Arrow: “Lian Yu” Season 5 Finale Review

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Say what you will about the middling episodes of any of these five seasons (I know I have), but Arrow finales are usually pretty great. “Lian Yu,” of the five, was probably the lowest on action spectacle, something that surprisingly proved to be its greatest strength. This insanely uneven season was all about Oliver’s legacy, but this finale brought forward several legacies, as a few of the Green Arrow’s greatest foes joined him in his mission to stop Adrian Chase. It made for an exciting hour full of twists and turns that could ultimately really alter the show’s landscape heading into season six.

From the moment Captain Boomerang revealed his double-cross, this finale was pretty much on fire all the way through the end. But a lot of that fire came through intimate conversations, namely Oliver and Slade and Malcolm and Thea. But being back on the island, with Oliver and Slade working together again (yes, the Mirakuru wearing off is a dumb excuse, but who cares, Manu Bennett!) was appropriately nostalgic to season one and two’s flashbacks. Here, Oliver was able to mend an old wound, even if that wound still kept the episode tense, tricking us into thinking Slade double-crossed Oliver midway through. But in the end it’s Slade who says the gang isn’t leaving the island without Oliver and his son.

Meanwhile, Malcolm and Thea continue their family infighting, but it ends in a way I don’t think either of them would have suspected. When Thea steps on a landmine, it’s Malcolm who takes her place. And upon being ambushed by Captain Boomerang, he lets go, killing himself to save his daughter. John Barrowman has stated recently that he’s not returning to the Arrowverse next season, so we know this death is sticking. At least our most arguably honorable big-bad goes out heroically.

Then there’s the sisters’ quarrel that I really wish had been developed better over the end of this season. Either way, it’s still cool to see Nyssa and Talia go toe-to-toe and exchange blows between angry quips about their father.

But the final fight of course has to be Oliver fighting Chase. The most fascinating piece of Oliver’s arc in season five was admitting that he wanted to kill all the people he has over the years. What the writers accomplish here works to have Oliver acknowledge who he was when that was his method of justice, and showing that he wants to move on from that. Chase doesn’t buy it, pulling out Oliver’s son from hiding just as we get a flashback of Oliver’s first conversation with Moira after he got rescued (have to admit, the eyes were a little watery at this point).

But even after an arrow to the leg, Chase still has the upper hand. With all of Lian Yu set to blow, Chase has somehow tied the the detonation to his death. So he shoots himself in the head and the island goes in flames with all of Oliver’s friends and team still on it. We cut to black and this finale throws away some of what makes Arrow finales so special. There’s no finality here, no complete payoff to the season’s arcs. Of course, this show isn’t going to kill its whole cast, save for Stephen Amell, which makes it an unnecessary cliffhanger to leave us on.

Before that, “Lain Yu” was a pretty great, if nonsensical, finale. Serving as a cap to this sometimes terrible season, it worked to serve the show itself better than the season. In a season all about legacy anyway, with the flashbacks wrapping up in a surprisingly poignant fashion, that’s an okay thing for this finale to be. I just wish there was more closure to the season itself now that it was brutally taken away from us. Finale Grade: B+ / Season Grade: C+

Some Other Notes:

  • Talia speaks of her own adventures. Hmmm, were they, by any chance, in Gotham City? Hmmm…
  • Stephen Amell was truly fantastic in this finale. He had a lot to work with and pulled it all off as well as the show would allow.
  • So, after five seasons and over 100 episodes, this is going to be my last review of Arrow. Season five was a serious dip in quality from a show that already wasn’t as good as it once was. And there’s just too much great TV one right now to be spending time covering an only occasionally good show. I’ve already said goodbye to the other shows in the Arrowverse long before tonight, but I suppose it’s fitting to leave Arrow behind last, especially in a season that brought so much of the show full circle. I’ll root for this show to get great again, and if it does, I’ll be back. But for now, there’s just too much I’d rather be watching. Thanks for reading over these five years and come back for reviews of all the other great shows we cover! And thanks to the creators and writers for such a fun series!

By Matt Dougherty

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