‘Arrow’ Mid-Season Finale Review: “What We Leave Behind”

Nora Dominick ‘17/ Emertainment Monthly Executive Stage Editor

If there’s one thing Arrow is consistently good at, it’s delivering mid-season finales that will leave everyone talking until its return. While most of season five has been rocky as characters are left behind for bigger plot lines, this episode reminds us why we love this show. The latest episode entitled “What We Leave Behind” perfectly plays to Arrow’s strengths. While there are some weaknesses, the mid-season finale gets season five back on track.

From Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) getting shot by The Ghosts to Roy (Colton Haynes) being injected with Mirakuru to Oliver (Stephen Amell) being killed by Ra’s al Ghul, Arrow has a track record for leaving fans on the edge of their seats for episode nine. Unlike its counterpart The Flash, Arrow has always leaned more towards doom and gloom rather than the happiness. Even last year after “Olicity” got engaged, it was promptly followed by Felicity getting shot. This might be a reason as to why Arrow’s mid-season finales always pack the biggest punch. There are twists around every corner and this episode continues the trend.

Arrow season five isn’t anything like we expected and that’s not necessarily a good thing. After being bombarded by new characters, our favorites retreated into the background. Take Thea (Willa Holland) and Quentin (Paul Blackthorne). These two characters held so much weight in previous seasons and now they are the shells of their former selves. Quentin is off doing a stint in rehab and Thea is barely in a scene long enough to have a storyline. Even Felicity, the once great female character of Arrow, is unrecognizable. Instead of standing out, she hides in the background only to emerge to make a joke. Even Oliver is doing things out of character. He’s wholeheartedly trusting Susan (Carly Pope) and feels he can’t turn to Felicity for advice. When looking at all four seasons of Arrow, these characters are unrecognizable.

That being said, Arrow’s mid-season finale this week began to get the show back on track in terms of characters. While some are still hung out to dry (Quentin, Felicity and Thea), Oliver leaps out from the shadows and shows how far he’s come as a hero and person. When first introduced this season, fans knew Prometheus had a special connection to Oliver. A characteristic that already makes him better than Damien Darhk last season. The personal villains, like Prometheus and Slade Wilson, are the one’s that always pack the greatest punch. Their connection became even more apparent in this episode. For the first time in what seems like ages, Arrow perfectly utilizes its flashback function to tell interlocking stories in both the past and the present. Dare we say it, it’s the best use of flashbacks ever.

Stephen Amell and Rick Gonzalez in the Arrow episode "What We Leave Behind." Photo Credit: Jack Rowand/The CW
Stephen Amell and Rick Gonzalez in the Arrow episode “What We Leave Behind.” Photo Credit: Jack Rowand/The CW

When Team Arrow believes Justin Claybourne (Garwin Sanford) is behind the Prometheus mask, Oliver must directly confront the sins of the past. Using flashbacks, fans catch a glimpse of a Season 1 era episode they never saw. This is something we never thought of and we are so happy Arrow did. Revisiting this time means The Hood is killing people, it’s just Oliver and Diggle (David Ramsey) working through Robert Queen’s list of names, and Felicity is basically lives in the basement of Queen Consolidated. The perfectly executed flashbacks allow us to directly compare and contrast Oliver’s actions with Prometheus in present day and his actions with Claybourne four years ago. Arrow beautifully mimics the scenes particular leading up to the ultimate battle with Prometheus. Also it’s just music to our ears to hear Amell utter, “You have failed this city,” yet again.

After Prometheus grabs Billy Malone (Tyler Ritter), Green Arrow returns to Claybourne’s office building to face Prometheus and get Billy back. This scene leads to some of the best stunt work Arrow has ever done and overall direction. When Green Arrow enters, Oliver is flooded with images from when he confronted Claybourne the first time. Bodies are strewn in the same manner and directly correlate to The Hood’s previous kills. This moment alone is a testament to the crew and the director of this episode, Antonio Negret. As Oliver creeps through the office, Arrow ups the anxiety and heads us towards a big plot twist and unforgettable moment for Stephen Amell.

Before we break down the big showdown between Oliver and Prometheus, there are some other moments we need to address. For the first time in season five, we finally start to develop pre-existing characters as opposed to introducing new ones. Curtis (Echo Kellum) finally gets his episode to shine and it’s been a long time coming. Following the Mayor’s Christmas party, Curtis and Paul (Chenier Hundal) head home when they’re attacked by Prometheus. Curtis unleashes his new ninja moves and Paul is even more skeptical about where he’s spending all his late nights. Seriously Felicity and Curtis, “working on a start up?” Did you get that from the Oliver Queen lying book?

Anyway, after Curtis is injured, Paul ultimately delivers him an ultimatum: either working for Green Arrow or his marriage. Kellum hasn’t been given much to work with this season. He’s one of the many character pushed to the background in order to develop new characters. Frankly, Curtis’ character has lacked a lot of what made him stand out in season four. The mid-season finale begins to remedy this. Kellum nails his scenes opposite Hundal as Curtis struggles to make the ultimate hero decision. While there are several stand out performances in this episode, Kellum’s raw performance during his breakup with Paul shines in particular. It looks like Curtis will become an even bigger member of Team Arrow going into the back half of season five and we are ready.

Stephen Amell, David Ramsey and Emily Bett Rickards in the Arrow episode "What We Leave Behind." Photo Credit: Jack Rowand/The CW
Stephen Amell, David Ramsey and Emily Bett Rickards in the Arrow episode “What We Leave Behind.” Photo Credit: Jack Rowand/The CW

After spending most of season five ignoring they even had a relationship, the mid-season finale validates that Oliver and Felicity did indeed date in season 4 and have an intrinsic connection. We finally get to a point where they can share scenes together and honestly, putting their relationship aside, we’ve just missed the friendship. For those “Olicity” fans, the flashbacks in this episode definitely gave them enough content to swoon over. We see Oliver, four years earlier, visit Felicity at the IT department. The simple interaction is a great homage to the two characters and makes up for the lack of Felicity in the 100th episode. Amell and Rickards perfectly fall back in sync with each other as they bring their characters back to the beginning. It’s a dynamic that’s been missing this season and it looks like there will be a resurgence of “Olicity” coming into 2017.

This leads us to one of the biggest shocks and greatest moments from Amell not only this season, but possibly Arrow as a whole. The big showdown leads to Prometheus outsmarting Green Arrow in the biggest way possible. In a jaw-dropping moment, Oliver ends up killing Billy Malone, who is dressed up to look like Prometheus. While it’s a massive moment on the surface, Oliver killing Felicity’s boyfriend, it leads to one of the best moments, but also one of the flawed ones. Let’s start with the flaw: we didn’t care about Billy. He was introduced in the season five premiere as Felicity’s already well established boyfriend. We barely got any scenes with the two of them throughout the season, but we were supposed to believe they were in a serious enough relationship to practically live together. This problem is two fold for us.

One, while Oliver killing Billy is heartbreaking, it doesn’t hold the emotional weight it would have if we had seen this relationship grow on screen. Felicity and Billy’s relationship is simply there and we have to try to piece together why it’s even a thing. No, this isn’t our “Olicity” heart being annoyed with the relationship, it’s us trying to figure out what Felicity sees in him because we aren’t getting enough character development from him.

Second, it’s an issue with Felicity’s character structure this year. We never thought this would happen, but Arrow fell into the trap that she needs to always be with a man, especially after breaking up with Oliver. This never needed to happen. Honestly, the scene would’ve felt the same if Billy was simply an SCPD officer Oliver knew. Felicity has been reduced to the “hysterical girlfriend” and it’s a flaw Arrow needs to remedy ASAP. Rickards has incredible potential to take Felicity to a truly empowering leading female status, so why do all her scenes involve working with Billy? She can figure stuff out on her own, she hasn’t needed someone before. Arrow needs to realize that they don’t need to shove Felicity in a relationship for us to love her.

Emily Bett Rickards in the Arrow episode "What We Leave Behind." Photo Credit: Jack Rowand/The CW
Emily Bett Rickards in the Arrow episode “What We Leave Behind.” Photo Credit: Jack Rowand/The CW

Now onto the good, the act of accidentally killing Billy pulls Stephen Amell into one of his best acted scenes to date. After realizing what he’s done, he returns to the Arrow Bunker. Of course right from the start, Felicity is asking where Billy is. Now, old, less developed Oliver would’ve most likely lied right here. He would’ve said he didn’t know where Billy is, but this is a moment of true character development. Oliver doesn’t lie, he stares Felicity right in the eye, tears streaming down his face, and says he killed Billy. It’s a massive moment for Oliver. It shows just how far he’s come in five seasons. Honestly, this is probably Amell’s greatest acting in this scene. He gives an emotional and raw performance here. Amell’s work has transcends expectations as he proves he thrives in the vulnerable moments.

After a montage of everyone Oliver’s loves being emotionally vulnerable, Felicity sobbing over Billy, Curtis crying over Paul, not to mention Diggle being outsmarted (we assume by Prometheus) and getting captured by the police, Arrow pulls another twists. Oliver returns to the Arrow Bunker and who is standing there, but Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy). This definitely comes as a surprise considering she’s totally dead, but it almost feels like we are resurrecting a storyline we all finally came to terms with.

In the 100th episode, Oliver finally got the chance to say goodbye to Laurel, so bringing her back yet again feels like Arrow is still trying to say sorry for her death. We get it, you killed her, she was important, now please move on. Who knows though? Maybe this Laurel will end up playing an important role in the later portion of the season. All that aside, we don’t understand why she’s returned except to up the stakes and bring Cassidy back. Our theory? This twist could be related to Barry (Grant Gustin) messing up the timeline, but we 110% hope this is Black Siren. She could’ve escaped the Pipeline in Central City, Prometheus could’ve reached out and be using her against Oliver. This would be the best case scenario. While seeing Cassidy again is a joy, we hope her reappearance is worthwhile.

With some shaky episodes in the beginning of the season, Arrow has finally hit its stride. With impressive flashbacks and stand-out performances from Kellum and Amell, we are excited for season five for the first time. Prometheus provides the emotional connection every great villain has as Arrow begins to feel like itself once again. Overall, things are looking great as we move into the new year.

Arrow returns with brand-new episodes Wednesday January 25th at 8/7c on The CW

Overall Grade: A-


Related Articles


  1. Agree on everything but you did not mention the kiss between Oliver and the journalist .. bad timing if you ask me. He said because he did not know where to go… if not Felicity because not possible (even if a visit at the loft simply looking at her from the balcony not being seen by her would have been good) why not Thea or Diggle? Did not like it at all. For the rest Amell was really fantastic and Rickards as well in their scenes together. They’re the light of Arrow. Authors should remember this.

  2. I’m disconnected from this season because it was too much about characters I don’t care about and too little about ones I do . I think the best I can say about this episode is that the directing was really good.

    I thought a midseason finale was supposed to make you excited to come back after the hiatus. This one ended on just the opposite. When Oliver told Felicity that he’d killed her boyfriend and felt so bad about it, everyone crowded around him to assure him that they still loved him. No one comforted Felicity, not even Diggle who was supposed to be her really good friend. They all made Oliver their only concern. Poor Felicity, who was the one who really needed their support, was left alone to, yes, tell Oliver it wasn’t his fault.

    Then Oliver went to the reporter who was trying to dig up the dirt on him, waiting there in her underwear, to comfort him sexually, and the episode ended on Laurel’s return for the third time. (I thought she was supposed to be dead.) For a viewer who likes the Oliver/Diggle/Felicity dynamic and the Olicity relationship, there’s very little pull to return in January.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *