'Arrow' 5×23 Review: 'Lian Yu'

Let’s take a look at this week’s DCTV season finale recap: Supergirl, breaks Kara’s heart (and ours) by sending Mon-El away. The Flash, sends Barry away. Arrow, leaves the fates of the entire core cast minus Oliver Queen up in the air after this season literally went out with a bang.

So, you could say Arrow certainly came to play in its season finale aptly titled “Lian Yu.”
But just like we know Mon-El and Barry will inevitably return, so will our characters stuck on Lian Yu.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first. Our faves – Felicity, Diggle, Thea, Quentin, Curtis, Dinah, Rene, Nyssa, and probably Slade – didn’t die. Slade led them to the bunker – you know, that impenetrable fortress underneath the island – before the explosion. They’re not dead.
You could call this a cliffhanger. To the casual viewer or to Oliver Queen. But it’s not actually a cliffhanger to us. We know how this ends, rather, begins next season. Also, does this mark the first time where we won’t have a five-month time jump to start the new season? What a way to start Oliver Queen’s next chapter on Arrow.
But with that said, this cliffhanger did its job. It was a scenario that we didn’t really expect they’d actually do. But they did it. In the moment, you felt that agonizing pain and pure shock at what the hell just transpired on screen. While it took seconds later to realize that all was well (well, as far as we’re concerned. Oliver, not so much), in the moment of first watching that scene you felt like everything had blown up in your face. There was real shock, real fear, and real tears. That’s what a season finale should do. It should leave you guessing. It should leave you speculating. It should leave you in agonizing pain for the next five months.

This is the kind of cliffhanger that we’ll be forced to sit with for the months leading into Comic-Con, when we’ll finally get confirmation that we’ve known all along: Our faves are alive and well while Oliver is still suffering thinking they’re actually dead. Comic-Con should be interesting this year.
This season of Arrow, overall, has been a hot mess. In trying to close out Oliver’s story in year five, it lost itself early on this season as it struggled to get to the point where it ended. It felt like Arrow knew exactly where it was going to end season 5, but it didn’t really know how to get there.
Honestly, Arrow season 5 began with episode 17 and concluded with episode 23. At least in my eyes. That’s when I felt the connection between the characters and the story. Where there was a clear path. Where the elements that defined Arrow as my favorite show had returned.
“Lian Yu” was an episode that I had my concerns about. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all of the familiar faces and big returns. But I was afraid that certain elements would get drowned out as a result. Despite so much happening in such a short span of time, I didn’t feel that way at all. It felt like a nice balance between incorporating old faces and old stories and providing some truly amazing character moments as things came full circle.
This was the kind of season finale where you can call it “epic” and actually mean it. There was so much happening so quickly that it didn’t give you time to really think about what was happening. And while that can most of the time fail miserably, it actually worked in Arrow’s favor in regards to the emotional implications. This was an episode meant to be experienced. It’s one that I’m going to go back and watch and be able to process things a bit better, but it’s still going to manage to take me back on that journey.
While the “cliffhanger that’s not a cliffhanger” certainly teased a lot of death, we know that our series regulars will be alive and well. But surely there are some casualties along the way. We know that Malcolm (possibly) is one of them. There’s also Talia al Ghul. Artemis. Captain Boomerang. Possibly Samantha. Possibly Slade. So I’m sure there will be some death, but nothing that we should really worry about.
Now that we’ve reached the end of Arrow’s fifth season – and the end of another chapter in Oliver’s story – a large part of me feels relieved that we can put this mess of a season behind us. But another part of me feels excited, which is definitely not an emotion that I thought I’d have at season’s end. There’s potential to right the ship by starting anew as Oliver begins another chapter. No more going “back to basics.” No more trying to force out the established elements for newer, shinier ones. It’s time for a new and familiar beginning. And I can’t wait to see what awaits Oliver in this next chapter.
Let’s break this down one last time this season, shall we?
Arrow — “Lian Yu” — Image AR523b_0521b.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Josh Segarra as Adrian Chase and Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen/The Green Arrow — Photo: Dean Buscher /The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Oliver Comes Full Circle

The past five seasons have all led to this episode. Everything that Oliver has experienced, everything he’s lost, everything he’s gained, everything he has fought for has brought him right here to this moment. This was the moment when Oliver Queen finally stopped letting his past torture him and decided to accept the man that he has become.
Arrow was always imagined as a five-season journey that would take Oliver Queen from vigilante to hero. While Arrow will live on in season 6, “Lian Yu” was all about Oliver finally coming full circle from the time he stepped foot on Lian Yu in the past to the time he stepped foot back on Lian Yu in the present.
Prometheus was the perfect villain for this season. I was skeptical of what the cast and producers were saying about how this was a villain that they couldn’t do until this season. And I finally understand why.
Adrian Chase, who is what Oliver could’ve become if not for the people in his life that have inspired him, was the reflection of Oliver Queen from season 1. So basically, while Oliver has been fighting Chase this season, he’s also been fighting himself from five years ago.
This episode – these last five years – have all led to this moment where Oliver Queen finally realized that he’s not the man that he was when he left Lian Yu in 2012. He hasn’t been that person since he left the island.
Everything that has happened to him over these past five years – all of the people he’s met, trusted, and loved – have influenced him in a profound way. And that all circles back to OTA, Diggle and Felicity. Those two people have affected his life the most in how they’ve inspired him to be the best version of himself. Without them, Oliver might not have become a hero. Without them, he might’ve become Chase.
And that’s what has made Chase such the perfect villain to match Oliver this season. Oliver saw himself in Chase. Chase saw himself in Oliver. Oliver would’ve no doubt become Chase if not for the people in his life, which is how Chase was always 10 steps ahead. He understood the monster within that Oliver had been fighting since he arrived on Lian Yu.
But it was the moment that Oliver not only realized but accepted the fact that he had changed where everything changed.

“That’s who I was before.”

Oliver might’ve been a monster, a killer in the past. But he hasn’t been that person for a long time. So long, in fact, that he wouldn’t even recognize that person. But Oliver has always believed that he’s never stopped being that person. He let the guilt fester constantly that anytime something bad happened he would blame it on the monster that he was.

That’s been Oliver’s problem over the years. He hasn’t truly been able to become a fully-ledged superhero because he’s been holding onto the past and letting it define him. People change. It’s the way of life. I’m not the same person I was five years ago just like you aren’t the same person you were five years ago. Why? Because of experience. And people. And life in general. Everything that we do affects us, whether that’s for the better or worse. You don’t stay passive as a human being. You’re constantly changing, although that might be hard for people like Oliver Queen to believe.
Oliver has always believed that the monster within him was just waiting to come out. So much to the point where Chase had convinced Oliver that Oliver enjoyed killing. That’s absurd. Surely Oliver has killed plenty over the years, especially this season, but he hasn’t liked it. Now, Chase is someone that has enjoyed it. But Oliver and Chase are mirror images of each other – similar but opposite in what they present.
When Oliver accepted the fact that the monster Chase has been after this season didn’t exist anymore, I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder of Oliver in that moment. It was a moment five years in the making. A moment that is so freeing for the individual. A moment that allows you to finally start living your life.
“Lian Yu” was the closing of Oliver’s journey to becoming a hero, and in that moment of acceptance and coming full circle, Oliver finally got to that place.

Arrow — “Lian Yu” — Image AR523a_0222b.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak and Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen/The Green Arrow — Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

A New Beginning For Oliver & Felicity

Let’s ignore that pesky cliffhanger, which is basically just a cliffhanger for as Oliver seeing as we know that everyone is alive and will be back next season, and focus on what happens when everyone returns to Star City. Namely, Oliver and Felicity.
This season has been – honestly, I have no idea what they were attempting to do with Oliver and Felicity? Most likely drag out the will-they-won’t-they so more, which is something that has now proven to hurt the show than help it. There was no reason to separate the pair in season 4 other than the fact that the producers wanted to draw it out longer than it was. And why? Why attempt to fix something that wasn’t broken? There was a nice balance between Oliver and Felicity’s personal and professional lives. It added a layer of humor and effortlessness to the show that was taken when they were forced apart.
So, this season has been about putting Oliver and Felicity back together in the slowest way possible hoping that they could build that season 2-level of desire and season 3-level of angst. But it wasn’t until the 20th hour of the season that Oliver and Felicity finally began resembling themselves again and in their relationship.
After the two finally had that long-over waited talk about what transpired last season with their breakup, that communication that had been lacking had been restored. We began to see hope for a reunion.
“Lian Yu” solidified the return of Oliver and Felicity as a couple moving forward. And it managed to accomplish that in a single scene. There wasn’t a lot of focus on Oliver and Felicity moving forward because there didn’t need to be. It was something that was accepted as reality. It’s going to happen.

But still, that scene still managed to make me feel all the feels. It’s pure magic when Oliver and Felicity are together. There’s so much left unspoken and so much love and respect that you can’t help but feel moved watching their interactions.
As Oliver was about to walk into his final showdown with Chase, Felicity needed to kiss him. “Just in case.” She couldn’t live with the regret of not having kissed him in that moment – as a way of letting him know that she’s ready to be with him – after all of the regrets between them.
Felicity has stood by Oliver for five years so she’s seen how fragile life can be. There was no way that she was going to let her feelings go unspoken.
While this cliffhanger serves as yet another way to torture Oliver Queen (seriously, let’s make a drinking game – take a shot every time Oliver is put through agony,) there’s so much left to be explored in the new season. It’ll mark the start of a new chapter for Oliver – in being a hero, in being a father, and in being a (future) husband. Oliver has spent so much time living in the past. Now it’s time for him to start living in the future – with Felicity.

Arrow — “Lian Yu” — Image AR523b_0454b.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Josh Segarra as Adrian Chase and Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen/The Green Arrow — Photo: Dean Buscher /The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The William Situation

One thing is abundantly clear on Arrow: William is an important part of Oliver’s story. He’s going to be a part of this new chapter in Oliver’s life moving forward. And while I don’t really feel connected to William just yet, I’m going to sit back and see how Arrow handles this.
“Lian Yu” found Oliver searching for his missing son, whom Chase had taken hostage as a means to goad Oliver into being the person he mistakenly thought he was. There was an intensity in Stephen Amell’s performance that you couldn’t help but be captivated by. This season has truly been some of Amell’s best work.
That scene on the boat when Oliver found William was breathtaking. Seeing Oliver’s devotion to William really hit deep. It made me long for some actual exploration as to who William is as a person and also seeing more of Oliver and William – really establishing that bond. I want to care. But I need the show to help me out here.
So, now William knows that Oliver is his father. That the Green Arrow is his father. What happens now?
To this point, I’ve felt nothing towards William. He’s merely existed as a pawn for villains to use against Oliver. If he’s to be an important part of Oliver’s life, make him one. If William is going to be a part of Oliver’s story at least explore that relationship instead of merely using William a bait every time a big bad comes around.
While I don’t think Arrow will kill Samantha, I feel like once our cliffhanger is resolved and everyone returns to Star City that perhaps Samantha and William will live in Star City or nearby in order to cultivate that relationship between Oliver and his son. I don’t foresee it being a central focus, but I do see it being something that is a work in progress. Perhaps we’ll get to see Felicity being a stepmother to William, as a nod to her comic book counterpart.
Also, let’s talk about Samantha.
While I understand most people don’t particularly like her, I have to admit that I really enjoyed the conversation Felicity and Samantha had. Samantha isn’t a bad person. She’s someone that messed up. But she’s also someone that, looked to me, showed remorse for what she’d done.
Samantha knows that it’s because of her that Felicity broke up with Oliver. But in that conversation, Samantha was being a compassionate person. She felt guilty about it being partly her fault that Oliver lost someone that he cared for. Samantha isn’t interesting in being with Oliver romantically. She’s not a bad person because she slept with Oliver and had his kid – hey, Oliver banged anything that moved back then.
I feel like Samantha did what she did because it was what the writers wanted her to do. But also because she’s a parent who is concerned about the well-being of her child. Sure, her agreement seemed, in the moment, completely ridiculous, can you really fault her for trying to protect her son? Eventually it was Oliver that actually failed to confide in Felicity – after the reveal – about the William situation that spelled their relationship’s end at that point.
So, I actually really liked the conversation. And it showed that, like us, we’re rooting for Oliver and Felicity to get back on track: “I saw that kiss you gave him. Doesn’t seem that complicated to me.”

Arrow — “Lian Yu” — Image AR523a_0399b.jpg — Pictured: John Barrowman as Malcolm Merlyn — Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Malcolm’s Sacrifice

Malcolm Merlyn is a lot of things. Evil. Conniving. Manipulating. Selfish. Killer. But if there’s one thing that we’ve learned about Malcolm over these past few seasons, it’s that the one person he cares about as much as, if not more, than himself is Thea.
Malcolm has done a lot of terrible shit. To the point where we’ve been begging Oliver to just. Kill. Him. Already. (Nothing against John Barrowman, I love Barrowman. But Malcolm is a disgusting excuse for a human being.) But the only good thing he’s ever done is care about Thea. While he’s not always shown it in the best way, I truly believe Malcolm loves her. He’s just not someone that knows how to express that. Malcolm has not always made the best decisions when it comes to Thea, but he’s always tried to right by her…in his mind. He might be walking scum of a human being, but he’s walking scum that cares about his daughter.
So I wasn’t really surprised when Malcolm stepped up to save Thea after she’d stepped on that landmine. Once Thea stepped on it and I heard the click, I already knew what was going to happen. Malcolm was going to sacrifice himself for his daughter. The closest thing to redemption someone like Malcolm could get. Because he’s not really interested in redemption if it doesn’t involve Thea.
For as much as Malcolm has loved Thea, Thea has equally despised him over the past couple of seasons after she realized what he had molded her into. Every time she came into contact with him it was a reminder of all of the terrible things she had done in his name. It was a reminder of how messed up she’d become as a result. It was a reminder that her birth father was a monster. It was a voice inside of her head whispering that she was a monster, too.
But after Malcolm sacrificed himself and set off the landmine to stop their enemies in pursuit, reality hit Thea. Yes, Malcolm Merlyn was a terrible person. He was a terrible father. She despised him. And yet, she couldn’t help but miss him when he was gone.

While I’ll always believe that Robert Queen was Thea’s true father – and he is, he is the person that raised her – you can’t turn off the fact that Malcolm is her father, as well. He’s a part of her just like Oliver, Moira, and Robert are. So when she lost that, she felt that loss. Because no matter how much she hated Malcolm, he was still her father. And that means something.
There’s still a part of me that believes that there’s a good chance that Malcolm isn’t actually dead. Sure, John Barrowman said he wouldn’t be returning as a series regular next season, but he hasn’t really been prominent in this current season. Expect an eventual return akin to his season 2 return – surprising and perfectly timed. Not to mention, Malcolm is a cockroach. You can never really kill him.

Arrow — “Lian Yu” — Image AR523b_0534b.jpg — Pictured: Josh Segarra as Adrian Chase — Photo: Dean Buscher /The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Thank You, Josh Segarra

Man, I was really hoping that there was some way to keep Josh Segarra for season 6. Honestly, Josh Segarra has been the highlight of this season. He was the most unexpected surprise that ended up becoming one of the best things to happen to this show.
When Arrow revealed Prometheus’ identity, it was easy to feel disappointed and underwhelmed. Prometheus was teased as Oliver’s match, someone that was created by Oliver. But it was when the show began to delve into who Chase really was that a spark was lit. Suddenly, Chase became the Prometheus that we couldn’t have even imagined that we’d been craving. There was so much depth to this villain, and the way that he paralleled Oliver’s journey really made it feel complete.
But it takes more than a good story to bring a villain like Adrian Chase to life. Segarra breathed life into this character the same way I equate Emily Bett Rickards breathing life into Felicity Smoak when she debuted. These kinds of characters are one-dimensional on paper. But it’s the actor that brings them to life in such an incredible way.
We all understand that when we’re watching Arrow that we’re watching a television show. But there were moments on this show where Segarra – usually paired with Stephen Amell in some of the best moments of the season – made it feel so very real. In the moment, in the intensity of the scene, I was there. Adrian Chase became a real person.
But it was definitely the dynamic between Segarra and Amell that really shone a light on just how amazing Chase was as a villain. I mean, when a villain can hurt characters you love and still bring a smile to your face, you know you’re doing your job. And that’s what Segarra did week after week.
He truly locked into what defined Adrian as Prometheus – his motivations, his crazed psyche, and the shocking actions as a result. And the portrayal was so effortless in its execution. It was truly impressive.
Segarra didn’t just play this character. He made this character who he was.
Adrian Chase was hands down my favorite villain ever on Arrow. I was hoping there was some way that we could get him back for next season. But at least we got him this season. And what a ride these last seven episodes have been. Outstanding. Thank you, Josh Segarra. You’ve forever left your mark on Arrow.

Arrow — “Lian Yu” — Image AR523b_0041b.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Katrina Law as Nyssa al Ghul, David Ramsey as John Diggle/Spartan, Deathstroke, and Juliana Harkavy as Tina Boland/Dinah Drake — Photo: Dean Buscher /The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Ten Things

  1. THE CLIFFHANGER ISN’T A CLIFFHANGER FOR US. Let’s be honest, that cliffhanger was more for Oliver Queen than it was for us. They know that we’re not stupid enough to believe they’d kill everyone. But Oliver has lost so much in his life that it’d be easy for him to believe that he just lost everyone.
  2. I loved how everything came full circle in this episode. Whether it was getting to see how we got to that moment in the pilot where Oliver was rescued to the character growth as Oliver finally realized that his past doesn’t define him — that he’s not the person that Chase held him to. Not anymore. He hasn’t been for a long time. Everything came full circle. And it was glorious.
  3. That tender Olicity moment was short but oh so sweet and telling. FINALLY we got a kiss in the present day this season. And that scene! “Just in case.” Loved that entire exchange. The future is bright for Oliver and Felicity – well, after Oliver realizes his loved ones, including Felicity, aren’t actually dead.
  4. That scene with Oliver and William on the boat was all kinds of emotional. I still don’t feel emotionally connected to William, but seeing Oliver’s reaction I couldn’t help but be affected. That’s some powerful stuff from Stephen Amell right there.
  5. Oliver’s conversation with Moira in the flashbacks was the stuff of perfection and tears. Lots of tears. I’ll forever hate Arrow for taking her away from us, but the moments that she returns always deliver such powerful emotions.
  6. I don’t believe Malcolm is actually dead. Malcolm is like a cockroach. Or a cat. No, a cockroach. No matter how many times you kill him, he doesn’t die. No body, no death. Even if there was a body, I’m still not believing it. Malcolm’s eventual return will be a surprise like in season 2.
  7. I loved Felicity and Thea’s conversation about Malcolm. Seriously, I need more scenes with these two amazing ladies (and soon to be sisters in law.) We need more female friendships in general, and getting to see two of my favorites lean on each other is wonderful.
  8. Should we expect redemption for Slade Wilson? I love Slade, don’t exactly love Manu. But with Slade attempting to atone for his sins, could we expect him to find that redemption? Obviously, it wouldn’t happen on Arrow. But there are always cameos to bring Slade back. That’s if he survived.
  9. So, can we finally call Dinah Black Canary now? If Quentin can, we certainly can. I’m excited to see where Dinah’s journey takes her next season as she takes on the mantle of Black Canary. Should we expect a new costume now? Though, truth be told, I like the casual approach she’s had this season.
  10. Josh Segarra has done one hell of a job this season bringing Adrian Chase to life. Chase will always be my favorite Big Bad for the way that he connected to Oliver’s journey and the way Segarra just let him breathe. It was one of my favorite things of this overall unimpressive season. Thank you, Josh. Chase will forever live on in this universe.

Arrow returns Thursdays this fall on The CW.

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