Nora Dominick ‘17/ Emertainment Monthly Executive Stage Editor
Arrow closes a major chapter in the season five finale entitled “Lian Yu.” As we catch up with the flashbacks, Oliver (Stephen Amell) faces off against Adrian Chase (Josh Segarra) in one of his biggest battles to date. Behind an uneven season, Arrow’s season five finale is the perfect balance of heart and fight as the show proves how it ushered in the DCTV revolution and changed the face of The CW.
By the time you hit season five of any series, some TV shows flounder. They crack under the pressure to keep audiences interested. There’s the need to reinvent, introduce new characters and close long standing plot lines in order to usher in new ones. Arrow fell into this hole at the beginning of the season. The series lost its foothold in the universe fans originally loved. Main characters were pushed aside to build up new one’s and the entire show just felt like a shell of its former self. When mid-season came around, we wondered if we could follow Arrow in the direction it was headed in.
Then in the last five episodes, Arrow gave us some of the best storytelling, character development and action the show has produced since season two. The show proves yet again that when it gets knocked down, it gets right back up, stronger than ever before. From a tour-de-force performance by Stephen Amell and Josh Segarra to an all around beautifully shot and crafted episode, Arrow proves its worth in the season five finale.
If anyone ever doubts Stephen Amell’s acting abilities, we’re going to point them to this episode. In five years, Amell has honed his craft and become an actor that has learned from those around him. David Rapaport saw something in young Amell five plus years ago, and we tip our hats to him as well. Amell drives this episode, both in flashbacks and present day. It’s exceptional to watch him interact with every single cast member in remarkably different ways.
This episode focuses a lot on Oliver letting go of his father and looking to the family he has before him. Amell allows you to feel how big of an impact every person has had on Oliver. From the undying love he has for Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) and William (Jack Moore) to the heroic strength Slade (Manu Bennett) and Nyssa (Katrina Law) give him, Oliver uses all of them in this finale. Oliver’s character development is on full display here.
Amell has several crucial acting moments that drive the Arrow season five finale. There’s no better way to review this episode than breaking it down by Amell and his scene partners. First up, Amell and Emily Bett Rickards. While separated most of the episode, Amell and Rickards give fans the Olicity moment an entire season in the making. Upon reuniting, Felicity kisses Oliver realizing she’s ready to move their relationship forward. It’s a small, sweet and intimate moment, perfectly placed in the midst of the chaos.
This is what we’ve been searching for all season. Despite what some people might believe, Olicity fans don’t always need an episode completely dedicated to the couple. We like explosions as much as the next fan. What’s nice to see is that character is at the center of a superhero show. That despite the mask, characters and their relationships to each other matter the most. Rickards and Amell continue to showcase why they’re at the heart of Arrow.
Next up, Amell’s long awaited reunion with Manu Bennett. Absent from Arrow, Bennett’s Slade Wilson makes a long overdue return and it’s one of the best parts of the finale. Now that the mirakuru has left his system, Slade is back to being a father figure for Oliver. Amell and Bennett fall right back in step with each other as they help create some of the most physically demanding stunt sequences in the finale. Bennett puts on Deathstroke’s mask and it’s like he never left. He keeps up with Amell and the rest of the cast instantaneously and it’s a sight to behold. While Segarra has completely won us over for “best villain on Arrow,” Bennett reminds us he is and always will be our original favorite.
Remember when Arrow gave Oliver a son and we weren’t thrilled about it? We take everything back. Oliver does everything in his power this week to rescue William and it brings about one of Amell’s finest moments. On a boat with Chase, Oliver finally rescues his son. In a small moments, Oliver hugs tightly to William reassuring him everything will be okay. It’s a massive moment for the character and Amell plays it perfectly. For the first time, we can see Oliver as a father. It’s heartwarming and just what this gut-wrenching finale needs.
A surprise appearance in the Arrow finale goes to the one and only Susanna Thompson. Once Oliver is rescued from Lian Yu in flashbacks we get a scene we never saw in the pilot. Oliver calls home and gives the news to Moira that he’s alive and coming home. After 115 episodes, the flashbacks end with a truly great pay off with this moment. Once again, Thompson and Amell prove they have a bond like no other. It’s the hardest scene to watch as Oliver tearfully tells his mother he’s alive. Thompson and Amell may not be in the same physical space, but they work effortlessly together. It’s always a joy to watch them reunite and this is the perfect scene to end a great era in Arrow’s history.
While Amell gives the performance of his career, it’s truly Josh Segarra who owns this episode. Since being unmasked as Prometheus, Segarra has proven his worth every single week. Giving us a villain that is equal parts malicious and sexy is something only Segarra could do. He’s been a force to be reckoned with stepping up his game week after week.
Opposite Amell, he’s created our favorite villain in the Arrow-verse. His massive fight sequence with Amell solidifies Segarra’s rank amongst the best actors to come through this show. There’s no denying that Segarra ruled over Arrow with an iron fist this season and helped deliver the shows strongest finale to date. While we knew it had to end with Chase’s death, we wish we could keep Segarra forever.
He’s been The Dark Archer, The Magician and Ra’s al Ghul. He’s been an enemy and a friend. Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) ends his Arrow-verse journey in the finale when he sacrifices himself to save Thea (Willa Holland). It’s the perfect way to lose such an iconic character. After five seasons of trying to be a good father to Tommy (Colin Donnell) then Thea, Malcolm makes the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of his daughter. Barrowman has been a massive asset to this show and we’re sad to see him go.
That being said, Malcolm’s storyline had come to an end. There’s only so many times Malcolm can betray Thea before we get bored. Barrowman and Holland create an amazing dynamic over five seasons. It has been a joy to watch their chemistry grow and evolve as their character did as well. We’ll miss Barrowman, but Malcolm ended his journey in the best way possible.
Another small moment worthy of recognizing is Rickards and Holland. After Malcolm sacrifices himself, Thea and Felicity have a heart to heart. It’s a small moment in the grand scheme of the episode, but it makes a big difference. Female friendships are few and far between on TV, so to have one be at the center of a major finale is just what Arrow needs. With Thea absent from a majority of the season, Felicity not only lost a friend, but Rickards lost a scene partner. Rickards and Holland are an underutilized duo and when they’re placed together it proves how important female friendships are. We hope to see more of these two together in season six.
While the acting by Segarra, Amell, Rickards and the rest of the cast gave the Arrow finale its edge, we have to talk about the editing. The smooth editing between present and flashback has never been so seamless. By having both storylines set entirely on Lian Yu, it is perfect to showcase the man Oliver was and the man he’s become. Arrow’s editing team gets a big shoutout for making this episode smooth as we jump between timelines.
The show finally finds a perfect balance between character moments and action sequences. James Bamford and the stunt team give us memorable fights. Between the big one between Team Arrow and Team Prometheus and the smaller fights between Nyssa and Talia (Lexa Doig) and Dinah (Juliana Harkavy) and Black Siren (Katie Cassidy). The stunts are clean and action packed, as Arrow shows its strengths in these moments.
Arrow delivers a season five finale that closes one chapter while opening another. “Lian Yu” is the perfect full-circle episode for Oliver as we say goodbye to a 10 year journey for the character. This episode is a turning point for the series and is one of the best the series has delivered. From remarkable performances from Amell and Segarra to the stunts and editing, Arrow gives long-time fans an episode for the ages. While the episode ends with the fate of our favorite characters left up in the air, we’re super excited for season six and the next era of Arrow.