ARROW 8.01 Review “Starling City”

The beginning of the end.

This post contains spoilers for Arrow.

Well, we’re here. The beginning of the end for Arrow has officially begun as Crisis on Infinite Earths inches closer and closer. No matter what you’ve thought of the show through its tenure, one of its kind doesn’t get made without an egregious amount of love from teams and teams of people. “Starling City” felt like the beginning of a love letter to Arrow. The good, the bad, and the comfortable are all represented in the episode as two worlds collide in an attempt to save a universe.

When we last saw Oliver, he said goodbye to Felicity and baby Mia to join The Monitor begin preparations for the impending Crisis. This places him right back on Lian Yu (along with a very familiar cowl), but he hasn’t hopped into the past like it initially seems. Instead, he’s found himself on Earth 2. Now, each earth has its quirks, but apparently their version of Star City is bizarro world. Up is down, down is up, and all of your faves have a different alignment.

We see many familiar faces on Earth 2, but Oliver’s brothers are the most important, though each for completely different reasons. As he goes through the motions of his return from the Island, Oliver is eventually met once again by one John Diggle. At this point in the episode, he’s run into countless doppelgangers of his friends, but sometimes you just need the original. This Dig isn't from Earth 2, and this Dig wants to know what in the blue hell his brother is doing running all over the multiverse like some kind of idiot lone wolf. But then there’s Tommy.

I will always get emotional when Tommy Merlyn gets involved. An episode about Oliver saving his best friend the very same way he saved him back in season one was not something I was prepared to witness last night. And it certainly wasn’t a narrative I expected to see outside of some sort of alternate universe fanfiction. Yet, here we are.

The through line here is that Oliver’s supposed to be getting the dwarf star particles for The Monitor. He’s warned not to meddle, but two things really should have been taken into consideration: first, he’s Oliver Queen. Second, there wasn’t much of a way for him to get what he needed without ruffling a few Dark Archer feathers. Could it have been done better? Sure. Please see the first point above.

The thing about telling a super compelling story that’s filled with characters who were missed dearly is that anything that pulls away from it is going to be a detriment. While I typically love the Star City 2040 gang, every single flash forward in “Starling City” was tedious. Pulling out of Tommy and Oliver time to show the kids bickering in the future was certainly a choice, but I have no doubt our weird little Young Justice team will deliver in the future.

With the stardust acquired, Tommy saved, and Diggle more in the know on the impending Crisis situation, the two remaining members of OTA made ready to return to their Earth. But not before the entirety of Earth 2 collapses around them. After all of his work to save The Glades from a second Undertaking, Oliver has to watch a group of people identical to his loved ones disintegrate in front of his eyes. He, Dig, and Laurel all make it through the portal in time, but I can’t imagine this little world-erasure is going to be great for Ollie’s mood.

“Starling City” is an exceptional start of an ending. With only ten episodes in their final season, the team behind Arrow is pulling out all of the stops. Their premiere was emotional, heartfelt, and brimming with all of the action you’d expect from an episode directed by James “Bam Bam” Bamford. It goes out of its way to show that the world is better because of Earth Prime’s Oliver Queen. It’s hard to imagine that soon that world won’t have him anymore.

Reviews this year are going to work a little differently than they have in the past. I’m here for the gauntlet of Arrowverse premieres, you’ll see me again for Crisis on Infinite Earths, and then finally for the finales. If you had thoughts on Arrow’s premiere, I want to hear ‘em in the comments!