Season 5 of Arrow comes to an end with “Lian Yu.” That is, of course, the place Oliver allegedly spent his “five years in hell…” when he wasn’t in Hong Kong or Russia. It also later became Oliver’s personal super-prison, holding Deathstroke Slade Wilson and Captain Boomerang Digger Harkness. In the comics, Lian is the name of Roy Harper’s daughter, sort of Oliver’s granddaughter, who died an utterly pointless tragic death that angered many fans.
As a note, there will be both speculation and spoilers here. You probably don’t want to go past this point if you haven’t seen the finale, and I’ll try and keep the speculation to the end of the review with another warning flag. So, bearing that in mind, off we go.
The voiceover is about Lian Yu being Mandarin for Purgatory. I have no idea if that’s true. They do a sweeping panning shot of the island, focusing on such notable landmarks as the wreck of the Amazo, where so much badness happened. Then again, not a lot of good happened on this island. We know magic is real, I wonder if this place is cursed.
Oliver, truly desperate for help, continues assembling his unlikely team. For some reason or other, he decides it’s a better plan to go with villains like Deathstroke, Captain Boomerang, Malcolm Merlyn, and Nyssa Al-Ghul, rather than contacting their various allies like Flash, Vibe, Wildcat (if he’s still alive), or the Legends. Why? Because this is the low-power end of the CW-Verse, I guess. Slade agrees to help, claiming his head is clear now that he’s off the Mirakuru.
Team Anti-Hero (at best) reunite on the beach where Malcolm and Nyssa keep arguing with each other. For some weird reason, they unpacked everything except the weapons (what else did they bring? It’s not a damn vacation) from the plane, which is established just in time for the plane to get blown up. Two warriors like Malcolm and Nyssa left the weapons for last?
They split up, and Oliver takes Slade and Boomerang with him. They find most of the rest of the prisoners (no Dinah or Rene) in cages in a clearing. Naturally this is a trap. Boomerang turns traitor, pulling a gun on the heroes. Where he got the gun, I’m not sure. When Oliver recruited Slade, he was in his cell in prison whites. We never saw Boomerang in his cell, but I can’t imagine he was hanging out down there in costume. At any rate, Artemis/Evelyn and Talia are both there as well, along with the usual horde of ninja soldiers. The fight breaks out, inevitably, with Nyssa and Malcolm showing up to help tip the odds. Talia gets away, like the ninja she is, and Evelyn gets captured, like the essentially useless character she’s been since she turned up. Oliver gets most of the prisoners moving toward the boat after the big, “I’m not leaving you” speech from Felicity. Apparently, when Chase or his minions (how many people are working for this psycho?) grabbed Oliver’s son William, they grabbed Samantha, the boy’s mother as well. Personally, I’d be ok with her not making it off the island.
Apparently, there’s a monastery we’ve never seen before (how big IS this island?), which is where Quentin, Rene, Dinah, and Diggle are. Dinah has a sonic damper focused on her, which is becoming a more and more common gadget it seems. At any rate, it’s preventing her from using her powers to escape. While the prisoners exchange news, Nyssa is trying to track down Talia. The daughters of Ra’s are heading for a showdown. Slade offers the insight that Oliver is suffering from survivor’s guilt.
The freed group of prisoners and protectors are trying to get to a plane (obviously not the one that blew up earlier). Samantha says she won’t leave without William. Felicity still isn’t sure she did the right thing by leaving Oliver behind. Malcolm tries to get Thea to at least talk to him, but their conversation gets cut short when Thea finds a landmine in the worst possible way. Weirdly, this seems to be the only mine, or at least no one seems to remember that mines usually come in fields. After some argument about what to do next, Malcolm takes matters into his own hands in a dramatic and effective way. The others finally regretfully agree to leave him. Boomerang catches up with him and mocks him for being in the open. When Boomer asks what kind of strategy that is, Malcolm says let me show you and steps off the mine. The others flinch as they hear the explosion in the distance.
Apparently out of hearing range of the explosion, Oliver, Nyssa, and Slade find the downed plane that Oliver and Slade lived in for a while during some of the FlashBack Theater segments. They see the monastery off in the jungle, and Oliver says he’s never been there. Nyssa goes to scout on her own, and then Slade echoes Boomerang’s earlier treachery by knocking Oliver cold and bringing him to Chase’s minions. I told you there were spoilers…
Oliver gets dragged in to where the rest of the hostages are, and Black Siren is more than happy to tell the group that Slade betrayed Oliver. The others hadn’t known William was on the island, and Oliver swears he won’t leave without him. Of course, they’re all chained up at the moment, so leaving is maybe more a goal than a real likely event.
The others keep making their way to the plane. Thea is sort of in shock and a bit numb about Malcolm’s apparent death. She and Felicity have a heart to heart about evil dads. It does seem like both their villainous fathers risked their lives to save their daughters, so I guess they can form a support group or something. Curtis comes back with an old Fantasy Island reference, and the joke seems a little insensitive for him given the timing. The Curtis and Felicity brain trust shortly discover that the entire island is rigged with hundreds, if not thousands, of bombs. Again, how many psychos does Chase have working for him? Doing that must have taken forever, especially as big as the island seems to be now.
They set this next bit up way back at Oliver’s birthday party, which was just last episode but feels a lot longer ago than that. Oliver has the gizmo Curtis made to help Dinah resist sonic dampers. I guess it’s a damper-damper? At any rate, once she gets it, she blasts their chains and frees everyone. This is about when Nyssa and Talia find each other and get into their big fight. Slade creeps in and kills Talia’s backup, and we learn that his “betrayal” was how Oliver got the device to Dinah. I’m not sure how he knew that was there, but I guess it was a good bet if they’re holding her prisoner. That or they were keeping her unconscious. Chase/Prometheus finally shows up and the two groups square off. Funny how the pretty much non-combat group ended up out at the plane. Chase goes to his two favorite refrains, that Oliver is ten steps behind him and that Oliver needs to kill Chase. This has to be the most elaborate “suicide by cop” scenario I’ve ever seen.
Somehow or other, Diggle and Rene’s general brawling skill lets them fight the ninja hordes, which I’m sorry, I just don’t buy. Dinah and Black Siren square off, and their powers clash violently, knocking each other backwards. Quentin gets some of his own back by punching out his daughter’s evil lookalike before she completely recovers. He also emphasizes that he’s ok with Dinah carrying on the Black Canary name. I still find it odd that no one has commented on the fact that Dinah (which lets face it is NOT a common name these days) has the same name as Quentin’s ex wife.
Team Felicity is not having a good time of things. They can’t figure out what triggers the bombs, and don’t have a nice little instant miracle to take them all out. Gee, if only they knew someone with super-speed… At any rate, the fight rages on between the other two groups. Chase is still taunting Oliver, who claims that he has made his decision and will not kill Chase no matter what. Chase ups the ante and says he already killed William. Felicity makes a timely warning via radio that she’s figured out that Chase has a deadman switch, so if Oliver does kill him the whole island blows. Chase manages to escape again as the good guys finish defeating the others. Oliver tells them to join Felicity at the plane, but he is going after Chase and won’t leave without his son, insisting that William is still alive.
Oliver somewhat improbably catches up with Chase and they end up on a small powerboat. They fight, and Chase drags William up out of the cabin, scared but very much alive. Nyssa finds that the plane has been sabotaged, so the rest of them aren’t going anywhere after all. Oliver ends the standoff with Chase by shooting him, but in the leg. Ok that was reasonably clever. William rushes to Oliver, huddling by his side. Chase, never one to lose gracefully, shoots himself. Now, if this was a villain gong all “You’ll never take me alive,” I’d be ok with it, but remember that deadman switch? The entire island explodes, with (deep breath): Diggle, Dinah, Felicity, Curtis, Rene, Quentin, Slade, Samantha, Thea, Nyssa, Talia, Artemis, Black Siren, Malcolm, and Boomerang still on it. Pretty much everyone but Oliver and William, who look on in horror. Now that is a major cliffhanger.
Flashback Theater, also on Lian Yu, features Oliver’s showdown with Kovar, Russian mobster from hell. Oliver defeats Kovar’s thugs, a helicopter, Kovar himself, and manages to set of the flare to attract his staged rescue. So hopefully that concludes THAT plotline. Also, since the damn island is now gone, maybe we’ve at least seen the end of the scenes here? Also, he faked at least some of his ragged appearance, including a big shaggy wig. No one noticed that?
What I liked: Oliver did a few clever things here. Bringing the damper-damper, coming up with the plan with Slade, those were great. Shooting Chase in the leg was a good idea, and I’m glad Oliver didn’t kill him, even with the aftermath. And that was a hell of a cliffhanger. I’m glad Nyssa beat Talia, and Malcolm sure showed the sincerity of his feelings about Thea.
What I didn’t: Where did Boomerang get the gun? For that matter, in the Flash team up, they made Boomerang such a badass he had to be put in Lian Yu, where only Slade was being kept. He sure wasn’t that good here. How’d Oliver know about the damper? It makes no sense that Malcolm and Nyssa left the weapons on the plane, and I don’t know what else they were unloading since they never used it. How big is Lian Yu supposed to be? It seems a lot bigger now than I had the impression when they started. William is going to be in therapy for years.
I’ll give the finale a 4 out of 5. There was a lot of good stuff here. And it’s going to be a long few months to see what happened. Speaking of:
Theories about the blast:
It’s possible everyone lived, but I kind of doubt they did something that cheap. It’s also possible everyone died, but that seems really remote at best. John Barrowman, who plays Malcolm, has publically stated he’s not coming back to Arrow, so I think Malcolm is really dead. Boomerang was right next to him, and they didn’t really do anything with him, plus he’s in the Suicide Squad movie franchise, so I’m betting he’s gone, too. They’ve just started developing Dinah and Rene, so I’m betting they lived. Killing Curtis would be a double minority issue, so he’s likely fine. And, of course, people would riot if they killed Felicity, and Diggle to a lesser extent. I’m hoping Artemis died, and it makes a lot of sense to me if Samantha does. I’m really not sure what to make of everyone else. So there are some theories to debate/discuss until season six.