Arrow Review: Half-Season Ends with a Smoking Crater of Emotion

Arrow, Season 5, Episode 9, “What We Leave Behind”

We could start this review with an obvious rant about how right I’ve been vis-a-vis the big reveal at the end of the episode, but this episode of Arrow was so much more than a cheap cliffhanger reveal at the start of a six-week break. It’s better to ride the emotional roller-coaster the full way than rush right to the steep drop at the end.

Prometheus is unlike any foe the Green Arrow has battled since Slade Wilson. Both Prometheus and Deathstroke’s motivations are personal in nature, but Prometheus is all about the slow blade in the painful places. Thanks to Evelyn’s continued betrayal and his/her own knowledge, Prometheus knows where all of Ollie’s soft points are.

This villain’s style has Oliver tied up in knots since he’s still emotionally raw from the idyllic vision of the future shown to him by the Dominators during their alien invasion. (Kudos to the show for following that thread and also mentioning the crossover at all, something The Flash barely bothered to acknowledge in its follow-up episode).

Ollie and Thea were especially tender in this episode and in a rooftop conversation, they talked about their alien experience and how it all ties to legacy. Thea voiced what fans have been generally screaming at their own TVs for a season and a half now: Oliver Queen dwells on the negative way too damned much. It wasn’t quite that blunt, but she did point out that both as mayor and as the various incarnations of the Arrow, Ollie has performed works worthy of their dead parents’ pride and admiration.

Prometheus isn’t making it any easier by attacking Oliver and nearly everyone he is associated with. Prometheus attacks Curtis in front of his husband outside the Star City holiday party, which immediately strains and eventually snaps Curtis’ marriage. Felicity’s detective boyfriend goes missing as well. The attacks also cause everyone else on Team Arrow to scramble to protect those they hold dear in the aftermath. Between that and Evelyn’s betrayal coming to light, times are tense in the Arrowcave.

Oliver himself is being led around like a mouse in a maze by Prometheus, who has recreated an early exploit by the Hood that was connected to a Martin Shkerli-type pharmaceutical baron who failed Starling City when Ollie was in his kill ’em all phase.

Prometheus restages the aftermath of Oliver’s takedown of that particular evil-doer, with Prometheus baiting Oliver into a roiling boil of rage by the time he reached the end of the path. A skirmish ensues and Ollie seemingly gets the upper hand, is able to pump three arrows into Prometheus … or so he was led to believe. Prometheus pulled a Dark Knight on Ollie by gagging Felicity’s boyfriend, taping a sword in his hand and propping him up on the battlefield in a Prometheus suit. Oliver was immediately full of remorse, but it didn’t make her boyfriend any less dead.

Oliver then has the harrowing job of having to inform a woman he once loved (and honestly still does) that he accidentally killed a person who brought joy to her life. Happy Hanukkah, Felicity. Ollie wants to break up the team because Prometheus is literally destroying everything Oliver touches, but Diggle speaks for the team when he pledges to stand with Ollie to the end.

The episode winds down with scenes of despair from Curtis and Felicity, and the fugitive Diggle being duped into getting captured by the authorities. With no other place to turn, Oliver ends up on the doorstep of Susan, the reporter who has become his sounding board, drinking buddy and friend with benefits.

It closes with Oliver returning to what he expected to be an empty Arrowcave to find this:

As a documented “Laurel ain’t dead ” truther from the very beginning, let me say I was F*CKING RIGHT, BITCHES!! Unless this ends up being some kind of Flashpoint wrinkle, I’m probably not going to be right for long. The camera lingered on the booze bottles a little too long when Susan was pouring drinks and Oliver has had a tendency to dream about Laurel of late. Instead of being in the Arrowcave, Ollie is likely a drooling heap on Susan’s couch, the victim of yet another scheme from the puppet master Prometheus.

While this episode was depressing as hell, it also worked. It worked because this season Arrow has given us a lot more sweet to balance out the bitter. Even within this episode there were jokes about the crazies coming out every Wednesday nights, tipsy Felicity being awkward, everyone on the team not listening and another tender moment between Diggle and his baby boy.

The showrunners have realized that when it’s already too dark to see, it’s impossible to tell when things go pitch black. This is a mistake The Flash made with its mid-season finale, which was supposed to have this emotional jolt but it all just felt like continuation of the mopey path the show has been traveling all season. Arrow‘s emotional balance made its mid-season punch to the gut more painful, more effective and has you circling January 25 on your new 2017 calendar in anticipation for the series’ return.

Craig Wack

For a weekly discussion of comic book TV shows please join Craig Wack and Tatiana Torres for the Agents of GEEK podcast updated every Friday and now on iTunes

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