Arrow: ‘Lian Yu’ Season Finale Review
The story of Oliver Queen comes full circle.
Warning: I mean, you see where it says “season finale” in the title. Ya don’t think there’s gonna be spoilers? OF COURSE THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!
That was quite literally the most explosive Arrow season finale ever. I mean, literally. And not just because of that insane cliffhanger we witnessed as Chase sets off all the bombs he placed around the island of Lian Yu, possibly killing some members of Team Arrow (Pfft, yeah right… I mean… they better not have!). It’s also because of the electric clash of so many characters from the show’s five-year history battling it out during an all out brawl in this grand finale that’s been brewing all season long ever since the unstoppable Prometheus was introduced. After witnessing the best season of Arrow since season two, this was the best payoff we could have asked for. This is the finale we deserved and needed.
I’m not going to lie, even though this season has been a knockout, the closer we got to this finale, the more worried I got. Season four – a season I enjoyed despite the negative reception it received by many – was on a roll towards the end. However, the finale was a bowl of disappointment. It was a mess. It was too massive for its own good. Come to think of it, season three’s finale was over bloated as well. So with this season finale, I damn near prayed for an acceptable finish. When the ending of last week’s “Missing” revealed our characters were going to battle it out on the island of Lian Yu, the place of Oliver’s true origin, my confidence in the finale rose greatly. Finally, a finale away from Starling City. Back to the place where our story began. It was the perfect setting to end the story of the current season, and the best way to sync up with and end the five-year flashback saga. The finale also benefited from downscaling the scope to focus on just our main characters. This wasn’t some global event. Oliver didn’t have to save the world in a race against time. He had to save his friends and his son. It was a finale that felt personal and just as urgent as saving the world.
Manu Bennett made an awesome return as Slade Wilson/Deathstroke. I have been anxiously waiting for the return of Deathstroke, and the wait paid off. When people look back years from now when Arrow ends its run on TV, I have no doubt people will always remember Bennett’s portrayal of Slade Wilson. The character and his relationship with Oliver are simply that memorable. I really liked the approach they took in trying to reconnect both Slade and Oliver. Before they were enemies, they were indeed comrades. When Slade became infected with the Mirakuru virus, it made him into the villain we remember him as. Now that the drug seems to be out of his system entirely, he’s more interested in redemption than revenge or villainy. Just another fascinating add-on to his arc. What made Slade’s presence even more fun was that fact that he truly was a wild card. He could have turned on Oliver anytime to join Chase’s “winning side”. On two brief occasions, they alluded to him being a turncoat. I was pleased he chose Oliver’s side for better or worse. It establishes the bond they once had.
It was also pleasing to see that Nyssa was completely on Oliver’s side. They are technically married, after all. I was surprised to hear her refer to the members of Team Arrow as “her friends”. It made me all warm inside actually. Loved the back and forth between her and Malcolm Merlyn. I really enjoyed her fight against her sister, Talia, even though it was very brief. I’d love to see the lovely Katrina Law make more appearances on the show (now that Training Day was canceled) if her character survived. The return of Digger Harkness aka Captain Boomerang was a nice surprise. It was fitting that it didn’t take long for him to betray Oliver. Even though he wasn’t around for long, I never thought I’d see him again. Now apparently, we will definitely no longer see him again on the show after getting blown up along with Merlyn.
Okay, let’s talk about that. John Barrowman has always stolen the show as the great villain Malcolm Merlyn. We got a hefty helping of Barrowman’s work this season with his guest starring appearances pn DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. He has always been a treacherous character, untrustworthy and seemingly concerned with his own self preservation. Thea being his biological daughter is the only thing that kept him from being truly evil. He would often help Team Arrow because he wanted nothing more than to protect his daughter, despite her hatred for him. So it was fitting he would finally give his life protecting Thea and her teammates. After Thea activates and land mine and Malcolm takes her place, I assumed he’d find a way to get off the mine and live to torment the team another day. However, setting it off and blowing up with Harkness and some goons was an awesome sacrifice to make for Merlyn. He finally redeemed himself. Of course, we all want to believe Merlyn will return someday since his death was off camera. But since John Barrowman himself has posted a Facebook video confirming he’ll be leaving the Arrow-verse for good, we might want to accept that he is indeed gone. I know, it’s hard, but it was a fitting death for Malcolm Merlyn. Bringing him back later in the show would cheapen that moment of redemption.
In between all the action of the present, we obviously saw the final set of flashbacks for Oliver’s five-year saga before heading home. It was as simple as can be: Oliver needed to kill Konstantin Kovar and his men in order to signal the fishing boat that was meant to rescue him off the island. Everything synced up perfectly with the events of the present. The action paced flashbacks saw Oliver pick off Kovar’s men only to eventually have his final showdown with the Dolph Lundgren villain. At first, the flashback leading up to the fight between Oliver and Kovar annoyed me because it came right smack-dab in the middle after the brawl between Team Arrow and Chase’s army erupted on screen. But oh, my goodness, I was not prepared for how awesomely they set up both fights to happen simultaneously within each other, just like the past and present fight between Oliver and Slade in the second season’s finale, which is one of my all-time favorite moments of the show. The interplay between the killing of Kovar and Oliver’s refusal to kill Chase was brilliant.
The flashbacks of this finale deserve a lot of praise. It was thrilling to see Oliver race to his rescue sight after preparing himself to look like the cast away we were introduced to in the pilot. Seeing this five-year flashback journey come to an end the way it did really felt rewarding. The final flashback scene certainly hit me in the feels though. Susanna Thompson made a very impactful appearance as Moira Queen in a scene that showed us when Oliver phoned home to inform his mother he was coming home. This is a scene I’m glad they never showed in the pilot because watching it now after seeing the hell Oliver went through in the past five years gives that phone call the proper meaning. It is a beautiful moment performed perfectly by Stephen Amell and Thompson.
Yes, there was an Olicity moment, and it was perfect. I don’t care what anyone says, it was a necessary kiss that Felicity planted on Oliver. They were separating to meet different objectives, faced with the possibility of never seeing each other again. Why the hell wouldn’t there be a kiss? It’s not saying they’ll get back together. It’s simply a lovely symbol of love she has for Oliver. Get over it, haters.
This finale gave us as much amazing, terrifically choreographed action as we could have expected. Every shot and angle was just right. We got to see Black Siren and (now officially named by Quentin) Black Canary fighting and sonic blasting each other. Deathstroke slashed his sword against Talia al Ghul’s goons. And of course, the body count Oliver racked up in the flashbacks. But the final fight between Oliver and Adrian Chase was so brutal with Oliver trying so hard not to kill his enemy who so rightfully deserved to die. It was electric stuff.
There was not a single dull moment in this 42 minute episode. To be honest, I wish there was an extended cut of the episode because every great moment left me craving more. Even scenes with characters just walking throughout the island were interesting. Every piece of dialogue felt meaningful. In fact, most of the dialogue gave development to the characters and their arcs. A lot of perspective was given with the conversations exchanged by some of the characters. It even helped justify what we saw some of the characters do earlier before the conversations took place. For example, Felicity explaining Thea’s sudden sad reaction when she knew Merlyn was about to give his life for hers. Same with Samantha explaining what see saw in Felicity when she kissed Oliver. Every piece in this episode fit. There was no time for filler. It makes me wonder how the hell they even managed to fit some much in this small amount of time. “Lian Yu” was simply one of the finest structured episodes of Arrow. Kudos to the editors and writers.
Now because there was so much packed in this episode, I knew once we returned from the final commercial break, there was going to be a cliffhanger. But man, I was stunned how it played out. It was easy to see that Chase was going to kill himself. Especially knowing he had a dead man switch set to go off and blow up the island in the event of his death. As that clock kept ticking and time was running out of the episode, I knew time was also running out for the team to get off the island before Chase set off those bombs. In my mind, I knew they episode was going to end with us not knowing what was going to happen to our characters, but my heart didn’t want to believe it. Well, my heart sank when those bombs went off and the Arrow logo popped up. What a cliffhanger, man! I think we, the audience, shared Oliver’s reaction. We can assume that most of our characters have survived, but there is no certainty to be had until the show comes backs in the fall. There will more than likely be casualties when season six starts. The wait is going to be brutal.
In some ways, this finale was similar to the 100th episode, where it felt like a celebration of the show’s history by bringing out most of the show’s classic elements. Yet, it was also a big way of moving forward but in the most shocking way. There had never been a cliffhanger like the one we witnessed here. There’s no telling where the show is going to go in its sixth season and who’ll be in it. By giving us this nerve racking cliffhanger, it pretty much went against all of our expectations and told us anything is possible. Even if the outcome is grim. But then again, everyone could have survived for all we know.
What is known is that this was the best damn Arrow finale of the series yet. It’s the best finale of all the DC/CW shows, and hell, I’ll even admit, it was even better than the great Agents of SHIELD finale. It was the ultimate payoff for a truly awesome season of Arrow. This season definitely turned the show around. Sure there were some weak moments and episodes that were more than unnecessary… ya know, like, the one that posed as something meaningful but was really an anti-gun PSA. But this season had more than enough elements to invite quitters, uh, I mean, viewers who left the show to come back. Those who stuck with the show through thick and thin, like me, should feel proud for being a fan. This was high caliber entertainment.
One last shout out to Josh Segarra for portraying Adrian Chase/Prometheus. He truly gave us a villain for the ages. I truly believe Oliver was no match for Chase. In reality, Chase won. His quest to prove to Oliver that all he touched gets ruined was complete. Oliver gets to walk away only because Chase took his own life. Even while literally getting the life beat out of him, he still wouldn’t reveal where Oliver’s son was until he could give Oliver an ultimatum. Chase was pure evil, and Josh Segarra played him so well, I wonder if the actor himself isn’t deranged. Segarra even brought out the absolute best of Stephen Amell. These two gentlemen gave us the best good versus evil storyline in a long time. Bravo, Team Arrow.