Penultimate episodes can be hard. Writers have to find a balance between making the episode interesting enough to hype up fans for the finale, but if they make it greater than their ending they’re setting themselves up for failure. Legends of Tomorrow, despite having a stellar season two, fell into this trap this season. While we won’t know if Arrow will suffer the same fate until next week, I can say that they had one hell of a well-balanced lead in.
It’s always dangerous when someone on the CW Network has a good day, but this is especially true on their shows that skew more grim, like Arrow. This means anyone reading this review knew exactly what was to come when Oliver had a nice birthday party. Even with that, the moment manages to be lovely. Oliver throws Curtis around, everyone has nice toasts, Oliver and Felicity are low-key dating again... it was fun! There was even a call-out to Lord Mesa, a fan artist who frequently sends the writer's room drawings, and does freelance work with Amell on occasion. Long live Lord Mesa Bakery!
Warm fuzzies to the left, it’s angst time! But the good kind of show-y drama angst. Dinah and Rene are missing from the party. When Curtis investigates, he gets kidnapped too. Slowly, one by one, all of Team Arrow is picked off and kidnapped by Chase’s cohorts. Welcome back, Evelyn. You’re still a miserable cow that everyone hates. Oliver tries to outsmart Chase by sending Dig and Felicity away, but a chimp with remedial skills in ASL could have told you how that was going to go.
With every member of the team snatched off and away, it’s Oliver against the world. Kind of. There’s a nice bait and switch moment about halfway through the episode where we’re led to believe that Talia’s about to get the drop on Oliver, but are instead greeted with Merlyn. It’s a logical switcheroo that results in one of the many morally ambiguous characters that are going to side with Oliver for this showdown joining the fold. Some of the best moments of the episode belong to Merlyn. He’s always quick with the quips with Oliver, but it was his moment of advice that shone the brightest in “Missing”. That advice is balanced with enough shots at Oliver’s intelligence to not seem out of place, and capped off with a simple “it’s a shame that it takes a sociopath to tell you that”. Personal introspection points to Malcolm Merlyn. Admitting you have a problem is the first step.
Usually Adrian Chase is one of the shining stars of an episode, but that wasn’t the case in “Missing”. It could be that he had so little screen time, or it could be at this point his insanity is simply status quo, but something about him just wasn’t doing it for me this week. Joining him in the less than great category are the flashbacks, but that’s not really news. They do lose extra points for Oliver’s annoying flashback in a flashback memory-flashes sequence. There is one decent moment among them. Laurel stopping Oliver from killing himself is particularly on-brand for season one (and directly before) Oliver Queen.
Speaking of Laurel, Chase is getting help from all kinds of sources! This includes the Black Siren, who may or may not still have a soft spot for daddy dearest. He may be a different version of her father, but it looks like they had a good enough relationship on Earth 2 for her to make a deal with Chase that he doesn’t get hurt. Of course, that doesn’t really look to be the case while they’re being thrown around on Lian Yu, and Adrian Chase has been known to lie, so we’ll chalk that scenario up to “it’s complicated”. It’s very possible that the loss of her family is what caused her to flip out and go all dark-side, so keep an eye on her and Quentin’s relationship moving forward.
Mea culpa to the Rene fans out there. He appears to be kidnapped just like the rest of the gang. He’s still a dingbat though. We get to see the rest of Team Arrow chained up on the island, but he and Dinah are still MIA. I’ve got no theories for you here, guys. I don’t have the slightest clue where they are, or what part they’ll play in the finale. We do know they make it to season six though, so don’t fret too much!
Upon discovering that Chase has taken his team and family to Lian Yu, Oliver’s got a little bit more recruiting to do. Joining team Moral Ambiguity will be Nyssa Al Ghul and Slade Wilson, which means some conflicting emotions in next week’s finale. Merlyn is less than pleased that Nyssa will be helping them. Oliver will be in no way excited to work with Slade Wilson again. Oh, and Nyssa’s not very excited about having to face off with her sister. This makes for an awesome team! Everyone’s happy to be here!
Bonus mentions for the week include Oliver gradually adding more and more of the character’s trademark sass. “Hypothetically dating my ex-fiance? Noooo”, was aces. Also very much not what Felicity was talking about, which makes the moment even more giggle worthy. Oliver’s becoming more and more of the hero we’re looking for, not only in his relationship with OTA and the others, but also as a mentor and brother to Thea. Oh, and his son’s in trouble, so he cares more now. That the case for any of you? Is there literally anyone out there who cares about William’s well-being? No? Bueller? Pointless character is pointless. Stop using him.
Next week it’s time for yet another showdown on Lian Yu! The stakes are high, a team of friends and foes are gathered, and Oliver’s going to take what are hopefully the final steps in his ascension to the real Green Arrow. What do you want to see happen, kids? You know what to do!