The presence of The Monitor has introduced a whole lot of wild sci-fi this season, and this week we get Arrow’s take on a Groundhog Day-style time loop — complete with the touching return of Quentin Lance.
Spoilers ahead for “Reset,” the latest episode of The CW’s Arrow, which aired Tuesday, November 26, 2019.
After getting tranqued by Lyla last week, Oliver wakes up in a world very different than the one he left behind. While it seems like yet another alternate Earth, things get twisty when a now-alive Quentin Lance is killed — and the whole day resets. Oliver quickly comes to realize Laurel is also trapped in the loop, and the trigger is the death of Quentin. Of course, in the regular timeline Quentin died at the hand of Ricardo Diaz, so this reset trigger is all the more emotionally charged and complicated.
We get a whole lot of good action, as Oliver believes the only way out of this time loop is through, as he tries and tries and tries to solve the mystery behind Lance’s repeated assassination and who is making it happen. He enlists Laurel on the quest, too, and they peel away plenty of layers from the mystery to no avail. But, as Laurel holds a dying Quentin and finally gets a chance to say goodbye and gain some closure, she realizes she wasn’t in this loop to save Quentin — it was all simply a chance to finally say goodbye to him, and show him she really did turn her life around and become a hero.
The lesson for Oliver is a bit more complicated. Even after Laurel leaves the time loop, and after being told repeatedly by a complicit Lyla that he’s missing the point of this exercise, Oliver keeps plugging away trying to find ways to save Quentin from his apparent destiny to die. While he believes it’s a test, he finally comes to the realization it’s simply a lesson: You can’t save everyone, and some things are simply fated to happen. No matter what you do. It finally clicks for Oliver as he faces down a seemingly endless, video-game respawn of mercenaries trying to take out Lance. Oliver can’t change Quentin’s fate, and with Crisis looming, he can’t change his own.
Using a final, farewell tour from Paul Blackthorne’s Quentin Lance to sell this story is yet another home run move for the show’s last season. He was a father to much of these characters for years, and giving him one final chance to impart a few more life lessons really puts a bow on his story, and the series as a whole (though, of course, it’s obviously not over just yet). Quentin’s death hurt. A lot. But, as he tells Laurel himself, there’s no other way he’d have preferred to go out. He gave his life to save Laurel, and if he had a chance to do it over 100 times, he wouldn’t change a thing.
We still don’t exactly know what Lyla is hoping to get from working with The Monitor. She keeps saying she’s trying to save her family. Is it simply to protect them? Or has the Monitor maybe promised something like restoring her pre-Flashpoint child who was rewritten when Barry mucked with the timeline a few years ago? Now wouldn’t that be a twist?
Lyla also offers a cryptic hint for why Oliver and Diggle’s future/adult children were transported to the present day. She tells Oliver “time is a gift.” Is this some kind of reward from The Monitor, to get to know his adult children since he won’t live to meet them in the regular timeline? Or will they play some unknown, key role during Crisis? Still a lot of questions there.
The final pre-Crisis mission has arrived: Oliver, Laurel and the future team are transported to Lian Yu, though we don’t exactly know why. But, could there be a more fitting place to bring the series back to in its final season? The tease for next week showed a whole lot of fighting, and teases “there are no more stories about the Green Arrow to tell.”
So, let’s at least enjoy these last few while we have them.