ARROW Season 5 Finale “Lian Yu” Review
BY The Screen Spy Team
Published 5 years ago
By Justin Carter
I’m trying to find the right words for how I feel about “Lian Yu.” Overall, it’s well written and directed, makes good use of its main and guest characters, and is incredibly entertaining. Plus, if nothing else, it gets us full circle, both in term of the flashbacks and Oliver’s overall character arcs for the last five seasons of the show. There’s a logical (after a fashion) through-line from season one Oliver to present Oliver that tracks, and save for the cliffhanger ending, this could be an incredibly fitting finale for the series overall.
On the other hand, it’s just kind of dumb, starting out that way and ending in an overly stupid fashion that it becomes nearly laughable. Let’s start with the obvious one: Oliver recruiting Slade Wilson and Digger Harkness into helping him, Nyssa, and Malcolm Merlyn rescue the rest of Team Arrow and his son, William. While Harkness hasn’t done anything particularly heinous to Oliver personally, taking Slade’s word at relative face value that he’s been cured of his Mirakuru madness is a particularly boneheaded move. So, for that matter, is trusting Harkness, who unsurprisingly ends up betraying them once Evelyn Sharp and Talia al Ghul have them held at gun and arrow-point.
Believe me when I say that all of that is just the relative tip of the iceberg. Once the team is halfway reunited, we’re treated to extended flashbacks of Oliver in the past killing six of Kovar’s men in relative succession with just his island traps and a machine gun, Slade pulling two triple-crosses, Malcolm making a play for Dad of the Year, Chase pulling some serious legwork to screw with Oliver, and all of Team Arrow going up against a dozen or so ninjas, a metahuman, and a trained killer. That all of this is in a 45 minute episode as opposed to a two-hour film is something of an accomplishment in all honesty. But while all of this is dumb and ridiculous, it’s also just incredibly fun and well earned.
See, here’s the thing. Arrow doesn’t always let its hair down, and when it does, it’s either for short bursts (see: the Boxing Glove Arrow or archer-motorcycle-jousting bits in season three) or more typically, it’s for the now yearly crossovers when another show’s ridiculousness is hijacking the production. For them to be this ridiculous for a full episode is a breath of fresh air, and having set the stage for all of this in some way over the last half decade, all of this is more than earned. The show can now afford to have Black Siren and Canary go toe to toe with each other or for Talia and Nyssa to work out their old sibling frustrations. Hell, I’m even down with Oliver swaying Slade to his side just with the offer of helping him find his own son, Joe, or that Malcolm would let himself die via landmine out of love for Thea.
What also helps is the titular location itself. Lian Yu hasn’t really been seen in the present day since season three’s brief foray during Oliver and Thea’s training by way of Merlyn. The extended absence has made it more of a fitting location for a final duel between Chase and Oliver, a place where the latter considers it to be where Oliver “died” and the psycho killer “the Hood” was born. (Also helping is the return of Oliver’s island traps and remnants of past battles, both from flashbacks of seasons past and the current season.)
But since Oliver has rejected Chase’s taunts to kill him at every turn (and the flashbacks have finally reached their full cycle), Lian Yu no longer serves the purpose it once did as a reminder of who our hero was and ended up becoming. So, of course, Chase kills himself and in turn blows up the entire island and the rest of Team Arrow with it. Because Adrian Chase is nothing if not extremely petty (just as Josh Segarra is extremely good at playing him), and he certainly proves that as he declares that William can grow up without a mom if it means one final win against Oliver.
Now look, that is a hell of a way to end a season, particularly for a show that always makes sure that its characters have complete endings at the end of each season. And yes, there are definitely some gripes with this cliffhanger. For one thing, since we know that season six is coming and several characters have already been confirmed as regulars, that lessens the stakes (that and common sense telling you that most of these characters are going to be fine, all things considered). And Chase going this all out in case he failed just to secure a win as one final middle finger to Oliver is silly, bordering on cartoonish.
But as a way to garner attention for next season and end the current one like that…yeah, well done, Arrow. You’ve got me hooked for another year. “Lian Yu” is stupid on top of silly, but the show has done enough to warrant it, and even if it didn’t, credit to going out with some quite literal bangs.
- It was great to have Manu Bennett back as Slade, but it was really clear that they didn’t have all the time with him that they needed or would’ve liked. You can definitely tell where he begins and the stand-in ends, which makes sense, given he’s a main on Shannara Chronicles.
- Hey, we managed to see Moira one last time! It was great for the flashacks to at least acknowledge that Oliver made a phone call home before arriving in Starling City, and man, he sure did rush to put on his fake island threads.
- Okay, so as far as likely casualties: Evelyn, Harkness, and Lance seem like the most likely suspects. Hard to buy that they’d off Thea, Diggle, Curtis, or Felicity. Nyssa is…Nyssa, and Siren, Rene, and Dinah are already confirmed regulars for the season. Slade is also possible as well, but it seems doubtful that they would introduce a thread for his son without nailing Bennett to have two or three more appearances.
- I refuse to believe that Malcolm died, even though John Barrowman’s already said he won’t be back next season. That man is too snarky to not have an extra trick up his sleeve.
- I’ll say this much for Harkness–much like how he is in the Suicide Squad movie, he was incredibly useless here.
- Chase declaring that he killed William was a smart last ditch move, but kudos to Oliver for using common sense and immediately calling BS on that one.
- And that’s another season of Arrow in the bag. Overall, this was a greater step in the right direction, and I’m very interested to see what they do next. But after that ending, how could I not be?