UK TV recap: Arrow, Season 6, Episode 23 (Life Sentence)
Matthew Turner | On 02, Jun 2018Reading time: 15 mins
Warning: This contains spoilers. For how to watch Arrow, click here.
The penultimate episode of Arrow Season 6 ended on a cliffhanger, with Oliver admitting to FBI Agent Samanda Watson that he was the Green Arrow, and agreeing to an unspecified demand in return for her help in taking down Ricardo Diaz. As penultimate episode cliffhangers go, it’s not exactly up there with the best of them, but it turned out to be entirely appropriate for this season’s finale, which delivers strong emotional moments and drops a seemingly game-changing cliffhanger, even if it doesn’t quite deliver in the action and closure departments.
The episode begins with a newly reformed Team Arrow storming SCPD and taking out a load of Diaz’s goons, including the main henchman cop (Henchcop), who gets sonic blasted across the room in satisfactory fashion early on. To be fair, although the episode is relatively light on action, this is an exciting and fun sequence, thanks to the dependable direction of James Bamford, who’s good at shooting complex, multi-character sequences in one continuous take. Anyway, it’s a bust, as Diaz isn’t at SCPD. Also, Agent Samanda Watson is fighting right alongside Oliver with her FBI guys, so we know Oliver took whatever deal she offered him, even if we don’t know what it is yet.
Outside the SCPD, Diaz does a creepy job of sneaking into the back of Anatoly’s car, while he’s still on the phone to Oliver. The thunderous look on Diaz’s face clearly indicates that he has realised Anatoly has turned traitor, but he lets the wily Russian in on his plans anyway. Those plans? To meet with a group called the Longbow Hunters to take down Oliver. Anatoly is visibly impressed – they are legendary figures, apparently believed dead, but Diaz assures him they’re very real and hands over the location of the meet. Anyone smell a trap?
Two very quick asides: first, all props to Kirk Acevedo in this episode, who’s a lot of fun to watch as Diaz slowly loses it, getting sloppier, angrier and shoutier as the episode progresses. And second, the Longbow Hunters are a big thing in the comics (both the old ones and the new ones, where they’re lead by Diaz), so that’s either an exciting tease for next season or a red herring, given that we don’t actually see them in this episode. Arrow have form for next-season-villain name-dropping, though – remember when they did that with Damien Darhk, back in Season 3?
With the SCPD now established as Team Arrow’s temporary new HQ, Oliver takes the first of several time-outs and apologises to Diggle for everything. He even gives Diggle his own Green Arrow suit, saying there’s no reason there can’t be two Green Arrows, but Diggle turns it down, saying that the Green Arrow means something to the people of Star City and that impact would be diminished if there were two of them running around. Needless to say, this conversation will be Important For Later. Anyway, the pair kiss and make up and it seems everything will be back to normal, although Diggle is apparently still going to be involved with ARGUS, at least for the moment.
Fearing for his safety, Anatoly hands himself in at SCPD and immediately hands over the location of the meet. (His greeting to Team Arrow is typical Anatoly: “We also have costume parties in Russia – it’s always great fun.”) It turns out Oliver has heard of the Longbow Hunters too – they were three legendary assassins that even the League were afraid of, but the last one apparently died in the 1950s. Curiouser and curiouser. We can only hope that doesn’t mean a return to supernatural shenanigans next season. No more Lazarus Pits, please.
Meanwhile, Quentin is working with Agent Samanda Watson, as she needs him to transfer authority to the FBI for them to take down Diaz. At that exact moment, Diaz calls Quentin and tells him he’ll kill Laurel if Quentin doesn’t kick the FBI out of Star City. Quentin’s rattled, but he’s been tipped off to the fact that Anatoly gave out Diaz’s location, so he tells Diaz to go to hell, assuming that the FBI are about to storm the meeting place.
However, when Team Arrow and the FBI arrive at the meeting place (one of those generic warehouses), it is, of course, a trap. It’s rigged with a giant, criss-crossing grid of laser trip-wires (which looks pretty cool) and a big old bomb-on-a-timer slap bang in the centre. Rene’s caught in the middle with an unnamed female FBI agent and it looks like he isn’t going to make it. Rene obviously thinks so too, as he calls his daughter Zoey and gives her a very moving possible farewell speech, just in case he goes boom (this is the season finale, after all). Diaz calls Anatoly and tells him he’s going to kill him, slowly, before triggering the bomb. Luckily, Felicity manages to hack something or other and delay the electronic trigger just long enough for Rene and the FBI agent to get clear of the explosion. The FBI agent was clearly moved by Rene’s sensitivity on his phone call, so maybe she’ll end up being a love interest next season?
Next up, Oliver gives the big apology speech to Rene. Is some sort of pattern emerging? It seems that way, as Oliver systematically sets about repairing the team-fracturing emotional damage of the entire season. Oliver says he’s sorry he judged Rene and he knows he’s a good man, and Rene accepts Oliver’s apology and tells him that it means a lot. It’s all very touching.
Then Quentin turns up, obviously panicked now that Diaz is holding Not-Laurel captive. He’s worried that the FBI won’t exactly be prioritising Not-Laurel’s safety in their haste to get Diaz. But they don’t have much choice – Watson asks Quentin to get proof of life for Not-Laurel, hoping to put a tracker on him that will lead them to Diaz.
If there was any doubt that Oliver was on some sort of farewell / apology tour, that doubt is removed with the next stop, as he exchanges a manful heart-to-heart with Quentin and the pair share a few meaningful callbacks to previous seasons, including Quentin asking Oliver how he beat the lie detector test all the way back in Season 1. He also mentions that he had a pacemaker put in after all that Mirakuru business, which a. seems like the sort of thing the show might have mentioned, but b. also explains why they stopped doing all those scenes of Quentin clutching his chest at stressful moments.
Quentin meets up with Diaz, but Not-Laurel isn’t with him, so he takes a gamble and tells Diaz about the FBI bug, hoping to spare his not-daughter’s life. However, it turns out clever old Quentin had a cunning plan all along and his mentioning of his pacemaker was no coincidence, since Felicity can apparently track its frequency. Well, of course she can.
The next stop on Oliver’s farewell / apology tour is Dinah. Oliver apologises for not being sensitive enough with regard to her feelings about Vince and thanks her for setting aside her vendetta for the sake of the mission. Dinah admits she respects Oliver more than he’ll ever know and accepts his apology. There’s even a little wobble in her voice as it happens – once again, the acting in this episode is top notch from all concerned (Rene nailed his emotional phone call earlier too).
Felicity finally notices all the apologising Oliver has been doing and she calls him out on it, wanting to know what he promised Agent Samanda Watson in return for her help. She thinks he’s agreed to give up being the Green Arrow – after all, it’s now clear to everyone that he revealed his secret identity to her, as he’s been walking around in front of her without his mask on. But there’s no time for an answer as the pacemaker tracker pings Quentin’s location.
In Diaz’s new hideout, he throws Quentin in a cage with Not-Laurel and threatens him, saying he’ll kill her if Quentin doesn’t kick the FBI out of town. Quentin refuses and Diaz pulls the trigger but -oh no!- Quentin dives in front of it and gets shot in the stomach. Diaz apparently knew Quentin was going to do that, and his new ultimatum is kick out the FBI or bleed to death. That heart-to-heart with Oliver earlier starts to take on a lot more weight, but it’s just a stomach wound – people always recover from stomach wounds on TV, right? Right?
Fortunately, Team Arrow and the FBI arrive in the nick of time. Dinah is so over her vendetta that she even frees Black Siren and helps her get Quentin to safety. Diaz flees to the rooftop hoping to get to a helicopter, but Oliver corners him there and the two of them have a decent fight in the rain, with Oliver (or more accurately, a rather obvious in-costume stuntman) landing several satisfying punches. Again, props to James Bamford, who can choreograph the heck out of a fight scene, making sure the action is clean and easy to follow and using a single camera set-up whenever possible rather than choppy editing. Towards the end of the fight, Oliver slams an arrow into Diaz’s chest, but he pulls it out and starts ranting, saying that if Oliver wants to stop him, he’s going to have to kill him, at which point Not-Laurel shows up and blasts him off the roof with a sonic scream. Unfortunately, the building is right next to the water, so Diaz has almost certainly survived. Oliver: not happy. On the plus side though, they manage to copy all the data off the USB stick thing they were trying to get hold of all last week, meaning that Diaz’s operation, as is, can be completely dismantled. So there’s that.
In the hospital, Quentin is laid up in a hospital bed, awaiting surgery. He makes Rene promise not to call him “hoss” at his funeral, should things go that way. It’s a nice moment, which recalls all the scenes the pair had together earlier in the season. Then, it’s Oliver’s turn in the room, and they have an even more moving heart-to-heart than they had the first time round, drawing on all the history they’ve had together and reflecting on how far they’ve come. They both tell each other they have been good fathers. Oliver says he had a good example and Quentin says yes, his father was a good man, to which Oliver replies “I’m not talking about my dad”. There are tears in Stephen Amell’s eyes and everything. Honestly, it’s powerful stuff. This is all looking pretty final for Quentin, but if these end up being his final scenes, then it’s an appropriately deep and meaningful farewell. Then, Quentin gets taken into surgery and everyone crosses their fingers.
In case you were wondering when Special Guest Star Caity Lotz was going to show up (given that her participation in the episode was announced weeks ago and her name was on the opening credits), she shows up now, with a few minutes to go before the end of the episode. She has a super-awkward meeting with Not-Laurel – Sara: “Are you like my Laurel?” Not-Laurel: “Hardly at all.” – who apparently thought Sara needed to be there, just in case. They sort of accept each other, which is all very sweet.
With astonishingly terrible timing, Agent Samanda Watson shows up at the hospital and takes Oliver into custody in front of everyone. It turns out that he didn’t give up being the Green Arrow, he gave up his freedom, agreeing to serve time in jail. The FBI are apparently going to stick around in Star City until Diaz is behind bars, which presumably means we’ll be seeing a lot more of Sydelle Noel next season. Just as everyone is processing Oliver’s sacrifice, the doctor comes out with some bad news: Quentin didn’t make it. Oh, man. Everyone: devastated. To be fair, it had been widely reported that Paul Blackthorne was leaving the show after this season, so this perhaps wasn’t as surprising as it could have been, but it still hits hard and Blackthorne will be sorely missed on the show.
While waiting for the transport, Oliver gets the chance to say a proper sorry and goodbye to Felicity and William. Oliver’s remarkably sanguine about the whole thing, considering he was going out of his way to avoid such a fate just two episodes ago. Did Christopher Chance pretend to be back-from-the-dead Tommy Merlyn in a Green Arrow costume for nothing? Anyway, Felicity promises they’ll break Oliver out of jail, but he tells her he’s being transferred to a super-max and that anyway, the FBI would just arrest Felicity, Diggle and everyone instead. He tells her that this was the only way to keep everyone he loved safe and mentions that, oh yes, she’ll have to go into protective custody with William, just until Diaz is taken off the board. Felicity: visibly devastated. (Once again, it’s worth saying that everyone brings their A-game to this episode, acting-wise.)
Finally, Oliver says a goodbye to William (okay, maybe William’s acting could have been better) and he gets perp-walked out in front of the cameras again. This time, though, he gets to make a speech and there’s a cool moment where he turns directly to camera and says “I am the Green Arrow”. (Actually, that bit is completely stolen from Iron Man, but that doesn’t make it any less cool or effective.) So, now Star City knows Oliver Queen is the Green Arrow and always has been, as he clears both Roy Harper and Tommy Merlyn in the process. As Oliver continues his speech, about asking his partners to continue his mission to “save our city”, we get a montage that cycles through Diaz’s cronies being arrested, Sara and Not-Laurel grieving at Quentin’s bedside, and various people watching it on TV, including a still-alive Diaz (surrounded by armed gunmen, but no Longbow Hunters), The Outsiders in Rene’s flat, and Diggle in ARGUS HQ, with the Green Arrow costume by his side. Then, there’s a great match cut from Oliver at the press conference to Oliver behind bars and boom, that’s the end of the season.
A couple of tiny quibbles. Firstly, how come Curtis didn’t merit a spot on Oliver’s farewell apology tour? Admittedly, Curtis has always been closer to Felicity than Oliver, but still, his non-inclusion sticks out like a sore thumb. And secondly, Diaz may have been a good villain, but he wasn’t quite good enough to warrant the two-season arc treatment, so hopefully he’ll be toppled fairly early next season. On balance, some sort of closure on the Diaz front would have been vastly preferable to just having him survive a fall into the water and live to fight another day.
All in all, this is a solid season finale – a good one, if not a great one. It’s certainly better than the Season 3 and 4 finales, but never approached the heights of the first two seasons, or even Season 5, with its impressively explosive cliffhanger. On the plus side, there’s a real opportunity to do something interesting next season – here’s hoping Oliver spends more than a cursory few episodes behind bars. To be fair, the bar has been set pretty high in that regard by sister show The Flash, which kept Barry in jail for several episodes this season. At any rate, a handful of episodes with Oliver in prison while Diggle fights crime as Green Arrow alongside a reunited Team Arrow (that also has room for a returning Roy Harper) sounds like a good start for Season 7. Come back in October 2018 (TBC) to find out how Oliver copes behind bars!
Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune
– If Oliver being in jail means more Lyla and Diggle team-up action next season, we’re all for it.
– There was apparently a never-made film script that was about Oliver fighting super-villains while behind bars, so that could well be the focus for next season.
– Arrow’s getting a new showrunner next season, with writer and co-producer Beth Schwartz replacing co-showrunners Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle. That’s an exciting development that could lead to some significant changes on the show. Could we possibly suggest a return to having more stand-alone episodes with a variety of different villains, rather than one season-long Big Bad?
– Among the various things that have been teased for next season, Stephen Amell promised that we’ll finally get to see Oliver wearing his signature goatee beard from the comics. So there’s that to look forward to.
– Predictions for how Oliver gets out of jail? We’re guessing that the people of Star City decide that they need the Green Arrow and petition for him to be reinstated as Mayor, in full knowledge that he’s also the Emerald Archer. Either that or they’ll strap Diaz into one of Christopher Chance’s plastic face masks and have him serve Oliver’s time. One of those.
Arrow Season 6 is available on Sky 1 every Thursday, within a week of its US broadcast. Don’t have Sky? You can stream it live or catch up on-demand through NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription, no contract. A 7-day free trial is available for new subscribers.