Warning: This is a recap and contains spoilers, so do not read this until you have watched the episode. For information on how to watch it, click here.
If you’ve watched all five seasons of Arrow, then you’ll know that, for the last two seasons, the show has had the tendency to drop the ball in the final stretch. Up until now, Season 5 has arguably been the best season of Arrow since the glory days of Season 2 (aka. the Slade Wilson season), and on the evidence of this penultimate episode, it’s safe to say that the stage is set for a very promising finale.
That involves an awful lot of table-setting in this episode, but when what you’re promising to serve at said table is as tantalising as this, there aren’t many complaints. There is still the chance it could all go horribly wrong, but this episode inspires a lot of faith.
It begins with Team Arrow celebrating Oliver’s birthday, apparently convinced that season-long Big Bad Adrian Chase is now behind bars and has no further master-plans to enact. Of course, they couldn’t be more wrong. Orchestrating events from his glass box prison (in true supervillain style), Chase has already abducted Rene and Dinah and he makes it clear to Oliver that he’s coming for everyone else too. Ruh roh!
Oliver admits that he was a little suspicious that Prometheus went down so easily, although if that’s the case, he didn’t exactly share that at the time. Anyway, Chase proves true to his word and in short order, Curtis is abducted as he’s checking Dinah’s apartment, Thea and Quentin are snatched from an ARGUS safehouse (by Black Siren, aka. Laurel from Earth 2, which throws poor Quentin for quite the loop), and Talia al-Ghul captures Felicity and Diggle, as they’re speeding out of Star City.
Fortunately, help is at hand in the shape of Malcolm Merlyn, who apparently knows that Thea has been abducted and shows up to help Oliver. Adrian then plays his trump card, by revealing to Oliver that he’s kidnapped his son, William, at which point Oliver loses it and Adrian sees that he’s rattled. Malcolm and Oliver then help Adrian escape and he flies off, taunting Oliver once again that everyone he cares about will die. That does appear to be it for Adrian’s end-game – he wants Oliver to suffer the loss of people he loves, and he wants him to prove he’s still a killer by, um, killing him. As supervillain motivations go, it’s pretty tame stuff, and yet Josh Segarra’s performance has elevated Chase into one of the best adversaries Oliver has had yet.
Anyway, Oliver works out that Adrian has taken everyone to Lian Yu, figuring that Talia must have told him all about it. He tells Malcolm that he’s had to call in some reinforcements and that Malcolm isn’t going to like it. Sure enough, in walks Nyssa al-Ghul (Katrina Law), the current head of the League of Assassins, and Malcolm is none too happy about it, but he agrees to play nice, for Thea’s sake. It’s not entirely clear what Nyssa’s reasons are (loyalty to her husband, perhaps), but she seems excited by the fact that she’ll be up against her estranged sister, so there’s that to look forward to at the very least.
Oliver, for his part, has one more recruit in mind, which is why the cliff-hanger for the episode has him asking for help from none other than Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett), aka. Deathstroke. Dan-dan-daah! It’s reasonable to wonder why Oliver doesn’t also enlist The Flash and Supergirl, although, to be fair, they have season finales of their own to be dealing with. Anyway, if you’re a fan of Arrow and you’ve somehow managed to miss the reveal that Slade Wilson was coming back (it was mentioned in the official synopsis for the finale, which seems all kinds of mean), then this is a proper punch-the-air moment, which instantly makes the finale that much more exciting.
So that’s that, then. Next week’s finale will basically be Oliver, Malcolm and Nyssa (and whichever members of Team Arrow they manage to free) taking on Prometheus and his own band of assembled bad guys, including Evelyn Sharp, Talia al-Ghul and Black Siren, on the shores of Lian Yu, thereby bringing 10 years of storyline (five years of flashback, plus five years of present) full circle.
That sense of the circle closing is ever-present, not least because the flashbacks are coming to a close. (Whatever the show’s plans for the flashbacks next season – and you can bet we’ll be seeing them again in some capacity) – they won’t be filling in Oliver’s “five years in hell”. Hopefully the show can find a way to make the relevant again without resorting to a standard Flashback of the Week structure.) It’s compounded by the way all the guest stars represent previous seasons: we have Malcolm (Season 1’s Big Bad), Slade (Season 2), Nyssa to represent Season 3 and arguably William to represent Season 4. It doesn’t stop there, however: we also get a fantasy vision of Yao Fei (from Season 1) in the flashback sequences (which we’ll get to in a minute), as well as a swift check-in from Season 1 Laurel, also in the fantasy sequence. That parade of familiar faces certainly makes it very likely that one or more characters will be killed off next week, which, again, raises anticipation that much higher.
Speaking of the finale, can we just say how refreshing it is not to have a supervillain who intends to destroy Star City with a super-weapon of some sort? Adrian’s vendetta against Oliver is entirely personal and that makes for some very effective stakes. We don’t know about you, but we’re properly excited for next week’s episode.
Oh, right, Flashback Island. Oliver is now tantalisingly close to where we saw him right back in Episode 1, but first, he has to defeat Level Five Boss Konstantin Kovar (Dolph Lundgren). Kovar certainly has the upper hand – he strings Oliver up and injects him with a concoction that makes him re-live the pain from every scar he has on his body, which turns out to be quite a lot of pain. While he’s blacking out, he hallucinates both Yao Fei and Season 1 Laurel, with the latter telling him to be strong and effectively talking him out of killing himself. (Kovar says few people can live with the pain from the drug and most kill themselves after a few minutes.) Cut to: Oliver running through the woods with Kovar and his goons in hot pursuit.
All in all, this is a damn fine penultimate episode that hits notes of dark humour (Malcolm sparring with Nyssa is a treat, as always), while delivering a high-stakes set-up for the finale. Tune in next time to see Team Arrow take on Team Prometheus in a deadly fight to the finish!
Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune:
– Oliver’s surprise birthday cake had a comic-like Green Arrow figure on it, because Felicity told the baker it was for a six-year-old. Frankly, it’s adorable. Shame nobody manages to eat any of it.
– As you may or may not recall from last season’s recap, it’s tradition for the penultimate episode of each season of Arrow to be named after a Bruce Springsteen song. That holds true this year too with Missing. Not particularly imaginative or clever, but hey, at least it fits the action of the episode.
– Vigilante? Anyone? No? We’re just going to let that go, are we? It seems highly unlikely that he’ll show up on Lian Yu next week, but anything’s possible.
Arrow Season 5 is available to buy and download on pay-per-view VOD.