Arrow – Season 8 Episode 7
Arrow continues its final season victory lap with the return to where it all began and a few blasts from the past in the mix.
Could Arrow ever have ended without one more trip to Lian Yu? The answer to that is a definitive no! Oliver Queen’s island prison has been a permanent fixture throughout the run of the show so it was inevitable it would come into play during the final season at some point. The final season has been about revisiting the show’s past while exploring the legacy that will be left behind.
Oliver’s time on Lian Yu was formative as it’s where his mission began and his experiences there led to everything that defines him not. This includes the bad as well as the good and in many ways this episode is about realising that. When Arrow began Oliver Queen was a deeply tortured figure who felt that he had escaped an enduring punishment that he deserved. Over the year he has mellowed, gained perspective and come to appreciate that all of his life experiences add up to the man he is. His return to Lian Yu is a final reminder of that as he approaches the end of his life.
The plot reason for the team being on Lian Yu is that the various pieces that have been collected over the season now have to be assembled into a device that might help them survive Crisis. That part isn’t important as it’s all about what the characters experience when on the island. Oliver literally has to confront ghosts of the past, his children have to accept the looming loss, Roy deals with a significant physical change and the Diggles have to accept that events are so far beyond their control at this point.
It’s a lot to pack in but the episode does it expertly. I’ll start with Roy as his change takes the least time. He unfortunately finds himself pinned under the landing gear following a plane crash and time isn’t exactly on anyone’s side when it comes to deciding how to deal with it. Diggle becomes briefly obsessed with freeing Roy’s arm and refuses to accept that it’s not possible with the time that they have. Ordinarily I would say that this is out of character for Diggle as he typically keeps a cool head in tense situations but this comes on the back of him hearing from different sources that there is no way to stop what’s coming. He’s of the opinion that it’s possible to change the future -which it is in fairness- so doesn’t see why he has to accept the inevitability of Crisis. Another thing he has trouble accepting is that The Monitor isn’t their enemy; this is largely because he has no idea what The Monitor really is and doesn’t understand his motivations so doesn’t feel inclined to trust him. Lyla’s dishonesty is another thing he struggles to accept as they recently promised each other that there would be no more secrets.
The Roy situation affects him so profoundly because he wants to find something in the midst of this chaos that he can take control of. If he can find a way to save Roy’s arm then that’s something that didn’t prove to be inevitable which is something he really needs at that point. It’s a contextual shift in his character that works really well. As for Roy, he handles it with a heroic dignity; he wastes no time in choosing to have his arm amputated because it’s a far better result than lives being lost when trying to free him. Roy talks about sacrifice later on in the episode and identifies losing his arm as the unfortunate sacrifice that he had to make. Diggle feels guilty because it was him that encouraged him to come back to the team but Roy isn’t about to blame him because Diggle gave him a purpose and he’s reminded that Team Arrow look out for one another no matter what. Unfortunately things don’t go according to plan so sacrifices need to be made and it’s something he was very happy to do. It’s also worth noting that this is a significant change to the future which further suggests that the 2040 timeline as we’ve seen it won’t come to pass.
Diggle does eventually come to accept why Lyla was dishonest with him. Up until a certain point he was thinking very small scale because that’s the world he knows and is comfortable with. The concept of the multiverse being in danger and his actions potentially having an impact on what happens within that one way or another is unfathomable to him because he will always be the guy who struggles to understand things on that level. Lyla being comfortable with what’s happening and her role within it is also something he has trouble with so it’s all a little too much for him to process. Eventually he comes to realise that there is a higher calling at play and Lyla has no real choice when it comes to what she has to do. Ultimately he makes peace with it and resolves to be part of the fight in any way he can. Emotional journeys like this are why Arrow was able to grow from a relatively simple street level vigilante show to the flagship of an interconnected multiverse of TV shows without it being impossible to accept. This is hard to do but taking the characters on that journey along with the audience means that it works.
The final conversation between Diggle and Oliver is one of the finest scenes the two actors have shared. It’s essentially a summation of their friendship and brotherhood in what may be the last quiet moment they’ll ever have together. The conversation covers the usual territory such as Diggle being willing to follow Oliver into whatever battle he enters into. Earlier in the season he was unable to accept that Oliver had to do part of this alone and had convinced himself that preventing his death was somehow possible but now he’s realised that Oliver has to go to his end alone and resolves to fight by his side as long as he can. Oliver’s comment about every mission having an end and Diggle’s reply that he wishes this one didn’t have to is absolutely heartbreaking. The weight of brotherhood is in every word spoken thanks to the stunning performances and emotionally weighty dialogue. I suspect they will share another moment or two before the end but if this is to be the last moment of admiration between them then it’s a great one.
Pitting Oliver against a ghost from his past in the form of Edward Fyers (Sebastian Dunn) who returns thanks to Lian Yu’s magical properties is a reasonable idea as it takes Oliver right back to where it all started with the first adversary he ever faced. Fyers isn’t an especially compelling villain here though I don’t think he’s supposed to be as he’s there to serve as a reminder of the man Oliver once was and give him an obstacle to overcome while the plot device is assembled. Still, more work on making the threat feel more urgent would have been appreciated.
He represents a great deal of pain for Oliver because of what he put him through all those years ago but also serves as a reminder of how far he’s come since then once he’s ready to realise it. Helping him along is Yao Fei (Byron Mann); a friendly ghost who exists to remind Oliver of the lessons he struggles to remember in the midst of this situation. The main lesson he wants Oliver to remember is to take his time rather than try to rush to the conclusion. He starts with a simple reminder to “breathe” which translates to taking the necessary time to consider everything. Oliver ends up getting them stuck in a net because he’s distracted by a sense of urgency so really needs a reminder of the importance of patience. Yao Fei helps him realise to appreciate the time he has left with his family rather than keeping the fact that they’re about to lose him again at the forefront of his mind. He has the luxury of a small amount of time with them and he really needs to learn to appreciate it before it disappears.
This leads to two really meaningful scenes; one with William and the other with Mia. He praises William for his efforts assembling the plot device and talks about how glad he is to have the opportunity to see the man that he became. Oliver also hopes that William will forgive him for his misdeeds but William makes it clear that he forgave him a long time ago because the perspective that comes with 20 years allowed him to understand why Oliver made the decisions that he did. At the age of thirteen he wasn’t able to see that and was angry with him because he thought that Oliver would be around for a long time. Not having him in his life helped William realise that he wasted time that would be better spent with his father rather than against him. He has accepted that the time they have left is finite and isn’t about to waste it not letting Oliver knows how he feels. William has been used wonderfully in the present day time period and scenes like this are pretty much the reason why. Once again the actors absolutely nail the emotion that needs to be conveyed.
Mia is in a different emotional place to William early on. Both of them learn that Oliver is destined to die during Crisis and Mia falls back on her stubbornness. She chooses to give Oliver the silent treatment because she’s unable to process her grief in a productive way so retreats into herself and tries to bottle up the feelings. The first thing she tries to convince herself of is that Oliver favours heroism over parenthood and eventually gets to the point where she’s prepared to listen to William’s point of view which allows her to let go of her anger because she realises that it’s a waste of a very limited amount of time. The scene she shares with Oliver at the end of the episode is the culmination of every lesson the events of this episode teaches them. Oliver seems almost grateful that he was exiled on Lian Yu because it started him down the road that led him to becoming a better person who is able to stand in front of his daughter so there’s nothing in his past that he really should regret at this point. Mia comes away understanding that Oliver only ever wanted to protect her and lets go of the resentment she has been carrying around with her. She is grateful for being able to know her father and be part of his life however briefly. This is another beautifully acted scene that moves both characters forward and pays respect to the past events that brought them to this moment. In general the character interactions have a chilling sense of finality to them which makes complete sense considering what’s about to happen.
The episode ends with Lyla arriving as a Harbinger of things to come and the skies turning red indicating that the Crisis has begun. Time has completely run out and everyone must now play their part if anything is to be salvaged after it’s all over. There has been a lot of foreshadowing and a lot of build-up. The time has come and I for one am really excited to see if the production team manage to pull off this mammoth undertaking.
An outstanding episode that expertly uses the past to create closure in the present and offers really powerful character moments with a chilling sense of finality to them. Taking Oliver back to Lian Yu was a necessary thing to do in a victory lap season and the writers do a great job of using the location as a reminder of the beginning of Oliver’s journey as well as how it led him to the point he’s at now. He deals with literal ghosts of his past in the form of Fyres and Yao Fei who serve as reminders of the lessons he’s learned over the years. In Yao Fei’s case he forces Oliver to realise that rushing to the conclusion is a bad idea because it’s important to live in the moment and take his time. The most significant lesson is that he shouldn’t waste what little time he has left with his family. Ultimately Oliver concludes that being on Lian Yu led to him becoming a better person and got him to the point where he can stand in front of his daughter. It’s an important realisation and very well earned. There are a number of beautifully handled scenes featuring Oliver; his conversation with Diggle is a perfect summation of their friendship and brotherhood as well as Diggle’s realisation that Oliver has to complete his journey alone. Diggle will still fight by his side as long as he can but now he understands what Oliver has to do. Oliver’s conversation with William is about forgiveness on William’s part and pride on Oliver’s. They have both reached an understanding and Oliver is grateful for the opportunity to see the man that William becomes. His conversation with Mia is about acceptance on her part as she comes to understand why Oliver made the decisions that he did. All of these are heartbreaking in their own way and if they end up being the final moments between these characters then what a great note to end on.
This is a big episode for Diggle as well who begins to understand exactly what’s at stake and accepts Lyla’s dishonesty as necessary. His biggest moment of denial is when Roy’s arm is trapped and he refuses to accept that amputation will be necessary if they are all to survive. It makes sense for Diggle at this point because he has spent so much time hearing about things that he can’t change while trying to wrap his head around the cosmic stakes at play. He remains a grounded guy who has difficulty dealing with things on that level so when he discovers Roy with a pinned arm he sees that as something he can actually change and becomes briefly obsessed with it. He also feels responsible for bringing Roy back to the team so blames himself for Roy losing his arm. Eventually he has to accept that there things he can’t change and he sees Lyla’s point of view. Roy accepts his sacrifice because it secured the safety of the team. He recognises that not everything goes to plan and is grateful to Diggle for giving purpose to his life once again. Crisis is finally upon us as evidenced by the end of the episode so we shall see if the production team can pull this off.
- Lian Yu as a representation of the beginning of Oliver’s journey
- the lessons learned from facing ghosts of the past
- Oliver and Diggle’s final scene acting as the perfect summation of their friendship and brotherhood
- the powerful Oliver and William interaction
- the equally powerful Oliver and Mia scene
- Diggle struggling to accept that there are things at play that can’t be changed
- his brief obsession with saving Roy’s arm
- Diggle’s eventual acceptance that some things are inevitable
- Roy’s heroically dignified reaction to his own sacrifice
- Fyres failing to create the necessary sense of urgency that his presence required
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