Arrow – Season 6 Episode 23

May 18, 2018 | Posted by in TV

“Life Sentence”

Arrow closes out its sixth season with an F.B.I. team-up, a last stand for Ricardo Diaz, a possible status quo change and oh so many handshakes.

The previous episode ended with a cliffhanger in the form of Oliver making a deal with Samanda Watson to have the F.B.I. step in to help him bring down Ricardo Diaz. Samanda’s first condition was for Oliver to admit out loud that he is the Green Arrow and the second condition was left a mystery until this outing. The audience aren’t actually told what the deal is until towards the end of the episode though it isn’t all that difficult to figure out.


Handing over the mantle…again

As Felicity points out, Oliver spends a good chunk of his down time going around some of the team to tell them how much he values and respects them. It’s a nice sentiment especially when you consider that Oliver hasn’t always been so forthcoming with his feelings so the sentimental streak he adopts here is noteworthy by itself. The conversations are nicely handled with strong performances all around. Amell plays Oliver with a great deal of humility through each interaction as he accepts responsibility for the part he played in fracturing these important relationships in his life. It is seem as a fresh start for those he talks, or at least a removal of the baggage and the moments are allowed to have the weight they need.

Strangely Oliver’s farewell tour only amounts to talking to Diggle, Rene and Dinah which leaves both Curtis and Felicity out. This is especially strange with Felicity being his wife yet not getting the opportunity to have a conversation with him about his agreement until pretty much the last second. Oliver and Felicity heart to hears are all too common on this show so taking some time explore Oliver’s relationship with other characters is a good idea but with such monumental changes to both of their lives coming up soon it certainly makes sense for them to have a conversation about it. The problem is compounded by the fact that Oliver ends each of these conversations with a handshake that acts as a cue for Felicity to walk in. It becomes unintentionally hilarious very quickly. Not only that, William is the last to have that conversation with Oliver as well which rubs me up the wrong way considering how rocky their relationship has been at times.

Despite that omission the moments he shares with the other characters are rich and emotive. His conversation with Diggle takes full advantage of their long friendship as well as the changes their relationship. The first real indication that Oliver is saying goodbye comes when he tells Diggle that the city has room for a second Green Arrow and unveils the spare costume he had made. Diggle has resolved his feelings about wanting to take on that mantle and reminds Oliver that the disagreement had nothing to do with that. He also points out that duplicating a symbol lessens the power that it has so he’s happy letting Oliver keep what he built. Oliver thanking Diggle for everything pretty much confirmed that this was their final mission together to me and knowing that made the moment all the more powerful.


All those resources

The conversation with Rene is about how Oliver underestimated him when they first met as did a good chunk of the audience I suspect. Rene was a character I assumed was a one note addition who deserved little more than supporting status but more time spent getting to know him has changed my opinion on that. The same applies to Oliver here who has come to respect Rene and genuinely believes that the city deserves someone like him. Rene is visibly moved by this and admits that it means a lot to him so it definitely appears that the rift is well and truly healed between them.

Dinah is someone Oliver respects because of her ability to rise above her personal feelings in service of the mission. He acknowledges the difficulties that she faces holding herself back from seeking vengeance and thanks her for doing that. Dinah admits that she respects him a great deal because of everything he’s accomplished. Oliver formed a team of heroes, turned them into an effective fighting force and let her be a part of that. It’s an impressive feat no matter how you look at it and Dinah has clearly learned a lot about relying on others through her time on Team Arrow. She has gone from vengeful vigilante to a hero who fought on two separate teams of heroes in service of a cause much larger than herself.

The other condition attached to Samanda bringing the resources of the F.B.I. to Star City is that Oliver turns himself in and serves a life sentence in a Supermax prison. In exchange for this everyone he knows is granted immunity from prosecution and get to have a blind eye turned to their vigilante activities. On the surface it’s a pretty good deal for everyone not named Oliver Queen. This is something that Oliver sees as a penance for his behaviour and the decisions he has made that lead everyone to this point. His conversation with Quentin highlights that when he points out that his way of doing things wasn’t working any more as he lost his city and his team in the space of a few short months. He blames himself for letting Diaz corrupt Star City so completely and feels that he has to pay for that. Whether that’s true or not is up for debate but Stephen Amell certainly sells Oliver’s belief in that through one of his best performances as the character.


Oliver shows Rene the respect he deserves

Oliver’s scene with Quentin is particularly effective because it’s the most emotionally visceral goodbye that the episode brings. They both tell the other how good a father they are. Oliver tells Quentin that he’s the example that he looks to when considering how to raise his son. It is pointed out in this episode how long they’ve known each other and the history is felt in this interaction. The most interesting thing about the Oliver/Quentin dynamic is how much it has changed over the years as well as the glimpses we have into how they interacted before the timeline of the show even began. It’s rich, complex and wonderfully realised which makes the scene they share make for excellent viewing. Oliver being moved to tears is practically unheard of but he breaks down here because this is a man he can truly crumble in front of.

Oliver’s arrest comes at the same time the team learn of Quentin’s death which makes for a really chaotic sequence of events that is handled really well. Having the cast react to two different yet equally devastating problems is really impressive. It could so easily have cheapened Quentin’s death but it’s a very deliberate scene allowing the two reveals to sink in naturally before those involved can start to grieve appropriately.

Sara makes a cameo appearance in this episode because it doesn’t make sense for her not to be there for her father’s death. She missed Laurel’s but Evil Laurel does the right thing by making sure she’s notified and can be there. Unfortunately she doesn’t get to share a scene with Quentin to properly say goodbye but Caity Lotz is magnetic in her short appearance. The short and awkward interaction with Evil Laurel is nicely handled and doesn’t overpower everything else that’s going on. Sara’s extended time on this show means that her return doesn’t really create much friction because she is familiar to many of the characters.


Oliver and Quentin share a moment

I’ve always liked Quentin and I’m really sorry to see him go. His death may not have been necessary but it was handled really well. It had the emotional impact that it deserved and Quentin got to meet his end heroically by saving Evil Laurel while sharing scenes with Oliver that are instant classics as far as I’m concerned. His absence will be felt by me in season 7 and the characters should absolutely feel that too.

His sacrificial act was to protect Evil Laurel which says a lot about his character. I’ve talked at length about how problematic this arc was mostly because of how Evil Laurel was written. At this stage we just have to accept that she’s on the road to redemption even though I definitely don’t buy that but if anything is to inspire her to become a better person then it should be the death of a man who became her father whether she wanted him to or not. Quentin gave his life for her so she definitely shouldn’t waste that second chance.

Oliver’s arrest comes with a speech delivered to the people of Star City. He admits to being the Green Arrow and clears the name of every single person who has taken the blame for his actions over the years. Roy and Tommy are both mentioned therefore clearing Roy to return to the show next season and Tommy’s good name is cleared after being dragged through the mud to protect Oliver during his trial. A lot of Oliver’s exploits as a vigilante have been framed around the avoidance of accepting responsibility for his actions. Oliver Queen can live his life because the Green Arrow is anonymous and implicated for all of the crimes committed in service of protecting the city. Stephen Amell delivers this speech confidently showing that Oliver doesn’t regret his actions but wants to set the record straight on behalf of those who have sacrificed for him. He encourages the city to carry on his crusade and save itself. They are noble final words that definitely resonate.

Prior to this speech we get that intimate moment with Felicity where he is able to explain the reasons behind his decision. Oliver genuinely saw this as the only option that kept everyone safe because he couldn’t see a solution that allowed him to stop Diaz as well as keep Felicity and William safe. He sorrowfully says that not everything went their way so his sacrifice was necessary as far as he was concerned. This way William is safe and has one parent who will take care of him while Oliver gets locked away to ensure that the authorities can’t come near Felicity or the rest of his team for their vigilante actions. It does make sense as justifications go because the situation was worsening to the point where it looked likely that people would die as a result. Sadly we don’t see the scene between him and William which qualifies as a misstep.

Diaz doesn’t have the threat value that he had in recent episodes though this is entirely by design. With the resources of the F.B.I. backing them up Team Arrow are pretty much unstoppable and cut off a sizeable chunk of his resources in the opening minutes of the episode. All Diaz has going for him after that point is that nobody knows where he is which is soon rectified thanks to a traceable pacemaker.


Don’t waste this second chance

The characterisation of Diaz changes in this episode. Kirk Acevedo plays him with a manic desperation that somehow makes him appear more dangerous than ever. The unhinged quality to the performance works really well because it makes Diaz more unpredictable than usual as he waits for Team Arrow to hunt him down. Interestingly it’s a role reversal from the previous episode where Diaz was using superior numbers and connections to go after Oliver and those closest to him.

Arguably this reduces the threat level significantly and that definitely does happen but the episode makes up for that in the emotional stakes that form the core of the episode. The villain story is treated as a loose end to be tied up which I found to be appropriate considering Diaz was one to largely hide behind the influence he had managed to cultivate. Take that away and there’s isn’t an awful lot to him. His one on one fight with Oliver proves that as he’s no match for someone with as much training and experience as Oliver has.

Having him slip through Oliver’s fingers through dumb luck and a vengeful Evil Laurel also feels appropriate. Even though Oliver goes to prison Diaz still represents a danger to those he cares about though Samanda promises to keep the F.B.I. in Star City until Diaz is dealt with so there’s a sense that his people are protected from the inevitable wrath of Diaz. This is the right call because it would have gotten tedious to keep the threat of prison hanging over Oliver until such times as Diaz is either captured or killed.


The only way


A satisfying finale that focuses on emotional stakes while reducing Diaz to a loose end that needs to be dealt with. This changes things up and reverses the roles from the previous episode. Lowering the urgency of the Diaz plot allows for focus on the emotional stakes as Oliver says goodbye to the team one by one while telling him how much he respects them. Weirdly Felicity and William are kept in the dark until the last second and are spared the conversations until the end but the moments themselves are really effective. Quentin’s death is really powerfully handled as well and the final scene he shares with Oliver is a really moving summation of their long relationship. Sara’s cameo appearance as the point of Quentin’s death makes a great deal of sense though it would have been better had she been given the chance to actually say goodbye to him.

Oliver’s arrest comes with a speech encouraging the city to rise up and continue the fight that he started while also clearing the name of anyone who put themselves on the line to protect Oliver. It’s an acceptance of responsibility and performed confidently by Amell. The prior scene with Felicity where he explains the reasons for his decision is well handled and feels like ample justification for why Oliver would turn himself in. It’s a sacrificial act that protects those he cares about while allowing the mission to continue without him.

  • 8.5/10
    Life Sentence - 8.5/10


Kneel Before…

  • Stephen Amell’s excellent and varied performance throughout
  • visceral emotional stakes to compensate for the lack of urgency associated with the villain
  • excellent scenes between Oliver and other characters
  • the shift in Diaz’s characterisation
  • Quentin’s death making for a devastating moment for all concerned
  • Oliver taking responsibility for everything he’s done and clearing the names of those who protected him
  • Team Arrow with the F.B.I. resources backing them up
  • Sara Lance’s brief cameo

Rise Against…

  • keeping Felicity and William in the dark until the last second
  • not seeing Oliver and William’s conversation
User Review
9.5/10 (6 votes)

What’s Next?

Season 6 ended with a paradigm shift that has to change the show in fundamental ways. Oliver Queen’s confessing to the public that he is the Green Arrow isn’t something that can simply be reversed especially when they’ve pulled the trick of someone else covering for him on several occasions. This is something that has to be dealt with and change how storytelling is approached now that his identity isn’t a secret.

Of course there is the prison problem and I really hope the writers commit to leaving him locked up for a significant amount of time because there’s far too much potential to not explore that. What happens to a known superhero when he’s in prison with some of the criminals he put away? It has been done a lot in the comics with various characters and should definitely be explored here. One option is to have the next season pick up with him somehow getting out of prison and rejoining the team then using flashbacks to tell the story of the time that was spent in prison. This would apply to the rest of the team as I would really like to see everyone working together with Diggle in charge when Oliver isn’t around. I realise this was done in season 3 for a while but a lot has changed since then and there’s a lot of rich characterisation to play with. Another option is to have Oliver absent at least until the recently announced crossover to give room to tell that story. It’s also possible that the F.B.I. will decide that Oliver Queen is too good a resource to them to leave behind bars and will recruit him to work for them.

One thing I would never have predicted is that Diaz would survive to menace Team Arrow for another season and it’ll be interesting to see what is done with him now that most of his resources are gone. He teases the future appearance of the Longbow Hunters who don’t appear in this episode so that’s something to pick up next season. Evil Laurel is still around and has a character arc to follow around being actually inspired by Quentin’s sacrifice to redeem herself. Season 6 ended on strong footing and there’s a real opportunity to let Arrow evolve into something new entirely.


No turning back

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