For the second straight week, Arrow fans are taken on a trip down memory lane as, fresh off their narrow escape from the now wiped-out Earth-2, Oliver, Laurel, and Diggle find themselves in Hong Kong on Earth-Prime with a new mission: find Dr. Robert Wong and bring him to the Monitor.
If there was ever a character with the laser-focus to get things done in the CW-verse, it’s Oliver Queen. After the witnessing Earth-2’s destruction, “Welcome to Hong Kong” finds Oliver more determined to follow the Monitor’s orders. Whether it’s the guilt that he may have expedited Earth-2’s fate or witnessing the reality of the anti-matter wave (not to mention losing his mother and Tommy for a second time), there are times in the episode where his singular focus harkens back to the Oliver Queen of old. It’s something brought up by a very familiar face: Tatsu (Rila Fukushima, The Wolverine), who was last seen in Season 3.
Mirroring Oliver’s time in Hong Kong then, “Welcome’s” mission shares that season’s flashbacks with the inclusion of the Alpha/Omega virus, thanks to Wong’s work with the Chinese government. But they aren’t what Oliver must worry about, rather another familiar antagonist in the Triad and their heavy-hitter China White (Kelly Hu, X2: X-Men United, The Vampire Diaries). To them, Wong is a means to an end, with the virus being their primary objective. When things go off the rails—as they tend to do—Oliver must make a choice between the damage China White could do with such a horrid virus or the possibility that, should he fail, all of existence will end.
Throughout the years, Oliver has been in the muck and mud more than his fair share. He’s made his fair share of choice, and not all of them have been good. But he’s a man—a man with a particular set of skills, true—but a man nonetheless. The psychological pressure having the weight of existence on his shoulders is imaginable. Yet, that doesn’t stop Tatsu from questioning his motivations and, more importantly, the impetus that drives Mar Novu (whom she’s familiar). She’s relentless in her quest to get to the core of Oliver’s state of mind and her determination pays off.
With a quaking voice and barely holding back tears, Oliver gives voice to the fear: “Because if I’m wrong…all of this is for nothing”. Leaving his family behind, willingly accepting his death for a chance to stop what’s coming, to give the sacrifices he and others have made meaning. It’s one of Stephen Amell’s best single scene performances in his eight years wearing the hood and promises that not only will we lament Oliver’s demise but the man who’s grown into his role as a hero like so very few before him.
As powerful as Oliver’s emotional confession was, Laurel’s own heartbreak at losing her entire world rides a close second. Imagine losing everyone you know, everyone you love. Hell, even the celebrities, TV personalities, athletes that have been a part of your life, however peripherally, just gone? Like the weight Oliver feels in trying to save existence, Laurel is the first real casualty of what’s to come.
Thankfully, Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson, Ice, The Unit) is there with her, called to Hong Kong by Diggle when they arrived back on Earth-Prime. Though she cannot comprehend the totality of Laurel’s emotional upheaval, she does understand the idea of survivor’s guilt, which is a major part in what’s threatening to tear Laurel apart. When Laurel mentions Adrian and her sister, their deaths are almost tangible. Katie Cassidy is brilliant here, her pain a raw nerve that is difficult to forget. With such a loss, Laurel had every right to fall into herself but instead, she joined the fight and by happenstance, saved Tatsu from being murdered by China White’s hands.
Though not as nostalgically powerful as last week’s offering, “Welcome to Hong Kong” was still a solid return to Oliver’s past as he struggles with the onus of fighting for the future of all life. And though she was unable to reach him in the years past, Tatsu’s words that there’s always another way reaches past Oliver’s fear and determination. He takes her words to heart and, in that, his next move—to find more information on the Monitor and his goals—leads.
Next stop, Nanda Parbat.
- Once again the trip into the future was the least interesting aspect of an Arrow As much as I would like it to work, I’m just not invested in the Jr. Arrow gang: Zoe never gets much to do, the overemphasis on Mia being a bad-ass takes away from the other layers of her character, and Connor, for all he’s accomplished, comes across a bit too weak-willed. I will say that his scene with JJ (who has impressed as the villain) was an emotional-charged moment where JJ’s motivations were given at least a bit of light, though he does eliminate the possibility that it was John’s fault how he turned out. “It was never a mask,” he tells Connor, reminding his brother and us that, sometimes, it’s not always how a person was raised that determines how they turn out. Sometimes it’s just a choice to be rotten.
- Last but not least…Lyla working with the Monitor?! Coupling this reveal with Tatsu’s own experience during her time with the Crescent Order, methinks Mar Novu is really hedging his bets. I really don’t blame him; when the fate of existence is at stake, it’s probably best that you have a few irons in the fire.