Warning: spoilers ahead for the Season 4 finale of Arrow.
Arrow has always been the story of Oliver Queen’s journey from a horrible person with overwhelmingly awful hair to a true hero. The journey has been chronicled over the four seasons so far via a combination of present-day adventures in Star City and flashbacks to Oliver’s five years of hell that forged him into a weapon. The first couple of seasons had fascinating flashbacks filled with interesting characters, but Season 4 really dropped the ball on crafting consistently compelling scenes from Oliver's past. Luckily, the flashbacks of Season 4 ended in a way that have set Oliver up for the next leg of his journey. He’ll be heading to Russia in Season 5, which means only one thing: Bratva.
The show established way back in the beginning of Season 1 that Oliver had somehow become a captain in the Russian mob during the five years after his ship went down, and fans have been waiting years to see what could have happened to send Oliver to Russia to join the Bratva. Given that his stint with the mob apparently resulted in fluency in Russian, a trusted contact within the organization, and a tattoo, the Bratva flashbacks always seemed like they would require a fair amount of screentime. Season 4 made sense as the time for Oliver to hop a boat to Russia and reunite with his pal Anatoly, so it came as a surprise when he ended up back on the island again.
This time, Amanda Waller and her forces at ARGUS were responsible for Oliver's unwanted trip to Lian Yu. He was given the mission to take down a drug operation run by a man named Baron Reiter. The flashbacks started promisingly enough when Oliver chopped off his straggly hair and started to embrace the right amount of darkness for his fourth year of hell, but they took a distinct turn for the worse when Oliver was joined by a woman named Taiana who is most memorable for her remarkably ambiguous accent. A guest appearance from John Constantine was fun, but the magical shenanigans stopped making sense pretty quickly. Even Stephen Amell looked bored.
The magical shenanigans did accomplish one wonderful thing, however. Taiana was infected by the magic that consumed what was left of Reiter’s sanity, and Oliver had no choice but to kill her before she too could be turned. He promised that he would visit her village in Russia and fight to free its people from the control of a seriously bad guy.
Granted, freeing Taiana’s village isn’t exactly the same as Oliver marching into a mob HQ and demanding to see Anatoly ASAP, but Oliver heading to Russia is a step in the right direction. Arrow is running out of time to tick all of the flashback boxes established in the pilot, and Oliver has a lot of dastardly deeds to do if he’s going to become as dark as he was circa Season 1. The Season 5 flashbacks will be taking him to Russia and giving him that final push to become the murderous Hood that we met back in the first episode to bring the show full circle.
Arrow won’t be back on the airwaves until fall, so we have a while to wait and wonder about how Oliver will transition from a man mourning his pal Taiana into a captain in the Russian mob. Check out our schedule of summer TV premiere dates to see what you can watch over hiatus, and take a look at our breakdown of what we know so far about Arrow Season 5. Team Arrow has broken up for the time being, so we have plenty to think about over the coming months.