TV Review: Arrow: Season 2: Episode 23 [Season Finale]: Unthinkable (CW)

The last two episodes prior to Unthinkable have set up the three part finale that started with City of Blood. So the finale not only has to be up to […]

The last two episodes prior to Unthinkable have set up the three part finale that started with City of Blood. So the finale not only has to be up to the task of finishing up season two, but also picking up where City of Blood and Streets of Fire left off. It’s pretty daunting, considering that all of the events of season two have led up to this moment. Regardless, Arrow has proven that it is more than up to the task with an excellent showing that has surpassed the first season in virtually every way, and even launched thrilling and varied new arcs for their characters and the universe as a whole (starting with the exciting looking Flash series due out in the fall). Unfortunately, with a higher quality season comes a higher bar. And while Unthinkable is a solid episode, it reaches that bar just barely.

2014-05-18 18.49.09Though it’s not quite on the same level as the best that season two had to offer, it was still a story with strong elements. Starting of course with the excellent performances from guest stars Katrina Law and John Barrowman (Nyssa al Ghul and Malcolm Merlyn). Their inclusion had a lot of moments that really cemented their characters’ depiction, and also their stake in the future of the Arrow universe. Unthinkable also features a fantastic performance from Paul Blackthorne as Detective Lance, finally taking his place as a leader. His short but stirring speech made the level of morale from the police force all the more convincing, and its effect resonates throughout the rest of the episode. There’s even a “just because shout out to Brad Metzler, the writer of the phenomenal Green Arrow comic Archer’s Quest, as well as a reference to the very story in a scene where Oliver gives Roy his own mask. Not only does it call back to one of the Green Arrow’s greatest off screen stories, it’s also an emotional moment that hits all the right notes thanks to a downplayed chemistry between Stephen Amell and Colton Haynes as Oliver and Roy. Even so, the best chemistry from the episode still comes out in the scenes between Oliver and Felicity. Not only the drama that unfolded in the mansion, which will have an infamy all on it’s own, but the overlooked exchange in Queen tower after Oliver wavers in his pledge to not take the lives of his enemies. This scene helps illustrate how important Felicity is to Oliver’s continued crusade, and also how her presence is able to keep him from reverting back to his old habits.

Honestly though, it’s still the mansion scene that everyone is going to be talking about, and rightly so. It’s not a very complex scene from a sequential point of view, but the direction of the atmosphere, as well as the appropriate level of emotion from Stephen Amell, and the reaction from Emily Rickards’ Felicity makes it really stand out.  It seemed like Ollicity fans were getting everything they wanted, and that would definitely be considered a bonus by some, but t2014-05-18 18.55.15he truth of it was still far better than any fan pandering could have possibly been. But more on that later because the big set piece of the episode comes in the form of the tunnel fight, and as a whole, it’s very superheroic. Everyone puts on a real show. It’s short and simple, but the plan that Oliver concocts makes it seem like the heroes have actual control over the situation without getting in Deus Ex Machina territory (despite the convenient timing of the cure). Plus, seeing Roy wearing the mask and using the bow fits like a glove! The writers gave the fans a hell of a payoff, and Colton Haynes handles his character’s action scenes, even without the super human aspect, quite well.

Diggle and Lyla using Deadshot to go against Amanda Waller is also an interesting turn. It also gives Lawton and Diggle a reUnthinkableason to interact which is always entertaining. But the drone side-arc still lacked a real sense of danger. It put a timer on the episode, which works out well enough, but it still felt half-assed in the grander scheme.

 

Also, seeing Slade’s descent in to madness has been a natural seeming progression within the mythology of the show. Unfortunately, it’s taken away his greatest strength of seeming brilliant and calculated, instead of passionate and impulsive. He almost feels like a totally different character from who he was at the beginning of the arc (less Edmond Dantes and more Hamlet). Even so, the “plan” involving Felicity was outstanding! I’m sure Ollicity fans were practically fuming, but admittedly, it’s a well-grooved and compelling plot twist that works as a convincing device against Deathstroke. It’s a strong character moment for Oliver as well, as it shows his level of determination to end the bloodshed.

 

Throughout the episode, the flashback scenes tied in to the modern storyline fantastically, but it’s the culmination to the climax of both of those storylines that the episode finds its strongest element, and that is the battle between Oliver and Slade. The fight sequence switching back and forth between the one on the freighter and the one in modern day is nothing short of brilliance. The flashback scenes had remained aligned with the modern day storyline perfectly, and it really ties together the two characters’ conflict up to this point, and also reveals how far Oliver has come, and Slade has fallen. The duel itself looks great, but it’s the sheer savagery in it that makes it incredible.    The level of exhaustion the two reach toward the end, as w2014-05-18 19.08.07ell as the physical toll it takes on both of them also reveals the true determination of both of the characters, doing proper justice to their struggles. The scene is brilliantly directed and choreographed and is a fitting final clash between the two nemeses. The whole ending ties up pretty neatly, but it always feels hard fought. The character’s uncertain fates are also well conveyed, especially Slade’s return to Lian Yu and Thea’s decision to leave Starling City. Also, while it wasn’t where I wanted to see her character go, I agree that Sara’s fate was incredibly fitting (Also, she didn’t die, kind of glad to have egg on my face over that one). There are also a couple of great moments for the characters staying, specifically Roy looking at his mask, and Sara giving Laurel her jacket. It’s wasn’t entirely necessary, but it was still sweet. Also, maybe we’ll get to see her character get something to do in the next season.

Unthinkable succeeds. It answers questions, ties up loose ends, and sets the next season in mUnthinkableotion. It contains no actual failures, but it doesn’t carry the level of emotional impact that has been so prevalent in season 2. There are a few scenes that give great characterization, and have some phenomenal choreography and direction. Unfortunately, the greater conflict of Slade’s army is eliminated with relative ease. The plot devices, and events that have led up to it are still natural seeming, but it all goes a little too well. Also, Isabel Rochev’s exit was even more anticlimactic than Blood’s and that’s saying something. The Drone side-conflict lacked any real significance. It was still necessary to add a clock to the episode, but it wasn’t developed well enough or given a sufficient amount of time to feel like an actual threat. Also, the uncertainty of Officer Lance’s fate was just mean. Looks like you’ll be waiting another few months to see what happened there.

On the plus side, what the episode does well, it does *really* well. The scenes between Oliver and Felicity, and Roy and Thea, as well as Thea and Malcolm hit all of the right notes. The breakdown of the chemistry between Thea and Roy reveals how much things have changed between them since the beginning of the season, and how their characters have drifted apart. Thea’s letter, as well as her departure conveys a great opportunity for the character in2014-05-18 19.16.54 the next season, but also reveals a parallel with her comic counterpart, which is also welcome. Regardless, the scene of their reconciliation did feel sweet, despite its tragic conclusion. The bomb dropped by Oliver to Felicity had real magnitude, but had a nice twist. The tunnel fight is very cool, and probably the most superhero moment that the show has ever had.  Roy taking the mask out after reading the letter really shows how his character is getting everything he used to want, but also how much he had to lose to get it. It’s a fair bit of complexity that I’m looking forward to seeing them expound upon. The closing conversation between Slade and Oliver just shows how far Oliver has come from where he started. It also reveals his confidence that he can do what needs to be done, without bloodshed, and how certain he is about that now. I’m also glad to see it all come back to Lian Yu, as well as the reference to Super Max (The greatest Green Arrow film that never was). Also, the private moment between Felicity and Oliver is pitch perfect. It’s not too much or too little for the characters or fans of their relationship, one way or the other.

2014-05-18 19.18.51Ultimately, Unthinkable is a fitting end for the season. Everyone plays their parts well, and Katrina Law and John Barrowman only manage to sweeten the pot. There are also some great character moments and fight scenes, as well as the perfect ending to Slade and Oliver’s conflict that Manu Bennett and Stephen Amell excel at conveying. It also builds a lot of anticipation for the next season. It does everything it sets out to do, and leaves everyone in the series at a great jumping off point for season three. In short, it ends its run with just the right amount of answers for what’s passed, and questions for what’s to come. I’ll be here waiting with the rest of you.

See you next season.

-PS

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