How many different things did tonight’s episode of Arrow need to be? Let us count the ways: It needed to continue the conflicts set up in The CW’s ambitious DC crossover. It needed to balance non-Arrow characters within its narrative. And it needed to honor the milestone of the show’s 100th episode. So how did it do?
It hit a bullseye. Right in the heart.
Previously, on the Legends of Flarrowgirl crossover, the Dominators arrived to Earth. Team Flash assembled the superheroes, including Thea, who finally suited up! Barry and Oliver stayed behind while everyone else went to save the president; the away team returned to go all Kill Bill on the two of them thanks to the Dominators’ mind control. But Supergirl broke them all free and everybody (save Barry) was beamed up, Scotty.
The hour opens with a callback to the Arrow pilot as Oliver sprints through greenery. But this time, it’s on the Queen Estate and he’s going for a jog the day before his wedding. Inside the mansion, he canoodles with his beaming fiancée, a whole and healthy Laurel Lance. Oliver’s chest is heartbreakingly free of scars, burns, and trauma.
See, this Oliver never got on the Queen’s Gambit, never cheated on Laurel with her sister, never endured the five years of hell we’ve witnessed. But, of course, this isn’t real. Oliver and the rest of the captives — Thea, John, Ray, and Sara — are slumbering in alien pods, dressed in green pajamas. (Wait, the Dominators redressed them? Creepy.)
In the Arrow Cave, the Arrowlettes and Cisco work frantically to locate their missing teammates. Cisco touches Oliver’s season 1 bow, hoping to vibe the location of Oliver and company — the heroes, not the cherished Disney cartoon starring Billy Joel. (Props to the showrunners for waiting five whole years to bust that one out.)
He shows them on a ship — “a little Alien, a little Star Trek, J.J. Abrams-style.”
First, duh. Of course they’re on an alien ship; they were taken up in beams of light! It’s unlikely they were whisked to an IHOP. Second, this is good news because Felicity and Curtis can use the piece of the Dominators’ ship Cisco has to track them.
“We’re gonna hack alien tech. This is seriously the best day of my entire life!” Curtis crows.
Back in the dream, Thea gives Oliver a pre-rehearsal-dinner gift of a hōzen, an arrowhead symbolizing reconnecting. And yes, it’s the reverse of the pilot scene in which Oliver gave Thea the hōzen to symbolize their reconnection.
Oh, you thought that was bittersweet? How about when the Queen parents walk into the room, full of love and praise for their grown children? “You’re practically a completely different person. You both are,” Moira says.
Save your tears. If you cry now, you’ll be dehydrated by the end of the hour.
Next, we cut to Sara, arriving at the Queen manse and greeting Laurel with a huge hug — but things are off. Laurel’s canary necklace makes Sara jump as if electrocuted. Oliver hugs Laurel and is confused by a flash of her as she appeared in her hospital deathbed. The skyline boasts a large building with Smoak Technologies emblazoned across it, which doesn’t sit well with any of the dream intruders, although they’re not sure why.
Oliver brushes it off, though, and he and Robert have a heart-to-heart about Oliver’s future. Robert’s about to become mayor, and he needs Oliver to step in as his CEO at Queen Consolidated, lest Walter Steele or Ray Palmer seize control. As they debate, a thug demands their watches, wallets, and phones at gunpoint. Then a hood-wearing, arrow-wielding vigilante drops out of the sky to save them.
NEXT: Oliver bids farewell to his old life
At the police station, Oliver described the encounter to a peppy, presumably sober Quentin, who shows him a sketch of the Hood that looks exactly like Oliver’s sketch from the pilot. Oliver has another flash of wrongness, despite Quentin telling Oliver he grew from a rich, entitled punk to a man he’s proud to have as his son-in-law.
No tears yet, you guys. Save them. You’ll need them.
At the rehearsal dinner, the Lance women enter, looking fabulous. Sara’s introduced to Ray Palmer; we see flashes of their Legends adventures, but they both ignore it. Also, it would seem Sara and Oliver didn’t hook up in this reality, for those keeping track.
While the sisters are bonding, Oliver’s made the bold decision to skip out of his rehearsal dinner to track down the Hood. He pinpoints the location and takes an elevator down to what’s basically the Arrow Cave, but with a big potted plant for ambiance. Felicity’s there, alarmed at the unauthorized entry, and the Hood himself jumps on Oliver. It’s John! With a voice changer!
“My name is Oliver Queen,” Oliver starts to say, but the hostile Hood duo cut him off. John wrestles him into a headlock and grounds out, “No one can know my secret.” Yes! Yes, keep referencing the pilot, you clever show!
But Oliver insists he knows them both. We see flashes of John and Oliver’s past, of John getting married and then killing Andy. “I think we’ve met before,” John admits, lowering his hood. The same flashes happen with Felicity, and we see Olicity meeting, kissing, fake marrying. But John’s not ready to believe, particularly when Oliver tells him John killed his brother.
“You’ve got everything. Everything, man! Stop trying to throw it all away,” John yells, pushing Oliver onto the elevator and back to his perfect life.
The day of the dreamland wedding, Moira fusses over Thea, telling her how beautiful she looks, and Thea says she’s never been happier. She then flashes to watching Moira die with Deathlok’s blade through her chest, and it’s upsetting for all of us.
Also dressing for the wedding are Laurel and Sara, both furious with Oliver for skipping out on the rehearsal. “You’re lucky I’m not a trained assassin or anything,” Sara hisses as she leaves, with League of Assassins music playing on the soundtrack.
Once it’s the two of them, Oliver begs Laurel to elope with him immediately — the only thing that makes sense to him is loving Laurel and taking the job at Queen Consolidated. “And I don’t want to give it up. I’m afraid that I’m going to give it up,” he pleads.
At this point, you’re allowed to feel the first stirrings of tears.
Enter John, who wants to talk to Oliver. They agree this is all wrong and realize they’re in a shared hallucination. As they’re figuring out the game, they start to worry there’ll be pushback to keep them under.
And sure enough, Deathstroke (a.k.a. Slade Wilson) shows up to attack them. It’s a great fight made even better when Sara shows up and runs through Deathstroke with a sword. “How did I do that?” she marvels, and I assume she’s referencing how she didn’t get blood on her bridesmaid dress.
With Sara’s help, they realize the other dreamers are Ray and Thea and the all-wrong Smoak Technologies building is their ticket out of this false reality.
NEXT: Thea likes it in dreamland
Speaking of Ms. Smoak, the team members in the non-altered reality realize they need a McGuffin falange to work with the dilithium crystals in the alien tech, and said McGuffin can only be found with a tech-modded doctor named Laura Washington.
Supergirl joins Flash, Mr. Terrific, and Wild Dog to take the doctor down, although Wild Dog must first make it clear how much he distrusts metas and aliens whose godlike powers don’t make the world a better place. Listen, if Rene isn’t willing to let Supergirl, a.k.a. the nicest woman on the planet, into his heart, he’s dead to me.
The modded doctor shows up with a laser arm and a Missy-from-Doctor–Who eyepatch to fight the team, but Supergirl and Barry partner up to save Rene and defeat the mecha-woman. Naturally, Rene has the fastest turnaround ever in his feelings about metas and aliens. It’s rushed and sloppily done, but the rest of this episode is so perfect I don’t care.
Back in dreamland, Thea and Malcom Merlyn chat about Tommy’s new job as a doctor in Chicago while Sara pulls Ray away from Felicity, to whom he’s engaged. As those two talk, Oliver sneaks in, and he and Felicity share a short, fraught look before his parents urge him to get ready for the wedding.
By now, Oliver’s realized Laurel and Queen Consolidated aren’t his life anymore, and he hugs Moira and Robert in an unspoken farewell.
Then he turns to collect Thea, but she doesn’t want to leave. She’s happy, and she says this life is real enough for her. Nothing but pain and suffering waits for them in the real world. Why not leave Barry and Kara to protect the Earth while they take this new reality as the reward for their sacrifices?
“I didn’t make those sacrifices for a reward,” Oliver says. “I did what I did because I thought it was right.”
He begs Thea to come with him because he can’t do what needs to be done alone. Thea refuses. “I can’t lose them again,” Thea says. “I can’t lose my family.” A crushed Oliver says it’s okay; he wants her to be well and happy. And then he leaves her there.
You can cry now, if you want. Hold a little back, though.
Oliver, John, Sara, and Ray are ready to leave when the Dominators dredge up villains from their memories to stop them: Deathstroke, Damien Darhk, Malcolm Merlyn.
As they face down this cadre of villains, Thea joins the lineup. “I had a change of heart, okay? Like I said, I can’t lose my family again.”
And then we’re treated to an epic, visceral hand-to-hand fight. Sara gets her chance to destroy the man who killed her sister, Thea takes on Malcolm, and Ray looks a little startled after shooting a man dead. The highlight here? Thea shoots an arrow at Sara, which she catches and uses to stab Darhk, then Thea tosses the bow to Oliver, who takes down Deathstroke.
In short, the fight is fantastic. When it’s over, the five are ready to head out until Laurel shows up. Even though they all know it’s all a dream, they stop to say goodbye.
Sara bids Laurel a tearful farewell, acknowledging what she’s been struggling with all season: “Some things you just can’t fix.”
Then Oliver gets his goodbye, telling Laurel he isn’t the person she fell in love with and she always deserved better.
NEXT: Okay, who expected the space battle?
Look, I was never a Laurel fan, but this was wrenching. The Oliver Queen who returned from the island five years ago returned with a heart full of love for Laurel. That the Dominators would try to exploit that makes sense, particularly in an episode designed to commemorate the previous 99 episodes.
In short, I hope you reserved some tears. It’s almost time.
In the Smoak building, the fivesome find a big shiny portal and step through it. But before Oliver walks through it, specters from his past appear to whisper to him.
His mother calls Oliver her beautiful boy and says she’s proud of what he’s become.
Felicity tells Oliver he’s not done fighting.
Tommy reminds Oliver he’s a hero.
Roy says Oliver saved his life and gave him purpose.
Laurel says Oliver never gives up.
And his father says this is all Oliver’s responsibility now.
I’ll just give you a second to reach for the tissues.
Back in the real Arrow Cave, the team realizes the alien tech is transmitting in a type of gematria, the numerology of the Torah in which each letter corresponds to a number. This allows them to crack the latitude and longitude, which show up as negatives. They’re boggled when they realize their kidnapped brethren and sistren are in outer space, and again, I feel like this shouldn’t be a surprise. They are literally fighting aliens here.
So yeah, the fivesome wake up in their alien jammies and creep down the hallway of a spaceship, where they run across some Dominators, fire on them with alien weapons that happen to be lying around, and hijack an alien jump ship that Thea activates by pressing the touchpad.
They zip away but are immediately pursued by a legion of Dominator ships, and holy crap, were you guys expecting to watch a space battle tonight? The fleeing heroes are quickly outnumbered…until the Waverider appears to tractor-beam them onto the ship and zip away, with a cheerful Nate Haywood waiting to greet them.
“This is exactly twice as many spaceships as I ever thought I’d be on,” says an awestruck Thea.
Now that they’re safe on the ship, Ray starts to think through the implications of what they just went through, and he realizes the Dominators were distracting them while probing their non-metahuman subconsciousness. He then repeats a snippet of a Dominator phrase he heard them say on the ship — because Ray Palmer is a genius and the best character in The CW’s DC-verse, hands down. I will brook no argument on this point.
Gideon translates the phrase to “We are nearing completion of the weapon,” and the team realizes, to their horror, the mothership is on a direct course for Earth.
Aaaand to be continued!
So. Lots of Arrow action here, and not as much for The Flash/Supergirl folks to do. Still, it all worked beautifully. We get enough cross-team action to make it a treat for viewers of the Berlanti-verse while still forwarding the invasion story line — and honoring the characters, plots, and themes that have made Arrow such a satisfying show over the last four and a half seasons.
It was a tall order, but the episode pulled it off. Now go hydrate yourself; you need to replenish your moisture.
Thoughts for your quiver
- Season 5 salmon-ladder count: 3.5. One for Oliver, 1.5 for Curtis, one for Rene.
- The best part of this episode was the palatial bathroom in the Queen mansion. Want.
- The second-best part of this episode was Curtis’ disillusionment with the mean aliens. Poor guy!
Were you satisfied with this episode as part of the crossover? Was it a fitting tribute to Arrow’s 100th-episode milestone? Let me know in the comments!