Spoilers ahead for "Bratva," the latest episode of The CW's Arrow!
The short version: Team Arrow travels to Russia to stop that rogue general from selling his stolen nuke. Oliver is forced to fall back in with his old Bratva gang. Felicity goes stone cold to get some intel. Rory uses his magic rags to stop a nuke, but they lose their power in the process.
The good: Road trip! Lance's return, Felicity goes hardcore and Talia al Ghul
With Diggle's name finally cleared, the shady general who framed him conveniently breaks free of military custody and goes on the run to Russia, where he plans to sell that stolen nuke to a bunch of rebels. Since ARGUS can't really operate in Russia (though isn't the entire point of a spy agency to go where they're not supposed to go?), Team Arrow takes the mayor's private plane to "visit" Star City's sister city. Which is conveniently located in Russia.
Pulling the team out of Star City and setting them off on an international adventure worked wonders. It uprooted pretty much everyone out of their comfort zone and proved to be one heck of an ambitious stand-alone episode. We got some excellent match-ups among team members and some connective tissue to the Russian flashback saga this season. Arguably the most surprising twist was Felicity going full-on dark, blackmailing a Russian telecom exec into letting them into their system. Emily Bett Rickards really seemed to enjoy finding the darker corners of Felicity's personality.
And hey, Quentin Lance is back! It's about time. Lance's story has been sidelined for a while due to his trip to rehab, but he's apparently dried out and ready to get back to work. Lance is a tragic figure who has really become the heart of the show in his own way. It's hard not to root for him, and teaming him up with Rene was an excellent move. They're two characters who haven't interacted much at all to this point, but they certainly had a lot to teach one another.
The influence of Lexa Doig's Talia al Ghul is apparently the missing link in Oliver's evolution into the burgeoning vigilante we meet in Season 1. She basically gives Oliver his MO and even sets him up with some dry-run missions in Russia before sending him back to Star City. She makes for an interesting mentor, though you have to wonder why flashback Oliver has yet to really question her motivations. Also, does he even know she's an al Ghul?
The bad: The new Canary feels rushed, Rory’s anti-nuke rags
We only met the new Canary, conveniently named Dinah (Juliana Harkavy), last week — and here she seems to be a fully-integrated member of Team Arrow, happy to jump on a plane to Russia and lend a hand. Umm, it really feels like we skipped a few episodes here. She went from tentative about joining the team to gung-ho in less than an episode ... in the meantime, the entire first half of the season was used to set up the other new team members and follow their training. Harkavy is doing a solid job with the character and she could actually prove a good fit, but this episode felt like too much, too soon.
So, let's get this straight: Rory's magic rags can absorb the full blast and yield of a nuclear blast (plus all the radiation!), but that apparently proves just enough stress to kill the rag's magic for good? Using that McGuffin to stop the explosion was silly in the first place but it raises the question of what will happen to Rory now? He seemed to be hitting the door (at least temporarily) at the end of this episode. If the writers do use this as a way to reduce his role, it's a bad move. Of all the new team members, Rory is arguably the most likable — and his friendship with Felicity actually feels organic. They better not be writing him off the team to make room for Canary 2.0.
For the first time in a long time, Felicity finally has a big story that's not tied to a relationship. She took advantage of that mysterious data cache to get some leverage on the Russian this week and seems keen to continue hacktivist-ing (?) with that information. There's obviously a larger story they're setting up with this and I'm actually interested to see where it goes.
So, Oliver's ruthless reporter girlfriend has been playing him this whole time and investigating him on the down-low. Who didn't see that reveal coming? (Yawn.) She has apparently figured out he's the Green Arrow now, so hopefully that will come to a head sooner rather than later. And seriously, is Oliver really this dumb? Please let him be playing an angle here. Because if not, wow. Dumb.
Next week: There's a problem the Green Arrow can't solve!