The Arrow season 5 finale, “Lian Yu,” has a lot to live up to given this past year. Arrow has completely recovered from the inconsistent slump it was in for the past two season and a lot of the show’s build up has been riding one final confrontation with Adrian Chase. The confrontation finally arrives in “Lian Yu” and Arrow delivers not only one heck of a climax to this season but perhaps one of its best episodes ever. It maybe the best in the entire CW superhero universe.
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Keep Your Friends Close and Your (Old) Enemies Closer
There is a metric ton of reveals, returns and twists to cover here, so it is best to get right into it. Picking up right where “Missing” left off, Oliver continues his recruitment of Slade Wilson. It turns out that this is not nearly as stupid as it might have seemed. Slade has finally got the mirakuru out of his system, so he is much more like the old sane Slade who is more than willing to make amends.
The benefit of having Slade back, especially this old Slade, cannot be praised enough. Even though Deathstroke is annoyingly helmeted for a large chunk of the finale, giving the impression that Stephen Amell is really acting off against a body double and not Manu Bennett, all the old dynamic is back between the two. (Even in the helmeted scenes Bennett is speaking.) Slade is the perfect person for Oliver to work with for the finale as once again Oliver is brooding over the consequences of his actions whilst chasing Prometheus. Slade tells Oliver that it is time that he stops living with his past sins. This is fantastic. Not only because it is coming from one of Oliver’s old villains but that it is from Slade who was so driven by the past. Slade has been missed but if he was a semi-regular character on Arrow since season 2, the show probably couldn’t have pulled off his new sage persona quite as well as they do here.
Of course, Slade is just one slice of the giant guest star pie in “Lian Yu.” The island’s other ARGUS facility prisoner, Captain Boomerang, makes an appearance too, but he is on Chase’s side. Boomerang is not really good for anyone except for someone like me who watched Starz’ Spartacus series. It is fun to see Kartina Law, Manu Bennet and Nick Tarabay, who were all on Spartacus, interact again as their Arrow characters. Also returning (besides everyone who came back in “Missing,”) is Samantha aka William’s mother, which is a nice twist. While Samantha isn’t exactly a fan favorite, it does bring home the real conflict of “Lian Yu” which is Oliver’s mission to save his son from Chase.
The Love of a Father
With the help of Slade and the rest, Oliver frees half of Chase’s captives which includes Thea, Felicity, Samantha and Curtis. Oliver sends them off with Malcolm and tells them to go to the plane that Chase used to arrive on the island. Thankfully, this isn’t just shunting them off for the rest of the episode. Though this quintet doesn’t get much in on the action, there are some great scenes of them talking, especially a surprising one between Felicity and Samantha talking about their past with Oliver. It’s a nice reminder that Samantha could have been an interesting character if she was ever more than just a plot device.
The first big moment of the episode arrives when Thea accidentally steps on a landmine. (This in itself is a nice callback since a shocking amount of characters have stepped on landmines on Lian Yu.) Unlike all those other times though, this landmine can’t be easily disarmed. In order to save her life, Malcolm takes his daughter’s place and urges everyone to run. As the rest of the group scatters, Malcolm is confronted by Boomerang and all we see from the distance is an explosion going off. I’ve watched far too much Arrow to think Malcolm has died, but if he did bite it, it is the perfect end to his character as he has finally done something selfless for his daughter. (This is exactly why he is probably not dead. Malcolm is never selfless.)
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From Malcolm’s “death,” the finale goes into action overdrive. Oliver sneaks into where Chase is holding the rest of his team determined to find William. Slade and Nyssa help all the prisoners escape but William is nowhere to be found. Chase, Black Siren and Talia confront the prison breakers and a breathtaking fight scene takes place with almost everyone getting a stellar choreographed moment. It’s hard to call people beating the crap out of each “gorgeous,” but Arrow makes it work. We effortlessly move from Nyssa fighting her sister Talia to Black Siren and Black Canary facing off and of course another excellent Chase and Oliver brawl.
While the fight choreography remains at the same high level it has been all season long, the Chase and Oliver showdown is more about emotion. Oliver still wants his son and Chase is still harping (in his lovely deranged way) about how much he wants Oliver to kill him. Oliver eventually has Chase in his arms. It would be all too easy to snap his neck but Oliver, once again, refuses to kill Adrian. Oliver tells Chase that he was a killer once but that is no longer “him.” Oliver is moving forward with his life and beyond his father’s legacy. This is a beautiful demonstration of how far the character has come and a superb acting job by Arnell. It’s a wonderful catharsis for season 5, but this moment of Oliver growing beyond his father’s legacy has been in the making since the pilot. Speaking of which…
There honestly isn’t much in the way of flashback material, which is a welcome development as Arrow has finally recognized that story is petering out. We do get some nice juxtaposition of Oliver snapping Kovar’s neck while he refuses to snap Chase’s, but that is about all the flashback is worth. Well, there’s that moment and a surprise cameo by Moira Queen. As Oliver is rescued from the island going back to the first scene the pilot, he calls Moira on the rescue boat. It’s nothing more than fan service (albeit emotional fan service) to see Moira again, but the imagery of a parent reconnecting with their child is very important in present day.
“See You on the Boat”
Oliver might not kill Chase, but things aren’t over. Using some super effective (basically magical) smoke, Chase escapes to enact his final plan. It is discovered that Chase has rigged the entirety of Lian Yu with explosives that are on a dead man’s switch involving Chase. If Chase dies, everyone blows up. It’s some ridiculous forethought but Prometheus has been about nothing but ridiculous forethought. Oliver tells the rest of the gang to get back to the plane with the others. Oliver meanwhile runs after Chase and Arrow delivers on Chase’s cryptic warning of Oliver meeting him on a boat from “Missing.”
Chase is speeding away from the island on boat, but Oliver catches up to him. Chase then takes William from inside the boat and holds Oliver’s son by the neck. Chase offers Oliver a choice. Oliver can either kill Chase and William will survive or he can let William die and everyone on the island will live. Even though William has been the most useless of characters, all actors sell the heartbreaking nature of the choice and its tension.
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Of course, Oliver tries for a third way shooting Chase in the foot. William is released, but it is meaningless. Chase is always prepared. As Oliver comforts his son, Chase pulls out a gun and points it his head. We don’t see him shoot his brains out, but the gun goes off. Oliver and William watch horrified as the island blows up behind them. Though the entire cast is likely not dead, it is an amazing cliffhanger to end the season on and that’s no small feat. Every other CW superhero has ended on similar shocking ends, but Arrow is the only one where this big moment has felt entirely earned.
“Lian Yu” is not an episode of high TV drama. As mentioned, there is plenty of standard superhero silliness and spectacle. “Lian Yu” is still a pulse pounding and cathartic episode of Arrow though even if it is doesn’t end on the highest of notes. The acting was a raised to a whole new level, mostly courtesy of Stephen Amell. The action was the best it has ever been and however Arrow resolves the big cliffhanger, it should promise a very different and hopefully equally as excellent show in season 6.
But what did you think of this amazingly action packed finale? Who, if anyone, do you think is dead? How do you think the rest of Team Arrow will survive? What was your favorite moment? Who was the best returning character? Are you surprised by how much Chase was prepared for in the finale?
Arrow will return for season 6 in Fall 2017 on Thursdays 9/8c on The CW. Want more news? Like our Arrow Facebook page!
(Image courtesy of The CW)