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ARROW Season Finale Review: “Life Sentence”

By on May 18, 2018

Arrow — “Life Sentence” — Pictured: Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow — Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW

 

ARROW REVIEW: “LIFE SENTENCE”

 

BY JUSTIN CARTER

Some years ago, following the finale of Arrow’s third season, I questioned exactly what the point of that entire season was. I find myself asking that question again today as season 6 wraps, because I’m having a hard time trying to suss out just what the overarching story here is. For all its faults, season 3 was about Oliver trying to have an actual human identity outside of the Hood for the first time in years by falling in love, and owning a company. Seasons 4 and 5 dealt with Oliver not just trying to be a better person, but also one who could come to rely on people again after his support system had effectively collapsed around him overnight.

I’m perfectly willing to accept that after everything everyone went through in last year’s finale that bonds would be tested and bad blood would rise. However, disassembling Team Arrow this season was such a messy and unnecessary move, it felt like the show was at odds with what it used to be back in season one and what it wanted to be in its most recent iterations.

This episode has Oliver apologize to John, Rene, and Dinah for what he did to them all season long, which is something he certainly needs to do. But in each apology, he does that irritating thing of trying to distance his involvement from each spat he had with them: “I’d like to apologize for any part that I played in it,” or “If I haven’t been sensitive,” and so on. The show is trying so hard to make Oliver feel like he deserves the heartfelt speeches to Rene, John, and Dinah, when he really doesn’t. They’re rooted in a history from a time when the show had everyone stable and together instead of actively trying to body one another on a frequent basis.

“Life Sentence” is a strange episode in how it doesn’t really feel like a season finale in the regular Arrow sense. Despite the urgency to hunt down Diaz with the added help of the FBI, the pacing feels about as standard as a regular episode, even with situations such as Rene and Watson getting caught in a laser grid or Quentin getting kidnapped.

That said, what I did enjoy more than anything was Paul Blackthorne’s final turn as Quentin. For all that the show has put him through over six years, he really was serving as the silent MVP trying his damnedest to make everything work. It’s unfortunate that it already slipped out he wouldn’t be returning next season; once he brings up his pacemaker that he first got three years ago, it’s easy to tell where this is all going. It’s not surprising that he would give his life to save his daughter from another universe, because that’s just who he is. The final conversation between him and Oliver where Oliver officially refers to him as his father is such a great moment and final sendoff for Quentin, and everyone’s faces when they learn the news of his passing are all great.

There’s a genuine feeling of hopelessness as the season ends, with not just Quentin dead, but Oliver going to jail as part of giving everyone else immunity. I’m not sure that this is the game changer the series needs going forward: Oliver already did a pretty bad job of keeping his secret intact already, but him locked in with a bunch of criminals who are aware of who he is now could be fun for a bit. (Apparently this is based on the “Supermax” storyline of Green Arrow back in the day.) Maybe there’s something to be had with a Team Arrow under John’s leadership without Oliver hovering over everything? We’ll find out.

Ultimately what holds this season of Arrow back is just how messy it is. It indulges in the worst habits that both the show and the network luxuriate in: a bloated antagonist with a story that doesn’t really go anywhere, needless conflicts, dictated by story rather than character choices, and a resolution that struggles to feel wholly earned. Maybe some time away behind bars will do Ollie some good and force him to learn from everything he did wrong this past year.

Additional Notes

  • I can’t for the life of me understand why Laurel decided that screaming Diaz off the roof and into the bay in lieu of just shooting him in the head was the best course of action. That Old Yeller bit before she screamed was just baffling.
  • “Don’t call me ‘Hoss’ at my funeral.” Hell of a dark joke to end on, Quentin, but you aren’t wrong!
  • Oliver: “He won’t get far.” Watson: “He was launched off a rooftop.”
  • Diaz is alive — of course he is — but he’s got a lot of scars from becoming a human skipping stone. Plus, a trio of assassins called Longbow Hunters have joined him, so expect him back for season 7.
  • Oliver’s speech before he’s carted away to prison mentions the people of the city should continue saving it, so I imagine we’ll get more street-based heroes next season.
  • Oh hey, Batwoman’s coming to the Arrowverse. Yeah, you read that right.
  • Caity Lotz frankly deserved a goodbye with Paul Blackthorne, but seeing the first meet between her and Laurel was quite affecting.
  • Anatoly sort of disappears at the end, so he may have something to do with Oliver leaving prison next season.

And that’s Arrow’s sixth season.

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