A final showdown with Gen. Walker finds everyone exploring their dark side
Credit: Cate Cameron/The CW
S5 E12
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So! Much! Happened! Tonight!

Plot stuff. Character stuff. Flashback stuff. Sex stuff. Some characters grapple with their dark sides and others grapple with nuclear bombs, but they all come away affirming that they’re a team for a reason.

So let’s get to it, starting five years ago with Talia sending Oliver to take out some low-level drug dealers for practice. He’s a blur of lethal force, and she’s pleased with his performance, but she still encourages him to get started on his father’s list in Starling City. Starting, for example, with Hideo Yamane, the supplier whose drugs Thea was using in season 1.

And what do you know, Yamane just happens to be in town that night, a veritable sitting duck for Oliver — in his rudimentary hood costume — to menace. Yamane begs for his life, but Oliver announces that he’s failed Starling City and shoots him full of arrows.

Did we just see the first incident of everyone’s favorite catchphrase? And has season 5 not been an absolute trip because of all of these firsts and callbacks?

Oliver crosses off Yamane’s name and frets to Talia about how he’ll be able to leave the Bratva. But when he arrives to break the news to Anatoly, he finds the man badly beaten after confronting Gregor about his loyalty to Kovar. Since Gregor’s Pakhan (mob boss), there’s nothing they can do. Um, except kill him, Oliver points out. Anatoly ponders this, and Oliver bails on telling Anatoly about his plans to return stateside.

Now, to the present. Ugh. Reporter Susan’s back after the show forgot about her for a couple of weeks. She info-dumps that she and Oliver haven’t slept together yet.

Someone we’re glad to see return, though? Quentin Lance! He’s fresh from rehab and so dry that he’s almost dust. He agrees to an interview with Susan, who also wants to pin down DA Chase on the issue of poor dead Billy’s demise. That Susan is one busy lady.

Another busy little bee is Gen. Walker, who left 30 dead and absconded with a cadre of men when the DOD tried to arrest him. Word is, he’s headed to Russia to sell the still-missing nuke to Markovan nationalists.

Oliver immediately starts planning a field trip. John wants to come, as he takes Walker’s villainy extremely personally, and Felicity wants to come, as she’s vowed to do everything in her power to stop a future Havenrock. Road trip!

Before getting to the Russian adventure, though, let’s follow the folks who don’t get stamps in their passports tonight. Rene, who stayed behind lest he cause an international incident, spends the episode prepping Quentin for his interview with Susan. The practice questions he throws out are incredibly hostile, including asking Quentin if he blames himself for Laurel’s death. Quentin loses it and tosses him out, naturally, but they eventually reconvene and apologize. Rene was worried that Susan’s not going to pull any punches, and Quentin’s still learning to live with the loss of Laurel without booze.

The interview itself goes well, and Quentin says it’s because of something Rene told Susan beforehand. Turns out, years ago, beat cop Quentin caught a juvie Rene tagging a building. Rather than haul him in, he crouched down, looked him in the eye, and told Rene he could be more than a rip-and-run thug. Even though Quentin has no memory of this, it set Rene on a better path.

Then Quentin reminds us that Rene still got dishonorably discharged from the military, and Rene shrugs it off. “Nobody’s perfect.” Nice little character reveals there, but it still preserves the mystery of Rene’s discharge for a future episode.

Now, to Russia! Da! The Arrow team board Star City’s private jet (LOLOL) for the flight to Russia under cover of vising Star City’s sister city. And hey, there’s Anatoly waiting at the airport to greet Oliver, not with a hug, but with a punch to the jaw. Ah, Russian hospitality.

Mayor Handsome’s shocked, and Anatoly clarifies that it’s for Alexi Leonov. (You remember him, right? In season 2, Oliver used Leonov to track Slade Wilson, then didn’t help him in return, and Slade Wilson killed him.) Oliver reminds Anatoly that he’s not a Bratva thug anymore, and Anatoly in turn tells him to go home. “There’s nothing for you here.”

Oliver ignores this advice, and the team sets up shop in an old Argus safe house/ornate Russian mansion. “I feel like somebody died of tuberculosis here,” Felicity says as she sets up her hacking gear.

At Dinah’s suggestion, Oliver tries one more time to get Anatoly’s help in locating Walker. Anatoly declares that John is his new favorite American, then tells Oliver that they’re back on the tit-for-tat system, and since Oliver refuses to get sucked back into Bratva, Anatoly peaces out.

NEXT: It’s Felicity. Ms. Blackmailer, if you’re nasty.

In the safe house, Dinah’s practicing her cry (per Curtis, it’s the sound of a thousand Beyoncés) while Felicity struggles to track Walker. Dinah suggests that crooks like their habits, and he’s probably using the same type of burner phone he did in the U.S. Felicity figures out what carrier that would be, then realizes that the Pandora data cache she was gifted with last week has blackmail material on one of the carrier’s execs.

Before you know it, she’s in a slinky dress and fur coat, and Rory and Curtis are dressed like Bratva so she can infiltrate a party to “call in a favor” from the exec. However, it’s not so much a favor as a threat that she knows about him not turning terrorism intel over to the Kremlin. She makes it clear that she doesn’t care if his family’s murdered because of it, and he agrees to give her the information on Walker’s location.

Blackmail may not be a good look for her, but that dress/hair/makeup combo certainly is. Curtis and Rory are the least threatening Bratva ever, though.

Walker’s location in hand, the team move in. It’s a trap, and Walker escapes, but with the help of Dinah’s cry, they take a hostage. John wants to jump right into the torture, but Oliver yells at him to be smart. He threatens the guy with sparking battery cables, and then they let him stew for a bit.

There’s more team tension elsewhere, as Rory calls out Felicity for her blackmail. He also gets her to admit that the data cache is beyond massive and gives her the non-Marvel equivalent of what his dad told him when he gave him the rags: With great (DC) power comes great (DC) responsibility.

Felicity argues that the people in the data dump deserve what’s coming to them. But Rory’s worried about what it’ll do to her, and when Oliver stumbles across their conversation, he’s about to snitch on her when the sound of John whaling on their hostage interrupts them.

Man, just when I thought everybody was done embracing their dark side tonight, Oliver realizes what he has to do. He pulls John off the battered men, then leaves to make a deal with the devil — er, Anatoly. He’ll bust some skulls in exchange for Walker’s location.

Oliver grabs Dinah for their covert Bratva mission, which turns out to be a quick little jaunt involving machine guns, tossing a guy through a window, ordering him to shut down his business, and breaking two fingers. Back in the van, Dinah observes that this isn’t the first time Oliver’s been a thug. She also says that even though the team told her to ignore him when he gets in his one of his moods, she’s not going to do that. “To be honest, brooding gets on my nerves.” Oh, dear. You might be on the wrong team, Dinah.

Oliver reiterates one of the themes of the season: He’s trying so hard to move forward and be better, but Russia’s pulling him back to his old ways. Dinah tells him to snap out of it. Prometheus is in his head about infecting the people close to him, and she points out that sure, you “infect” the people in your life. That’s called living.

She insists that he’s more than just his fists. “Your past is a part of you,” she says, “but it doesn’t mean it has to be your anchor.” Guys, I like her. More of this, please.

Then we get to the best scene of the night. When John and Felicity realize how Oliver got the information about Walker’s location, Oliver tells them he’d rather be the one to cross that line, not either of them. Felicity argues that he taught them that sometimes, you have to get a little dirty to get things done, but Oliver disagrees.

“I need the two of you to be better than me. Because you are. That’s why we work together.” Oh, man. The love that leads a man to step into his hated past to keep his friends’ souls clean? It’s gorgeous and sad and exactly what Arrow does best.

NEXT: How Oliver (unfortunately) got his groove back

As they’re having their moment, Curtis alerts them that Anatoly and “a whole mess of angry Russian dudes” are outside to take down Walker.

They rush into a hangar where Walker’s making a deal with the nationalists. Rory’s rags fly, and Dinah screams an entire van into rubble. Curtis advises, “In the future, you might not want to do that with a van carrying a nuclear bomb.” This is solid advice. Oh, but the nuke’s not on there. Walker planned to double-cross the buyer and sell it again to some other rube, which doesn’t seem like a recipe for a long life.

John’s the one who ends up with Walker in his crosshairs. Walker urges John to kill him, even threatening his family the way Andy did, but John eases his finger off the trigger, allowing Walker to be taken into custody.

But the team’s not out of the woods yet. Felicity and Rory discover that blah blah, Hollywood science, the nuke got tripped. When she tries to disarm it, blah blah Hollywood science, the countdown speeds up.

First, Felicity wants to hop in the nearby plane to fly it where it would cause the least damage, which, yes, is preeeeetty much another Havenrock. But Rory says no —the rags protected him from a nuclear blast before and probably will again, so he shoos Felicity outside and winds his rags around the bomb to contain the blast.

Outside, Oliver arrives in time to wrap Felicity in his arms as a blinding white light explodes in the hangar. They rush inside to find Rory, only lightly charred.

And how do you celebrate your friend stopping a nuclear bomb with his spooky-ass magical rags? With vodka shots, of course! The only one who can down it without gagging is Dinah, and Anatoly declares her his new favorite American. Me too, Anatoly.

John and Oliver have a sidebar, and John tells Oliver that in fact, he and Felicity aren’t any better than Oliver. “You, me, Felicity? We make each other better.” Ah, but Anatoly also has a claim on Oliver, reminding him that his oath to Bratva is for life. Wonder if we’ll see that wrinkle pop back up at some point this season?

Aaaand we’re back in Star City, where apparently all that fresh Russian air convinced Oliver to sleep with Susan. During the post-coital snuggle, he says it’s actually because he didn’t want his past to keep him from moving forward with her. She runs her fingers over his scars and chest tattoo, but he declines to tell her any details, putting her off with a “someday.” Ugh, hate this. Please please please make her actually evil and not misunderstood or whatever.

Unfortunately, Rory’s stop-the-nuke plan seems to have killed the magic in his rags, which no longer offer any protection. Since he’s a liability when he’s powerless, he’s taking off for parts unknown. He tells Felicity he’ll be back, though. And as she turns to leave, she gets a text from her hacker buddy, encouraging her to keep digging into the Pandora data cache. Felicity replies in the affirmative. Darker and darker, Miss Smoak.

Finally, we see Susan skulking around with a source who provides a photo of Oliver surrounded by Bratva in Russia five years ago. The source also has a picture of Luchnik, which means “the Archer” in Russia, looking an awful lot like a hooded man we all know.

The sources asks about the odds of Oliver and the Green Arrow being in Russia at the same time, and the duplicitous Susan replies, “Very good, if Oliver Queen is the Green Arrow.”

Wow. WOW. We covered so much ground tonight, from advancing the plot to showcasing tiny character beats to reiterating the big themes of love, family, and sacrifice. This was one solid hour of show. Applause, all the way around.

Thoughts for your quiver

  • The writers have been great about weaving Rory’s Jewish faith into the episodes. It’s there, we know it’s a part of his character, and we see how it helps him approach crime-fighting, problem-solving, and people-saving. I hope he has some way to power up his rags and get back to the team soon.
  • Speaking of, whither Thea Queen? I miss her and her sassy haircut.
  • I’m assuming every Russian party has an enormous ice bear sculpture. If this isn’t the case, don’t ever tell me.
  • Did this episode leave you as breathless? Sound off in the comments!

Episode Recaps

Billionaire Oliver Queen — under the vigilante persona of Arrow — tries to right the wrongs of his family and fight the ills of society.
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