Arrow is very far from the shallows now, if that wasn’t clear already. What began as a relatively grounded superhero show has turned into a show that casually throws time travel at its characters, without an assist from The Flash or Legends of Tomorrow, and just watches as they deal with the complications that come with it — which is exactly what happens in tonight’s very emotional episode.
“Present Tense” dives headfirst into exploring Team Arrow meeting Future Team Arrow for the first time. In fact, that’s what the entire episode is about. There aren’t any flash-forwards or B-plots. The hour is 100 percent focused on this strange, surprising, and heavy family reunion.
The episode picks up right where last week’s left off, with a wide-eyed Present Team Arrow staring, mouths agape, at Future Team Arrow. Spoiler alert: It’s a lot for everyone to handle. Oliver can’t believe Mia is there; William is overwhelmed seeing his father for the first time; Mia, taking after her dad, keeps Oliver at a distance from the jump; Diggle is stunned to learn that he adopts Ben Turner’s son Connor in the future; and Rene and Dinah are shocked that Oliver and Felicity had a second child. In other words, no one can believe this is happening. Team Arrow decides to just see where things go, while Future Team Arrow agrees to lie about what their future is actually like.
From there, Oliver brings Mia and William back to his and Felicity’s old apartment. Oliver assumed his children would grow up together, so he’s rather shocked and saddened to learn that didn’t happen. Oliver’s sorrow increases when Mia decides to just go to bed instead of staying up to chat. On the upside, though, this gives Oliver and William an opportunity to reconnect, which leads to one of the episode’s most moving scenes: William coming out to his father. The direction gives this moment the space it needs to properly land, and Ben Lewis and Stephen Amell play it all beautifully; the look of regret and joy on Oliver’s face is truly heartbreaking. Oliver’s happy that William finally felt comfortable opening up to him, but sad that he had to wait so long because Oliver died/disappeared. (For more insight into this moment, check out our postmortem with Ben Lewis.)
This is Arrow, so the tearful family time is coupled with an attack on the city: A new Deathstroke arrives in Star City and starts attacking the rich. Future Team Arrow assumes JJ is in 2019, too, and is responsible, so they go after him. But they end up getting trapped between some bombs and discover that the new Deathstroke is none other than Grant Wilson, Slade’s son, whom we met in Legends of Tomorrow’s “Star City 4046” episode. Luckily, Present Team Arrow shows up and frees them from the bombs.
When Arrow introduced the future storyline last season, showrunner Beth Schwartz said that it was different from the future we saw on Legends of Tomorrow, but in tonight’s episode, the writers try to reconcile the dueling timelines. When the two teams return to the bunker, Future Team Arrow finally comes clean about everything: the depressing state of Star City 2040, JJ turning evil, and of course JJ murdering Zoe. Not only that, but Connor reveals that Grant Wilson’s anti-rich agenda turned him into a folk hero in the future, which is what lured JJ to his side and allowed Grant to train him to become his successor.
I don’t want to repeat myself, but all of this information is a lot for the team to handle: Rene can barely talk to Diggle and struggles with the knowledge that he’s a corrupt mayor in the future; Diggle pushes Connor away for lying and feels guilty about everything that happens with JJ; and almost the entire team has a hard time handling the news that their efforts were all for naught. Thankfully, Dinah doesn’t let this get her down, and she pushes Diggle and Rene to see the bright side of this knowledge: They know what goes wrong and now they have the opportunity to fix it. This is the hope for the future that was missing last season and made it hard to invest in either timeline because we knew the present team ultimately failed to save the city.
Mia also wants to take advantage of her time in 2019 to change the future. More specifically, she wants to kill Grant. While Oliver doesn’t know what she has planned, he’s not cool with her going out in the field alone until they figure out what Grant is planning. Being a rebellious young person, though, Mia ignores her father. What I loved about Oliver and Mia’s dynamic in the episode is that Oliver doesn’t do the Classic Oliver thing of forbidding Mia from being a vigilante because he’s worried about her safety. No, he’s totally fine with her following in his footsteps (at least in this episode). Instead, he’s more concerned with her doing something impulsive that she might regret. But when she pushes back, Oliver steps back. William points out that Mia grew up without a father and actually wants him to push even harder. And Oliver will get that opportunity pretty soon.
William and Curtis (yeah, he’s back, too, because Oliver recruits him to help find a way to kill the Monitor) figure out Grant’s plan: he plans on detonating a series of bombs throughout Star City. Initially, Oliver and Diggle decide to tackle this problem the same way they handled Slade’s siege in season 2, but Rene says the first step in changing the future is doing things differently, so they try a different method.
While Dinah and Rene work on keeping the citizens calm, Diggle, Connor, and Laurel try to disarm the bombs while Oliver and Mia go after Grant. Fast-forward through some sweet action sequences: Mia finally gets her chance to kill Grant, but Oliver pleads with her not to do it and doesn’t let her go until she gives up. In the end, Mia is thankful that he stopped her. Not only that, but she agrees to let Oliver teach her how to live with the guilt of losing people.
As the episode ends, Diggle accepts Connor and the two start sparring together; Rene declares his candidacy for mayor (or councilman, it’s unclear); and Dinah and Laurel get to work on building out the Canary network from 2040 sooner rather than later. And this is when the drama-loving Monitor returns to shake things up. The Monitor visits Laurel and offers to resurrect her universe if she betrays Oliver Queen. At the same time, Curtis tells Oliver that he figured out how to kill a god, but they’ll need to travel to Russia for the materials.
Wall of Weird:
- This episode had some big season 2 energy. My favorite callback was one of the Deathstrokes attacking the precinct in the same way that one did at the end of season 2.
- “God no, I would never tell anyone to listen to Oliver Queen. No offense, but I’m not exactly a very big fan of your fathers. He’s kind of a dick,” Laurel as she tries to talk Mia out of killing Grant.
- Last week, I pointed out how history was repeating itself in the Diggle family. That wasn’t lost on Diggle, who was reminded of how he failed his brother Andy in the past.
- “At least you didn’t throw up like you usually do,” Rene teasing Diggle about how he normally responds to anything weird.
- This episode also gave McNamara a chance to show more of Mia’s shades. Her lashing out at her father for abandoning her and Felicity to save the world and be a hero was blistering and one of her best performances.
- I hope to one day find something that brings me as much joy as Oliver saying “suit up” brings Curtis.
- Arrow recap: Let’s talk about that major dad twist
- Every episode of Arrow ranked, from worst to best
- Arrow star Charlie Barnett talks finding the new Deathstroke’s heart and soul
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