There has been some talk since ‘Arrow’ Season 5 began that the show has been in the midst of a resurgence, finally finding its way back to the the greatness it once was, and while still making an occasional slip-up (especially during that damn ‘Human Target’ episode), I tend to agree with idea. After having seen ‘Arrow’s’ contribution to the big CW cross-over event this year, which also just happens to be the 100th episode of ‘Arrow,’ I cannot help but feel that the show has found its former glory, as this week’s episode was not only an outstanding crossover episode, a phenomenal 100th episode, but it was without a doubt the best episode of Season 5 so far and could be argued to be one of the best episodes the series has ever done, and that is saying something considering the phenomenal episodes the show had during the second season.
The story picked up with Oliver running through the woods, which is usually how we start each season, only we quickly realize he is running through the trees just outside Queen Manor, and soon enough, we see him back inside, scar and tattoo-less as he heads out of the shower and into the waiting arms of his fiancé Laurel Lance. And then we realize he is in some kind of dream state, most likely induced by the Dominator’s who captured him, Thea, Sara, Ray and Diggle at the end of ‘The Flash’ episode of the crossover the previous night. Even though all of these characters share in this dream state, Oliver is still the leader of this merry band, and as such the events mainly revolve around him, and are built around his ideal life, hence his marrying Laurel Lance, arguably the love of his life who he lost last season, his parents being alive and well, him having never gone on the Queen’s Gambit trip with his father, his dad about to become Mayor and giving Queen Consolidated to Oliver, while Thea is a successful entrepreneur on her own. Happy times for Sara is being open about her sexuality with her sister and never having that affair with Oliver, thus never having gone on the Queen’s Gambit either, and being able to be a normal adult woman without the drama of Lian Yu or Nanda Parbat on her soul, and with her father sober and successful back at the SCPD. Ray is a successful businessman engaged to Felicity with nary a care in the world beside trying to take over Queen Consolidated, without the sad tale of having lost a fiancé to Mirakuru soldiers, and Diggle, in a very telling storyline, has taken on the mantle of ‘The Hood’ for himself, being the tortured hero alone though still with Felicity’s help, which is perhaps a comment on the fact that for Diggle at this state at the show, his true happiness comes in taking on the weight of their mission alone so his friends can live normal lives, as he feels so miserable about what he did to his brother that he feels he does not deserve a regular life, hence why his family does not show up in the matrix of happy dreams.
Anyways, as is usually the case when the heroes get trapped in the matrix, there are cracks in the reality, and the show uses those cracks for Oliver and Company (a reference I have been using for years, can’t believe it took the actual show this long to use it) to flash to their memories of events of the series, letting the characters start to remember who they really are, and letting the audience remember the most meaningful moments of ‘Arrow’ from the past 100 episodes, all of which works great for a 100th episode. Also working great is the fact that Ray and Sara got sucked into this world, as even though they are on ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ now, their characters got started on ‘Arrow,’ and its nice to see them back for a significant story during the 100th episode (same goes for seeing Barry in the episode, technically he also got started on ‘Arrow,’ so it was good to have him back for the 100th). Also nice to see back is Laurel, whose presence brings emotional weight to everything as everyone misses her and she is one of the more powerful symbols of what Oliver and Sara have lost over the years, the other big ones being Moira and Robert Queen, who were also great to have back on the show, especially Moira. Thea in particular does not want to give up this world and her parents once Oliver and her realize what is going on because of how much she misses her parents, and it is a revealing moment when Oliver understands her decision to stay, and a powerful moment later when we see Thea join Oliver as he attempts to leave, having made the decision to give up the perfect life, knowing Oliver is truly the only real family she has left. Of course, there are obstacles to leaving, in the form of villains the matrix-like dream conjures to stop them, such as Deathstroke (who I don’t actually believe was Manu Bennet but a stunt man in costume since we never saw his face), Damien Darhk, Malcolm Merlyn (finally!), a Mirakuru solider, and some HIVE soldiers, who our heroes have to face down in a great hand to hand combat brawl. I especially enjoyed seeing Sara kill this version of Darhk as we know in real life she is not allowed to kill Darhk as Oliver already dealt with the man and she is not allowed to alter the timeline by killing Darhk in the past, and it was nice to see Thea letting out some aggression by fighting the dream’s interpretation of her father Merlyn. Of course they escape, and their way out is the Smoake Technologies building which they had spotted in the skyline and realized should not be there (as Felicity in this dream never owned the company), and inside they find a portal which will free their minds. After everyone exits, Oliver hesitates, looking back where he spots apparitions of Felicity, Moira, Tommy, Roy, Robert, and Laurel, all with encouraging words for him, which are actual speeches they made to him from throughout the series. The scene definitely gave me the feels, as it was basically a reminder to Oliver of who he was and what he fights for, and how many people still believe in him, and have always believed in him. He then heads through the portal to escape.
Back at HQ, Felicity and the remaining members of the Quiver Crew worked desperately to find Oliver and the rest, but their only plan was to try to hack a piece of Dominator tech brought to them by Cisco, who had already vibed on one of Oliver’s old bows and confirmed the heroes were being held on what looked like a Dominator ship. In order to properly hack the alien tech, they needed another piece of tech that had recently been stolen by some random woman (later to be named Cyber Girl I think) who was upgrading herself to become a super villain or something (none of this was really all that important as she was easily defeated and not given any backstory or character), which basically was all set-up so Felicity could call in reinforcements in the form of Flash and Supergirl to help them take down Cyber Girl and get the tech they needed. On the mission, we learn that Mad Dog doesn’t like Metahumans because they are too powerful (waa waa waa, cry me a river) but after Supergirl and Barry save his life and take down Cyber Girl, he is suddenly on board with them being heroes, and everyone suddenly remembers how poorly written Mad Dog has been all season (which is sad as he is one of the only weak links on the show right now). They hack the tech, Rory realizes the Dominator language is similar to one used in the Torah, and Felicity realizes the coordinates of their friend’s places Oliver and the rest somewhere in space.
Meanwhile after escaping the dream Matrix Oliver and the rest explore the ship, just happen to find a gun they use to defend themselves against the Dominators, and escape the ship in a smaller scout ship that Thea figures out how to activate despite Oliver’s claim that “between me, Ray, Dig and Sara I figure we can figure out how to pilot it,” making it seem that Thea would be useless in figuring it out. However, even though they escape they cannot pilot the alien tech, and they are soon swarmed by alien fighters coming to destroy them, but are saved at the last minute by the Waverider piloted by Nate, who beams them aboard and they escape, but not before realizing the Dominator mothership is heading for Earth, and based on an overheard alien conversation that Gideon translates for Ray which stated that “We are nearing completion of the weapon” they know time is short, and the Dominators are coming for earth.
Cut to “To be continued on ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ and episode done.
It was one hell of a ride, and I cannot wait to see how they wrap up the crossover on ‘Legends.’
- Merlyn appears!! Only it’s not really Malcolm Merlyn but rather a fantasy version of him… not really sure if we put that in the win column…
- For those who did not watch ‘The Flash’ part of the cross-over and were wondering, Thea did FINALLY suit up again, but only because, in her words ‘ALIENS!’ which she was excited to fight against. I mean, I know I was advocating to get her back in costume and kicking ass, but come on, I would have hoped for a better reason than that…
- No FLASHBACKS. And the episode certainly did not suffer for it. Don’t get me wrong, I like the flashbacks this year, but it definitely proves that post season 5 an ‘Arrow’ without flashbacks can still work, and some might even say work better.
- Everyone got the reference about Tommy Merlyn being a doctor in Chicago? In case you didn’t, the actor is currently starring in ‘Chicago Med’ over on NBC, which is most likely why he couldn’t make it over for the episode.
- I love how the crossover is using all of the storylines from all of the shows this season, it really feels like every series was building toward the crossover event, that it is organic and not just something they did for fun and ratings.
Definitely my favorite episode of the season so far, and I could not believe how well done everything was, from the writing to the acting to everything else. It reminded me of everything I have loved about this show over the past 5 years and it helped me forget about a lot of the pitfalls as well, and I could not think of a more perfect way for the show to celebrate 100 episodes. If they can somehow manage to keep the quality at this level for the rest of Season 5, I would hope they would keep it going for another 5 seasons. See you back here next week!
Nick is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, who belongs to the privileged few who enjoyed the ending to ‘Lost.’ For more of Nick’s thoughts and articles, follow him on Twitter.