This Arrow review contains spoilers.
Arrow Season 5, Episode 22
It’s fitting that the penultimate episode of Arrow Season 5 featured Thea Queen playing around with a chess board. After months of distracting twists and turns, the Green Arrow, his team and his adversaries are all finally in place for a highly anticipated and much-needed showdown. However, before we get to that, let’s talk about the final maneuvers.
Last week’s episode felt like a real bummer after the big bad of the year, Adrian Chase, succumbed to some harsh words from the hero as opposed to… you know, a fist or an arrow. Fortunately, Chase isn’t your run-of-the-mill villain and had a complicated, yet somehow simple, plan to escape imprisonment. From his glass cell, a trademark for all villains, Chase used every ally he could muster to kidnap all of Team Arrow. In doing so, he hopes to make the hero release him as well as pay for the sins of his past, a theme that’s been running throughout the season.
Even in the episode’s flashbacks to Lian Yu, Oliver is given some kind of drug that makes his old scars feel new again. The theme of “atonement” this season isn’t even subtle anymore. At one point, Chase even barks the line, “everyone in your orbit suffers. That’s the price of your sins!”
It seems the series really wants us to find the hero we’ve come to know and love since 2012 to be a monster. Sure they’ve told us that the character feels that way sometimes, but we as an audience have yet to see it. Frankly, that’s been my biggest complaint with Season 5, the core emotional stakes behind the action. However, all of that can be excused after what “Missing” set up.
Chase succeeds in capturing all the core members of the team. Curtis, Diggle, Felicity, Thea, Quentin, Rene, Dinah and even dear William are being held captive. They’re not just being held by Chase, either. He officially made himself the coolest villain on the show yet (yes I’m considering Slade, don’t get ahead of me) by enlisting the help of Evelyn Sharpe, Black Siren, Talia al Guhl and the League of Assassins. Oliver has faced way bigger odds than this, but not many. Additionally, he’s only done it with the help of at least Diggle and Felicity. He can’t launch a rescue attempt on his own, right?
Luckily, having licked his wounds after getting stomped out by the Legends of Tomorrow, Malcolm Merlyn rejoined the party. Merlyn is, by all accounts, a really nasty villain. He sold out Oliver’s son to Damien Darhk last year, and things haven’t sat well with him and the Star City vigilantes since. However, with Thea in trouble, he’s got all the motivation he needs. I really like this prevailing aspect of Merlyn’s character. If he decides it, he’s going to help you whether you like it or not. In a lot of ways, Season 5 is looking to go back to the basics of the series as it began in 2012. It doesn’t get much more “day one” than an ambiguous appearance from the first Dark Archer.
Merlyn wasn’t the only familiar face to return. Not counting Yao Fei, who appeared in a hallucination in a flashback, Oliver was also joined by Nyssa al Guhl — whom fans may remember is, technically, his wife in the eyes of the League of Assassins. Still, though, three warriors might not be enough to cut it. That’s why the episode’s final cliffhanger was so very important.
I’ve been boasting that Chase is the best villain we’ve seen in Arrow history for quite some time now. It seems the finale of the season will put that to the test as Oliver has officially enlisted the help of none other than Slade Wilson himself. That’s right folks, Deathstroke is back and he may or may not be on the side of good this time.
With Chase and company bringing the hostages to Lian Yu for a final showdown, Team Arrow has two people with home field advantage and a super lady assassin. Chase has a lady assassin of his own, a near meta-human from Earth-2 and an army of ninjas on his side, not to mention the leverage of the hero’s friends and family. Needless to say, anyone who has kept up with the show for this long has two thoughts on their mind going into next week.
1. This is going to be awesome.2. It feels irresponsible that he isn’t calling Barry Allen.
So, with a climactic battle ahead of us, let’s look back on this season as a whole and figure out where we stand, final cliffhangers and big reveals notwithstanding. Obviously, one could argue that this year took a lot of time to get to a nearby place. At the end of the day, as it stands right now, Chase just wants to pay Oliver back for killing his father. That’s not a terrible motivation for a villain, but the Vigilante bait-and-switch as well as the heavy-handed way in which the show revealed this fact wasn’t stellar. It forced characters to deal with a lot of inner demons, but none that hadn’t been dealt with at earlier times in the series already.
Sure these were some of the best, but you don’t get points for getting it right the second or third time when it comes to character development or story. Having said that, after last season’s dip in quality in order to make things a little more grandiose for the DC TV universe’s flagship show, Season 5 was undeniably more grounded. The stakes were self-contained within the team, yet still high enough to merit the all-out manhunt.
Felicity tried to be a villain, Diggle and his wife nearly separated, Quentin got off the sauce, Oliver dated some reporter, Curtis got divorced, we met Wild Dog, Dinah, Ragman and Evelyn (although the last two didn’t go so well) and we were introduced to Vigilante for some reason — all of it leads to next week where a pretty awesome battle seems on the horizon. Was it all worth it? Will it all pay off in the end? Who is to say?