Arrow TV Reviews

Oliver Gets By With a Little Help From His Friends in Arrow’s “Disbanded”

At least once in every season of Arrow or The Flash there seems to be an episode where the titular hero has to again be reminded of the power of teamwork and perils of going it alone. This is usually framed as Oliver or Barry suddenly turning mournful about the danger they inherently, but inadvertently bring to all of their friends. Plus, sometimes Oliver is just stubborn. Correction: a lot of the time he is stubborn.

“Disbanded” both does and does not fall into this familiar episode arc. It has many of the same trappings and inevitable inter-team confrontations/pep talks, but these scenarios don’t typically entail Oliver or Barry flat out giving up on everything and trying to quit. However, that’s what Oliver tried to do, with the episode picking up directly from where “Kapiushon” ended in revealing Oliver’s reaction to Chase’s soul-crushing torture session is to employ the nuclear option, to burn it all down and salt the Earth. Team Arrow is dead and buried, so sayeth Oliver Queen.

Classic Oliver, really, not so much that he would give up like that, but more that he would unilaterally decide such a thing for the team with no input and next to zero details shared about what specifically Chase did to him to drive him to such an extreme decision. It’s also adorably naïve, but also believable given his past behavior, that Oliver would seriously believe Diggle and the rest would simply fall in line and follow his orders. Sure, he pulled that dick move by cutting off access to Arrow headquarters, but they’re all just a wee bit too invested at this point to call it good just because Oliver says so and cuts them off from their supplies. Heck, Curtis, Rene, and Dina have all lost significant others along the way, and being a part of Team Arrow helped them move on and find a renewed purpose in life (although, obviously, it was exactly his membership in Team Arrow which cost Curtis his significant other).

Curtis, Rene and Dina debate who’s the new Oliver and who’s the new Diggle if they have to replace the original trio. Obviously, Curtis is the new Felicity.

But the heavy lifting fell to Diggle, as well it should. Felicity is still going down the Helix rabbit hole, and speedwalks about as if her mind is someplace else and she so doesn’t have the time or patience anymore for Oliver/Diggle’s pesky moral quandaries. File that away for “will be dealt with in future episode.” That left it to Diggle to be the patient, not-giving-up-on-you-even-if-you’ve-give-up-on-yourself brother Oliver needed, with the former scolding the latter for hiring Anatoli and the Bratva to kill Chase. It’s a familiar character dynamic, but one which Amell and Ramsey always play well, even if the script tries a little too hard to spell it out for us (as here when Diggle connects the line between Oliver’s current despair and his own back when he was in prison as explanation for why won’t give up on him).

In general, there wasn’t much in “Disbanded” which was subtle or difficult to understand. This was a classic case of “there, but for the grace of God, goes…” character comparison, offering up poor Anatoli as the sacrificial lamb necessary to Oliver remembering how crucial his team is to his mental and moral well-being. In the flashbacks, we saw Anatoli attempt to persuade Oliver to stay with him in Russia by tricking him into a vigilante mission with an altruistic, “make the world a slightly better place” outcome. In the present, though, we see what five years of running the Bratva on his own has done to Anatoli, forcing him to steal diabetes drugs to extract a necessary ingredient for a new, Iron Fist-esque opiate in high demand in Russian.

If the past 5 years have taken Oliver to some dark places it stands to reason that the same would be true of Anatoli, despite the fact that our prior visits with him in the present have usually been more of the fun-loving variety (partially because David Nykl’s performance makes the character so instantly lovable). However, it’s worth remembering that in the comics Anatoli is a villain, specifically the KGBeast. He was perhaps always heading for a point of declaring war on Oliver. “Disbanded” just went out of its way to make us understand that at one point Anatoli and Oliver were like brothers, but when Oliver left and found a new brother in Diggle Anatoli was left without any support and had to do whatever he could to survive.

Meanwhile, this dude got away

As Stephen Amell told HeroicHollywood last week, “The interesting thing is that what Prometheus has done is base his plan off of Oliver’s pattern of behavior. Oliver’s pattern of behavior has been, ‘I’m going solo.’ When the chips are really down, he retreats and it’s just him. So, the fact that Oliver now has a team might be the one thing that Chase can’t plan for.”

Anatoli didn’t have that, and now Arrow has set up a future threat for Team Arrow to worry about, with the promise of rogue Bratva members gunning for them (plus, Dolph Lundgren’s big bad is still alive for some reason). One wonders if Chase will be defeated sooner than expected and the final episodes will pit the team against someone else, Bratva maybe, Talia perhaps. At the very least, we know Black Siren will be back (and for good this time).


1. Is this finally it for Susan Williams? Or will she be back on this show? I never can tell if she’s being written off for good. If Oliver does go back to her, man, talk about mixed signals.

2. Thea’s not around because Willa Holland wanted this to be a part-time job this season, which is perfectly fine. Still, “brother was tortured and has completely changed his worldview” would seem like reason enough for Thea to re-emerge from wherever she’s at now.

3. Of course Helix could figure out Felicity and Curtis’ Team Arrow identities in 8 minutes. In Curtis’ case, anyone with eyes and clear vision could do that in one second.

4. It was fun and all to see Team Arrow in action without their costumes, but didn’t it seem a little too soon for Oliver and the team to be gunning down Bratva gangsters just a week after Oliver’s soul-crushing “I killed people because I liked it!” epiphany?

5. Felicity and her Helix doppleganger should absolutely go undercover exactly like she described.

6. When exactly did Oliver upgrade the costumes?


  1. The quality of Arrow has gone down similarly to the way The Flash has gone down — just not as badly.

    Tired of all the brooding, the stupid decisions, and most of all — the flashbacks.

    We were led to believe that Oliver came back as such an amazing fighter because of five years of constant life or death experience.

    Yet other than a bit of training from his new friends on the island in season 1 and what must have been a few months with the al’Ghul girl, he didn’t get much training — or even experience — at all.

    The rest of his time on the island was spent as a guard — not fighting. His time in China under the thumb of Waller had him mostly sitting around or watching. He didn’t do much in Russia, either, though they showed his burgeoning skill — just not where he got it.

    But, he came back nearly the equal to Raz al’Ghul??? And fluent in Chinese and Russian? And a respectable computer hacker? And a pilot?

    No. The show completely wasted the flashbacks.

    Question: Oliver was rescued from the island with extremely long and ratty hair and a massive beard. Yet in Russia, where his years is just about up, he’s clean shaven and has a buzz cut.

    Did Oliver somehow fake his hair and beard before getting rescued?

    1. Arrow is a tougher one for me than Flash. That’s partially because Flash, well, Flash has been in a downward spiral since probably the first season finale. They had a truly fantastic first season, and they’ve been chasing their own tail ever since. Arrow, though, ain’t what it used to be, but it also keeps showing signs of improvement before regressing back into mediocrity or worse. For example, I know it was divisive but I actually really liked the first quarter of season 4, the “just when Oliver thinks he’s out Felicity drags him right back in” part of the season. It was an interesting new look for the show, with a surprisingly domesticated Oliver trying to be a gentler and more inspiring Green Arrow while enjoying such bliss with Felicity. It was a breath of fresh air.

      Then his kid came back, Felicity’s mom kept popping up, yada, yada, yada, next think you know Felicity’s dropping a freakin’ nuke on a small town to save the world, and the entire internet facepalms in disbelief.

      This season has been similar for me in that I dug the soft reboot of Oliver reluctantly taking on the new recruits, and drip-feeding us background info on all of them. The mayor storyline wasn’t a complete embarrassment, as I had expected it to be. The reveal of Prometheus’ true identity was a quality twist.

      But they also had Evelyn turn on Oliver for no good reason, did that well-meaning, but unfortunate gun control episode, and have made a mess of the flashbacks by this point for many of the logical reasons you pointed out.

      I have the longer history with Arrow than Flash, meaning I’m more reluctant to give up on it. In retrospect, I probably should have bailed after that damn nuke in the season 4 finale. If I stick with the rest of this season it will largely be for the symmetry of it all, i.e., wanting to get to the end of the five season mission they laid out at the very beginning. After that….well, I might keep watching, but I don’t know if I’ll keep reviewing.

      BTdubs, the question about Oliver’s hair – ummm, maybe he’s Robin Williams-like in how quickly he can grow facial and body hair and we’ve just never noticed? Or maybe he did simply get some kind of wig, like it was some weird emergency supply in that bunker where he stashed Slade Wilson. Now, I might keep watching the rest of the season just to see that scene 🙂

      1. –>” Arrow, though, ain’t what it used to be, but it also keeps showing signs of improvement before regressing back into mediocrity or worse.”

        That sums it up, perfectly.

        PS: What shows are you watching that you love (or loved) — just the ones that aren’t canceled?


        No Tomorrow
        Brooklyn 99 (I did NOT expect to like this)
        Angie Tribeca
        Dark Matter
        Stan Lee’s Lucky Man
        The Good Place

      2. Currently, my watched (and loved) shows include:

        No Tomorrow (I binged it after the fact on Netflix)
        Brooklyn Nine-Nine
        The Good Place (omg, what a twist ending!)

        (AS WELL AS)
        Legends of Tomorrow (deserves an award for most improved show of the year)
        12 Monkeys
        BoJack Horseman
        Rick and Morty
        The Magicians
        Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
        Game of Thrones (obviously)
        Ash Vs. Evil Dead
        Black Mirror
        Wynonna Earp

        Preacher (the final batch of episodes were so strong though)
        Angie Tribeca (I’m 2 seasons behind)

        Stan Lee’s Lucky Man

        Doctor Who (close to being done with it)
        Arrow (close to being done with it)
        Agents of Shield (close to being done with it)

        Lost Girl
        Halt and Catch Fire (it’s actually an ongoing show with one final season yet to air, but I’m still making my way through the first season)

        That’s a crapton of shows, and the sad thing is there are still so many others which are apparently worth watching – Sense8, The Leftovers, The Get Down, Veep, Casual, The Path, Catastrophe, Silicon Valley, The Expanse, Dark Matter, The OA, The 100, etc. Oy vay, peak TV is a double-edged sword.

      3. Wow! That’s quite a list.

        I watched Legends of Tomorrow and got very frustrated with it. But as you said, it appears to have improved greatly in Season 2. One reviewer described it as “embracing it’s craziness”. So, I’ll probably catch up on Season 2.

        I watch and enjoy The Magicians, but I couldn’t put it on my LOVE list. One thing that bothers me is the sloppy censoring. The leave so much of the “cuss” words in before cutting that they might as well just leave them in. I don’t really like profanity in my shows but honestly it doesn’t bother me much. But when they cut out just the last letter of a word it’s just like hearing it but it jars you out of the story.

        I loved the first season of Kimmy Schmidt. I watched episode 1 of season 2 and got bored so I haven’t been back.

        GOT is amazing and should have been on my Love list.

        Same w/ WW.

        I watched several episodes of Wynonna Earp and couldn’t get myself to care about the characters, the world, or the story.

        Angie Tribeca is an acquired taste. If you enjoy spoof comedy (ala Airplane, Police Acadamy, and Naked Gun) you’ll love this. It’s very well done — for that genre.

        Lucky Man is unlike anything I’ve ever watched. It’s in my Love list because I really look forward to watching it. But it’s strange because the stories aren’t all that strong. It’s just such an interesting concept I have to keep watching.

        I watch Doctor Who because my son loves it, so it’s something we do together. But I haven’t loved it since Tenant left.

        I agree with you about iZombie

        I stopped watching AOS when Ward turned out to be a bad guy.

        I mildly enjoyed the first one or two seasons of Lost Girl. Then lost interest.

        I watched season 1 of Rectify and thought the character development was fascinating, but the story telling wasn’t interesting enough to keep me.

        I was so angry at the ending of The OA I won’t be giving season 2 a chance.

        Sense8 is a very creative and clever show. Sorry for my bigotry, but the gay love scenes are too much for me to stick with the show.

        Thanks for sharing and interacting, Kelly. Looks like we have a pretty high percentage of shared interests.

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