[This is a review of Arrow season 2, episode 6. There will be SPOILERS.]
Things have been fairly fast-paced on Arrow for the last few episodes, but more than that, they've also been fairly interconnected in terms of plot revolving around the return of Sara Lance, the introduction of the League of Assassins, and even smaller, yet-to-be-developed aspects like Brother Blood and the green stuff he's injecting into people while wearing a scary mask. With all that Arrow-related plot going on there hasn't been a lot of time to focus on the other side of the vigilante game; namely, Oliver Queen's civilian identity and the personal lives of his closest allies, John Diggle and Felicity Smoak.
To be fair, there's not quite as much personal stuff going on with Felicity as there is with Diggle in 'Keep Your Enemies Closer,' but what we do get points the audience to a better understanding of where she is emotionally in terms of her relationship with Oliver. That Felicity seems to have developed feelings for Mr. Queen doesn't necessarily come as a surprise (and that's not just because of the way Stephen Amell looks), but it's also not an entirely unwanted direction for the characters to take either. And after Oliver sleeps with Isabel Rochev while Team Arrow is gallivanting around Moscow – showing Strike Back that network television likes to break into prisons too – there's a surprising amount of discussion between Felicity and her boss about his illicit encounter that felt welcome in its ability to not only add some much-needed levity to what is an action-heavy series, but it also demonstrated a level of understanding between Oliver and Felicity that went beyond their usual discussions of bad guys and computer stuff.
But the real focus of 'Keep Your Enemies Closer' is John Diggle, a man who is typically doing yeoman's work on Team Arrow, as a constant, reliable presence mostly backing up his green-hooded point man whenever he's needed. There's a nice, not too overt example of this early on in the episode, which also serves to give the audience its weekly-recommended allotment of Arrow, since the hood and the bow seemingly stay back in Starling City.
Of course, Diggle wouldn't even be headed to Moscow were it not for the appearance of Amanda Waller, played by Cynthia Addai-Robinson – who, thanks to a brief appearance by Manu Bennett's Slade Wilson, managed to make the episode a mini Spartacus reunion. Unfortunately, Waller doesn't have much to do, but bark orders at Diggle and let him know A.R.G.U.S. is fully aware of his extra-curricular activities cleaning up the streets of Starling City with Oliver Queen. But the most important takeaway from their encounter is that Dig's ex-wife, Lyla Michaels (Audrey Marie Anderson), is rotting away in a Russian Gulag that's earned a charming nickname, which roughly translates to "Nightmare,' and that she has a line on where Deadshot's been since we saw him late last season.
It all leads to another satisfying episode of Arrow that demonstrates a more compelling and cohesive approach to things like the flashbacks and Moira Queen's legal troubles, as well as Thea and Roy's relationship, becoming more complicated by his apprenticing for the Arrow.
But mostly this was a chance to take a step away from heavy plotting and look at where these characters are now in this abnormal life they're leading. The biggest development, then, is Diggle taking a play from his partner's book and opting not to kill Deadshot, despite plenty of motive and opportunity – something that works out as well for both characters, as it does the audience.
Arrow continues next Wednesday with 'State vs. Queen' @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below: