Arrow Season 7 Episode 12 Review: Emerald Archer

Arrow brings back some familiar faces and raises the stakes for the future in a fun, form-breaking 150th episode

This Arrow review contains spoilers. 

Arrow Season 7 Episode 12

In a documentary that turns out to be banned in the future, Arrow celebrated its 150th episode with a story that celebrated the show’s past, laid a plan for its future, and still managed to move the story further for a surprising number of the show’s current plots. The episode felt like it had just the right amount of fan service, much of which was enabled by the genius documentary format.

The format of this episode was an excellent idea: it allows for believable self-reflection and inclusion of so many of our favorites, even those long dead. Arrow took the doc pretty seriously, starting with the Warner Brothers movie intro and including narration by Kelsey Grammar. The wink of the doctor being named Schwartz, after showrunner Beth, and having the producer a gender-swapped M Pedowitz after CW President Mark, was a nice touch. Still, I’m glad they knew when to break with the format to include essential elements of the story. It also makes you appreciate how well shot the action is, and how hard it must have been to shoot the hallway run-and-gun fight scenes so they look handheld but still give us great fights.

The documentary within the show is full of so many fun Easter eggs, especially the interview clips. Obviously there’s the clips with Quentin, Sara Lance, and Thea, but the comic book panels, the NGA joke, Adam Hunt references, and the interview with Cindy really added to the feel of the episode, which is very much for the fans. It was nice to see Huntress again, who seems to be cropping up a lot lately, and I was glad we finally found out what happened to Rory. Curtis giving things away by accident and Felicity jabbering away as Overwatch made this episode feel like coming home again.

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The Wayne Enterprises and Gotham City mentions were a nice touch, and together with the mention of Central City it was a great reminder that Arrow’s legacy goes far beyond the bounds of one show. The superhero movie revival may be due to Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but for the first few seasons, Arrow was the best superhero interpretation on any screen. More than anything else, this show is the reason so many heroes are on the small screen.

It’s a pretty common occurrence for television children to get shipped off somewhere when they’re no longer of use. What’s less common is to see the emotional fallout of that choice and for the show to hold its characters and itself accountable, the way that is happening in this episode with William’s return. It’s not surprising he’s pissed and hurt, though I don’t think Felicity referring to herself as “mom” was helpful, or would have realistically gone un-challenged. I’m enjoying William and Zoe’s friendship in the present, and I hope we get to see more of that to inform the flash-forwards.

Diggle’s speech to Oliver was a high point. The emphasis on bringing the team back together, having Oliver’s back, and learning from old mistakes is the theme of the episode, and hopefully set the tone of the rest of the season moving forward. John Diggle has always been Oliver Queen’s better judgment, his much-needed second in command, his rudder. Whenever Oliver has betrayed his values or needed to reevaluate his methods, john has been at the forefront. I love seeing the 150th episode reinforce that with this great moment and to be honest, it couldn’t have been anyone other than John to tell Oliver what needed to happen.

It was great to see this episode highlight Oliver’s growth as a person. Owning up to his previous tendency to keep secrets and sharing the information he has about Emiko, while still allowing Diggle and Dinah to have their own opinion on it, is a big step for him. In this case, as Dinah said, he had good reason to keep the information to himself, but that’s not always the case. The idea that he spoke with his family before turning himself in to Mayor Pollard was a nice touch, even if we all know he was never going to prison. The format of the episode allowed for a lot of self-reflection from Oliver, and it was surprising to see a genuine moment where he wondered if he was even meant to be a leader.

Deputizing Team Arrow is really the only way the show had forward at this point, but it stil felt like a win to see them all working together after so long. I’m hoping we don’t immediately see Oliver jump back into a leadership role – there’s a lot to be learned from him being part of a larger team that he does not lead.

I’m glad Emiko played a reduced role in this episode, where her involvement was mostly about how it affected Oliver and the larger season-long arc of his team. I love the character and I’m excited for her future, but this episode needed to be about honoring the past and a mission statement for the rest of this season and the next. Emiko’s scene with Rene was great and their relationship is one of the few things that still crackles on Arrow right now, other than Dinah and Laurel trading steely glances while wearing power-suits, so I’m excited for more next week, but this episode gave us just the right amount of her to make room for things like seeing Quentin Lance and hearing Thea talk about Tommy and her mother.

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In many ways, Emerald Archer was everything the audience has long needed from Arrow. The team back together working to save the city, seeing the old lair, an acknowledgment of both Oliver’s flaws and the reality that he has done so much for the city and his loved ones, and a very clear understanding of just how traumatic Oliver’s life has been and the ways he has grown, in spite of that darkness, in the seven years we’ve known him. Barry Allen, in his endearing inability to lie, may have said it best: “Oliver is an interesting guy, unbelievably damaged…he’s lived through a lot of darkness. All he cares about is making sure no one else has to.”

Rating:

4 out of 5