“Thank you, Quentin.”
All year, Arrow has been unflinching in exploring the past as a framework for the final season’s narrative. How can the series take a break from visits to Oliver’s past and yet maintain the same overall themes? Why putting Oliver in a time loop, of course.
The first time “Reset” followed its namesake and Oliver found himself waking up to relive the day, the first words out of my mouth were “Groundhog’s Day”. Quentin (the dearly missed Paul Blackthorne) has the same notion when Oliver tells him what’s happening. But with Quentin alive and kickin’ in this reality of “Reset,” it only makes sense that Laurel also gets caught in the loop, apparently due to her refusal to betray Oliver.
For the first half of “Reset”, the pair work together to prevent Quentin’s death, the catalyst that always restarts the day for the two heroes. Whenever they stop one thing, something else pops up and kills Quentin. Though Oliver is convinced that there’s a way to change things and rewrite how the story plays out, Laurel, in a tearful and heartbreaking moment as Quentin bleeds out in her arms, is able to say a proper goodbye to him, something she was not able to do when he died at the hands of Ricardo Diaz. Laurel’s acceptance of Quentin’s death is softened because she’s able to find closure and that pushes her out of the loop and, in the end, Oliver suggests that moment of closure was a gift from Mar Novu for staying true to Oliver. Unfortunately, Oliver’s truth doesn’t come as easily.
Whether you see it as a clever ploy or a sadistic lesson, the Monitor’s purpose is to make Oliver understand, by seeing with his own eyes, the inevitability of what’s to come. Oliver’s refusal to accept what fate has in store for him is a big part of what’s made him such a fascinating character these past eight years. He doesn’t run, and he doesn’t acquiesce to the declarations of untrustworthy characters, even someone that transcends his understanding of life as the Monitor.
Oliver Queen has fought tooth and nail against odds that have killed lesser men, thus the journey “Reset” takes him on, though painful, is necessary. There is no malice in Mar Novu’s plan, nor Lyla’s as she continues to work with the superior being. It’s no doubt frustrating, not knowing the ins and outs of the plan to come, though understandable—in both a narrative and practical sense.
For the latter, the Monitor cannot take the chance of telling Oliver how it all must play out only to have Oliver subconsciously go in a different direction when the time came. It’s similar to Doctor Strange not telling Tony Stark about their one chance for victory until it the moment arrived. When Oliver gives up on fighting his fate, he says goodbye to William and Mia in a way that emphasizes his final understanding of what must be done. But first, he and Team Arrow must again face the dangers of Lian Yu.
For a man that has never backed down from any challenge, “Reset” is a sobering reminder that all heroes must eventually face their own mortality. Though the narrative doesn’t call for Stephen Amell to tap into the depths of his acting range like previous episodes, watching him face William and Mia after saying an implied goodbye, it’s as if you can see the weight lifted from his shoulders. Determining when to fight and when to give up the ghost is a difficult task, particularly for those who’ve fought their entire lives. Too often giving up signals being defeated but, for Oliver, it’s quite the opposite. His death will save countless souls and, in the box score of life, that is about as winning a stat line as you’ll ever see.