Arrow got a whole lot more badass in the flashbacks in Season 5 thanks to the introduction of none other than Talia al Ghul, who is best known as the daughter of Ra's al Ghul in DC Comics. Arrow's version of Talia stands on her own, however, and she doesn't seem beholden to her father in the slightest. Lexa Doig plays Talia in the flashbacks, and she has brought layers of ambiguity to the character that has led many viewers to wonder if Talia is good or evil deep down. Doig recently spoke to CinemaBlend about her role on Arrow, and she told me this about Talia's motivations:
The thing about Talia is I don't think she's good or evil. She kind of sits in the middle somewhere and she's sort of more out for whatever it is that she wants, so if there's something that she wants to accomplish where the end effect is good, yay. If the end effect is not so good, well, boo-hoo for everybody but Talia.
So far in Season 5, Talia has been working with Oliver in the flashbacks to help him transition from a Bratva thug who takes out bad guys who cross his path into a Starling City vigilante who picks off the criminals on his father's list. For those of us who have been waiting for years to see how Oliver got that final push to become the Hood of Season 1, Talia's role has been more than welcome. That said, we can't really qualify her as one of the good guys. After all, she does kill a lot of people, and she has been pushing Oliver to unleash his monstrous side on Starling City. Lexa Doig's reveal that Talia is really out for her own endgame rather than pushing Oliver for his own sake sheds some light on Talia's ambiguity.
Unlike Talia, the Bratva are pretty clearly bad guys. Sure, Anatoly is good for a laugh, and seeing a bunch of Russians and Oliver battle each other has made for some epic non-superpowered fight sequences like we used to get in Season 1, but the Russian mobsters are bad guys. When I asked if Talia had any connections to the Bratva that we hadn't yet learned, Lexa Doig gave me this answer:
I don't think she's specifically connected to the Bratva at all. I think what she is, is she's on a mission to find Oliver, and so...it's not difficult to figure out what Oliver's current mission is for himself, so her attitude is 'It's fine. I'll help you accomplish this mission but then you've got to talk to me.' She's got a bigger long game. She's got a long game with Oliver that this is just one step in it. So I don't think she personally has any connection or really gives a shit about the Bratva, whether they're good or they're bad or whether they should exist or they shouldn't exist. I think it's more like she's helping Oliver with his agenda because she wants him to do something for her eventually.
Given that Talia will soon appear in the present on Arrow instead of just in the flashbacks, we can bet that we'll soon see what she had in mind for her long game. The Bratva enabled her to reach out to Oliver and point him in the direction of returning to Starling City; she doesn't have any particular drive to help or hinder them. As much as she's helped Oliver kill a bunch of Russians in the flashbacks, she hasn't been doing it because they're Bratva. She's been doing it because of Oliver.
Oliver isn't exactly the sharpest arrow in the quiver, so to speak, so it should be interesting to see how he reacts to Talia in the present. The guy tends to have a blind spot when it comes to the women in his life in particular, ranging from his mom and Thea to Isabel Rochev and Susan Williams. If Talia didn't reveal exactly what she wanted from him in the flashbacks, he might be in for a big surprise when he meets with her again. At the very least, they might need to have a conversation about how Oliver killed her dad and married her sister.