“Lean in to the best parts of yourself; your loyalty, your selflessness, your courage, your compassion…and show that side to Emiko.
What had begun with promise has devolved into a narrative cacophony of disappointment that, at this late in the game, cannot be saved. Yet, despite the merciful end for season seven just around the corner, there are still moments where the character moments in Arrow shine through, saving individual episodes from being the forgettable mess that’s plagued the back half of show’s penultimate season.
Taking place moments after Emiko dropped a building on Oliver and the gang, “Living Proof” follows the bloodied and battered Team Arrow as they search for Oliver as well as finding a way out of the now destroyed building. While much of the foursome’s time—Dinah, Roy, Rene, and Diggle—are spent traversing the chaos, Oliver is trapped in a separate part of the building having conversations with his deceased best friend, Tommy. Though Tommy’s appearance initially throws viewers for a loop, it becomes clear quite early on that he’s nothing more than a figment of Oliver’s concussed imagination.
This inclusion of the Tommy-ghost is a bit hammy but is also the one saving grace for this episode. There are several moments of genuine emotion that do a fantastic job encapsulating the hero/villain/vigilante line Oliver has straddled and crossed over the entirety of the series. Now that he knows the truth about Emiko—not just her leadership with the Ninth Circle, but her choice to remain silent about the Queen’s Gambit’s destruction—has placed her firmly in Oliver’s crosshairs. He believes that there is no other way to stop her than to put an arrow in her heart. Being the angel on his shoulder (read: the other side of his conscious mind) Tommy points out that, if Oliver can’t find the strength to allow Emiko to change, he will continue on this cycle of violence that has haunted him and the Queen family for all these years.
This is a sentiment Barry Allen so often chooses as his hard-line stance; he will stop a villain by any means save for the ultimate means; killing. When presented with heroes with fantastical powers and absolute moral codes, that is a powerful reminder to their duties and yet Oliver’s approach, one that initially started with blood only, comes across as one crafted in a more realistic light. While killing your enemies should not be the first or second (maybe not even third) option, it’s one that can’t always be avoided. More importantly, if you don’t take the shot when it’s there, how many lives are you putting at risk for the simple fact of keeping your hands clean?
It’s that last scenario Oliver finds himself in when, after escaping the building, Team Arrow heads to the SCPD station only to find it under siege from Emiko and her Ninth Circle goons. At the very end, Oliver has Emiko in his sights but instead of taking the shot, he pleads with her to be better than their father. The hesitation allows her to get away with the device that, should she use it, will kill thousands upon thousands of people. And it leaves Oliver on the rooftop, no doubt questioning himself on if he did the right thing. They may stop her but, in the end, will it be too late. And if it is, what kind of burden will that be for Arrow to carry with him?
- The more Emiko’s plan unfolds, the less interesting she becomes. So, she wants to destroy the city because her father didn’t love her enough? This is the type of villainous motivations that make for generic baddies when so much more could be accomplished nuancing their drive. Emiko’s initial turn was a promising one but has gone off the rails since.
- I’m still having a difficult time being invested in the flash forwards. Some weeks are very good while other weeks, not so much. This week was in the middle: for a moment, it looked like we were going to get an emotionally-charged conversation between William and Felicity but, unfortunately, that was overshadowed by the plot to have him (and Rene) captured by Keven Dale and Galaxy One. Considering that Felicity and the others were also apprehended, it doesn’t seem as if there will be any time to get that emotional punch and, considering the resentment William has harbored all these years, that’s a shame.
- One thing these shows don’t always do in regards to the ‘no killing’ ideal is to provide those difficult conundrums that see a hero letting the villain go only to have that baddie reign destruction and/or death on innocents. Seeing a protagonist feel the guilt of “I could have stopped this if only I had the will” would be a fantastic look at the truth and difficulty of those split-second decisions our protagonists have to make.