After watching Arrow’s penultimate episode, I feel like I’ve been through a war. An emotional assault that felt so intense yet so good. There was a point where I had to remind myself to breathe because it was so intense.
God, I’ve missed Arrow.
I don’t know what’s in the water in Vancouver, but there’s something about these CW superhero shows and their penultimate episodes absolutely slaying it this season. Kicking off with Supergirl, continuing with The Flash, and wrapping it up with Arrow. It’s as if each penultimate episode got even better than the previous. And Arrow took the cake for me. Which is something I’m used to saying in season’s past. This season? Not so much. So, growth. I applaud thee.
“Missing” was everything that this penultimate episode needed to be. In order to sell this epic season finale that’s been teased for months, this episode needed to perfectly set the scene in both an emotional and physical way. The pieces needed to be put in place. They needed to be connected. We needed to feel Oliver’s desperation as everyone he knows and loves has been taken from him as a means to weaken him.
While it was beyond ridiculous that Team Arrow seemed so at ease after the too-easy capturing of Adrian Chase, this is what needed to happen to bring us to this point. Turning himself in, making Oliver and co. feel at ease. That was Chase’s plan all along. Because while Chase might be a one-man army against Oliver, he’s a far cry from solo villain when it comes to everyone else that Oliver cares for.
This episode made it damn clear that one should trust one’s gut when it tells you that something is wrong. Oliver ignored his gut when it told him that Chase’s capture was too easy. Felicity ignored her gut when it told her that something bad was about to happen as she and Diggle tried to drive out of Star City. And we all saw what happened with both. Trust your instincts. Always.
As Oliver stood by helpless to do anything, he watched – rather, listened – as his friends, his strength, were picked off one by one. This is what Chase wanted. He wanted to guide Oliver into giving in. Into releasing him on his own accord. And kidnapping William was the final straw that sent Oliver over the edge. An edge that included working with people he considers enemies, including Malcolm Merlyn and Nyssa al Ghul. Oh, and there’s one other that literally gave the entire fandom a heart attack in the final seconds:
So, here we are on the cusp of what’s already proving itself to be a season finale of epic proportions. The kind of season finale that doesn’t exactly erase the majority of Arrow’s lackluster and disappointing fifth season, but it gives me hope that this show can once again find what made it great in the first place. A nice balance between action and romance, thrill and emotion, and superhero and television show.
While all is not forgiven, the episodes that we’ve been getting over the past couple of months have showed incredible growth and promise as we head into season six. The core elements of the show that define Arrow as Arrow and not The Flash or Supergirl or Legends of Tomorrow have been restored. It’s that identity that was missing for most of this episode. It’s that identity that is so easily recognizable when it’s center stage.
I don’t remember the last time I’ve felt like this heading into a season finale. Probably season 2? It’s the kind of feeling like you’re rising to the top of the world’s highest roller coaster and are about to descend back to Earth. It’s the adrenaline. It’s the fear. It’s the excitement. It’s the uncertainty of exactly what’s going to happen but having faith that whatever happens is going to be fine.
This is the Arrow I miss. The Arrow that makes me feel as if this is more than just some superhero show on The CW. The Arrow that makes me feel as if I’m a part of this story. And damn, it’s good to be back.
Let’s break this down, shall we?
Taking His Strength
From the moment Adrian Chase turned himself over to Oliver in last week’s episode, I knew that something wasn’t right. It goes back to trusting that gut instinct of yours. Mine immediately began setting off red flags of warning knowing damn well that this was all a part of Chase’s grand plan.
And damn, did he play Oliver and Team Arrow like a drum.
Oliver and Chase are two people that are similar yet so different. They could have easily been the other had circumstances changed. Those similarities coupled with Chase’s astute understanding of Oliver Queen the man is what has given him that sizeable advantage all season long. To the extent that we’re wondering if it’s even possible for Oliver to defeat him at all. Of course, he will. But it’s all about the how.
In torturing Oliver nearly a month ago, Chase learned that Oliver’s strength is his team; his family. I’m sure that’s nothing Chase didn’t know already, but saying the words aloud made it concrete. So how do you wear your enemy down? You go after his strength and turn it into weakness. Which is exactly why Chase targeted Oliver’s friends, his family to ultimately wear him down and leave him alone and weak.
He started from the bottom and worked his way off, picking off Rene, Dinah, and Curtis before hitting home with Thea and Quentin, then getting even more personal with Felicity and Diggle, and finally delivering the final blow with William. It was a progression that wore on Oliver’s emotional state. It wasn’t something that happened all at once. It happened a bit at a time slowly gnawing on Oliver’s mentality until he was left alone and fuming.
While Chase thinks he might’ve turned Oliver’s strength into weakness, he couldn’t be further from the truth. Because strength isn’t about a physical presence so much as it’s about a spiritual one. Oliver is going to fight for the ones he loves. It’s his purpose. It gives him an edge that Chase doesn’t have and will never have, because he doesn’t understand what it truly means to love. He doesn’t know what love feels like. He doesn’t realize that love is the greatest strength of all.
The fight won’t be easy, but it’ll be Oliver’s strength – the people that he loves – that’ll ultimately help him defeat Chase once and for all. And I, for one, cannot wait to see that emotional battle come to a thrilling close.
Whatever It Takes
When your loved ones are in danger, there is no limit to what you will do to get them back. Love is a powerful emotion because it has the ability to both lift you higher than ever and also drag you lower than ever. Oliver learned firsthand that sometimes you have to play with fire in order to save those that you love.
With Chase abducting Oliver’s loved ones – Felicity, Diggle, Thea, Quentin, Curtis, Dinah, and Rene – he set forth into motion a plan to gnaw at Oliver from an emotional standpoint. He knew that he had to take away the driving force behind Oliver’s fight. So he decided to take his strength. Only he didn’t realize that strength comes from within, it comes from what those loved ones represent, it comes from honoring those people. So, while Chase might’ve taken Oliver’s loved ones, he didn’t take his strength. If anything, Chase lit a fire under Oliver that’ll make him more dangerous than ever.
We watched as Oliver, having no control, lost loved one after loved one. It started with the absent Dinah and Rene and continued with Curtis. Then things got personal with the kidnappings of Thea and Quentin followed by Felicity and Diggle.
Through it all, Oliver was trying to remain in control. To not let his emotions get the best of him. But, as Malcolm Merlyn so wisely said (the only time I’ll say those words): “Human connections are what keep us human.”
And that’s the difference between Oliver and Adrian. Adrian is a monster. Oliver is human.
Oliver was forced to team up with Malcolm Merlyn after Malcolm sought him out in order to save Thea. Oliver had no intention in working with him – if anything he looked like he wanted to kill him, which he should (sorry, I love you John Barrowman, but Malcolm is scum.) But he realized that they had a common goal, as well as the fact that he most certainly could not do this alone. No way.
And that goes for Malcolm and Nyssa, as well. They both have to work with people they consider enemies, but they have a common goal, so they’re going to do it.
But the final straw in pushing Oliver off the edge was Chase kidnapping William. That’s when Oliver lost it. Look, I’m not the biggest fan of William, but I’ll admit that Oliver’s reaction to seeing William being held by Chase broke me. “My boy.” God. Ugly tears. Oliver cares about William, and I care about Oliver’s story. Thus, I should care somewhat about William. But this episode I really felt it. For once.
As Oliver returned to Lian Yu – with Malcolm Merlyn and Nyssa al Ghul in tow – there was one more person Oliver had to reach out to for help. Perhaps the biggest non-shock of the night (considering the spoilers and photos were all over the Internet when filming was happening), was when Oliver walked into that ARGUS bunker on Lian Yu coming to Slade Wilson for help.
Like I said, when the people you love are in danger. There’s nothing you won’t do to save them.
A Step At A Time
Before all hell broke loose in “Missing,” Arrow reminded us that another relationship is in the middle of rebuilding as Oliver and Felicity are poised to reconnect after the longest year imaginable being apart. After finally having that conversation where both Oliver and Felicity admitted their guilt in their break-up, the pair have finally come to a place where it’s possible to start mending fences and broken hearts.
While Arrow was channeling its inner Flash – with Felicity throwing Oliver a surprise birthday party – we got to see something that we haven’t seen in a while: calm. It allowed for Oliver and Felicity to share that moment where Felicity opened up about them taking their relationship a step at a time so that they might ultimately get back to where they used to be – or even better.
You can see it in their body language and in their words. They’re ready to start rebuilding. But alas this is season finale time, which means that it’s not exactly the best time, as we saw.
But the important thing here is that they’re both in a position where they’re ready to try again. They haven’t exactly been on the same page for most of this season, which was part of the problem. Now they’re finding that they’re getting back to that.
And one of the most beautiful things is that they’re not trying to hide it. There’s transparency here. They’re not trying to hide their feelings or their desire to rekindle their romance. They’re not hiding their fear of losing one another. They’re all in.
Say what you will about Olicity (because I know the haters like to read), but it’s easily the most talked about aspect of the show. Whether that’s good or bad. No one can ever stop talking about it. That’s one of the reasons why it’s never going away.
But it’s not only about the hype. It’s about the organic and raw chemistry that Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards cannot help but put on display week after week. Whether they’re broken up or together, it’s there. It’s not something you can turn off. And that’s not something that you throw away. Hell no.
Case in point, the birthday party scene where, to quote Curtis, “You could cut that sexual tension with a knife.” It was nice to see Stephen and Emily just be allowed to let their characters exist within the context of being in the same scene. It’s literal magic. The characters know it. The fans know it. The writers know it. Even the haters know it.
Back To Where It All Began
There’s a certain beauty in Arrow returning to Lian Yu for its fifth season finale. With Arrow originally planned as a five-year story, this is about Oliver Queen returning to the place where he first became the monster he worked to destroy and leaving it for a final time a hero.
Chase knows Oliver almost too well, thanks to some help from Talia al Ghul. Luring Oliver to Lian Yu was always the plan. To return Oliver to the place where he was molded into the monster he returned to Starling City as – as the person that killed Adrian’s father. This is all by design. Such masterful design.
Now, Oliver will be forced to confront his past demons that lurk inside of him as he returns to purgatory to fight the monster that has taken his friends and family hostage. To once and for all finally take his place as a hero in the light and leave the darkness in Lian Yu where it has always belonged.
There’s closure to surely expect from next week’s season finale. I fully expect “Lian Yu” to be the last time we see Lian Yu. Whether it’s because they blow it up or never think or see it again, next week is Lian Yu’s final bow. And my God, it’s setting up to be one hell of a finale.
- This is easily the best penultimate episode of Arrow since season 2’s “Streets of Fire.” Like I cannot believe my eyes and ears. To think about where this show started in season 5 and to see where it’s now coming to a close, we are truly blessed. I felt like I was holding my breath for most of this episode, and that’s something that hasn’t happened in quite a long time on this show.
- Oliver and Felicity are going to take it “a step at a time.” OLICITY IS RISING. Suck it, haters. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I love that now that Oliver and Felicity had that talk that she’s finally open to giving it another go with Oliver. But I’m even more glad that they’re not rushing into it. They’re going to take it step by step and get to an even better place than they were before. (And holy hell, that sexual tension at Oliver’s birthday party. Forever not over it.)
- Chase luring Team Arrow into a false sense of security – seriously how did no one including Felicity not see that coming?! His capture, well, submission, was way too easy. The kind of easy that even Oliver could see coming. Though he didn’t. Now, Chase on the other hand was smart as hell. Remembering that Oliver’s strength is his team, his family, and then taking each of them away from him to leave him alone was brilliant. But Oliver did one better…
- Oliver being forced to team up with his enemies to take down Chase was WOW. These are people that Oliver despise. Well, Nyssa not so much, but Malcolm Merlyn and Slade Wilson? These two men killed his parents and his best friend. They’ve taken so much from him. And yet, he needs them. That’s the ironic beauty in all of this. And it’s made and will continue to make for some damn good television.
- DID I MENTION SLADE WILSON IS BACK?! While I might not be the biggest fan of a certain actor, I am a huge fan of the character he portrays. Slade Wilson was my favorite Big Bad up until this season where Adrian Chase surpassed him with his charisma and deadly nature that has made for some of the best scenes that we’ve had on this show. Now, getting to see Oliver and Slade work together after being mortal enemies…I don’t know if my heart can handle it. But I’m ready. You bet your ass I am.
- Having the season finale set in Lian Yu? Genius. It’s all about coming full circle for Oliver. When he left Lian Yu the first time, he was a monster. Now that he’s returning, Oliver is going to leave a hero as he finally bids that hell a final goodbye.
- For the love of all that is holy, can we please leave Quentin Lance the hell alone? Quentin has been through so much emotional trauma over five years that it’s a damn miracle that he isn’t dead from the shock of it all. Seeing his daughter’s doppleganger, Black Siren, and having to deal with that actually broke my heart. My goodness. This man deserves a break.
- All of the early seasons nostalgia! From Felicity and Diggle hitting their enemies with cars, to Oliver hallucinating Yao Fei, to Oliver reuniting with Slade Wilson, to returning to Lian Yu, if this Arrow nostalgia was a drinking game, I’d be wasted and unable to form coherent thoughts yet alone type my review.
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.