ARROW 6.23 Review “Life Sentence”

Turns out all that wheel spinnin' actually had a point!

This post contains spoilers for Arrow.
Check out last week's review here.

“Trust me, and this will all work out” is never a sentence you want to hear from someone in any medium in the superhero genre, but you especially don’t want to hear it from Oliver Queen. Countless men and women have died standing for or against his crusade. “Life Sentence” changes that crusade forever, and breathes new life into what has been a stagnant Arrow. Shows often tout their season finales as episodes that will change the landscape of their series forever, while few rarely deliver. Not only does Arrow’s finale succeed, it manages to do so in an emotionally resonant way that it’s been lacking for years.

Through the good and the bad, Quentin Lance has been a cornerstone of the show since its beginning. From the distraught father doing everything he could to bring down Oliver Queen and the Green Arrow alike, to eventually becoming the surrogate father that the former never had, Quentin became an important part of each character’s lives in his tenure. He’s been a vehicle for Arrow to take a realistic look at alcoholism and grief, and Paul Blackthorne has never had a bad scene in the series. The DCTV universe has been blessed with several exceptional actors that it doesn’t really deserve, and when those actors get their own shows their stories must come to a close. It was time for Quintin Lance’s arc to end, and he went out exactly the way he would have wanted to: defending one of his daughters.

In retrospect, season six of Arrow took old arcs and finally did them justice. While everything was unfolding, it seemed as if they were spinning their wheels. Instead, they were taking every remnant that remained of The Hood and The Arrow and turning it to ash so that it could finally make way for the Green Arrow to come out the other side. For five seasons the show has relied on death to motivate change in Oliver Queen’s life. We do lose Quentin in the finale, but that’s not what drives his son forward.

Oliver’s final play was to tell Agent Watson and the FBI who he was. In exchange for helping him save his city and granting his team immunity, they would finally have the Green Arrow. Knowing this, Oliver makes the rounds to make amends with Team Arrow as they hunt for Diaz. First is Dig, and an apology for everything he didn’t see. Next was Rene, and an acknowledgment of how wrong he was to judge him. Finally, a thank you to Dinah for putting her vendetta aside. For the first time ever, we see a Green Arrow who trusts his team without question. He is able to make the decision to hand himself over because he knows that his city is safe. And yes, it is a touch annoying that we end with him in prison when we know it won’t last long, but goddamn is it ever worth it to see some real growth in a character that has had so little change in six years.

Two years ago I would have questioned whether or not it was ever a possibility that we would see the real Green Arrow on a show that’s literally supposed to be about him. I’ve written whole editorials about the fact that he’s Batman in green, but here we are, six years in, and we’re finally there. Oliver Queen will get out of prison. Battles will still be had in Star City, wars will still need to be fought, but they’ll be fought by a snark master who might just tell a joke every once in a while, and isn’t that something to look forward to?

Arrow closes with Oliver Queen both losing and gaining everything. His father figure dies as he’s telling his wife and team that he’s never going to see them again, and they won’t even let him out of the handcuffs for a moment to hold them. He has to tell his son goodbye after just a year of being his father, and Diaz is in the wind, but he is so at peace with his decision. He got to look Quintin in the eye and say how much he means to him, and to see that Sara and Laurel have each other, for better or for worse. Most importantly, he knows that Felicity, William, and his city are all in good hands while he’s gone.

“Life Sentence” accomplishes the difficult task of being gut-wrenching and hopeful at the same time. Arrow has always succeeded in the former, but the latter is exciting new ground that will be great to explore. It’ll always be a little darker in Star City than it is in the other towns in the Arrowverse, but there’s so much to look forward to in the coming season. Diggle will be back in the hood for the time being, Black Siren will have to figure out balance in her new life, and Team Arrow old and new will continue the hunt to take down Ricardo Diaz and the remainder of the Quadrant.

We’ve got a long hiatus in front of us, but we can chat about this season in the comments while we wait!