The final, shortened season of Arrow got off to a shocking start, as Oliver takes a trip into the multiverse to help the Monitor prepare for the looming Crisis. It just arrives a bit sooner than expected.
Spoilers ahead for “Starling City,” the Season 8 premiere of The CW’s Arrow, which aired Tuesday, October 15, 2019.
We’ve heard for months the final run of episodes would feature some nostalgic callbacks to the show’s seven-year run, and Week 1 essentially brought us It’s A Wonderful Life, Arrow Edition. After a bit of a jarring cold open, we soon realize peasant day Oliver is on another world in the multiverse when he actually died in that boat crash and never returned home to Star(ling) City. So, when he does make his “return” to acquire some dwarf star tech for the Monitor (presumably to get ready for the Crisis), it’s been more than a decade since he first vanished. And things have changed a lot.
We get a chance to see a version of the world where Oliver Queen never showed up to become the Green Arrow, and how things changed, both for better and for worse. Oliver’s mother, Tommy and Malcolm Merlyn are alive in this reality, though Thea tragically died of a drug overdose on her 18th birthday. There’s also a twist to the ol’ Dark Archer myth, with Tommy taking up the mantle instead of Malcolm — and he even plans his own Season 1-era “Undertaking” to try and level the Glades for revenge over Thea’s death. Much of the episode echoes memorable beats from the pilot episode in all the best ways. A version of former baddie Adrian Chase even shows up, sporting the hood as this reality’s Green Arrow (and Oliver even gets to throw his old "I'm 10 steps ahead of you" line back at him). It seems without Oliver in this world, Chase uses his skills as a hero, instead of a psycho killer. It’s a testament to how much this show has changed, and yet it all still works when you boil it down to the essentials.
Though Oliver believes his fate is sealed, Diggle tracks him down to make the case that anything can be changed. We’re masters of our own fate, no matter what the Monitor says about Oliver’s destiny. Seeing the ripples in the world of Earth-2 reflected here only drives that point home. There’s rarely a black and white in this world, only decisions we make along the way. Oliver sees that in a world that moved on without him, and the good he does in the brief time he’s there, convincing Tommy not to pull the trigger on his own earthquake machine.
Oliver also gets some much needed closure with his mother, as Moira offers up some motherly advice that a parent would do anything to protect their child — even if it means going away to keep them safe. That scene provided a true emotional tether to Oliver’s mission this season, and it was great to see that character receive a final sendoff.
Also, it seems Batman plays a role in this alt-Earth reality, with plenty of nods and hints to the Dark Knight. While Oliver is on Lian Yu, the classic Deathstroke mask on a post is replaced by a Batman cowl. Chase also mentions some advice Bruce Wayne gave him toward episodes end. Oh, if only we had a bit more time to explore this world.
We knew the Crisis was coming, and Arrow gave us our first look at it in action. Flash viewers got a peek at this world-eating Crisis antimatter when Barry glimpsed the future in that show's latest episode, and we see it live and in action here. Just as Barry and Diggle are preparing to leave, they realize the city is under attack. But not by a gang or new villain — it’s a collapse of reality itself, as Oliver watches these versions of his mother and Tommy disappear into nothingness as the reality collapses around them (oh, if only alt-Tommy were a little faster and could’ve jumped into that breach, too!). Only Oliver, Diggle and Laurel make it through back to Earth-1.
Looking to the future, the Arrow team of 2040 manages to get the wall down between Star City and the Glades, though there’s still plenty of work left to do. The Deathstroke Gang is making a power play, and we learn it’s run by Connor Hawke’s brother. So, taking down the Deathstrokes looks to be the main mission for Team Arrow 2.0 this year. Also, Connor's brother JJ is leader of the gang?!
NEXT WEEK: Now that Oliver and his pals have gotten an up close and personal look at the Crisis, look for his mission with the Monitor to hit high gear.