This review of the Arrow season 2 finale contains spoilers. Lots of them. Major ones.
Is “Unthinkable” the most action packed episode of Arrow? It might be. It would kind of have to be, really. Arrow season two moved at what sometimes felt like an unsustainable pace this season, but this last batch of episodes…wow. It would have been a crime if they didn’t deliver in a big way for the season finale.
There are heaping helpings of almost big-screen quality action in nearly every scene in this one. There’s a daring escape from Black Canary’s old headquarters, a helicopter displaying some firepower, the threat of Starling City being bombed back to Vandal Savage’s childhood, and fights galore. In fact, between the mirakuru army, the League of Assassins, plus our regular gang of costumed cohorts, there is hardly a scene in the entire episode that doesn’t feature at least two people in some kind of superhero or supervillain gear either beating the stuffing out of each other, or planning the next round of beatings. There’s certainly no danger of this one ever being boring.
It makes some sense. John Behring directed “Unthinkable” and his previous entries this season, “Birds of Prey,” “Three Ghosts,” and season opener “City of Heroes” were all loaded with, not only action, but big set pieces. If Arrow needs something blown up real good, this seems to be the guy to call.
With all of this they still somehow manage to get some serious character stuff in that will certainly resonate well into Arrow season 3. You know what I’m talking about, of course…Oliver and Felicity. I’m not sure what to make of this one. I’ve been quite vocal about the fact that I don’t think they need to be romantically involved. Oliver has had sex with every other woman on this show not named Moira or Thea, and I like their chemistry as friends and non-romantic partners.
Now, before the Oliver/Felicity (I don’t do cute mash-ups of names for anyone, folks. Sorry) crew start calling for my head, know this: if (at this point, judging by that bit on the island, it’s just a matter of when) their relationship does go to the next level, they’ve earned it. The writers have earned it. Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards have earned it. I may not love it, but I’ll buy it. I just think it would be a nice change of pace to have two really attractive, competent people on a show like this and not automatically pair them off. And, ummmm…remember how badly this screwed up Moonlighting! And Lois & Clark! Alright, I’ll admit…I’m reaching.
Funny thing, though: “Make him out think you,” turned out to be the line of the episode. Her willingness to quite possibly get her head lopped off in order to save Starling City made Felicity every bit the hero that Oliver is. Hell, they fooled me for a minute. I said to myself, “Arrow is far too simple a show to toy with fan expectations to this degree.” I love it when I’m wrong about stuff like that.
What a slugfest that was between Green Arrow and Deathstroke at the end! For a guy that has been in complete control of the situation for months now (I particularly loved the bit about Slade just using his knowledge of how Amanda Waller works in order to further his own agenda), Slade’s final ramblings during that fight were more pathetic than threatening. “Either way, I win,” he kept saying…but I’m not sure he believed it anymore. Especially not when he’s just been tied to a post by two bolo arrows!
Once and for all, Oliver’s journey from vigilante to proper superhero is now complete. “You helped me become a hero, Slade. Thank you.” Wow. Take a moment here, and remember that not thirty minutes before, even Detective Lance was telling Ollie that maybe, just maybe, it was time to take the boxing gloves off the arrows and start putting guys in the ground again. Oliver’s final, ultimate transformation over these last two seasons feels very real to me. “Unthinkable” doesn’t just feel like a finale to season two, it closes the book on some of Ollie’s issues from season one, as well.
I can’t imagine they’re going to let Detective Lance die off screen between now and the Arrow season 3 premiere, but that felt like a cheap shot, done more out of obligation that they didn’t kill anyone off during the battle than something truly important.
I’m not sure I buy Sara leaving, and I’ll be annoyed if she isn’t back as a regular next season. I suppose with Roy taking a more active role on the team, things could get a little crowded, though. After Laurel’s uneven arc this year, I’m not sure I will ever truly buy her as the Canary (but I’m willing to be convinced). Don’t get me wrong, I want more Laurel, and I look forward to her being more than an annoyance next year, but like much of her story in season two, this felt a little heavy handed.
I am ambivalent about Diggle becoming a father, but if it means we see more of Audrey Marie Anderson as Lyla Michaels next year, I’m all for it. She’s a great character, and I hope they don’t keep her out of action for too long. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll get to see Oliver and Diggle coming to terms with fatherhood together…
Thea’s “Dear Roy” letter was a bit on the nose. Also, was John Barrowman’s dialogue written by a different writer than the rest of the episode? Was it me, or has every line he’s uttered since his return been kinda goofy? Barrowman is great, and I’m always thrilled to see him, but they really had to do a lot of work to sell his encounter with Thea. So much of Thea’s arc this season was handled so well that this just seemed rushed. I can’t help but feel they should have saved Malcolm’s return and Thea’s final descent into “screw you guys” for Arrow season 3. But if this is what it takes to get Roy to keep putting that domino mask on, so be it!
Meanwhile, on an island…
I’ve been wondering lately if Arrow should wrap up its flashback sequences with whatever the big, flashback-only event episodes is each season. “The Promise” was one of the strongest episodes in the history of the series, and since then, the island stuff just hasn’t quite clicked. It’s tough to top that. If “The Promise” had served as a kind of “season finale” for the flashbacks, more could have been done in the present and…oh, who am I kidding?
Yet again, Arrow proved me wrong. Intercutting the fights between Ollie and Slade in the past and present was perhaps a tad obvious, but it was executed quite well, and it set up Oliver’s terrific final line to Slade later on. And really, nobody would have gone home happy if we didn’t get to actually see Ollie stick an arrow through Slade’s eye.
The even better news is that we weren’t crazy, and that Ollie and Amanda Waller did already know each other.
DC Universe Watchtower
– Other than things like Black Canary, Ravager, and the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul fighting it out while an army of miraclo mirakuru enhanced guys in Deathstroke masks tear the city apart, not to mention the Suicide Squad, what else do you need? Scenes like that, the battle in the tunnel, and the present day superhero slugfest between Oliver and Slade are as good as it gets for a lifelong DC Comics junkie. It felt organic, nothing was forced, and, of course, the actual action was pretty special. I really can’t wait to see what they can do in season 3.
– I’m mildly surprised that nobody tried to break the Huntress out of prison for this, too.
– The countdown to Slade Wilson becoming the leader of the Suicide Squad starts…now.
– I can’t help but feel that the “supermax” line dropped by Diggle on the island wasn’t a veiled reference to the unproduced Green Arrow movie that predates this show by several years. It’s a good script, and I’ll have a feature on that project up here later this summer.
Other than that…who cares, right? I’ve heard various Arrow detractors, whether it was people who gave up on the show midway through the first season to people who just never really gave it a chance in the first place scoff when I tell them just how worth their time (assuming you’re a fan of the genre) that the show has become. The old complaints were, “it’s just another teen-skewing CW show,” a complaint that has some teeth, particularly when you look at some of the dire episodes that aired midway through season one. But now they roll their eyes and dismiss it as “just another teen-skewing CW show with lots of fan service.”
As I have outlined in excruciating detail week in and week out, yes…this show services DC Comics fans. Sometimes it can elevate my enjoyment of otherwise pedestrian episodes, other times it’s ineffective. “Unthinkable” was a perfect example of how so many of those pieces could fall into place, and the show was smart enough to focus on putting a bow on the important pieces instead of trying to cram as much as possible into the last 45 minutes.
I guess knowing since mid-season that you were guaranteed a third season does wonders.
Speaking of that third season…
Arrow season one premiered on Wednesday, October 10th, 2012. That was the night before the start of the 2012 New York Comic Con on October 11th.
Arrow season two premiered on Wednesday, October 9th, 2013. That was the night before the start of the 2013 New York Comic Con on October 10th.
The 2014 New York Comic Con opens on Thursday, October 9th, 2014. Does this mean that Arrow season 3 will premiere on October 8th, 2014?
Disclaimer: I do not have any inside knowledge of the CW’s fall 2014 schedule. This is purely a matter of informed speculation, so I wouldn’t mark your calendars in blood just yet.
Folks, thank you all so much for putting up with my ramblings for 23 episodes. It’s been an absolute pleasure talking comics with you down in the comments. Please keep visiting Den of Geek during the offseason, as we will not only be reporting every bit of Arrow season 3 news that I can get my gloved hands on, but we’ve also got some fun articles planned.
We’ll be your primary source for Flash news, too! Speaking of which…how about that Flash teaser?