Arrow 5.23: “Lian Yu” Review

NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Arrow”, including multiple major character deaths, are present in this review



After five long years, Arrow has come full circle in the complete transformation of Oliver Queen into the hero he was always meant to fully become. “Lian Yu” was not only an outstanding season finale for Arrow on its own merits, even outclassing the DC Television Universe’s comparably excellent season finale of Legends of Tomorrow from earlier this Spring, but also stands as one of the best episodes of the entire series to date, hugely delivering on its promise of an epic conclusion in the final battle with Prometheus on Lian Yu.

The episode’s title is apt too, since this entire episode takes place on Lian Yu, in both the final set of flashbacks, as well as the present-day events. As Oliver lands on the island in the present, with Nyssa and Merlyn in tow, he convinces Slade Wilson and Digger Harkness to come along on his quest to stop Chase, in exchange for their freedom. Yes, the show surprisingly did remember to bring Captain Boomerang out of the island prison too, even if his role in the episode was disappointingly minor in the end.

Deathstroke’s return, meanwhile, was much more suspenseful and dramatically gratifying. It turns out that Slade’s Mirakuru-induced insanity actually wore off a long time ago, with Slade seemingly being back to normal at this point, and now fully allied with Oliver again. Nonetheless, the show did screw with audiences’ expectations in an inspired way, as Slade appears to betray Oliver more than once, only for this to actually be a part of Oliver’s strategy. Even the bad guys ended up being fooled by Oliver’s history with one of his former greatest foes, and the way that this was used against them was constantly thrilling.

By contrast though, Captain Boomerang wasn’t put to too much use, as he quickly betrays Oliver’s crew to ally with Chase. This comes shortly before Oliver, Merlyn, Nyssa and Slade manage to free Curtis, Felicity, Thea and Samantha (apparently, Samantha was also taken by Chase off-screen), with Oliver instructing them to run to an escape route, due to the plane he took getting obliterated by an RPG. Along the way though, Thea steps on a land mine, forcing everyone to stop, as Boomerang and some of Talia’s goons close in on them. Merlyn however pushes Thea off of the mine and stands on it himself, allowing Oliver’s teammates to flee while he lures Boomerang and the thugs to him, with an explosion being glimpsed in the distance soon afterward. Yes, apparently Merlyn killed himself to save Thea, and took Captain Boomerang down with him no less, likely as a convenient way for Warner Bros. to remove a villain from the DC Television Universe that they no doubt want to use for their big screen DC Extended Universe, namely its in-development sequels to the Suicide Squad movie.

While surprisingly humble and unceremonious, Merlyn’s death did ultimately prove him to be, at the very least, the devout father to Thea that he wanted to be. It looks like Merlyn really is dead and gone too, since John Barrowman has already confirmed that he’s not going to show up on Arrow next season, even if the show does leave a bit of wiggle room by not actually showing Merlyn or Boomerang get blown up, in case The CW ever does want to bring either character back someday, and Warner Bros. allows it in Boomerang’s case. Killing the supposed arch-nemesis of Green Arrow (at least in DC Comics lore), on this show is a pretty bold move, but I suppose at this point it’s more fair to say that Merlyn was an anti-hero in this universe, rather than a truly significant foe to Oliver. If anything, Prometheus seems to be far more worthy of the arch-nemesis mantle for Arrow’s take on Green Arrow lore at this point, since he easily pushed Oliver to greater new emotional and psychological heights as a hero than any villain before him, even Deathstroke.

Of course though, Team Arrow’s escape from the island can’t be that easy, even with Evelyn conveniently left in a cage after the first skirmish. Oliver briefly ends up being captured by the latest false betrayal from Slade, though this allows him to free Diggle, Lance, Rene and Dinah, which is around the time that the team discovers that the entire island is wired to blow with hundreds of buried C4 bombs! Where Prometheus got that much C4 is anyone’s guess, and how he found the time to wire up an entire frickin’ island with explosives is an even bigger question, even by the standards of the DC Television Universe, but at the very least, this does create a nice sense of urgency and tension for the final battle, as Chase finally reveals himself, while Black Siren and Talia join him in a huge brawl with Team Arrow.

This final action sequence definitely doesn’t disappoint, as it’s brutal and fast-paced in all of the right ways. The fight between Oliver and Chase is particularly intense, and nicely intercut with the flashbacks to boot, which show exactly how Oliver defeats Kovar’s final forces. There’s not that much to say about the show’s last batch of flashbacks, since you probably already know how they’re going to unfold, but they’re still very cool to see, being packed to the brim with more impressive action sequences. This is probably one of the most exciting season climaxes that Arrow has ever had, and it really needed to offer that too, considering that the show seems to be fully closing the book on Oliver’s dark past after this.

The biggest suspense however comes when Oliver finally subdues Chase and has the chance to kill him, which is intercut by Oliver snapping Kovar’s neck to reach the boat that found him in this show’s pilot episode, first bringing him back to Starling City to become The Hood. In the present however, Oliver lets Chase go, and it’s a good thing he did, since Felicity soon after discovers that the bombs around the island are wired to a dead mans’ switch, meaning that if Chase dies, everyone else dies too. Chase manages to get away again however, forcing Oliver to race him to an escape boat while his team tries to find another escape route, after Chase’s plane is inevitably sabotaged. After Chase lies about killing William, he does manage to produce Oliver’s son in a final stand-off, with Oliver merely wounding Chase to save his son. Right as it looks like Oliver wins though, Chase shoots himself in the head, with the entire episode ending as every bomb on Lian Yu goes off, blowing most of the island away, and seemingly taking every person upon the island with it! Oh wow, that’s a hell of a cliffhanger to end the season on, that’s for sure!

As you can imagine, Team Arrow no doubt escaped somehow, especially since we already know that Black Siren will be a series regular antagonist next season, so even the KO’d villains must have found a way off the island before the big kaboom. Chase is the only villain that’s definitely dead at this point, since the show leaves wiggle room to bring back Merlyn, Boomerang, Talia and Evelyn if it ever wants to, as you don’t actually see any of them die, even if they’re more than likely toast too.

Even as we have to wait for next season to see which threats may emerge for Team Arrow next though, “Lian Yu” was an ideal way to cap off five years of personal development for Oliver, and for Arrow as a whole. All that can be said about it is that it’s excellent in pretty much every way, even if you might wish for a bigger role for some characters, namely Merlyn, Boomerang and Evelyn. Even then though, we couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion to Oliver’s battle against his personal history, nor a better conclusion to Season Five of Arrow. Even as Team Arrow’s fate remains so uncertain, a whole new chapter is no doubt opening up for Oliver in Season Six, and I’m extremely stoked to see where this Green Arrow’s heroic journey takes him next!

Arrow capped off a standout season and five years of dark history for Oliver in a universally excellent season finale this week, as an epic final confrontation with Prometheus' forces unfolds on Lian Yu.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Consistently exciting and dramatic final battle in present day and flashbacks
Slade Wilson's standout, unpredictable role
Oliver finally forgiving himself for his dark past, even as Prometheus appears to win