Arrow Airs Perhaps Its Best Episode Since Season 2; 5×23 ‘Lian Yu’ Review.

Arrow Airs Perhaps Its Best Episode Since Season 2; 5×23 ‘Lian Yu’ Review.
Zack Phillips

Ever since the first behind the scenes images were leaked over a month ago, fans of the show have highly anticipated the final showdown between the Green Arrow and Prometheus. In a circumstance where Oliver is forced to seek out allies in Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett), Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), Nyssa Al Ghul (Katrina Law), and Digger Harkness (Nick Tarabay), Arrow proves that despite its ‘hiccup’ throughout the middle two seasons, it is back under control. In an episode that had thirteen guest stars from throughout the past five years, including Katie Cassidy as the Black Siren, Susanna Thompson as Moira Queen, and Jack Moore as William, the finale definitely did not disappoint.

This week’s episode picks up immediately where last week’s Missing left off; with Oliver Queen and Slade Wilson having their first conversation for nearly three years. During this exchange, Oliver notes how Wilson appears to have cleansed since the Mirakuru left his system, to which Slade admits that it wore off ‘long ago.’ What makes this scene particularly significant is the fact that Slade admits that he was insane, and that everything he did was wrong. Slade admits that he would take it all back, as “it all feels like a bad dream.” Ever since mirakuru was introduced during the second season, Oliver knew that Slade had been driven to the rage that he possessed by the Japanese serum surging through his veins. With it out of his system, and Slade admitting that what he had done was wrong, it could be the start of a more ‘New-52 Deathstroke’. While the comic interpretation of Deathstroke in DC’s 2011 reboot is still considered that of a villain, his very own comic sees Slade as more of an ‘anti-hero’. While he’ll always be a villain, perhaps he could be a better version of Malcolm Merlyn, assisting the team when needed, yet still being an enemey. Once Oliver pulls out the Deathstroke mask to give to Slade, the audience sees him slowly back away, appearing to decide if he wanted to put the mask back on, before taking it and siding with Oliver. This could be for any number of reasons, but the performance that Bennett portrayed suggested that it was due to Slade’s morals coming back into play.

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When Oliver, Slade, and Digger regroup with Malcolm and Nyssa on Lian Yu’s shores, the audience is treated to some exceptional dialogue between Malcolm and Nyssa. Despite their previous arguments regarding the disbandment of Ra’s Al Ghul’s League of Assassins, it is interesting to see him stick up for Nyssa when Boomerang flirts with her. To find the prisoners, Oliver’s team of villains decide to split up and find Chase’s team more efficiently, and in turn tracking down Felicity, Thea, Curtis, and Samantha. After a brief exchange between both of Oliver’s teams, Talia and Evelyn launch an attack on the unlikely allegiance, where Captain Boomerang reveals himself as a member of the opposition, giving Deathstroke the chance to join him on ‘the winning side’. Though Slade does agree to Digger’s terms, he quickly betrays him, shouting out, “Assumption is the mother of all failures.” While this quote can be easily overlooked, fans who have been paying attention since Deathstroke was first spotted on the set of Arrow know that the hashtag that Manu Bennett used on Twitter to deny his involvement was ‘#assumptionsisthemotherofall”, a hashtag that executive producer Marc Guggenheim also retweeted. While a fitting hashtag to disguise his involvement in the finale, the fact that it was a quote taken directly from the episode is a nice call-back. Another remarkable parallel between the first year that Oliver was on the island and the events during the season finale, is when Slade demands that Evelyn puts a gun to Oliver’s head. While, again, can be quickly overlooked, Slade taught Oliver how to escape somebody when they held a gun to his head during the initial flashbacks with Eddie Fyres. As he was merely masquerading as a traitor to the cause, he knew that Oliver could escape the hold.

Digger Harkness was always an odd choice to have aligned with Oliver in an attempt to find Chase. His betrayal doesn’t come as a surprise, though the means behind his betrayal is of a questionable sort. If Adrian had reached out to Digger Harkness, why didn’t he reach out to Slade also? It is no secret that out of the two villains, Slade has definitely accomplished a lot more on the super-villain front. He is the better assassin out of the two, and it took Oliver an entire year to lock him up, as opposed to Digger’s week-long manhunt. Alternatively, did Slade get offered and refuse the offer? For such a small detail, it requires an explanation, one that wasn’t provided.

Arrow -- "Lian Yu" -- Image AR523a_1013b.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Anne Hopkins as Samantha, Willa Holland as Thea Queen / Speedy, Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen/The Green Arrow, Echo Kellum as Curtis Holt/Mr.Terrific, Deathstroke, and Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak -- Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW -- © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Arrow — “Lian Yu” — Image AR523a_1013b.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Anne Hopkins as Samantha, Willa Holland as Thea Queen / Speedy, Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen/The Green Arrow, Echo Kellum as Curtis Holt/Mr.Terrific, Deathstroke, and Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak — Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Evelyn, Talia, and Digger retreat into the shrubbery of Lian Yu, heading to the Chinese Monastery that exists on the island. Despite the fact that the structured establishment resided on Lian Yu, it seems odd how it was never addressed within the flashbacks. What’s even more humorous about the situation is that even though there was a location on the island with proper establishments, Oliver, Slade and Shado decided to spend their time in a crashed plane. Regardless, Chase had set up his base of operations within the monastery, forcing Oliver, Slade, and Nyssa to set out toward the location to bring Prometheus to justice. However, before he could leave, the worst villain that the show has had within its five-year time-span returned to deliver one final blow; Olicity. Though the only Olicity scene was short, which makes up for the fact that there was one at all. However, you’d think that the producer would have learnt by now that the vast majority of the shows viewers extremely dislike Olicity.

After a short exchange with Thea regarding Oliver’s mental state as he recruited the two people who killed their parents, Malcolm takes the prisoners to the plane that Adrian used to arrive on the island. On the journey, Malcolm attempts to reconnect with Thea over the fact that he travelled across the world to save her, to which Thea initially rejects, stating that they are ‘literally nothing to each other’. However, Thea’s thoughts towards Malcolm quickly change once he makes the ultimate sacrifice for her. He takes her place on the active land mine that she triggered, using it to blow up Captain Boomerang, a small army of Talia’s ninja, and himself in the process, delivering one of the best final words that the show has had. What makes the sacrifice all the more emotional is what he said to Thea before blowing himself up; “You may not think of me as your father, but you will always be my daughter.” Comforting Thea, Felicity offers some sympathy and relates to her in the fact that her father, The Calculator, was a supervillain who risked his life for hers. While it was clearly supposed to be a touching moment between Guggenheim’s two favourite characters, the execution didn’t work exactly to plan.

Arrow -- "Lian Yu" -- Image AR523a_0399b.jpg -- Pictured: John Barrowman as Malcolm Merlyn -- Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW -- © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Arrow — “Lian Yu” — Image AR523a_0399b.jpg — Pictured: John Barrowman as Malcolm Merlyn — Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

During the trek toward the monastery, the audience gets the chance to witness a rare occurrence on Arrow; seeing the superhero costumes in the light of day. And while the Green Arrow suit looks close to awful in the nightlight-theme of Star City, seeing it in the light of day on Lian Yu, without the hood, made the suit look fantastic. Hopefully this is foreshadowing a potential costume upgrade for the sixth season; one close to DC’s Rebirth costume; sleeveless and an optional hood. The case is similar with both Nyssa and Slade’s costume. The light allowed the Deathstroke costume to showcase the traditional comic-book orange, black and blue on the suit in all its glory. And Nyssa’s costume remains to be one of the best that the CW have produced due to its simplicity and representation of the character as a whole. On the journey, Slade delivers the most humorous line throughout the episode regarding Oliver’s marriage with Nyssa. Slightly afterward, he gave Oliver a pep-talk on the death on his father off his conscience, as it has held him back for the past ten years on the show. What’s ironic about this is, of course, the fact that he killed Oliver’s mother.

For a brief moment, it almost appeared like Slade was going to betray Oliver on the journey. As the trio passed the plane where the island survivors had made their home, Oliver states that living there had been ‘a lifetime ago’, to which Slade replied, “For Shado, it was”. Despite the lack of mirakuru in his system, it appears he still has the same feelings for Shado that he did back in the second season, but doesn’t allow her death to fuel his rage any longer. And while he didn’t betray the team at that very stage, his treachery came once they reached the monastery, sucker-punching Oliver and handing him over to Laurel Lance. This must be a strange phenomenon for Slade, because when he was imprisoned on the island, Laurel was a love interest for Oliver, and metahumans and alternate Earths didn’t exist.

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Though as Oliver revealed to the team, Slade never actually betrayed the cause, merely concealing his infiltration of Team Prometheus to locate Oliver’s son. Queen needed a solution to get the device Curtis had made to Dinah, allowing them to escape. Ever since Dinah’s introduction to the show, her future as the Black Canary had been teased. And while I definitely prefer Laurel as the heroine, having Quentin Lance give his approval and blessing to Dinah, naming her ‘the Black Canary’, was a significant moment in itself.

Another event that’s been building up throughout the season is a showdown between the daughters of the demon. And while the fight was short, it made the wait worthwhile. When Talia attempted to manipulate the way that Nyssa was thinking, by bringing up that Ra’s would be disappointed in her, Nyssa shot back a remark worthy of being in an Injustice game; “Father was always disappointed in me.” Her decision to keep Talia alive, while provided futile in the long run, exemplified her newfound status as a hero and evolution since her first appearance in the second season.

Arrow -- "Lian Yu" -- Image AR523a_0380b.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Katrina Law as Nyssa al Ghul and John Barrowman as Malcolm Merlyn -- Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW -- © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Arrow — “Lian Yu” — Image AR523a_0380b.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Katrina Law as Nyssa al Ghul and John Barrowman as Malcolm Merlyn — Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The fight sequence between the two teams was possibly the closest to, if not the best fight sequence, since the second season’s finale fight. And the factor that contributed to the fights success was the parallels between the flashbacks and the present day. Combing the fight sequences between Team Arrow and Team Chase, and the Oliver and Konstantin fight, proved that even though the two fights had nothing in common, the choreography was so exceptionally done that it didn’t matter.

Previously mentioned was Dinah accepting the name ‘Black Canary’, and with that name came another fight that had been brewing throughout the season; Dinah Drake against Laurel Lance. The two were seen briefly trading blows, with Laurel gaining the upper-hand before they unleashed their powerful sonic canary cries on each other, sending them both backwards as the force of the cry was too strong. Laurel quotes, “You thought that you could replace me? That’s cute.” For Black Siren, this quote is completely random, as her character never had any interaction or allegiance with Oliver and the team. However, it represents the Laurel who died as the Black Canary, and Dinah’s guilt at accepting the mantle of a fallen hero of whom she never met. Again, my preference is Laurel, however Dinah has forged her own path as a hero, and though Laurel had the upper hand on Dinah, Drake has only just begun her heroic career. Like how Felicity knocked out Siren during the midseason premiere, it is ridiculous that Quentin Lance was able to simply take out his daughter’s doppelganger for Dinah, as she was hit by a car on The Flash and walked away.

Arrow -- "Lian Yu" -- Image AR523b_0094b.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Katie Cassidy as Black Siren and Josh Segarra as Adrian Chase -- Photo: Dean Buscher /The CW -- © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Arrow — “Lian Yu” — Image AR523b_0094b.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Katie Cassidy as Black Siren and Josh Segarra as Adrian Chase — Photo: Dean Buscher /The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Another amazing opportunity that the show was given was the chance to reuse footage from the pilot, where Oliver is rescued. And while some is recycled footage, a substantial majority of it was newly-shot footage of Oliver preparing to signal the boat that Anatoly had arranged for him. After snapping Konstantin’s neck, the audience is treated to a visually-stunning performance and edit which contrasts the present day and flashback lives. A scene as simple as Oliver racing across the island was cut perfectly to contribute to allowing another parallel of Oliver’s rescue, and of Oliver finding Chase on the boat. An additional small detail is the watch that Oliver had with him recording the time before the boat would be close to the island, which he dropped upon putting on the hood. The same watch, along with Konstantin’s remains, were seen early-on during the episode in the present day.
This years flashbacks have had something that the past two years haven’t had; relevance. Relevance to the plot of Oliver’s ‘five years in hell’. And unlike the previous seasons, the flashbacks have barely tied in with the present day story. The flashbacks had ended on a perfect note with Oliver being rescued, but the show proved it still had one final trick up its sleeve. Whilst Oliver was on the boat, he phoned home to the Queen mansion, where Moira Queen picks up the phone. In a surprise emotional exchange between the two, Arrow proves that while the flashbacks have been dragged out, they were worth it in the end.

Before discussing the endgame, there is one plot-hole that needs to be addressed. When the team were discussing piloting the plane, Slade never once spoke up and offered to pilot it. The reason he was stranded on Lian Yu in the first place is because he was a pilot for the A.S.I.S. Also, he seemed to be the only one willing to wait on the island for Oliver and William. This could be due to the fact that Oliver’s son was involved, which was the contributing factor that persuaded Slade to join the fight in the first place. And while the rest of the team did agree, it seems interesting that the villain was the only one vocal about it. Even Felicity hadn’t mentioned it.

Arrow -- "Lian Yu" -- Image AR523b_0041b.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Katrina Law as Nyssa al Ghul, David Ramsey as John Diggle/Spartan, Deathstroke, and Juliana Harkavy as Tina Boland/Dinah Drake -- Photo: Dean Buscher /The CW -- © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Arrow — “Lian Yu” — Image AR523b_0041b.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Katrina Law as Nyssa al Ghul, David Ramsey as John Diggle/Spartan, Deathstroke, and Juliana Harkavy as Tina Boland/Dinah Drake — Photo: Dean Buscher /The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

In an over-complex plan that must’ve taken Adrian months to execute, he had somehow wired the entire island of Lian Yu with explosive devices, fixing his heartbeat as the trigger. As soon as Adrian dies, the island was set to explode. After the second season where Anthony Ivo forced Oliver to choose between Shado and Sara, and where Slade forced Oliver to choose between Moira and Thea, nobody thought Oliver would ever be tasked with a decision like that again. But Chase subjected Oliver to a much worse ultimatum; he could either save William by killing him, or saving his friends by putting down his bow. As Adrian’s main point was that ‘everyone close to Oliver dies’, the ultimatum wrapped up a perfectly executed arc. However, Oliver was able to shoot Chase in the foot, forcing the villain to let go of the boy long enough for Oliver to rescue. It appeared as though Oliver had finally beaten Chase. But then, Chase did the one thing that Oliver (stupidly) didn’t see coming; he shot himself in the head, detonating the explosives on the island. Which seemingly killed the entire cast that was on the island; both Team Arrow and Chase’s team. And that A.R.G.U.S guard that Oliver knocked out at the beginning of the episode. Cue the cliff-hanger.

While it is fairly obvious that the explosions did not kill off the entire cast, the anticipation for the next season will be incredibly high, as the show is letting that explosion last more than four months! Perhaps they found their way to the A.R.G.U.S boat that was on the other side of the island, or perhaps Slade took them to the ‘Amazo’ submarine. But the most likely alternative is the A.R.G.U.S prison cell that Slade has lived in for the past three years, as it is practically a bomb shelter.

Arrow hasn’t always been the best of shows. Similar to the low that The Flash is going through right now, it has had its fair share of disappointing episodes. But for the most part, this season has been exceptional, returning Arrow to the grounded roots of the first two seasons, and finally showcasing the evolution of Oliver to the Green Arrow. It only took five years, and a villain like Adrian Chase to be born out of the rage of his father’s death at the hands of ‘the Hood’, but Arrow is finally on the way of becoming the comic-book show it needs to be.

Arrow -- "Lian Yu" -- Image AR523b_0504b.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Josh Segarra as Adrian Chase and Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen/The Green Arrow -- Photo: Dean Buscher /The CW -- © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Arrow — “Lian Yu” — Image AR523b_0504b.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Josh Segarra as Adrian Chase and Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen/The Green Arrow — Photo: Dean Buscher /The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

While the episode was full of character development from the majority of the cast, the evolution of Oliver Queen becoming the Green Arrow in something other than name is what the fans have been waiting for since the pilot episode. We’ve seen Oliver as a vigilante, as an outlaw, and as a hero. But, aside from the second season, Oliver has never been able to shake his habit of killing criminals throughout the shows course. Finally completing his evolution from hero to superhero, it took a villain like Adrian Chase to show him that his killer-instinct and actions had consequences. In choosing to allow Chase to live, the audience is able to finally see Oliver for who he is. He isn’t the man that came home from the island, he is the Green Arrow, a superhero. And while Chase ended up taking his own life to complete his plan, the fact that Oliver held his moral high ground and refrained from killing him shows off the hero that he had become. The flashbacks helped with this, showcasing the man he was when he came home to Starling City in the pilot, to the man that returned to Lian Yu in the finale.

For the first time, I rate this episode 10/10.

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