A couple of years before the comic book movie craze became full-blown, there was a script making the rounds of the Warner Bros. backlot called Super Max. In it, the Green Arrow is sent to a prison full of super-villains, some of whom he put away, and is forced to survive amongst a jail full of the worst of the worst all the while planning his escape and then trying to prove his innocence. During the finale of tonight’s episode of Arrow the existence of Super Max came to mind, and despite the fact that it was written by David S. Goyer, who by this point has as man detractors as fans, it’s always seemed like a missed opportunity. Or is it?
Ra’s al Ghul’s plan to turn everyone in Starling against the Arrow is complete as Ra’s lets the last person still on the outside of Arrow’s secret identity in on the behind the scenes info: Captain Quentin Lance. If it felt like Lance was getting the short end of the stick throughout the first half of the season, the writers have more than made up for it in the last couple of weeks, and Paul Blackthorne has been nailing it in every single scene. Although Lance was initially Javert to the Arrow’s Val Jean, the last three seasons have made his motivations more complex, and dare we say, more relatable.
If you’re framed for shooting the mayor, you’ve got to expect some heat no matter how innocent you are. And although the logical and rational audience member maybe thinking to themselves why no one in a position of authority’s not asking the question about why the Arrow suddenly went rogue, recent tragedies have shown us that the first casualty of calamity is reason. So with the death of the mayor, the vigilante task force is back in effect, and arrest warrants are issued for the Arrow, Arsenal and Black Canary.
Oliver’s response to the full-on besmirchment of his sorta good name, prompts him to hunt down Maseo who’s leading the League campaign of evil Arrows. Seeing Oliver fight the man that was his partner would have had more dramatic heft had we gotten the full story of what happened between them, Tatsu and Akio five years prior. That story shuffled forward some more this week when we learn that it’s Shado’s twin sister Mei that Oliver met on the street a few weeks ago. All Mei wanted was an answer to the question of what happened to her family, which Oliver is hesitant to answer, but he does eventually tell Mei that her sister and her father are gone. And the truth shall set you free! Cliched bu true, and at least it gave the episode some thematic purpose.
In the present, we’re treated to a particularly tense sequence where Oliver, Roy and Laurel are surrounded by SCPD, forced to chase through the alleys and buildings to get away from Capt. Lance and about a hundred officers in hot pursuit. The stakes are really high because for once Oliver isn’t the man with the plan, he’s living Ra’s’ plan now, and he’s just a simple cog in the machine. Every action that Oliver takes is beaten by a responding action by the Demon’s Head and soon Oliver is left with only one of two options: accept Ra’s offer, or surrender himself to the police.
One might consider Oliver’s surrender to the police an act of impetuousness, sticking it to Ra’s rather than accept the almost reasonable alternative of staying free and controlling a vast army with unlimited resources. Although Oliver may believe in the virtue of honesty, it comes from a place where taking the honest path is the last resort. It maybe the correct choice, but it’s hardly the heroic one, even if Oliver’s last act as a free man is to make sure his team gets immunity.
As Oliver is taken away, he and Lance have a tense conversation in the back of the paddywagon, with Lance unleashing what seemed like years worth of things unsaid to the Arrow, to Oliver, and to whoever else that might have caused him pain that can be traced back to Oliver’s five years away. Stephen Amell, who’s normally so strong and commanding, looked slight and ashamed under the whip of Lance’s tongue lashing. It’s doubtful that Oliver was ever strongly dressed down by his own father (dream sequences excluded), so this is probably the closest to a full-on fallout with a parental figure Oliver is likely to experience.
And that brings us to Super Max. Seeing Oliver taken away, likely to Iron Heights, which is full of people that the Arrow played no small part in putting away, it seemed like Arrow was toying with a small screen version of that idea. But there was still one more surprise, or at least it was a surprise if you haven’t subjected yourself to spoilers online. Roy, dressed in Arrow green, surrenders himself as the real Arrow. Oh Roy. Are the SCPD really to believe that the punk kid from the Glades has been operating as a highly trained vigilante for three years and is not the little guy in red that’s always getting knocked out or captured?
Apparently, but Roy is being driven by survivors guilt for the police officer he killed while high on Mirakuru. He tells Thea that when the police were closing in on him in Arsenal gear, he was almost grateful. Oh Roy. Between that, and Roy and Thea’s brief post-coital bliss, and you’d be crazy not to assume that Roy is not long for this world. Both Amell and Colton Hayes have walked back the graveness of their social media comments, but it’s 2-to-1 odds that we’ll be saying buh-bye to Roy in some capacity this time next week.
Speaking of near-death experiences, Ray Palmer took an arrow saving Felicity from Maseo’s massacre, but unlike the mayor, he lives. The twist is that he has an inoperable blood clot, so face with the possibility of dying in surgery to fix the clot, or dying when the clot makes its way to the brain, Ray decides to put his faith in magical little robots. One problem though, Starling General Hospital forbids untested magical cures.
I’m honestly not sure who thought that Charlotte Ross‘ last appearance on Arrow was so seminal that it demanded a near immediate encore, but here she was ready to help Felicity break the rules and give Ray the nanites he needed to live. Ross does a fine job playing Donna Smoak as written, but the problem is that she’s written badly. Donna seems more like a better fit for Elle Woods’ mother, not Felicity Smoak whose nerdy chic becomes less cool when the utter genuineness that is Felicity is in the orbit of the utter fakeness of Donna Smoak. Arrow gets a lot of praise of being a more realistic superhero show, but the existence of Donna, at this point, requires more suspension of disbelief than Firestorm.
Brandon Routh was still his normal charming self, and the scenes where he was cracking wise with the doctor were great, but it felt like the writers were reaching when Ray spontaneously told Felicity that he loves here. There’s an added level of crank yanking knowing that Ray will shortly be going to his own show, but the other chain the show took the opportunity to yank again was the will-they/won’t-they of Olicity. The upside of the story is that it’s somewhat implicit that Ray’s going to experience side effects from his little robots, perhaps enough to take A.T.O.M. to his logical next evolution in abilities. (Think small.)
This week’s Arrow adventure definitely had its moments, but it’s still something of a big flaming question mark what we’re working towards. Can the police seriously buy Roy as the Arrow? How much longer will Ra’s al Ghul let Oliver through is offer in his face? Is Ray still waiting for his Jell-O? Be back here in two weeks to find out!