Arrow season eight arrives in the UK on Wednesday the 30th of October on Sky One.
This review contains spoilers.
8.1 Starling City
This episode of Arrow is more playful and fun than the show has been in a long time, and that’s not just the nostalgia talking. Sure, there’s the fun of bringing back so many old favourites for a victory lap, but we’ve all seen plenty of shows screw that up. At the core, Stephen Amell is playing Oliver Queen with a levity reminiscent of the previous crossover, pumping more of his natural charm into the role than usual.
Yes, all the impending dread of his death and the heartache of the absence of Felicity are still there, but this is clearly a guy who’s enjoying his swan song, and he’s soaking up every minute of it. Oliver is quippier than usual, lamenting his supposed years without tequila on Lian Yu, with more puppy-like enthusiasm, like when he hears Felicity on this earth runs Smoak Tech (“Oh good for her!”). He’s leaning into the brotherly back and forth of trying to pull a fast one on Diggle.
Perhaps some of the immediate pressure to mourn the network-altering – heck, television-landscape-altering – final season has been removed by last year’s finale, which served as a goodbye to Emily Bett Rickards and therefore the original trio. By planting the line in the sand of Oliver’s death (unless Diggle gets his way) during his and Arrow’s final crossover Crisis On Infinite Earths, it almost feels like Ollie and the show have been freed up not only from a plot perspective, but an emotional one. Many were concerned, after the show’s apparent wrap-up last spring, as to what, exactly, Oliver Queen and Arrow would even be do this fall. In addition to setting up an interesting 2040 canary-centric show (which I’ve been begging for and we’re eager to watch!) it turns out Oliver Queen is going to have a knockabout good time kicking ass with his best friend, while reminding us for the first time in years why we fell so in love with this show back in 2012.
All of the revived appearances were such a delight. It’s great to see Moira, Malcolm and Tommy, even if it is in this strange kaleidoscopic way. In fact, the new earth is a great way to remix old scenarios – it’s like a walk down memory lane without letting anything feel like too much of a retread. Oliver knows just enough to get himself into trouble, like when he assumed Malcolm was the dark hood. And thankfully the writers are putting in enough work to keep things from getting stale, knowing we would all guess it’s actually Tommy and adding in the surprise of Rene and Dinah going bad to change things up.
Over in the future, it’s good to see the kiddos without adult supervision. JJ is finally here, and with fewer characters in the flash forwards, it leaves for a bit more room to flesh out the characters and see that Mia is struggling to play well with others. It’s truly a wonderful thing to see parts of their parents in each of them, and with Mia that means she’s stubborn on stubborn on stubborn. Like her father, she needs to learn to trust her team, and like her mother, she needs to realise that other people bring skill sets to the table, too. It’s easy to see Rene’s conciliatory team player in his daughter, and I’m looking forward to more time spent on Diggle’s sons.
At this point we’ve seen Oliver Queen chained up so many times that there’s no reason to expect anything noteworthy to happen. And yet. The image of Stephen Amell climbing up that goddamn chain is a visual representation of him being like, “oh you like salmon ladders? Yeah I did the salmon ladder in the first episode, EIGHT SEASONS AGO. But now I’m a ninja warrior and a wrestler, how you like me now?!”
He then throws his chains in the face of a random goon to take the guy out, because Ollie dgaf anymore. It’s the kind of move I love in an action movie – halfway between creative and so stupid it’s hilarious. This kind of thing is rarely on screen, except when it’s played for laughs in something like The Spy Who Dumped Me or the Naked Gun movies. This is Oliver Queen, Super Senior. Everyone creating Arrow, from the stunt coordinators to the writers, is clearly on the same page. They decided to make an episode of fun-ass television, and I sincerely hope this is the plan from now until the crisis.
Will all of Oliver’s errands for the Monitor be like this? Is Ollie actually going to die? Who knows, but as long as it keeps being this fun, frankly, who cares?
And read about the new sci-fi, fantasy and horror TV shows coming to US TV in 2019 and beyond here.