Arrow: Welcome to Hong Kong

hk

The lady knows how to make an entrance 

Arrow continues their eighth and final season with a goodbye tour of stories past. “Welcome to Hong Kong” is a nod to many events in season three, with more flash forwards of the now somewhat less dark future of Star City. Oliver, now accompanied by his right hand man Diggle/Spartan and apparently sole survivor of Earth 2 Laurel Lance/Black Siren, is continuing his scavenger hunt for the Monitor, finding various things the powerful and enigmatic being needs to hopefully stave off the coming Crisis, which has already claimed one universe we know of.

Absent in the first episode, Oliver’s voiceover intro is back, but it’s both shorter and sounds hurried, underscoring how desperate things are for the Emerald Archer and company. Fighting through an array of mini-flashbacks, Oliver wakes up in a cheap hotel, very confused. The Monitor looms nearby, not happy with Oliver straying from his mission parameters, and explaining what Oliver saw on Earth 2. They argue over the rules of engagement Oliver is supposed to follow, and then there’s a rushed reunion with Diggle and Lance as they launch into another fight, this one apparently stemming from a misunderstanding, unless the Monitor is not-so subtly swatting at Oliver for disobeying.

Fighting their way clear, Laurel can’t accept what she’s being told about Earth 2, and gets even more frantic when the breech device won’t take her home. Storming off, she goes to find someone to help her fix it, because obviously it’s broken. I guess this would be Laurel starting off her 5 steps of grief with denial. Diggle reminds Oliver they need to stay on mission, and they go attempt to do that. Between his own past and being Lyla’s husband, Diggle has contacts everywhere, and guides them to some kind of black market internet café, which Oliver mutters would have been great ten years ago, the first of many references to the time Oliver spent in Hong Kong in his flashbacks during season three. The good news is Diggle can get them some info on their target, Dr. Wong, leading to a debate between the two friends about following the Monitor’s orders. The bad is that, as usual, they can’t go anywhere without thugs jumping them. The numbers are against them when the hometown trope kicks in: go to Metropolis, you’ll see Superman, Gotham gets you one of the Bats, and in the Arrow-verse Hong Kong… a certain swordswoman from Oliver’s past makes a dramatic entrance and saves the day.

Katana brings Oliver and Diggle to a safehouse where they talk about what’s going on. Disturbingly, Katana knows something of the Monitor and the coming Crisis, and won’t take no for an answer about helping, so they get to work. To make abbreviations as confusing as possible, Laurel meets up with Lyla while trying to break in somewhere. After a bit of talk, they find one of Caden James’ old science/tech cronies, and Laurel threatens him into working on the breech device.

Figuring out where the elusive scientist the Monitor wants is, our team goes into action, although where the Green Arrow and Spartan weapons and costumes/armor came from, I’m not sure. That seems to keep happening this season. At any rate, there’s another big fight, and an additional throwback to season three with the return of early Arrow foe Chyna White. Oliver gets his ass kicked, and then charges off after them using parkour skills that were a big part of season one and we’ve seen more and more rarely since. In the aftermath, Katana and Green Arrow talk about what Chyna being there might mean, and the lady brings up some concerns about Oliver’s actions, citing his past behavior.

Things aren’t going well for Laurel, either. David Chin, the tech whiz she was looking for, has the breecher working, but the problem is there’s no Earth 2 for it to go to. Laurel doesn’t accept this calmly, but Lyla is there to talk her down and prevent a slip down the villain slope again. For reasons I don’t understand at all, Green Arrow goes alone into the nearly impenetrable fortress of the enemy, fighting guards and looking for clues. Tatsu and Diggle, out of costume, are on coms only. What they discover is a very disturbing callback to one of the big nasty events of season three. In desperation, Oliver is going to set up a deal with Chyna to get the scientist back, which Tatsu strongly opposes and even Diggle doesn’t seem to believe is a great idea. A devastated Laurel gets a good talk from Lyla, who reveals some of her past and imparts a quiet sense of hope.

A bit more quietly, Oliver and Tatsu discuss what he’s doing and why. They share some tragedies in the past, and her concerns are legitimate. Pushed a bit, Oliver reveals the depth and source of his desperation. The meet is set with Chyna White, and, to no surprise at all, neither side is playing straight. Once again, things degenerate into a big fight, but at least Green Arrow was smart enough to bring backup this time. GA makes a half-hearted attempt to explain what’s going on to Chyna, who isn’t remotely interested, just before things go to hell. Most of the fight is really well done, but either Chyna White has gotten a lot better since the last time we saw her or both Green Arrow and Katana have gotten worse. They did slip in a decent explanation of how Chyna is here, when she was last seen in ARGUS custody. Lyla and Diggle also get an amusing reunion in the midst of the action, with Laurel agreeing to help out.

Afterwards, wounds are tended and plans are made. Well, as best they can, since they don’t even know which Earth they’ll be on next. Oliver checks in with one of the wounded and they part on good terms, probably for the last time barring even more characters popping up during Crisis. Things take a turn when we see one of the characters’ names does actually have some significance, and some of Oliver’s plans get undone behind his back.

Meanwhile, in the future (if that makes any sense at all), that team meets up and dissects their mission failure. As usual, Mia is snarky and defiant, and William is exasperated. Zoe gives a better recounting of what happened, and they hand off some tech to William to try and make sense out of. After some veiled threats, they go off to a black market following up on one of Zoe’s leads.

This goes about as well as you’d expect, with an ambush by the Deathstroke gang, led by JJ (John, Junior), Connor’s adopted brother. JJ is sneering and condescending, so he’s in character to be the new Deathstroke. What happened to Slade Wilson in all this, as far as I know, has never been revealed. Connor and JJ end up having a talk that shows that this, too, stems back to bad feelings from family, a recurring theme throughout Arrow in every timeframe. I do wonder if the writers all need family therapy and/or collectively have very awkward Thanksgivings every year. At any rate, JJ has some demands, gloats about his plan already in motion, and another few recurring themes end the episode.

What I liked: This is the best season of Arrow in quite a while. I know it doesn’t work this way, but it almost seems like the quality that is so lacking from this season’s Supergirl ended up over here. I enjoyed the callbacks to season three, and Oliver’s reasoning for his focused intensity. Even the changes to the voiceover really worked. Laurel had a lot to contend with this episode, and did as well with it as you could expect. I am enjoying the adventures of the future crew, and hope the talked about spin-off with them happens. It was nice to see Katana again, and even Chyna White, Arrow’s first recurring bad guy. I was impressed with the end reveal.

What I didn’t: I’ve commented before on the magically appearing costumes and weapons, which is a small detail but one I’d really like explained. Both Oliver and Tatsu seemed to be fighting at below their past skill levels.

Over all, another great episode. I’ll give this a high 3.5 out of 5. With all the others from the past coming back for a final bow, I wonder if we’ll finally find out what happened to the incredible vanishing Wildcat.

 

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