Arrow’s final season is picking up steam and laying down a lot of surprises. Last episode ended with a major surprise as the future team suddenly appeared in the current era bunker, along with Oliver, transported from Nanda Parbat. Now, two generations of heroes and families are trying to figure out what’s going on and how, or if, they can work together. There are enough undercurrents among them all that the title works: “Present Tense.”
There’s a lot of staring and confusion for the first few minutes as everyone is stunned by the sudden relocation. Having something of an advantage, the future group figures out roughly what happened first. There’s a great exchange between Oliver and William about what year it is. Taken aback, the teams retreat to different areas of the bunker to talk things over. Since the cat’s out of the bag now, Oliver apologizes to Rene and Dinah for not telling them about either Mia being born or the Monitor. Rene wants to ask about the future and the others all have questions, too. William, Mia, and Connor compare notes on the end of the fight they were in the middle of before being tossed through time. William wants to tell the Original Team Arrow what they’ve been through, but Mia is very opposed.
Things continue to be awkward as Oliver brings Mia and Oliver back to the apartment he and Felicity used to live in. He talks about what they planned to do, and gets bits and pieces of bad news from the future. Oliver is doing everything he can to be open and welcoming, but Mia isn’t having it. Oliver tries to call Felicity with a bizarre update about what’s happening, but William talks him out of it since they don’t know what’s going on. At this point, Oliver is desperate for any good news from the future, so William tells him about his company (which is doing a lot better than I realized). The two of them have a good family scene, a rare happy moment for Oliver these days.
On a less happy note, a long-time ally of the team is apparently killed in a random attack, leading to this week’s big problem, aside from the mysterious time travel. This is a Deathstroke gang attack, but Oliver tells everyone it’s not Slade or Kane, the two they’ve encountered before. Team Future thinks JJ has come back like they did, and Mia gets evasive when Rene asks a few things about the future. Curtis returns in his usual excited babble mode, and William gives Rene at least a little bit of something to look forward to. Mia pulls her team out to go look around, and Curtis goes on more about the kids being there. Oliver tells Curtis about the destruction of Earth 2 and gives him something to analyze that he hopes will give him a clue on how to defeat the Monitor. Curtis isn’t happy with the pressure when he learns the stakes. Diggle takes Connor to the SCPD and they talk more about the future. Dinah jokes about bring your kid to work day, and they work together on some clues from the earlier attack. Connor uses something he learned from his work with both Nightwatch and the Deathstrokes when he was undercover, and they get a clue. Connor is even more sure now that JJ came back with them.
Team Future meets up again and debates whether or not JJ could be behind what’s going on. William again wants to come clean with the older generation, while Mia vehemently disagrees, claiming it’s on them to avenge Zoe, who was killed just before this time trip. Between them, they figure out where Deathstroke should be and go there. They cleverly manage to walk into a trap, and the original team, following a different lead, gets there just in time to rescue them. Oliver and Mia clash about secrets and not having backup. Things keep getting tense until, pressured by the originals, the future group tells them about what happens to JJ and Zoe, and the city in general. No one is happy about this, understandably. Rene goes for a walk, Diggle tries to talk to him, and they argue about their kids’ fates. Dinah pushes Connor a bit, and he gives them more detail about the fall of JJ.
Done with secrets, William also gives the team the lowdown on the future: the walls, the Canaries, corruption, and what happened to Zoe. Dinah is shocked and Mia gets snarky, which I guess is her default state. Having learned that they’re not fighting JJ, they pool resources to go after this Deathstroke, Grant Wilson. In the comics, Grant was Slade Wilson’s first son, who died when the powers HIVE gave him proved to be unstable. His death happened when, as the first Ravager, he clashed with the New Teen Titans, which led to the ongoing feud between that team and Deathstroke. JJ says what they just did is different from their history, so they can’t rely on that, and William gets to work on the computer drive the teams managed to salvage from Deathstroke’s base. Patience, or lack thereof, proves to be genetic as Mia frets about waiting while Oliver points out they need a plan, or at least a location for the bad guy.
In a rare moment, the writers remember young Zoe exists in the present, and she and Rene debate ice cream flavors. Dinah pops up to reassure Rene about the future, which he isn’t quite ready to hear. Speaking of not ready to hear, Mia and Oliver clash again about waiting for a plan. Finally, Mia stalks off, accompanied by the just arrived Laurel Lance. William shows Oliver a video threat from Deathstroke. The team debates what the message is really about, and Connor says it’s some kind of trick. He got to know how they operate during his time undercover, and this is how the Deathstrokes work. William and Curtis keep working on the drive, and Dinah talks to Diggle about what’s going on. Since Oliver isn’t around at the moment, Diggle steps forward as “Blame Myself For Everything” guy. Dinah once again proves to be the note of optimism about the future.
Snark meets snark as Mia and Laurel look for clues. Mia has a serious chip on her shoulder, and Laurel pulls no punches in her opinion of Oliver. The former villain has also seen through Mia’s excuses to what she actually intends to do, and offers some perspective and advice. In another case of like knowing like, William calls Oliver on getting “broody” when trying to solve problems, and says he does it, too (although I don’t think we’ve ever seen it). They have a talk about Oliver’s relations with both his kids, in their pasts and now. Family time gets interrupted by Curtis popping up with some updates on what Grant is up to, dubbing it Siege 2.0 after Deathstroke’s attack on the city several years (and seasons) ago. The news isn’t all good, but they handily find out that the multiple bombs have a single relay, bringing us back to a “take out one thing to shut down the big bad guy plan” situation. Actually soliciting opinions for once, Oliver divides them into teams and Curtis geeks out at the “suit up” command.
Down in the tunnels, Green Arrow and Mia are going after the important gadget and bantering with Curtis about movies. The other team, Black Siren (I think she’s still using that name?), Spartan, and Connor, are creeping around after parts of the gang. Team One finds Grant making a video statement (I wonder if he’s on Tik Tok?) and then gets swarmed by the bad guys. In one of the few missteps in the show, Dinah and Rene find a bomb at the police station as another Deathstroke attack happens… and then we never hear anything more about it. I presume it was disarmed, but they never actually tell us anything about it. After some amusing talk about where he learns things, Connor disarms their bomb with some guidance from Curtis. While Curtis and William stress eat Gummi Bears, Oliver takes a stand and stops Mia from doing something she’ll regret.
In the bunker they start trying to wrap some things up. Grant Wilson is being sent to Blackgate Prison in Gotham, which is somehow better than the local prisons and will, in theory, derail the chain of events that turns JJ bad, or at least turns him into Zoe’s killer. Oliver gives out some rare compliments to Mia and William (which is a bit rough on Connor, IMHO). Mia thanks Oliver for his actions, and Diggle mends things with Connor. Rene accepts that he can’t control Zoe’s future, Laurel asks if they’ve changed things, and Dinah likes the idea of the Canary network. Oliver and Mia visit the family graves and talk about loss and guilt, two Queen specialties. Curtis finds enough to set up next episode.
Rene gives a speech in the Glades as part of his campaign for City Council. While I know he’s mayor in the future, did I miss the part where he gets into politics in the present? Did his time in City Hall under Oliver’s administration rub off on him? As he does his speech, we see different segments of the group spending time with each other, which I think was a series of nicely done scenes, even down to Laurel getting someone else to dip fries in their Big Belly Burger shake, which she’s done with other characters in the past.
The last few scenes are one good and one bad. The Queen family goes back to their apartment for a late night snack that William loves and Mia is at least willing to try. More ominously, Laurel gets an unexpected visit where she’s tempted to turn on an ally by being an offered a really impressive reward.
What I liked: The two teams, eventually, worked together well. Rene’s reaction to the news about Zoe made perfect sense, but I’m glad he came around. I don’t blame Diggle for being overwhelmed with everything he learned. William is a nice guy who is trying to do right and keeps getting overruled by his teammates.
What I didn’t: I get that it’s last season, but that was a nasty end to good ally. Mia was throwing even more attitude than normal and it got irksome, as did Connor just going along with what whoever said last. This episode really made it stand out that the future folks don’t have costumes, although I guess they don’t need them in the present. I’m not sure I buy something getting hit by the anti-matter wall and surviving enough to get analyzed by Curtis.
I liked seeing the two teams together. I’m giving this one a 3.5 out of 5.
Trivia fact: With all the different “families” of supers around at this point, it’s really interesting that the most fully depicted one is the Wilson clan. Over the last few years, we’ve seen several versions of Slade Wilson, Deathstroke, and his sons Grant and Jericho, his wife Adeline, and daughter Rose. Even the Bat-Clan isn’t getting that kind of coverage these days.