This Arrow review contains spoilers.
Arrow Season 5 Episode 9
Arrow took a really big time out from its regular-season plot last week in order to deal with an invading alien force. For the midseason finale, titled “What We Leave Behind,” it was back to business as the Season 5 big bad took front and center.
Although this episode slowed way down when it came to the comic book crossovers, it was the biggest stage-setting episode of the entire season, laying more plot groundwork than its predecessors combined. Above all, it sought to finally deal with the identity of the principal Season 5 villain, Prometheus. Until now, he’s been just another hooded archer character that’s surrounded Green Arrow’s life. Tobias Church’s last act was to reveal the hero’s secret identity as Mayor Oliver Queen, and he’s stayed pretty quiet since then. He did manage to turn Evelyn Sharp into a turncoat, which was finally revealed in this midseason finale.
Sharp was one of Green Arrow’s merry band of new recruits, except she was never really merry. She stayed quiet at first while Wild Dog, Ragman, and Oliver’s issues took center stage. Eventually, she got a bit more agency as a character, but that was only to set up her inevitable betrayal. She makes a big stink about the fact that Oliver is a killer and claims that he’s partially responsible for her parent’s deaths. It’s a stretch, but so was her entire character. Remember when she stole Laurel Lance’s Black Canary costume and pretended to be her after she died? Speaking of Laurel Lance… Nevermind, we’ll get to that.
After launching an attack on Curtis and his husband outside an event at the mayor’s office – because every public event isn’t complete without a high-concept terrorist attack – Prometheus revealed that he knows Green Arrow’s identity and the identity of his entire team. With the game on, Oliver and company track him down through a very specific drug he used during the attack. Turns out, when Oliver was acting as the murderous Hood in Season 1, he came across a guy named Claybourne. He was creating a tuberculosis epidemic and selling the subsequent drug. So, needless to say, he’d failed Star City. Prometheus appears to be Claybourne’s son, but that was never made quite clear, which is good. I’m kind of still digging the mystery.
That’s when Oliver confronts him and they have the best fight scene of the year thus far. Just when you thought it was getting boring to see Oliver versus masked professional fighters, the show found a way to make things fresh again. Green Arrow is clearly the superior fighter, but his opponent’s obsession ends up being his saving grace as he plays defense. He also sent a throwing star through an oncoming arrow in slow motion… because sometimes you need a little blue collar action to keep the “wow” factor. They even used the fight choreography as a plot point to reveal that Prometheus might have retraced Oliver’s steps in training.
Still, if there’s a singular takeaway from this episode it’s that it was very much an Empire Strikes Back moment for the series in that the good guys lost… hard. By the time Prometheus’ master plan was done, the negativity toll was as follows:
Curtis’ husband leaves him because he is a vigilante.
Felicity’s boyfriend is dead at the hands of Oliver, who got distracted by his desire to put down Prometheus.
Diggle is either back in police custody or riddled with bullets. His wife and son are MIA as well.
Oliver is a murderer again… again.
Oliver’s new girlfriend has ties to his Russian adventures – don’t think we didn’t notice that lingering shot on the bottle of vodka. She has to be sitting on that big secret photo for some reason.
Laurel Lance is back.
Did that last one catch you off guard? It should have. We all knew that Laurel wasn’t gone for good, she’s too integral to this show’s eventual happy ending. However, seeing her simply alive and well after everything that happened on Arrow, as well as Legends of Tomorrow, was a bit of a let down. I admit that the Lazarus Pit or some other daring plot-heavy adventure to bring someone back from the dead would be silly. However, the series has painted itself into a corner to explain her return. It’s not doing itself any favors by making everyone wait until 2017 before anything important is revealed.
Was she faking it the whole time? Has she been off working with ARGUS or something? Why didn’t she tell her dad? Was this all to get away from her sad dad? Could the Legends crew really not tell this was going to happen? Are Olicity fans shaking in their boots right now? Sadly we’ll have to wait for the answers to those questions, as well as the shocking conclusion of how Green Arrow will overcome this latest foe.
Although this episode doesn’t necessarily compare favorably to some of the other midseason finales in the show’s history, the return of Laurel Lance could end up leading to one of the better stories. However, there’s also a lot of room for failure. I also am not crazy about the idea of only validating this cliffhanger in the future once the show is binge-watchable. Overall, I’d have to say that Arrow is capable of better, while admitting that I have more burning questions about the future than ever.