Spoilers ahead for "Lian Yu," the season finale of The CW's Arrow!
The short version: Oliver gets his face-off with Chase. Oliver wins! But Chase blows up the island and there's a big ol' cliffhanger over whether everyone Oliver knows is dead. Considering there's another season of this show on the way, I kind of doubt it.
The good: Slade, the action, the parent/son allegories, bringing things full circle
As expected, this episode brought the flashback saga full circle, wrapping up its journey with a perfect dovetail into the Oliver we met in the pilot episode five years ago. But it also did an excellent job of getting to the heart of how Oliver has changed and grown since then. In the final flashback scene, we see Oliver call his mother and speak with her for the first time in five years, almost breaking down on the phone. It's a story of a parent's love, as Oliver learns what that means while holding his son and watching all of Lian Yu go up in flames.Oliver has gone from son to father, and by working with Slade and facing his own daddy issues through Chase's crusade, Oliver has come through to the other side a better man. And likely a better father.
We also get the juxtaposition of Oliver killing Kovar in the flashback story, but making a different decision in the present day. He might've relapsed some the past few years, but Oliver Queen is not a killer. At least, not anymore. Even when faced with an impossible choice, Oliver finds a way to avoid taking a life. That's something that, even last season, he didn't do. Lean Yu quite literally represented Oliver's purgatory, and as the island exploded, he finally escaped it.
It's no secret that Manu Bennett wasn't pumped about his weak sauce last appearance on Arrow, which basically turned him into a one-off villain who is dispatched far too easily by Oliver and Thea. So Slade Wilson got another shot at glory in this one, and it was certainly glorious. The super soldier drug that had driven Slade mad has finally filtered out of his system, and he's back to the not-crazy version we met and really liked in the flashback days. So, when Oliver needs back up to take on Chase and Talia's forces, he recruits Slade — who kicks all kinds of ninja butt while rocking his old Deathstroke gear. We get a nice fake-out that works just enough to make you wonder if Slade has turned bad, but nope, he's coming through until the end for his old pal Oliver. Here's hoping we see more of Slade in the future, but if not, he finally got the sendoff he deserved.
Speaking of Slade, the overall action in this one was well-paced and creative. Which isn't much of a surprise, because this show usually blows it out in the season finale. We got a straight-up sword fight between the al Ghul sisters, Slade's brawling, a Canary Cry stalemate and some great fisticuffs between Oliver and Chase.
The bad: Merlyn's farewell, and that cliffhanger. C'mon, man.
Up until the final minute or so, this was one heck of a great season finale. Then, they decided to leave things on a big, explode-y cliffhanger. Like, the most explode-y cliffhanger in history, arguably. Look, it's not that I don't like a good cliffhanger. I really do. But this one just felt cheap. It felt like a midseason finale, or a penultimate episode. Not the place where you want to wrap up an entire season. With literally no resolution. The fifth season was a critical point for this series, since the show was essentially launched with a five-year concept thanks to the flashback element. The fifth season should've closed the chapter, and not just in the flashbacks. It felt nothing but cheap, and c'mon, you know they're not going to kill off the entire supporting cast. Unless they're looking to take those Batman parallels a few steps further and turn William into Oliver's Robin? Eh, probably not. It was a gutsy move, and a bold move. But, I'd also argue it was the wrong one.
Merlyn's final scene was also a sweet moment, but it wasn't much of anything we haven't seen before. If there's one area where Malcolm is consistent, it's in the fact that he'll always come through for Thea. I also highly doubt they'd kill him off with an off-screen land mine explosion. C'mon. The dude's nickname is the Magician. You don't think he can find a way outta that one?
Lines of the night:
"Oh I did. For so many reasons." - Quentin
"That's who I was before. It's not who I am now." - Oliver
Hmm, is everyone dead? I highly doubt it. Either they miraculously made it to the boat to escape, or Slade knew of some super-sneaky hiding place that could somehow protect them from a few hundred bombs designed to sink the island into the ocean.
What does this mean for Oliver and his kid? He pushed the kid away to protect him, and that was obviously an epic fail. After making Oliver's fatherhood such a critical plot point this season, he should probably, you know, actually be a father now, right?
Oliver and Felicity kissed! Olicity fans must be happy right now. Assuming she's not dead, of course.
Can they find a way to get Manu Bennett on Team Arrow permanently. Please?
Up next: A long, hot summer where we can ponder ways for Team Arrow to escape that explosion. Who knows, maybe they jumped under a dumpster?