The only thing standing between the destruction of Starling City and an army of super soldiers is Team Arrow. Can they save the city?
Let’s bitch it out…
If we’re being honest the answer was never “will they save the city?” (I mean, they kinda have to, right?) but rather “at what cost will they save the city?” The answer – thankfully – is not as much as we might have thought as Team Arrow rallies to bring down Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) in a very strong, very satisfying season finale. As the culmination of a majority of Arrow‘s themes and storylines in one 42 minute block, ‘Unthinkable’ is basically a rock solid episode. Memo to Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: this is how you do a season finale.
S2 has been about Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) recovering his mojo in the wake of the Undertaking at the end of last season. The first episode back found Oliver hiding out on Purgatory Island, haunted by Tommy’s death and unable to reconcile his desire to be a hero with Tommy’s accusation that he was a killer. That single idea – what defines a hero – has driven S2, from the voice-over monologue used to introduce every episode all the way through Oliver’s battles with Sara (Caity Lotz) about killing. Oliver’s vow to honour the memory of his friend became significantly more difficult to uphold, however, once Slade killed Moira in 2×20 ‘Seeing Red’ and Oliver’s resolve has been tested ever since. How do you fight someone who is willing to do anything to hurt you without the ability to put them down for good?
Dramatically this is meaty stuff, and the three part finale that began with 2×21 ‘City of Blood’ has really brought it to fruition as Team Arrow suffered loss after loss. The run-up to the finale proper has been a bloody, brooding affair that’s worthy of DC comics’ obsession with the gods of men being forced to make agonizing life and death decisions. As the show’s core, Stephen Amell has really raised his game, crafting new emotional depths to convey Oliver’s rage, despair and impotence. Unlike a lot of other “hot” male actors in action roles, Amell has the dramatic chops to anchor the series and ground it in realism, even as people suit up in leather and fire arrows with 100% accuracy, 100% of the time.
Of course the finale doesn’t belong solely to Oliver. It marks a number of other satisfying dramatic moments for virtually every character: Detective Lance (Paul Blackthorne) gets a chance to rally the troops and Sara makes peace with Nyssa (Katrina Law) – last seen in 2×13 ‘Heir To The Demon’ – before returning with her to the League of Assassins. Roy (Colton Haynes) wakes up cured, but can’t abandon his calling and learns the price that heroes pay when Thea (Willa Holland) leaves him for destinations unknown with Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman). Hell, even Diggle (David Ramsey) finally gets his own development when Amanda Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) spills the beans that his ex, Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson) is pregnant with their child. And Laurel (Katie Cassidy)…well she gets kidnapped and inherits her sister’s leather jacket. I guess some things never change <sigh>.
Then there’s Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards). For the majority of Arrow‘s time on the air, Felicity has been the catch-all character: she’s the plucky comic relief; the voice of Oliver’s conscience; and, occasionally, the object of his affection. In ‘Unthinkable’ she’s all of the above, as well as the true hero of the hour – the only character who can get close enough to Slade to jab him with the mirakuru cure. It’s a genuinely amazing moment for the character, who has been engaged in her own season long battle about fitting in on a team full of action-hero types. Her role in Slade’s undoing is a great example of defying expectations; because of previous episodes (notably 2×14 ‘Time Of Death’) Felicity’s capture initially feels like just another case of a damsel-in-distress in need of rescue. Instead it’s revealed to be part the integral component of Oliver’s plan to bring Slade down, initiated by Felicity’s challenge to Oliver to go against Slade’s expectations and an opportunity to use the knowledge that Slade bugged the Queen household back in 2×15 ‘The Promise’.
I’ll be interested to hear from fans whether the twist was emotionally manipulative since it plays on our hopes (or fears depending on your shipping preference) for an Olicity romance. Once again Arrow dances right up to the line of bringing these characters together romantically only to stop short (here Oliver cruelly remarks that his confession of love to Felicity before the big battle was an act to fool Slade and she once again agrees with him). I don’t spend my free time writing fan fiction featuring these two, but I’ll confess that each time their faces come within a certain proximity of each other, I can’t help but want them to Get. It. On.
Oh Arrow, you are cruel.
After locking Slade away in an ARGUS prison below the surface on Purgatory Island, season 2 ends with a series of mini-cliffhangers, including the aforementioned Diggle baby, Sara and Thea’s departures and Lance’s medical emergency on the docks. It’s interesting that Oliver’s – and the show’s since the episode ends on it – cliffhanger is the revelation that he did not spend the entirety of his five year absence on the Island. Following the battle with Slade in the hull of the ship (and Sara’s and Slade’s supposed deaths), Oliver awakens to find himself in Hong Kong, courtesy of Waller. It’s a strange ending that effectively closes off Sara and Slade’s stories for the time being and introduces Waller as the big new mystery on the series. Is she a villain? (Her proclivity for using drones to handle problems – as we saw in 2×16 ‘Suicide Squad’ – suggests she’s at least morally compromised) Is she just a government lackey? Was Oliver a secret agent? It’s not the most WTF ending, but it certainly leaves S3 wide open for new stories. After criticizing the Island flashbacks for the better part of the season, I’m certainly excited for that!
- Nyssa has no problem breaking Oliver’s “no killing” policy, breaking Isabel Rochev’s (Summer Glau) neck about two seconds after they apprehend her. Throughout S2 there were a number of elements that didn’t work for me, but the way Glau was used bordered on mistreatment. The genre fave deserves far better.
- The importance of key elements from the middle stretch of the season in ‘Unthinkable’ proves how well the writers built up to the finale. Although it doesn’t validate some of those episodes, at least it reduces my annoyance with them, particularly ‘Suicide Squad’, which initially felt awkwardly inserted and unnecessary, and ‘The Promise’, which went to great lengths to establish Slade as Oliver’s arch-nemesis over the stupidest vendetta ever. At least Oliver finally calls Slade on his BS, suggesting that Shado (Celina Jade) is nothing like Slade’s hallucination and that she would be ashamed of the things Slade has done in her name.
- Is it bad that I actually cheered aloud at the end of Thea’s letter where she suggests that she will never come back to Starling? There’s a promise I sincerely hope the writers keep (we all know they won’t, but we can dream, right?). Good riddance, bitch!
- Finally, for any DC comic fans out there: is there any significance in the name of Sara and Nyssa’s boat, Nordic Pearl? I could look it up, but I’m lazy.
- Felicity (after Nyssa introduces herself): “Felicity Smoak. Class of MIT 09”
- Lance (when Nyssa says she would die before letting harm befall Sara): “Well here’s hoping”
What’s your take on the finale: one of the record books or no? Are you happy that Slade wasn’t killed? Angry about the bait-and-switch between Oliver and Felicity? Disappointed in how Summer Glau was used? Hoping that Thea never returns? And if Lance dies, will Laurel get his jacket, too? Sound off below
Arrow has finished airing its second season on The CW. It will return in the fall for season three.