You have to hand it to Arrow. Once again, they have pulled off an episode that could easily have been the season finale – except, once again, it isn’t, and they still have five episodes left to go. All of which begs the question: if the three not-quite-season-finale episodes they’ve had so far (The Climb and Nanda Parbat are the other two) have been this good, what the hell do they have planned for the actual one?
Episode 18 is jam-packed with major events, things that are set to have a sizeable impact on the show for the foreseeable future. But we’ll get to those in a minute. First, let’s see what’s going on with Felicity and Ray Palmer.
In the cliff-hanger for last week’s episode, Maseo killed the Mayor with an arrow and was taking aim at Felicity. He does indeed fire that arrow, but Ray pushes her out of the way and takes an arrow to the chest in the process. Once in hospital, he’s told that it was a good thing he was shot with an arrow, because an MRI has revealed that he has an inoperable blood clot on his brain that will kill him very soon. To Ray’s credit, he takes all this with his usual good humour, although Felicity is understandably rather upset about it.
Not to worry, though, because Ray has a plan and that plan involves Felicity injecting him with experimental nanotechnology he’s invented (without previously mentioning it, unless we missed that bit) that will allow thousands of tiny robots to enter his brain and shrink the blood clot, causing it to disappear. Felicity isn’t sure at first, but when the hospital doctor rules out the procedure, she deploys her mother (who has shown up for some reason) as a decoy and does what needs to be done. Ray, of course, makes an instant recovery, but then Felicity blows it by not reciprocating his “I love you”*, at which point Ray makes a sadder face than the one he made when he was told he had an inoperable brain tumour that would kill him.
(*We can’t have been the only viewer who groaned at that point. Felicity doesn’t tell Ray she loves him because, as she tells her mother, she still loves Oliver. The problem with that is that Emily Bett Rickards has so much more chemistry with Brandon Routh (and, for that matter, Grant Gustin) than she does with Stephen Amell, so if the show is still expecting us to root for Oliver and Felicity as a couple, then they’d better start telling her to dial down on the romantic sparks with her other suitors.)
All of this sounds like so much soap opera, especially set against what’s going on with the rest of Team Arrow, but we think there are a couple of other things going on here, one obvious, the other not so obvious. Firstly, Ray being injected with nanobots that are able to shrink things in his brain is presumably a step towards Ray gaining The Atom’s comics-ordained shrinking ability, just in time for his spin-off show. And secondly, Felicity and her mother once again discuss Felicity’s criminal father, so I’m guessing that he’s either going to show up in the season finale, or he’ll be making an early appearance in Season 4.
At any rate, it’s safe to say that the rest of Team Arrow has other things on their minds. First, Ra’s al Ghul kidnaps Detective Captain Lance and blatantly tells him that Oliver Queen is the Arrow. This serves as a nice callback to Slade Wilson revealing Oliver’s secret identity to Laurel last season, but it also sends Lance into a spiral of rage, as he realises the full extent of the lies Oliver had told him, including the truth about Sara being with Oliver on the island.
Things quickly go from bad to worse: Lance calls one of his many press conferences (he loves a press conference, does Quentin) and publicly reveals the Arrow’s identity, before issuing a warrant for Oliver’s arrest. Meanwhile, Oliver and company attempt to track down Maseo, only to run into Ra’s and fall straight into his carefully laid trap, which leads to Oliver, Roy and Laurel being chased by the police, in an exciting and superbly executed action sequence. The team make it back to the Arrow Cave in one piece, but their respite doesn’t last long, because the police raid Verdant, so they all make a break for it. This cleverly allows the show to side-step the issue of the police finding the Arrow Cave – I guess the show-runners aren’t ready to spring for a new Arrow HQ set yet.
At any rate, Oliver quickly realises that Ra’s has backed him into a corner and that he only has two options: either accept Ra’s offer to become the new Ra’s al Ghul, or turn himself in. To his credit, he does the latter, walking into the police station with his hands in the air. He also manages (off-screen) to negotiate immunity for the rest of Team Arrow, which gets around the issue of why Lance allows Laurel’s secret identity to remain intact, but not quite why she’s still allowed to be District Attorney or whatever she is.
All of this leads to a terrific confrontation between a raging Captain Lance and Oliver in the back of a police van, not least because Lance kind of has a point when he starts listing all the people who have died as a result of Oliver’s return. He’s also dealing with grief and the realisation that he’s been lied to all this time by someone he had come to trust, with the script subtly suggesting that his utter shattering of Oliver’s life is possibly motivated by personal revenge, rather than his duty as a police officer. This works partly because Paul Blackthorne completely nails Lance’s anger and pain, but it’s also a good example of the weight of three seasons’ worth of events paying off beautifully – it’s worth noting that Oliver is entirely accepting of his fate and makes no attempt to escape or deny his actions.
It’s also worth noting that keeping Detective Captain Lance in the dark for so long has indeed paid off, despite all those weeks where his not knowing just seemed more and more ridiculous. At least they give him a line to the effect of “I think, deep down, I always knew…” Yeah, Lance? What gave it away?
Happily, this episode has one final twist to pull out of the bag, and that’s Roy (Roy!) deciding to sacrifice himself by stopping the police van in the green Arrow costume (his parkour skills coming in handy once again) and having a Spartacus moment – “Oliver Queen isn’t the Arrow: I am!” – which makes perfect sense for Roy, whom we know has been tormented by his own grief over killing a cop while dosed up with mirakuru. Whether Lance and the rest of the police buy it, however, is another story.
All of this doesn’t leave much room for Thea this week, who was reduced to a token appearance in Roy’s bedroom, regretting ever having broken up with him in the first place. With foreshadowing like that, you are probably kicking yourself for not seeing that ending coming, right?
Likewise, Laurel gets relatively little to do, but there is a great scene during the chase where she’s cornered by Lance, before Nyssa rescues her. Again, Paul Blackthorne really sells the weirdness of that moment, managing to inject a hint of an over-protective father telling off his daughter (“You’re NOT going out dressed like THAT”), as well as factoring in all the betrayal of her choosing Oliver’s side over his, despite her day job as District Attorney or whatever.
Meanwhile, in Flashback City, Celine Jade turned out to be playing Shado’s previously-unmentioned twin sister May, rather than Shado. This lead to some nice echoing of the main action, with Oliver deciding to tell May the truth about her sister (and her father) and allowing her to grieve. Other than that, it served very little purpose except re-uniting Maseo and Tatsu with their kid. To that end, we’re still no closer to understanding what happened to Maseo to ally him so closely to Ra’s al Ghul. Here’s hoping the flashbacks step up a bit in the final stretch.
All in all, this is an exciting, pacey, high stakes episode that brings all the characters to their lowest point imaginable and seemingly changes Oliver’s life forever. Where on earth can they go from here? Tune in next week to find out…
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Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.