NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Arrow”, including the identity of the ‘new’ Green Arrow, are present in this review
Arrow’s in a pretty uncomfortable position this week. After having concluded Oliver’s prison arc last week, the show still has one week left to get through before leading into the big ‘Elseworlds’ crossover event next week, which is also doubling as the actual midseason finales for Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl alike! The best thing that Arrow can do this week then, with what is essentially its ‘proper’ midseason finale, is hurry along Oliver’s inevitable re-taking of his Green Arrow mantle, with, “Unmasked” initially trying to proceed as if it’s going to take some time before Oliver re-assumes the Green Arrow identity, before it quickly abandons that idea for what viewers all know is coming anyway.
There’s still some good story material to enjoy in this week’s Arrow episode however, especially since we finally learn who the Green Arrow impostor is! The reveal even kicks off the episode, as we see an unnamed woman doing an intense workout regime in the opening minutes, before seeing a news report about the release of Oliver Queen from prison, and subsequently donning her own version of the Green Arrow costume! Yes, that pink lighting from the season premiere was indeed a hint that this new Green Arrow is female, and while her identity isn’t spelled out in this episode proper, DC Comics fans will know this character as Emiko Queen, the half-sister of Oliver Queen, who eventually dons the mantle of Red Arrow in the printed panels! Emiko is still Oliver’s half-sister in the Arrowverse, with her father still being Robert Queen, though it’s currently unknown whether the show will somehow try to uphold Emiko’s mother being Shado, as in DC Comics lore. That would be tough, considering that Robert and Shado never should have logically met in the Arrowverse, but who knows. Maybe Flashpoint changed something.
Surprisingly, Emiko’s identity reveal (even if she hasn’t currently been named in the show proper), bookending the episode is treated with less fanfare than you would think. Instead, most of this episode is about giving Oliver an excuse to become the Green Arrow again, and that excuse handily comes by way of Max Fuller. Remember Max Fuller? He was the nightclub owner that was briefly seen all the way back during the show’s first season (specifically, in the third episode, “Lone Gunmen”), wherein he beat up Oliver and Tommy on account of Oliver allegedly sleeping with his fiancee, before banning the two men from his club, Poison for life. Max seems to be ready to let bygones be bygones, but after two of Max’s business associates are killed in apparent Green Arrow attacks, the team starts getting to work trying to figure out why the new Green Arrow is suddenly killing people, or whether the new Green Arrow is even behind the killings at all.
Unfortunately, this episode has problems throughout this core storyline. First, it’s stupid obvious that Max is behind everything, since there would be no logical reason to dredge up such an obscure Arrow character with such a long-forgotten beef against Oliver otherwise. Second, Oliver’s reasoning for putting the hood back on so early is pretty questionable. He doesn’t ultimately require that much convincing, especially since Diggle conveniently has a spare Green Arrow uniform lying around. Not only that, but Dinah immediately deputizes Oliver, and makes the original Green Arrow an official ally to the SCPD, Batman-style! The mayor does raise a stink about this, granted, but like Dinah says, the fact that Laurel is the D.A. means that there’s not much the mayor can do to change the situation. Why bother making a big deal about Oliver becoming the Green Arrow again in the first place then? It doesn’t seem like it was that hard to get around the anti-vigilante laws of Star City in the end.
Fortunately, where the storytelling tended to excel more is in seeing Oliver’s reaction to Felicity’s shift in personality. After Max hires a hitman called ‘The Mirror’ to fake the Green Arrow killings and soon after target Oliver (there is a character called ‘The Mirror’ in DC Comics lore, but he appears to be completely unrelated to this version that was made up for the show), Oliver is horrified to see that not only does Felicity now own a gun, but she also has no problem shooting The Mirror right in the couple’s living room! The hard, emotional conversations that Oliver and Felicity have to share in response to Felicity’s emotional hardening provided many of the episode’s best moments, especially with Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards both really crushing their performances this week, even more than usual! I’m a bit annoyed that the series is yet again teasing the idea that Felicity is going to leave Oliver, since the, “Distance” may have changed them too much, but I really hope that Arrow isn’t going to start beating that dead horse again. It will only make Felicity look weak when she’s supposed to be developing a dangerous new side this season.
Speaking of Felicity being dangerous, the flash-forwards once again made a return on Arrow this week, as William, Dinah and Zoe try to make contact with the mysterious Blackstar. Turns out, Blackstar is a deadly cage fighter named Maya, who was somehow in league with Felicity for unknown reasons. After discovering intelligence that appears to implicate Blackstar as being complicit in Felicity’s alleged plans to destroy Star City, William, Dinah and Zoe realize that they have no choice but to hike it to The Glades. Apparently, that’s where the future Rene has been living too, meaning that he hasn’t quite abandoned Star City to the extent that the series suggested. I suppose that said abandonment was metaphorical, more so than literal. The flash-forwards did present some interesting new questions this week, but considering that these are definitely the final flash-forwards of 2018, since the only remaining Arrow episode for this year is the ‘Elseworlds’ crossover episode next week, you’d think that the year’s final set of flash-forwards would have been presented with a much bigger twist to stew on until late January, when Arrow makes its 2019 midseason debut.
“Unmasked” noticeably suffers from being in a clearly impossible position, since it’s supposed to be Arrow’s true midseason finale outside of Elseworlds, and since it has to hastily start moving the desired storylines along to their ideal positions for Season Seven’s back half in 2019, while also identifying the new Green Arrow, and leaving the rest of Arrow’s 2018 run to be upheld by the crossover event next week. The action in this episode at least remained superb, and the drama between Oliver and Felicity worked very well, especially if my fears about Felicity dumping Oliver again end up being unfounded.
Ultimately though, the show really had to rush to get Oliver back into his Green Arrow identity, likely in order to accommodate the fast-approaching Elseworlds crossover (even if Barry Allen will be taking up Oliver’s Green Arrow hood for that event instead), and this meant having to deal with an obvious villain-of-the-week pushing a stupid plan, while Dinah quite uncharacteristically batted her nose at the anti-vigilante laws that she previously claimed to be so reverent of. Still, if nothing else, Oliver is back under the hood, sans mask now, and Arrow can at least look forward to hopefully closing out 2018 on a high note with Elseworlds next week. Aside from that though, this proper midseason finale for Arrow is left wanting in terms of the kind of impact that should keep engaging fans’ excitement over the lengthy midseason break, even after we’ve finally learned who has taken up the Green Arrow identity during Oliver’s absence.
- Plenty of exciting action throughout
- Oliver confronting Felicity's violent change
- The new Green Arrow's identity reveal carries great promise for 2019
- Oliver already becoming the Green Arrow again feels rushed and contrived
- Max Fuller is too obvious and trite a villain
- Flash-forwards are very anti-climactic, considering the midseason break