Season finale review: 'Arrow' - 'Unthinkable': One love, one heart
A quick review of the "Arrow" season finale — and season 2 as a whole — coming up just as soon as you make me a hero...
Since I did my big "Arrow" catch-up late last year, I've again had to watch the show intermittently due to other work responsibilities, sometimes binging two or three episodes in a go, occasionally skipping one altogether, but making sure I was up to speed by the time of the finale. And I was very pleased to get there, because the concluding arc was terrific, paying off nearly every major plot and character arc of the season, bringing nearly every recurring character of note back to play a key role, and featuring an awful lot of kick-ass action. Oliver and his unlikely collection of allies — including the League of Assassins and the damn Suicide Squad — believably attain victory over a superior force, but not in a way that simply resets the status quo for next season. Oliver's mother is still dead, the family company and fortune are still gone, a whole lot of people now know Oliver's secret identity (more on that in a minute), etc. About the only thing the finale pulled back on was Oliver telling Felicity she was his one love, which was revealed to be a ploy to get her close to Slade with the cure. If I was somebody deeply invested in the Olicity 'ship(*), I could imagine feeling stung by that trick, but there are enough hints that her feelings may be requited that I imagine this is something the show will finally get into sometime next season.
(*) The main 'shipper names on "Arrow" (Olicity) and "Scandal" (Olitz) are too similar. Please change one. I am not a crackpot!
And I do think it was smart to let Laurel, Thea and everyone else in on Oliver's double life. The secret identity is a classic superhero trope, and one that works in comic books where the focus is largely on the heroes and their enemies. A show like this is structured as more of an ensemble drama, and when certain characters are out of the super loop, it can make them come across as dumb, or simply extraneous. Guggenheim and company seem to have finally recognized this. Giving Laurel a chance to be the new Black Canary, and letting Thea apprentice under Malcolm Merlyn, should solve a lot of problems integrating those two into the rest of the series. UPDATE: I was mistaken about Thea knowing. Parts of recent episodes blurred together in my head, and there was a point where she was about to find out and then didn't. Either way, having her work with Merlyn is a much better direction than having her keep running the club and being oblivious to the superheroic side of things.
It will never happen, because "Arrow" is the CW's biggest hit, but this is yet another network show that would benefit from producing fewer episodes per season, whether 13 or maybe even 16. There are definitely episodes that play like filler, and when I have skipped episodes (usually on the advice of a few friends who also watch the show), I've found that I haven't missed much. "Arrow" can do good standalone episodes, like "Suicide Squad," but for the most part the show is at its best when it's focusing on the season's bigger narratives.
Still, this was a show that made a lot of creative progress over its first season, and that only got better in its second. It knows what it wants to be and how to do that, and it can be a lot of fun in doing that, while also nailing the big emotional moments. Very good season. Looking forward to more, even if the idea of Flashback Oliver spending a season in Hong Kong seems... odd at first blush.
What did everybody else think?