Arrow, Season 5, Episode 22, “Lian Yu”
In a season where it seemed like the Arrow writers’ room was often stalling for time, the earth-shattering finale (and cliffhanger) made the wait worth it.
Unlike some shows that failed to deliver on its fan service promise (looking at you Supergirl), Arrow packed a lot of action and classic matchups in just an hour. The episode treated us to the al Ghul sisters squaring off, Black Siren and Temporary Canary battling one on one and Slade Wilson, alternating between deadly and philosophical.
The episode wasted no time getting to the action. Ollie rounded up Deathstroke and Captain Boomerang then went right to work rescuing his friends, who were scattered in various spots around the island.
Coming upon Felicity, Thea, Curtis and Ollie’s babymama locked in cages, the first trap was sprung when Evelyn Sharp and Talia al Ghul dropped from the trees, and Boomerag instantly switched sides. It looked like Slade would follow suit, but he only used it as an opportunity to get within punching distance of Boomerang, and to counter the ambush.
The episode would continue on like this. The heroes would regroup, then separate to cover more ground, discover more of Ollie’s posse along the way, there’d be a fight, then they would regroup. Wash, rinse, repeat.
A few interesting things happened during that cycle. First and foremost, Olicity’s return was sealed with a “just in case” kiss before Felicity was sent off to escape the island, and Ollie resumed the hunt for his son. There was also a semi-heartbreaking subplot with Thea and Merlyn. Thea gave Merlyn the cold shoulder despite the fact he joined Ollie’s rescue party specifically to save her. He proved that dedication after Thea stepped on a land mine. Merlyn took her place on top of the device and seemingly sacrificed himself to save the others by triggering the mine after Boomerang and some goons showed up. This led to a touching scene between Felicity and Thea where they sorted through their feelings about their evil, yet ultimately noble fathers.
Not to be outdone, Quentin knocked out Black Siren with a staff, something many an Arrow fan has wanted to see happen for a long time.
The action-packed episode also found time to bring the flashbacks full circle, with Ollie finishing off Kovar and reenacting the scene of Ollie’s rescue, which was first scene of the pilot episode.
Oliver eventually reached the center of Chase’s maze. Oliver has been hopelessly outflanked by Chase’s advanced planning throughout the season, and the endgame was no different. Oliver may have rescued his friends, but there is still no sign of William. Those friends are with a plane that can’t fly, and they find out the entire island has been rigged to explode if Chase is killed.
Ollie’s pursuit of Chase leads to a boat where Chase just so happens to be keeping William. Chase essentially gives Ollie a no win situation: Save his son by killing Chase — which would blow up the island with his friends on it — or sacrifice his son, leaving Chase alive and save Felicity and the others.
Oliver nearly splits the difference by shooting Chase in the foot with an arrow, which made him release William. Once again, Chase is two steps ahead of Ollie. He produces a gun and shoots himself in the head, which starts the explosions that will be burned into Arrow fans’ brains all summer.
It’s hard to believe that everyone on the island was blown to bits. There was mention of an ARGUS bunker on the other side of the island, and it felt like there might have been time for everyone to get to safety. If not, we all know that Lian Yu is full of hidey holes and WW2-era bunkers, and that Slade knows the location of every one of them.
Even if there are survivors, who knows who made it, and how Ollie’s psyche will survive even some of his friends being killed or maimed by Chase’s bombs. But, that is a matter for next season to tackle.
Arrow‘s fifth season was a roller coaster ride of quality. The front half of the season, where Ollie broke in his new recruits, was largely a lot of fun and broke the show out of its gloomy funk. It lost its way a bit in the second half as Prometheus/Adrian Chase took long breaks from terrorizing Star City (now it appears he was on Lian Yu burying bombs), which left the rest of the show narratively adrift. The season ended strong once Chase was revealed to be Prometheus, which gave Chase license to torment Ollie with impunity. For a show that celebrated its 100th episode during the season, Arrow is still finding interesting stories to tell more often than it has to fill time, which is all you can ask for from a series that has a few miles on it.