Arrow 5×18 Roundtable: ‘Disbanded’

The most recent episode of Arrow was quite satisfying as it delivered an episode that reminded us of the Arrow we’ve been missing in “Disbanded.”

Our Fangirlish writers Alyssa, Lizzie, Nora, Sarah, and Charles are breaking down the latest episode of Arrow, which has us loving the return of Arrow, getting emotional over the Oliver and Diggle dynamic, praising Felicity’s Helix storyline, and speculating how Team Arrow can ultimately defeat Prometheus.

Describe your thoughts about “Disbanded” using just six words.

Alyssa: Nice to enjoy Arrow episodes again.

Lizzie: I want to trust you Arrow.

Nora: This is the Arrow I wanted.

Sarah: Arrow, nice to see you.

Charles: Good episode feels good to enjoy.

Describe your feelings about “Disbanded.”

Alyssa:

Lizzie:

Nora:

Sarah: 

Charles:

Oliver spent a good portion of this episode wallowing in this mind space that Adrian had led him into. Why do you think Oliver gave into this belief that he’s a monster so easily?

Alyssa: Oliver’s biggest fear has always been that he’s this monster that people have told him that he is. Whether it was Tommy or Slade or Prometheus or the the other villains he’s come into contact with, Oliver believes that they’re right. Oliver has literally been through hell and back during those five years on the island, as well as the years spent back in Star City. He’s been tortured exponentially both physically and psychologically in the past 10 years that has damaged him. That’s not something you can just snap your fingers and come back from. Oliver was forced to do things that made him ill. Eventually, he did it enough that it came a little easier. He wasn’t enjoying it, it just became the norm.

One of the things that Oliver has struggled with since season 2, when he actually started carrying this hero banner, has been accepting the fact that he’s not the monster he was trained to believe. Sure, he’s done some horrific things (which he had been conditioned to do in hell), but being a hero isn’t about being perfect. It’s about inspiring people to be better, as well as fighting for redemption for yourself. Oliver has done that over the years. But Prometheus has managed to worm his way into the deepest part of his subconscious where there’s a voice that’s always whispering, “You’re a killer. You’re a monster. You’re not a hero.”

There are some people that believe that Oliver is a monster; that he enjoys killing; that say that Adrian hasn’t manipulated him. I’m sorry, but they’re wrong. Oliver has 100 percent been manipulated by Adrian into believing that this persona — that Adrian is projecting onto him — is the real Oliver. He was beaten down psychologically at his lowest, which made it easy for Oliver to give in to what Adrian was feeding him. If Oliver really was a monster, he wouldn’t be able to admit it yet alone show remorse. That right there shows the difference between Oliver, a damaged hero, and Adrian, an actual monster.

Lizzie: I think this has always been something Oliver had believed of himself – a result of the five years he was away – and when pushed to the breaking point, he just defaulted to that. In the past 5 years Oliver has learned, from Diggle and Felicity especially, but also from Thea and Roy and Laurel, how to not just be a better person, but see himself as someone who’s worthy of a hero. But that’s a constant, everyday struggle. He doesn’t think he’s a hero, but he tries, day in and day out. And for him what Adrian did was just provide evidence that Oliver was wrong – that he was, indeed a monster, that everyone’s lives would be better off without him.

Because that’s Oliver’s greatest fear. He made a selfish decision by coming back from the island and I think a huge part of him wonders if that was the right decision, if he affected these people that came into his life afterward, for the better. Adrian’s thing wasn’t torturing Oliver into submission, was unhearting his biggest fears and then letting him free to deal with those.

Nora: Adrian knew just how to break Oliver. He knew Oliver’s deepest fear was that he was this monster. Adrian made Oliver truly believe that all the deaths of his family and friends– Tommy, Shado, Moira– were all his fault and that he enjoys killing. It was the perfect way to get Oliver to back down. Oliver’s always been very stubborn, but the revelation that he’s the very thing he fears he might be, really got him to crumble. Adrian knew the exact pressure point to hit and it’s caused us to see a very broken Oliver. Oliver was unprepared and Adrian knew that this would lead to Oliver losing his nerve and rolling over. I don’t believe Oliver enjoys killing, but I do think this is causing him to think about all of his actions over the last five years. He’s been through a lot and it’s about time he took a moment to step back and think. Oliver is a broken hero. He needs to find his way back and learn that Adrian was wrong.

Sarah: Truthfully I think it’s because on his absolute worst days it’s what he’s honestly thought of himself as. Oliver can be stubborn about a great many things, but he’s as human as the rest of us when it comes to being our own worst critics and allowing the darkest thoughts to sit in the back of our minds. Adrian simply honed right into that and opened that trap up so it would be easy for Oliver to walk right into (especially after the extended torture my God.) It was a kind of attack Oliver was completely unprepared for, and while I certainly don’t believe Oliver enjoys killing, after doing what he’s done for so long I can see how after everything he’s been through *he* would believe it. It’s why he needs his friends because the people who love us can recognize when we are letting those worst thoughts about ourselves completely overwhelm the mind. I don’t think it’ll be easy for Oliver to reconcile this but the experience I hope if anything has reminded him why he stopped doing this mission alone.

Charles: Being tortured has a damaging impact. This feels like the bazillion time that Oliver has been tortured. What made this different was the psychology about it. Adrian forced Oliver to see and reveal some dark things about himself. Now do I think Oliver enjoys killing like he admitted (after duress)? NO. But when you are in pain and your mind has been messed with , eventually you break. Oliver Queen is a broken man for most of this episode and if it wasn’t for Diggle and Felicity, he still would be wallowing in that brokenness.

Describe your reaction watching this masterpiece:

“Oliver, you and me we’re not over. We are never going to be over! I know what kind of man you are Oliver, the good, the bad and the ugly. You don’t need to punish yourself, or isolate yourself, but what you do need to do is to stop pushing me away because I’m not going anywhere!”

Alyssa:

Lizzie:

Nora:

Sarah: 

Charles:

This episode brought some really powerful Oliver and Diggle scenes, including the moment Diggle made it damn clear that he was never going to leave Oliver. What were your thoughts on that moment and Oliver and Diggle’s dynamic?

Alyssa: This episode and those moments between Oliver and Diggle were a reminder that Arrow does remember what the heart of this show really is. Yes, this is a story about a superhero. But it’s his relationships — mainly his relationships with Diggle and Felicity — that have been the emotional anchor of this show since season 1. So first off, it was so refreshing and satisfying to get these Oliver and Diggle scenes, as it was a reminder what it feels like to emotionally connect to Arrow during a season that feels emotionally closed-off.

I feel like Oliver and Diggle’s dynamic isn’t fully appreciated on this show. But it’s one of the most important relationships Oliver has in his life — and one of the main reasons why he’s become the hero that he is today. Oliver and Diggle are parallels of each other. They’ve always had this shared dynamic where Diggle at present represents Oliver is like 3 years. They’re built from the same cloth. It’s one of the reasons why Diggle can help Oliver through situations like this — he’s been there before. Specifically with this episode — Oliver was ready to close in on himself after this “realization” that he likes killing. But it was Diggle that reminded him that he doesn’t have to do that. That’s not who he is. He will always be capable of redemption — just like John was after he killed Andy.

And that scene where Diggle reinforced the notion that there’s nothing that’ll get Diggle to leave Oliver’s side — that’s the scene that dreams are made of. That’s the scene where we can see the direct result of all of these years and experiences between these two men. They’re brothers. Through and through. Ain’t nothing going to change that.

Lizzie: Best moment of the episode without a doubt – and quite possibly the best moment of the season so far. For so long in what has been not an uneven season, but a bad one, I believed that Arrow had simply ceased to care about the core relationships they’d built, and this is a step in the right direction toward reclaiming one of those, towards shining the light on the family Oliver won instead of the family he lost.

And Diggle was the first member of that family, the first person to choose Oliver, in a way, Oliver with his warts and all, the Oliver who didn’t think he was a hero but who was trying to be. That Oliver. And this Diggle, the one who said, you’re my brother and despite what you do to push me away, you’re still gonna be my brother, because that’s what that word means, that’s who Oliver needed to break him out of the funk he was in.

Nora: I was so, so happy that moment was included. Original Team Arrow has been seriously lacking this season and even though Felicity didn’t have a moment with Oliver, I’m glad Diggle did. Oliver and Diggle are brothers and this episode just solidified it even more. The Oliver and Diggle dynamic is very important to bring Oliver back from the place Adrian put him in I think. Oliver needs to hear that he hasn’t ruined everyone’s lives, specifically Diggle and Felicity’s. While he surrounds himself with the entirety of Team Arrow now, it’s Original Team Arrow that will always remain the most important influence on him. Oliver needed to hear from Diggle that he isn’t going anywhere. Since Oliver brought Diggle into Team Arrow, Diggle is as equal part of the team as Oliver. It’s just that Oliver needs to realize he doesn’t need to carry the weight of the world on only his shoulders. The Oliver and Diggle moments this week were so important and I really enjoyed them. We need more moments with Original Team Arrow!

Sarah: I think that was the best scene I’ve watched on Arrow this season bar none. I felt like I got to see my favorite characters come alive again when Diggle laid into Oliver with the absolute truth of what he’d been trying to avoid and deny after his experience with Adrian. Diggle has been there with Oliver from pretty much the start and despite all the ups and downs they’ve had (including the bad writing this season) they’ve never given up on each other. Oliver was trying to bury his head into the sand pretty deep but Diggle wasn’t going to let his friend no brother, do that without a fight.

I still don’t trust the writers, but Diggle’s reminder and declaration to Oliver that this isn’t something he can just walk away from was a sign that they hadn’t completely lost sight of what made this show so amazing in the first place: the relationships. Diggle & Oliver’s friendship that slowly turned into brotherhood has always been one of my favorite aspects of the show. It was also the words that Oliver desperately needed to hear the most after what he’d been through and that his conviction of being a monster was not true. Our loved ones can often see and point out the good in ourselves when it’s hard to see past the worst and that’s exactly what Diggle did for Oliver. It’s what they’ve done for each other for the past 5 years and I can only hope we get to see more of this in the last run of episodes.

Charles: The moment was a long time coming. Diggle and Oliver have been brothers since damn well season 1 and the show wasn’t showing this enough for my liking. So this scene felt great to see especially as it wasn’t just Diggle yelling at Oliver but trying to explain to him why he wasn’t going away. That they are family and family sticks by you and believes in you through thick and thin. I’m very glad Oliver Queen has a brother like John Diggle.

Felicity continues to get even deeper with Helix as those around her are visibly concerned. What are your thoughts on Felicity’s involvement with Helix and where it’s leading her?

Alyssa: It’s about time that Felicity get a storyline — a decently fleshed out one — that doesn’t involve romance. Sure, the producers will tell you Felicity is doing this to avenge Billy’s death (hah), but this is the build-up of several catastrophic events that have happened in the past year, including being shot, paralyzed, breaking up with her fiance, her father returning, and the Havenrock incident. I don’t know if the writers ever intended for this to come across as the breaking point of all of those events and more, but that’s what it really is. And it’s fantastic.

One of the things I can’t stress enough is how much I like that this Helix storyline wasn’t something that was brief and only existed in a couple of episodes, like the paralysis storyline. Even though we’ve only gotten bits and pieces until now where we’re full steam ahead with Helix, it’s nice to see a storyline develop over time. We’re seeing as Felicity is gradually progressing to this dark side and how events affect her reasoning now that she’s involved. I love that we’ve gotten to see people concerned — it shows they’re paying attention. And I’m so glad that it looks like in the next episode we’re going to see them fight for her. I’m curious to see who is behind Helix. Is it Prometheus? Is it Felicity’s father? Or someone else entirely?

Lizzie: Any storyline for Felicity that’s just about her and not about any romance gets a Hallelujah from me. So often the women on this show are treated like props or ways to advance a guy’s storyline. That being said, I keep hearing that this is about Billy – and let me disagree with that. This is about everything Felicity has been through and lost. This is about Felicity losing faith in what the team is doing, or at least, in the way the team is doing things. This is about Felicity going: the end justifies the means.

Does that relate to what happened to Billy? Only tangentially. Or, if they wanted it to – well, I needed way more development than I got. Like way more. But, it doesn’t really matter to me what it’s about, only that we got it. And I kinda hope it doesn’t end here, that if Felicity “learns” her lesson, she doesn’t stop getting storylines of her own that don’t involve her relationship with Oliver. I’m not just here for the romance, I’m also here for Felicity Smoak kicking ass and taking names.

Nora: I’m always an advocate for Felicity to have her own storylines. While I love her storylines with Oliver and Diggle, I’ve been waiting for her to have one alone and Helix is delivering just that. It may be a little darker, but I’m really excited to see Felicity go deeper and deeper into the organization and to watch Emily Bett Rickards take Felicity to this new place. Felicity’s journeying to Helix because she wants to help Star City and her family/friends. She wants to be able to do things on her own, outside of Team Arrow. Helix gave her all the tools to be the hero she wants to be. At a time when Team Arrow was underappreciating her, Felicity found an organization that appreciated her. It’s that simple. Even Felicity has her weaknesses and right now, it’s that she can’t see the bigger game Helix is playing. In fact, neither can we. I think it’s leading her to a place where she might regret her actions and I think that’s where Oliver and Diggle will have to come in. I’m super excited for this storyline all around and I honestly wish it happened earlier in the season.

Sarah: This is the kind of storyline that gives Felicity the light she deserves as a character in her own right. I’ve loved her storylines thus far don’t get me wrong, but getting involved with Helix as her own “island” experience has been nothing short of fantastic. Felicity has been through enough to last a lifetime and yet it’s only happened in the last five years. She’s done everything she can to protect the people she cares about the most, to help with the mission but after slowly sinking into this world for so long it’s no wonder Helix became such an attractive option to her. Rationalization is an easy trap to fall into and even with the best of intentions her loved ones are starting to catch on what it’s doing to her especially since she’s honed in on how Helix has helped her she can’t see the bigger picture. Emily Bett Rickards has played this fantastically and I think it’ll take Felicity to a place she’s never been before and while I don’t imagine it’ll be easy when she gets her wake up call I have no doubt (if the writing holds up that is) that her team, especially Oliver & Diggle will be right there with her.

Charles: It’s no secret that this is suppose to be Felicity’s dark arc. Helix is eventually going to make her pay for all these favors she is getting from them. It’s going to lead her into a darker path like Oliver has been. Though I feel like it shouldn’t make her too dark. If it eventually leads to a reunion for her and Oliver, that’s cool. I do feel sad though as she looks like she has gotten close-ish to the people in Helix, especially Alena. I know Alena is shady as fuck but having been a friend to Felicity has been nice to see.

What was your reaction to watching Oliver break up with Susan (using a gif)?

Alyssa:

Lizzie:

Nora:

Sarah: 

Charles:

This episode seemed to parallel Oliver and Anatoly as monsters in different points in their lives — the flashbacks and the present. What were your thoughts on that?

Alyssa: While the flashbacks haven’t satisfied me the way I would’ve liked this season, I do have to admit that since episode 5×16 that they’re piqued my interest because I’m finally feeling a direct correlation to Oliver in the past and the present. It was the center of that crucial,  flashback-centric episode as it showed us the moment that Oliver truly became the monster we met in the pilot. But in “Disbanded,” we got to see a different parallel. As Adrian continuously reminded Oliver that he was a monster — and as Oliver continued to believe it — we saw that actually it was Anatoly that had morphed into a monster. While in the flashbacks it was Oliver that became a monster as Anatoly tried to help him, we saw in the present that once Oliver left Russia that Anatoly had become that monster — and that was on in fully display in this episode.

It’s interesting because it makes you think about what classifies someone as a monster? It’s not black and white. It’s not something as simple as doing something bad. It’s more psychological than that. It’s the intention behind it. Or the lack thereof. We saw that blind rage that Oliver possessed in the flashbacks. It was the same blind rage — though more chill — that Anatoly operated by with the Bratva. It was a nice surprise to see that parallel as Oliver, who thought he was the monster, realized that it was actually Anatoly that resembled the monster.

Lizzie: This parallel was so on the nose they might have well spelled it out, and I find that when Arrow is as unsubtle as they’ve been with this subject, I rarely like what they’re selling me. This is not exception. I cared about Anatoly more before I got to see him again than I have done at any point this season. The flashbacks ceased to be important somewhere around season 2, and now I just use them as bathroom breaks or take notes for later while they’re on. So, yeah, Anatoly has turned into a monster, just like Oliver before. I don’t even care. Can we move on now? Get back to Lian Yu?

Nora: I’m not the only one who hasn’t been digging the flashbacks this season. They’ve been boring most of the time and I find myself wanting to go back to the present day ASAP as soon as they start. In this episode, while the flashbacks were nothing special, I did enjoy that they paralleled present day. It was a great way to utilize Anatoly and show how Oliver and Anatoly have almost switched place. In flashbacks, Oliver is ruthless. He does anything he can to kill those that wronged him. It gets so bad that Anatoly even questions his motives. Now in present day, Anatoly is willing to do anything for the Bratva, even if that means hurting Oliver and Star City. It’s an interesting parallel that really works in the aftermath of Oliver’s torture from Adrian. It really showcases that thanks to Team Arrow, specifically Diggle and Felicity, Oliver has moved away from the man the Bratva created in Russia. At this point with the flashbacks, I just want Oliver to get back to Lian Yu so I know they’re coming to an end soon. I wish I liked them more, I try to, but overall they’re still the most boring portions of episodes.

Sarah: The flashbacks honestly haven’t been remotely interesting to me in several seasons now. The on the nose comparisons only served to make them even less so since it was obvious as taking a hammer and hitting a “one was a monster and now the other is” nail in the wall. I appreciate the very solid writing attempt to make parallels from the present to the past but at this point I’ve gotten really sick of this part of Oliver’s past. I want to get them to the point where he ends up back on Lian Yu where we eventually met him in the Pilot. The only element I did like about the present was Oliver had a clear picture of how a monster truly resembles in Anatoly. Whatever he’d done in his past the obvious part of the comparison was how different Oliver was from him now. I hope that’ll help him realize sooner rather than later about how wrong Adrian was.

Charles: Anatoly and Oliver have always been more similar than you would expect. Both had monster qualities back in russia before Oliver’s return to the island. Now, though Oliver is less of a monster because of being with people like Felicity and Diggle. Anatoly is still the same. Still Bratva who will go to any method to get the job done. Oliver in this episode tried to revert back to that but thanks to the people in his life, he is no longer that guy anymore. Anatoly isn’t though and he could be back pretty soon and a lot more dangerous to Team Arrow.

Team Arrow finally managed to get a step ahead of Prometheus. While it didn’t go the way they probably wanted, they still managed to catch him off guard and force him to regroup. What do you think Team Arrow needs to do to ultimately defeat him?

Alyssa: This is a tricky question because Prometheus is just so damn good. Like I usually find it cliche and ridiculous when characters say that they’re “[insert number here] steps ahead” of another character(s). But when Adrian Chase says it, I believe it. Because I’ve seen it. He had every move planned out. More than that, he has fail safes in place, as I’m we saw with his escape at the end of “Disbanded.” While the team managed to finally catch him off guard, you can’t tell me that Adrian wasn’t prepared in case something like that happened. So wherever he’s headed, I just know he has a plan.

So what can Team Arrow do to ultimately defeat him? I feel like they’re going to need help. They’re going to need someone that Adrian Chase doesn’t know. Someone he doesn’t understand. Someone that can actually catch him off guard because he hasn’t prepared for them. I feel like this is why Oliver eventually turns to some old foes for some help. Adrian has done his research on Oliver and those in Oliver’s life. So what Team Arrow needs is someone that Prometheus hasn’t planned for. Then perhaps they can take him out. (Although I’m desperate for him to return in any way possible in season 6 because I love Josh Segarra so much.)

Lizzie: I don’t want him to be defeated, I want him to stick around forever and ever. Wait …that wasn’t the right answer, was it? Fine, I guess that, as Alyssa said, what Team Arrow has to do is catch him off guard. Felicity sorta caught him off guard this episode, which proves that as much as he’s researched Oliver and those around him, he’s focused mainly on Oliver without realizing that the Green Arrow is, and has been for a while, about more than one person. The team is what Oliver needs to stop him. The team, and probably, as many friends (and foes) as he can recruit.

Nora: Prometheus is my favorite villain to date and I think that’s because I really don’t see an outcome and a plan for how Team Arrow will defeat him. Adrian is so powerful, so sinister and so psychotic, that he’s willing to do anything to take down Oliver. He’s created such an elaborate plan to take down Oliver that I honestly don’t know how this will end. This is one of the first villains where Oliver’s brute strength won’t be able to save him. They’re going to have to use their brains and out smart this villain as opposed to fight him hand-to-hand. I have a feeling the end of Prometheus will be won on a computer screen or with a conversation as opposed to a brutal fight, like with Damien Darhk. I also think Oliver will need to overcome the psychic hold Adrian has on him, they’ll need to get Felicity out of Helix and just learn to work as a team. It’s been a season of rebuilding for Team Arrow and they need to come together again in order to defeat Prometheus. I’m super interested because I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen. All I know, is I’m going to miss Josh Segarra at the end of all of this.

Sarah:  I’d say come up with a plan that makes them 20 steps ahead, but that’s as complicated as setting up a chess game and not really possible in even tv real life, there’s too many ways it could go wrong. So the next best thing is to find the one kind of plan he can’t anticipate and I have a feeling it’ll lie in something they’ve never done before and certainly something unique even to the vast array of crazy stunts we’ve seen on Arrow over the past five seasons. My money’s on asking everyone for help, or borrowing tech from Helix even after they discover how evil they were. Epic is the name of the game but despite the fact that I know they’ll defeat Prometheus I will miss him as being one of if not the best villain Arrow has ever seen.

Charles: Team Arrow has succeeded this year working together, having all of them on one page. They need to come up with a plan and make sure that everything is accounted for. Also using everything you have at your disposal — ARGUS, Helix, even borrow Barry if you can lol. Beating someone like Prometheus won’t take brawn or toughness, it will take skill and brains at this point.

At this point, would you say Prometheus is your favorite Big Bad that Arrow has had?

Alyssa:

Lizzie:

Nora:

Sarah: 

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Charles:

Arrow returns with new episodes Wednesday, April 26 at 8/7c on The CW. Our Arrow roundtables will return that following Wednesday!

Alyssa Barbieri

Senior Managing Editor

Teacher by day, writer by every other free moment. Obsessed with sports, TV, books, movies, and superheroes. Proud shipper and supporter of strong female characters. TV Editor and Sports Editor. I write about DCTV, This Is Us and so much more.
Contact: alyssa@fangirlish.com.

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