Arrow – Season 8 Episode 5
Arrow chooses Russia as its next stop on the victory lap final season as the team works to assemble the necessary components for their God killing weapon.
The arrival of Mia, William and Connor into the present day opened up a number of possibilities that can be explored. A final season should be about what the show has accomplished so it makes sense to have characters around who are part of the legacy the show has created since it began. The characters who once occupied a future timeline are the perfect perspective to explore that legacy as they are the people who will deal with the future that Oliver helped create especially when there is a strong possibility that their timeline will no longer come to pass.
Mia and Oliver didn’t quite see eye to eye in the previous episode because Mia feels abandoned by him and struggles with the notion of having him in her life when she thought that would never happen. Take out the time travel and it’s the story of a young woman reunited with her absentee father so that she can learn his side of the story. I mentioned in my previous review that Mia takes after her father in several definitive ways so it takes her a while to become willing to listen. Opening the episode with Oliver training her in ways that are wonderfully nostalgic for fans was a really nice touch. Explaining the meaning of the tennis balls and helping her hone her skills made for a great father/daughter bonding moment. The only thing missing was the salmon ladder but maybe that’s when she graduates to the more advanced course.
This grants Mia the time with her father she never imagined she would have and it’s clear that it has a positive impact on her through her attentiveness to the lessons she is receiving. She remains overconfident but accepts that she needs to practice in order to master what she is being taught so it’s a great showcase for what has been previously established about Mia while offering a small amount of growth for her. It will take her some time to truly accept Oliver but there’s a real sense that she wants him to be proud of her.
It’s also significant for Oliver who never thought he would see his kids again let alone have the opportunity to pass on what he has learned in an effort to give them the skills they need to keep them safe. Oliver has come face to face with his legacy and it’s clear that he doesn’t want to waste a second of it. Unfortunately William’s relationship with Oliver doesn’t receive as much attention but he was more accepting of having Oliver back in his life so it’s reasonable to accept that Mia needs more time with him to help her adjust. It’s a shortcoming in that the episode lacks meaningful scenes between Oliver and William but it also has Oliver demonstrate empathy and recognise where he is needed most.
The trip to Russia was never going to go as smoothly as Oliver expected it would. Diggle tries to point this out to him before they leave as he knows how dark a time it was for Oliver so wants him to be absolutely sure he is ready to subject his kids to that. At that point Oliver thinks he can show William and Mia the positive things that came out of it without bringing in the negative which of course doesn’t happen but his intentions are at least pure. Diggle ultimately accepts that his mind is made up and hopes he’s right even if he believes otherwise. It’s a brief yet strong scene that highlights the friendship between these two characters. Even if Diggle doesn’t agree with what Oliver is doing he still trusts that he will find a way to manage the situation.
It’s always good to see Anatoly especially now that he has been moved into the role of ally rather than the villain he was during the tenure of Ricardo Diaz. It’s amusing how easily Anatoly accepts time travel and the entire multiverse being at stake. It certainly makes the plot move faster and it makes sense that nothing would phase Anatoly based on everything we know about him. Identifying himself as “fun uncle” is very fitting.
As is often the case, Anatoly provides the necessary resources so that Oliver can get his hands on whatever he needs. They also find time to talk about everything they’ve been through and how close that has made them over the years so it’s about as close to the perfect summary of the Oliver/Anatoly relationship that we could get for what probably amounts to his final appearance. Oliver and Anatoly part as brothers in the truest found family sense of the word and that’s perfect for them.
Despite the years of growth and development Oliver still has some important lessons to learn. He may be willing to bring Mia and William along on his trip to Russia but he continues to slip into being an overprotective parent by trying to keep them away from things he doesn’t want them to experience. One such example is the fight club; it’s something Oliver sees as being far too dangerous and beyond what they can handle. His reaction when he finds out that Mia was a member of a fight club is priceless and his stubbornness is reinforced when he refuses to let that fact change his mind. This causes Mia to resent him because she really hates being benched when she knows she’s perfectly capable of handling things herself. Oliver can’t push past still thinking of them as young children when he looks at them which is a notable hangup he needs to find a way to deal with. He eventually talks to them about how raw the heartbreak of having to leave without getting to speak to the younger William and only getting the chance to take one more fleeting look at Mia. Intellectually he can understand the difference but emotionally it’s not something he finds easy to resolve. He struggles to see them as adult defenders of the city because they are still his kids and from his point of view they haven’t had the years it takes to get to that point.
The other side of that is that William and Mia have lived their lives and know what they’re capable of so resent the idea of being set aside by Oliver who doesn’t really know them. They try to make Oliver aware that he doesn’t really have any authority over them even if his intentions are pure. His speech about having his responsibility to protect them as their father at the forefront of his mind is powerfully delivered by Stephen Amell and nicely adds to the complex emotions he’s dealing with since the arrival of his adult children from the future.
There is some really strong work done with Mia independently of Oliver that furthers the dynamic she has with Laurel that began in the previous episode. She is able to open up about her self-doubt and insecurities to Laurel because it turns out that she greatly admires her. She talks about how Laurel is a Hero in every sense of the word in her time and she feels that there’s no way she can live up to that. Mia also thinks that Oliver is perfect in a way that he most definitely isn’t. She still has issues with the fact that he left when she was a baby but she sees that as a noble sacrifice far beyond his responsibilities to her. It’s the kind of selfless sacrifice that Heroes make and Mia feels that there’s no way she could ever measure up to that. She points out to Laurel that she was unable to save Zoe which makes her feel as if she doesn’t come close to measuring up to the example set by others. Every time she is benched during a mission or doesn’t succeed in what she sets out to do it’s a reminder of how she failed to save Zoe and that she could never see herself measuring up to those that came before her.
Part of this thinking is motivated by grief as she has lost a friend and blames herself for that loss. Another part of it is to do with her spending her life idolising people that she never knew to the point that the aren’t Human any more. Nobody can measure up to that and Mia is slowly learning that Oliver Queen is as flawed -if not more so- than everyone else. Mia has to learn that loss and sacrifice come with the territory and that Oliver has a great deal of experience with both of those concepts. It really is a fascinating perspective that is being explored brilliantly.
Another function of that conversation is Laurel learning what she becomes and what potential she really has. Up until this point she had never considered that she would be so highly thought of because she has been clawing her way to redemption for such a long time that it never seemed possible to actually achieve it. To be the legendary Black Canary in the future and have someone else see her as the epitome of the word “Hero” is far beyond anything she could have imagined. Katie Cassidy sells that disbelief perfectly and allows Laurel to meet Mia on her level because they are both similar in that they are crippled by self-doubt. She later has it confirmed by Anatoly that a change in her has been noticed and makes the decision to be honest about what has been offered to her by The Monitor. She trusts that Oliver and Diggle will hear her out and understand the difficult choice she was faced with. This also lets them find out that Lyla is involved which brings them a step closer to understanding what the upcoming Crisis means for them. It’s the perfect marriage of plot and character to move both forward in meaningful ways. Laurel stating to Lyla that there’s no point in bringing her universe back if it means going back to the person she used to be. That personal growth is so important to her that she’s not willing to compromise it.
One thing that feeds through all of the character stories in this episode is that isolation is a bad thing and the key to well adjusted emotional health is relying on others. Oliver has to learn to rely on his adult children to help him with this particular mission. Even though it’s a lesson he has learned many times the context justifies him having to learn it again and the result is that he opens up to his kids about the darker chapters in his life without protest. Mia learns not to bottle up her self doubts because there are people around who can help her deal with them and there’s a lot she can learn from everyone else. William already sort of understood that lesson but he gets a deeper understanding of how important it is. Laurel realises that she is part of a team and has people she can depend on to support her even in her darkest hours. Anatoly has always been about relying on others to help him survive so he acts as living proof of the lesson working practically. In some cases this is something that takes a long time for people to learn but it’s a strong message and well earned by this show to deliver it in such a way.
Another way the concept of isolation being a bad thing for emotional well-being is explored is through the return of Roy who has exiled himself out of fear of his bloodlust taking over and forcing him to do something terrible. The one to bring him out of that exile is Diggle who seeks him out to take him on a mission so that Roy can see how others can help him. It’s not a terribly interesting mission but the Diggle/Roy interactions that accompany it are excellent. He tells Roy about his future and how he comes back from a self imposed isolation to save his city. Diggle also makes it clear that in this future Roy managed to master his bloodlust and it all had to do with him accepting the help of others by being part of a team again. He encourages Roy to rejoin the team and accept their help in making him better. Put simply, Diggle is telling Roy that it’s not healthy to suffer through trauma alone because there are people who can help him. It’s a slightly different take on the message being presented in practically every scene this episode has and it’s a great showcase of Diggle’s ability to take on a fatherly role within the team. As far as he’s concerned those he fights alongside are his family and he won’t let any of them suffer alone. Arrow is firing on all cylinders this season by keeping the characters at the forefront of everything it sets out to do.
An excellent episode that focuses on Mia’s perspective to deliver fascinating insight into the legacy the show has created while promoting positive well-being messaged through what the characters learn. The Mia/Oliver dynamic is fascinating because it’s so complex. Seeing her be trained by Oliver and having Mia listen intently to what she’s being told without losing the arrogance that trips her up so often is a really nice touch as it shows she acknowledges how much she has to learn without negating the skills she already has. She takes the opportunity to spend the time learning from Oliver which deepens their bond significantly. The trip to Russia proves interesting because it fleshes out how Oliver sees William and Mia which justifies why he feels that they shouldn’t accompany him on more dangerous missions. He can’t get his head around the fact that they have lived full lives without him and learned how to take care of themselves in the meantime because the memory of getting one last look at Mia in her crib before leaving on a cosmic adventure is still fresh in his head. It’s something he has to learn to get over by accepting them as adults who can make their own decisions on what danger to place themselves in. Mia’s perspective comes to light when she confides in Laurel about how she sees both her and Oliver. She sees them as perfect Heroes that she could never hope to live up to. The loss of Zoe weighs on her mind and she remains crippled with self-doubt because she was unable to prevent it. To her mind that means she isn’t a true Hero because she failed someone that she cares deeply about but it just proves that she has a lot to learn about what taking on that life means.
Laurel learns from that conversation that she has the potential to become a Hero that people look up to. It’s not something she ever thought possible for herself because she has been clawing her way to redemption for a while now. It’s clearly a future that she wants for herself because she chooses to confide in Oliver and Diggle about what The Monitor offered her which puts them onto Lyla’s involvement. Laurel chooses to be part of something greater than herself and believe that she has become better rather than latch onto a vague promise that could be manipulative. This episode marks what could be the final appearance of Anatoly and it’s a great note to end him on. His contribution to the episode is excellent from his self imposed “fun uncle” title to parting with Oliver as true brothers. Diggle’s interactions with Roy reinforce the notion of isolation being unhealthy. He tells Roy about what he accomplishes in the future and how he did that by accepting the help of others. Diggle wants Roy to rejoin the team because he knows that they can help him and gives him practical advice about what would be a healthy course of action for him. This show really is firing on all cylinders this season because it’s keeping the characters at the forefront of everything it’s trying to accomplish. It almost makes the fact that the actual missions were fairly by the numbers because the characterisation was so meaningful.
- Oliver passing on his knowledge to Mia
- Oliver finding it difficult to accept that his kids are adults
- Mia feeling inferior to the standards set by Laurel and Oliver
- Laurel seeing that she has the potential to be the sort of Hero Mia sees her as
- Laurel choosing to do the right thing and be the better person
- a great showcase for Anatoly and Oliver’s brotherly relationship
- strong examples of how relying on others is vital to emotional well-being
- Diggle helping Roy learn that he doesn’t need to deal with his problems alone
- the perfect marriage of plot and character
- the individual missions failing to be all that memorable
- less focus on William
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