Arrow gets their turn for a winter finale in “What We Leave Behind.” I found it to be an uneven episode. The main plot was really well done, very suspenseful, with some good scenes. The flashbacks have finally gotten to the joke people were telling when the show started, looping back now to the first year of Oliver’s career as the Hood/Starling City Vigilante. They also went way out of their way to beat the point into the ground about how the flashbacks connect to the present.
In his dimly lit hideout, past a floor full of broken glass (clearly, our villain needs a better maid), Prometheus sharpens his weapons. A lot of weapons. In the background, Evelyn Sharp, AKA Artemis, whines that she wants to be there when Prometheus kills Green Arrow. Prometheus explains to her that she’s not going to get to make any demands, and that he’s not going to kill Green Arrow, just make him wish he was dead. On that note, we get the opening credits and then the show starts.
Oliver puts in one of his rare appearances at his actual job as Mayor, going to the big Christmas party at City Hall. Thea put this together and did a wonderful job with it. She and Oliver talk a bit about their recent experience with another life during the big crossover, and Thea seems remarkably at peace with it. Oliver gives his big speech where we learn his favorite Christmas movie is Die Hard (hard to argue with that), but he also likes It’s A Wonderful Life, and seeing that again rededicated him to making a difference to the city. The party is full of awkward scenes, including: Thea finding out reporter Susan Williams is Oliver’s date; Curtis’ husband Paul finding out Curtis has been lying about his odd hours; Felicity bumbling through introducing boyfriend Billy Malone to everyone; and Felicity and Susan talking over each other but saying the same thing.
Elsewhere, and I’m really not clear if it was the Lair or Diggle’s ex-HIVE hideout, there’s a smaller party with Diggle, John, Jr., Rory, and Rene. I get that Diggle can’t be seen in public being a fugitive and all, but I’m not sure why Rory and Rene are hiding out with him. After an interesting hint about part of Rene’s life we haven’t heard anything about before, Evelyn shows up with presents- Christmas stocking with everyone’s codename on them. I can halfway understand Evelyn’s motivations in going after Green Arrow, but I don’t see why she feels the need to betray everyone else. She really is getting less likable as time passes.
The tension between Paul and Curtis bubbles over, and Paul storms out. They have something of a fight on the stairs of City Hall, but that doesn’t last long. Prometheus shows up and takes down Curtis fairly easily before Paul’s horrified eyes. Prometheus leaves a clue behind and then disappears after knocking down Paul as well, for good measure. Curtis’ day doesn’t get much better when he wakes up in the hospital. He and Paul continue their fight about Curtis lying about his irregular hours lately. This time, they get interrupted by the arrival of Oliver and Felicity.
They divert Paul to Billy Malone to give a statement while Oliver and Felicity talk about what’s going on. Since Prometheus attacked Curtis, not Mr. Terrific, the team is pretty sure Prometheus knows all their secrets. This doesn’t make anyone feel good. There’s more domestic strife as Felicity and Malone argue a bit. For her part, she doesn’t want him investigating Prometheus, worried that it’s too dangerous. In the same vein, Malone wants Felicity to at the very least stay at his place if Prometheus is going after Green Arrow’s people. Neither of them get answers they like. They then find out that Curtis, in addition to being beaten and stabbed, was also drugged, and the drug plays into this weeks’ Flashback Theater (see below).
As the news covers the attack on Curtis, the team hunkers down in the Lair. They’ve changed the security codes (there are codes? I thought it was just wander in) to get in, but don’t think that would keep Prometheus out. Rory wonders about the feasability of asking Barry to do another Flashpoint, and Rene jokes that Diggle might end up with five kids this time. Oliver and Felicity arrive, having worked out that Prometheus is likely Justin Clayborne, one of the Hood’s early targets from Robert Queen’s list. They point out that he’s supposedly dead, and Felicity quips that people thought to be dead turn out to be secretly alive almost every Wednesday (the day the show airs). With a quick check, Felicity finds out that the supposedly closed Clayborne plant has recently been drawing power and water.
The team goes to investigate, and I really question their tactics here. Green Arrow and Spartan, the two most experienced, go together, while Wild Dog and Artemis pair up, and Ragman goes alone. There’s a great Prometheus vs. Green Arrow fight, and GA notices that Prometheus does a signature move Green Arrow himself learned from a trainer in Russia.
Fair warning, there are spoilers below and from here on. Turn back now if that bothers you. Thou hast been warned.
In an impressive series of trick shots, Wild Dog shoots the sword out of Prometheus’ hands as the villain threatens Green Arrow. Then Wild Dog is disarmed in roughly the same way when Artemis reveals her allegiance. Everyone is stunned, and Prometheus and Artemis escape using a flashbomb to cover their tracks.
A now very worried team meets up in the bunker. Oliver is helping Thea pack so she can relocate to the Lair. Diggle has Lyla and John, Jr. move to an ARGUS safehouse. A hurried Felicity gives Rene and Rory rushed instructions about how to test some ashes and bone fragments they found in the plant before she rushes off. An uncertain Rory asks Rene if understood all that, and Rene counters, “You’re the smart one.” Felicity rushes off to try and persuade Malone to back off this case, and he refuses. It is his job, Felicity. You can’t be shocked by this.
Rory calls Curtis, still in the hospital, and tells him what’s going on. They somehow arrived at the conclusion that Artemis went bad after learning about Oliver’s killer past, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. If it was that late, how did she get in touch with Prometheus? Or, conversely, how did he know to contact her? The call triggers another fight between Paul and Curtis, and Curtis comes clean about his work with Green Arrow. Paul is upset, tells Curtis to choose between the vigilante life or their marriage, and leaves. Curtis is not having a good episode this week.
After some joking about Flashpoint alternate realities, Rory and Rene get the machine working. Felicity comes back to check their work, and finds out the ashes are… Clayborne’s. So he’s not Prometheus. Malone goes to the plant that the team already searched, and finds a file box cleverly hidden… in a desk drawer. That was not a good search. Malone gets a clue and sends a text to Felicity right before Prometheus grabs him. So, the fan theory that Prometheus is Malone is disproven.
The text was a baby pic that puzzles the team, and Malone isn’t answering Felicity’s texts. Oliver goes to City Hall and meets with Adrian Chase, who tells him Malone is missing. They debate what to do and settle on a shoot to kill order, which is outrageously illegal. The baby pic turns out to be Clayborne’s illegitimate son, who Felicity somehow missed in her background checks. They figure out he’d be about thirty now, so he could well be Prometheus. Oliver, of course, blames himself, after he tells Felicity that Malone is missing.
Thea, who apparently can’t make up her mind, is now back in costume and wanting to help out. Again. Oliver is blaming himself for creating Prometheus, and Thea reassures him that it’s not his fault and their Dad would be proud of who he has become. Curtis comes back to the Lair and helps Felicity on the computer work, telling her about Paul’s ultimatum.
The next sequence weaves from Flashback to modern really well. Oliver remembers a clue from the past, and goes after Prometheus alone, because that’s been working so well so far. He finds the place staged like his climactic fight with Clayborne four years ago. Prometheus taunts Oliver with some hit and run fighting, at one point throwing them out a window and swinging back in on one of Prometheus’ lines. Green Arrow is led to just where Prometheus wants him to be, and gets tricked into putting three arrows into Malone’s chest. It’s a nice set up. Prometheus is clever.
A crushed Oliver goes back to the Lair and tells everyone what happened. You can see how devastated he is. Mercifully, even in the midst of her grief, Felicity blames Prometheus, not Oliver. Oliver warns everyone they should get away from him, feeling cursed. Diggle tells him they are right where they are supposed to be. I wonder if Dig feels that way by the end of the episode?
We end on a series of shocks and surprises. Paul leaves Curtis, crushing him. Diggle gets a frantic call from Lyla asking him to come to the safehouse. Oliver goes to see Susan, who gets him a drink. Interestingly, with all the Russian connections, it’s vodka. Is she in on this? As Susan tries to reassure him, we see Curtis crying, Felicity crying, and Diggle bursting in the door of the safehouse to be greeted by about a dozen laser-sights lighting him up. Oliver goes back to the lair and is greeted by… Laurel? What? Now these, my friends, are a good series of cliffhangers to leave on.
Flashback Theater is sort of Hood: Year One. There are early scenes with Diggle and Oliver, and some weirdly precise predictions about what happens on this episode, four years later. There’s also a scene of the good ol’ days with Oliver making a lame excuse to get Felicity’s help and her babbling a lot. Essentially, Oliver learns that Justin Clayborne’s company is not only profiteering on a tuberculosis outbreak, but they started it in the first place. The Hood warns him, Clayborne doesn’t repent, and the Hood ends up killing him, setting all this in motion.
What I liked: Thank all the writing gods that be that they didn’t have Felicity blame Oliver for Malone’s death. That would have been horrible. I don’t like Paul’s ultimatum to Curtis, but I understood it. Malone’s death was ugly, but well executed by Prometheus. Team Arrow was set up nicely. The ambush for Diggle was effective, but I have a question (below). I think poor Ragman and Wild Dog should be offended. Prometheus went after everyone on Team Arrow but them. If Prometheus really is Clayborne’s son (and they haven’t confirmed that yet) it’s a decent mirror for Prometheus’ comic book origin. Whatever the show’s occasional other failings are, the fight choreography is great, and the escalator scene this week was fantastic.
What I didn’t: I still don’t like Flashback Theater, even less so now that it’s back to the start of the show. How does Prometheus have henchmen? I can see his potential motive in going after Team Arrow, but how’d he get so many to go along with it? How did they know where the ARGUS safehouse was to ambush Diggle? Thea decided to get back into costume yet again, but all she did was talk to Ollie on the roof?
Ok, there was a lot of good in this episode. I’m giving it a 4 out of 5 and really wondering about what they’ll come back with.
Time for a personal rant. If you don’t want to read this, you’re done and can move on. But I really can’t help it on this one. I’m an old-school hero fan. I’ve been reading comics since the 80’s, and heroes are important to me. I have two beliefs about superheroes that I get mocked for a lot, people telling me I’m old-fashioned. I might be. But I’m going to say here that if Green Arrow lived up to these two rules, most of this week’s tragedies could have been avoided.
1) Heroes don’t kill. I believe in my heroes living up to ideals, and one of those is they save people, not kill them. That’s been some of my problems with the more recent DC movies, in fact. And, if this version of Green Arrow lived up that, both the big revenge plot wouldn’t have happened and Malone would still be alive.
2) Secret identities. These were a huge part of the first several waves of heroes, but lately the comics are getting away from the idea. Even heroes that used to keep secret identities are giving them up (looking at you, Tony Stark). If Oliver had kept his secret identity better, Prometheus, whoever he is, would have had a lot harder time targeting Oliver. For that matter, if Oliver hadn’t given in to Felicity’s pressure about telling them his real name, Artemis wouldn’t have been able to betray him.