Arrow recap: Tommy Merlyn returns to knock some sense into Oliver
Oliver and Felicity confront harsh truths about parenthood.
Oliver Queen has always struggled with his worst impulses. That was the case when he was an out-of-control rich playboy before getting stranded on a deserted island, and that’s definitely been the case since he returned as something else. Each season has, in some ways, focused on Oliver’s attempts to shed himself of some bad habit he developed during the years he was away. Tonight’s episode “Living Proof” — which is named after the Bruce Springsteen song like every other penultimate episode of the season on Arrow — touches on this theme once again with some help from a friendly ghost and also explores how parents screw up their children.
“Living Proof” begins exactly where we left off last week, with Oliver separated from Team Arrow and trapped under a bunch of rubble after Emiko dropped a building on them. When Oliver comes to, he’s greeted by a familiar face: Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell), the ghost of Arrow‘s past. The last time Ghost Tommy appeared to Oliver was in season 2’s “Three Ghosts.” That time, Tommy appeared while Oliver was knocked unconscious by a Mirakuru soldier, and helped him get his second wind by assuring him that he died believing Oliver was a hero, not a murderer. This time around, though, Ghost Tommy is here to forgive Oliver for sliding back into some bad habits. (It’s here that I’ll reveal that Oliver spends the entire episode stuck under a piece of rock and almost everything we see him go through happens inside of his head.)
In the wake of Emiko revealing that she let Robert die, Oliver is determined to kill her because he believes she’s far past the point of redemption. “She’s not family anymore,” says Oliver much to Ghost Tommy’s horror. From there, Ghost Tommy essentially spends the entire episode trying to talk Oliver out this course of action, arguing that Oliver is stuck in the cycle of violence that his parents created. Wannabe Hugo Strange made a similar point earlier this season. Here, though, Oliver remains stubborn as ever and tells Tommy that this is about Emiko’s choices and he’s just responding in kind.
I’ll give the show some points for having Tommy point out that Oliver has been in this situation many times before: When he’s scared, he falls back on horrible habits and decides to put an arrow in a problem. In other words, he’s doing exactly what Robert and Moira did; all of the decisions that ruined their children’s lives — abandoning Emiko, getting involved with the Undertaking — were made out of fear. Oliver is literally worried about Emiko coming after his family, which is the result of his father casting Emiko aside because he was scared. Tommy points out that Oliver has a chance to break this cycle now and ensure that his children don’t suffer because of the choices he made.
Of course, it takes more than words to convince Oliver. So, Tommy forces him to imagine a scenario in which Oliver goes through with his plan to kill Emiko. The result? The rest of the team dies, too, because violence just creates more violence. After viewing this dark future, Oliver heeds Tommy’s warning, decides not to kill Emiko, and instead leans on his best parts, like his compassion, to show Emiko that people can change. And he tries to do just that when he eventually escapes from his prison, reunites with Team Arrow, and confronts Emiko, who is trying to tarnish the Green Arrow’s reputation by stealing the Ninth Circle’s bomb back at the SCPD station later that night. Unfortunately, she flees before Oliver can get through to her.
While I’m not sure if I connected emotionally to the lesson Oliver learned in tonight’s episode, I was definitely moved by Colin Donnell’s presence. Donnell’s return as Tommy was appropriately poignant but never felt maudlin because Donnell didn’t take the part too seriously (nor did the script), and his chemistry with Stephen Amell remains strong as ever.
Of course, Oliver isn’t the only one reckoning with how his choices affect his children’s lives; Felicity went through something similar, too. Following an encounter with Emiko in tonight’s episode, Felicity tells Alena she promised herself she wouldn’t make her children’s lives as miserable as her parents made her own, and yet somehow she’s managed to do something worst. That’s been driving her desire to create ARCHER. Alena suggests she protect her kids by taking her life offline (read: going into hiding). Given Felicity’s relationship with her parents, it makes sense why she would consider (and ultimately move forward with) this suggestion. That being said, you still get the feeling that the show is going down this route because of circumstances out of its control (read: Emily Bett Rickards’ departure at the end of the season). (It’s likely that I’m simply projecting).
Elsewhere in the episode, Roy risks his life to save both Team Arrow and Oliver, which convinces Dinah that they shouldn’t let Roy turn himself in after the police get ahold of the footage of him killing those security guards. Meanwhile, in the flash-forwards, William’s justifiable abandonment issues lead to him ignoring Felicity’s advice and setting up a risky meeting with Galaxy One’s CEO, which results in both him and Rene, whose cover gets blown, being captured.
Wall of Weird:
- Galaxy One’s vigilante-hunting robots are called Zetas, which is a reference to the short-lived animated show The Zeta Project. While I don’t like the show, I love the fact that the Arrowverse is putting its own spin on something from the DC Animated Universe, especially something as esoteric as the Zetas.
- By the end of the episode, Emiko is back in possession of the bomb Team Arrow confiscated from her in the last episode. In other words, we’re right back where we started.