroes were subdued. It's another great hook for next week's episode - the threat of Crisis On Infinite Earths proving a strong momentum from one installment of season eight to the next. There is no filler this time round and arguably the shorter final season is working in the shows favour. An argument indeed for shorter seasons all round I think...