Oh Nadim, learn to control your expectations.
Arrow‘s sophomore year was a phenomenal one. It took everything that the show did so well in its debut year, ironed out the kinks, and elevated every single aspect (storytelling, action, characters) to another level. Naturally, I had enormous expectations going into Unthinkable. Was I satisfied? You bet. Was this finale a masterpiece? Nope, but it came close.
Honestly, there’s not much I didn’t like about Unthinkable. It brought everything to a head in climactic fashion, and paid off almost every single subplot and character introduced throughout the year. Sadly, it was missing that special something; that one unforgettable emotionally-charged moment or scene – think back to Seeing Red; a routine hour that was rendered remarkable thanks to Moira’s stunning final sequence. That scene alone moved me like no other production on TV this year, and sadly, this season finale was unable to produce a moment that rivaled that gem.
Maybe it’s the fact that we didn’t get any huge deaths? Shockingly, both Sara and Slade survived. The former is now brilliantly imprisoned in an A.R.G.U.S. hatch deep beneath the island’s surface, while the latter is back with Nyssa and the League. Both of these characters’ fates subverted my expectations, and I guess it’s an intelligent move because it means we’ll undoubtedly be seeing more of them in the future. Moreover, something tells me that Slade will end up being the show’s ultimate big bad whenever Arrow eventually comes to an end (and let’s hope that’s many seasons down the line).
One genuinely surprising move the writers did manage to pull off in the finale was the Felicity twist. I totally bought Ollie professing his love to her in the manor (and claiming that Laurel wasn’t the one he loved). So imagine my surprise when the truth was revealed (with clever use of Slade’s hidden cameras) and Felicity marvelously took out the cure and injected it into Slade. The payoff with Ollie and Felicity on the island at the end was a poignant moment for the duo, and I’m sure it broke a zillion Olicity hearts across the globe. However, I’m totally fine with this development as I found it quite satisfying and unorthodox. Plus, as I’ve made clear before, I do want Laurel and Ollie to be the show’s endgame couple (as unpopular an opinion as that might sound).
I’m not sure if Detective Lance is dead, but it’s just the kind of loss needed to drive Laurel to really take up the Black Canary mantle. I loved her goodbye with Sara, who unofficially passed the baton over to her (with that sexy-as-hell leather jacket), and Laurel’s gotten a lot to do over the course of the last few episodes. Good things are coming in season three; I can feel it.
I must say, I’m enormously intrigued by Thea’s potential journey next year. Now that she’s lost faith in everyone in Starling City, I think she’s going to have a fascinating road into (hopefully) supervillain territory. And hey, more Malcolm is always a great thing (and Barrowman has thankfully been upped to series regular).
Special mention must be given to Ollie’s speech outside Slade’s cell. It was tremendously resonant on a thematic level, as Ollie finally acknowledged the hero’s he’d become, particularly after successfully immobilizing Slade without the use of fatal force. Mr. Queen character’s arc has admittedly been heavy-handed at times, but Amell has shown considerable growth with every hour. Bravo.
Finally, Unthinkable did a great job of bringing the show’s two-season narrative to a satisfying conclusion, while still managing to open up a whole new phase in the show’s journey. The final flashback further punctuated this evolution with Ollie waking up in Hong Kong at the hands of Amanda Waller. It’s not exactly a bombshell cliffhanger, but it will hopefully nudge the show into a new and exciting direction.
Bits & Arrows
– I must point out that the finale’s Previously On segment was beautifully constructed, beginning with Ollie and Slade’s first encounter. That detail added a real sense of weight to the proceedings.
– Although I was never Layla’s biggest fan, she had a kickass moment with the rocket launcher as she saved Team Arrow in their thrilling escape from the clock-tower.
– Although I think Colton Haynes still has ways to go as an actor, I was glad to see Roy finally get his sidekick mask. However I was shocked to see him lose the Mirakuru powers. I guess he’s going to need some good ol’ fashioned training in order to unlock his true potential.
– How anticlimactic was Isabel’s death? I think this aspect disappointed me most. The character was built up over the course of the season, particularly with her Ravager transformation, only to fizzle out in the end. I so wish the Nyssa-Canary-Ravager fight lasted longer than two seconds. On the bright side, Ollie, Canary and the League taking control of Queen Consolidated was a great moment, and Nyssa got to snap Isabel’s neck like the badass that she is.
– Awesome shot of Arrow and the League as they marched into battle. Again, I wish the actual fight was longer.
– Total hero moment: Lance saving Nyssa.
– The CGI with the Amazo getting torpedoed surprisingly wasn’t that bad.
– Loved the visual callback to the pilot with Sara getting sucked out of the boat.
– Even the Suicide Squad was paid off in the finale with Diggle and Layla infiltrating A.R.G.U.S. and setting the team free before cornering Amanda. The reveal of Diggle’s child however wasn’t as exciting.
– How fantastic was the editing between Ollie and Slade’s fights in the present and the past? I was astounded. And the culmination with Ollie stabbing Slade in the eye with an arrow while tying him up in the present was incredible.
Felicity: Geez Sara, you could have called before you invited 3, 4, 5… 7 assassins into our headquarters.
Nyssa: I am Nyssa, daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul. Heir to the Demon.
Felicity: Felicity Smoak, MIT class of ’09.
Malcolm: Thea it’s dangerous out there.
Thea: Better than here with my psycho-villain dad who’s happy I tried to kill him.
Lance: You’ve killed before. Tonight, I suggest you get back in the habit.
Nyssa: I would die before I let anything happen to your daughter.
Lance: Here’s hoping.
Slade: That’s your problem kid; you don’t have the guts to kill me.
Oliver: No I have the strength to let you live.
Oliver: We need to get my family’s company back.
Felicity: That’s not gonna be easy since you’re poor now. You’re gonna have to get a job. If Slade doesn’t scare you, that’s gotta.
Oliver: Do you know anyone hiring ex-billionaires with superior archery skills?
A very solid and satisfying bookend to an outstanding and impressively-consistent sophomore season. However, Unthinkable needed a stronger dose of emotion to really cement itself as a masterpiece.