REVIEW: ARROW – SEASON 7

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Main Cast

Stephen Amell (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: OOTS)
David Ramsey (Blue Bloods)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Echo Kellum (Girlfriend’s Day)
Rick Gonzalez (Reaper)
Juliana Harkavy (Last Shift)
Colton Haynes (Rough Night)
Kirk Acevedo (War For The POTA)
Katie Cassidy (Black Christmas 2006)
Sea Shimooka (Pink Skies Ahead)

Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Michael Jai White (Spawn)
Vinnie Jones (The Cape)
Cody Runnels (WWE)
Ben Lewis (Scott Pilgrim vs The World)
Brendan Fletcher (Smallville)
Eliza Faria (American Conjuring)
John DeSantis (Thirteen Ghosts)
Jack Moore (Republic of Sarah)
Holly Elissa (Hellcats)
Sydelle Noel (GLOW)
Michael Jonsson (The 13th Warrior)
Audrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Andrea Sixtos (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Laara Sadiq (2012)
Lexa Doig (Andromeda)
David Nykl (Staragte Atlantis)
Aleks Paunovic (Van Helsing)
Katherine McNamara (Shadowhunters)
LaMonica Garrett (The Last Ship)
John Wesley Shipp (Dawson’s Creek)
Grant Gustin (Glee)
Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies)
Carlos Valdes (The Flash)
Tyler Hoechlin (Teen Wolf)
Melissa Benoist (Whiplash)
Jeremy Davies (Lost)
Ruby Rose (The Meg)
Cassandra Jean Amell (One Tree Hill)
Liam Hall (Lucifer)
John Barrowman (Torchwood)
Tom Cavanagh (Yogi Bear)
Kelly Hu (The Scorpion King)
Amy Gumenick (Supernatural)
Paul Blackthorne (The Inbetween)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Bex Taylor-Klaus (13 Reasons Why)
Caity Lotz (The Pact)
Joe Dinicol (Diary of The Dead)
Joseph David-Jones (Allegiant)
Kelsey Grammer (Frasier)
Patrick Sabongui (Power Rangers)
Adrian Paul (Highlander: The Series)
Christopher Gerard (Funhouse)
Danny Wattley (Stargate SG.1)
Andrew Kavadas (The 13th Warrior)
Nels Lennarson (Horns)
Katrina Law (Spartacus)
Jamey Sheridan (Homeland)
Kacey Rohl (Hannibal)
Carmel Amit (Ghost Wars)
Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters)

Lexa Doig and Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)There was plenty of uncertainty surrounding Arrow coming into the show’s seventh season. Season 6 was only narrowly saved from becoming the show’s worst thanks to a strong final stretch of episodes. With the series changing showrunners and introducing easily the most radical status quo upheaval yet, there was little telling where Season 7 might fall or whether the show could make good on its newfound potential. And while Season 7 met with more than a few bumps in the road, these changes helped reinvigorate a series that had seemed on its last legs not so long ago.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)Season 6 ended on a major bummer for Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and his team. Not only did they fail to bring Ricardo Diaz (Kirk Acevedo) to justice, but Ollie was forced to trade his freedom so that his family and friends could walk free. Season 7 opened by finally bringing life to that unused Super Max movie pitch. The former Green Arrow became Inmate 4587 – a disgraced hero locked behind bars with many of the same criminals he helped put away. And life was hardly safer on the outside, as Diaz and the Longbow Hunters targeted Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) and the rest of Team Arrow.Sea Shimooka in Arrow (2012)That wasn’t the only big twist introduced in the Season 7 premiere. The series also kicked off a new recurring storyline set several decades into the future. Here, an older William Clayton (Ben Lewis) recruited an exiled Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) and other new heroes to help save a dystopian, battle-ravaged version of Star City. After devoting five seasons to exploring Ollie’s origin story in painstaking detail (and then taking a skip year), Arrow was finally ready to try something new.Kirk Acevedo and Liam Hall in Arrow (2012)These big changes served to re-energize the series quite a bit early on. The prison storyline especially helped to push the series in a very different, very engrossing direction. Ollie’s story became fueled by an immediate need to survive in one of the most dangerous places on the planet. And fortunately, unlike Barry Allen’s brief prison stint in The Flash Season 4, this was a development that was given plenty of room to breathe and play out organically. Having classic Arrow villains like Ben Turner (Michael Jai White), Derek Sampson (Cody Rhodes) and Danny Brickwell (Vinnie Jones) show up only made this storyline all the more enjoyable. Turner’s redemptive character arc turned out to be one of Season 7’s more satisfying elements.Colton Haynes and Juliana Harkavy in Arrow (2012)This isn’t to say Arrow was problem-free during this extended status quo. The series still struggled to find its footing outside of Ollie’s prison ordeal. While Team Arrow’s renewed war against Diaz proved enjoyable enough, especially with the added spice created by new villains like The Silencer (Miranda Edwards), it quickly became clear that Arrow was still suffering from the same problem that’s plagued the series for several years. There are too many characters. With so much time being taken up by the prison conflict and the flash-forwards, there was never enough room to juggle subplots like Felicity’s Diaz-induced PTSD and paranoia, Laurel’s (Katie Cassidy-Rodgers) tenure as DA, Dinah’s (Juliana Harkavy) conflicted loyalties and everything else involving the Team Arrow regulars. The series really has needed to trim its main cast for a while. And to be fair, Arrow did begin making some necessary changes on that front, but much later than it needed.Ben Lewis and Katherine McNamara in Arrow (2012)As for the flash-forwards, what initially seemed like a promising shake-up in the season premiere quickly lost its novelty factor in subsequent episodes. Here again, the series was juggling too many characters and struggling to give them the attention they deserved. Nor did the “Future Team Arrow vs. Totalitarian Corporation” storyline carry much weight. When the flash-forwards did succeed, it was usually because the events of the future managed to reflect back on the present in small, foreboding ways. Seeing an Ollie-less Team Arrow in disarray decades down the road did at least add to the general sense of unease surrounding the series, particularly later on in the wake of the “Elseworlds” crossover and the news that Season 8 will be the show’s last.
Rick Gonzalez, Stephen Amell, and Sea Shimooka in Arrow (2012)The latter half of Season 7 wound up hitting many of the same notes as the former. The writers cooked up an interesting new angle by exploring whether it’s possible for Team Arrow to coexist with the SCPD and whether Oliver Queen can be a hero who exists entirely out in the open. Yet the show didn’t always take advantage of this new status quo. More often than not, the end result played like a return to the show’s Season 5 era – more an excuse to go back to the way things were than actually seek lasting change. Once again, Arrow tried to juggle too many moving parts while also doing justice to new villains like the suave, deadly Dante (Adrian Paul). And through it all, the flash-forwards proved more distracting than truly beneficial.Katie Cassidy, Caity Lotz, Juliana Harkavy, and Emily Bett Rickards in Arrow (2012)Still, there was enough that worked during this period that the good outweighed the bad. Amell had many standout moments as he grappled with the discovery of even more dirty laundry in his family’s past. That was especially true in the final two episodes of the season, where Amell performed a great deal of the emotional heavy lifting. Diggle (David Ramsey) was central to the very enjoyable “Spartan,” which shed light on his own family background and teased that a persistent fan theory may finally come to fruition. And though the show never used him to his fullest potential, Paul’s Dante was a fun addition to the Team Arrow rogues gallery.David Ramsey and Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)It’s probably fitting that Season 7 culminated on such a mixed note. “You Have Saved This City” wrapped up the Ninth Circle storyline (for now) without much excitement. However, the finale was far more interested in exploring the legacy of the Green Arrow and giving several key characters the closure they needed. That episode could easily have served as a proper series finale. It’s hard to know how to feel about the prospect of a truncated eighth season in light of that fact, but hopefully this shorter format will wind up being exactly what Arrow needs to become its best self.

 

REVIEW: ARROWVERSE: INVASION!

 

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Starring

Grant Gustin (Glee)
Candice Patton (The Guest)
Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies)
Carlos Valdes (Vixen)
Keiynan Lonsdale (The Turning)
Tom Cavanagh (Scrubs)
Jesse L. Martin (Injustice)
Stephen Amell (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: OOTS)
David Ramsey (Blue Bloods)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Echo Kellum (Girlfriend’s Day)
Paul Blackthorne (The InBetween)
Victor Garber (Alias)
Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)
Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who)
Caity Lotz (The Pact)
Franz Drameh (See)
Maisie Richardson-Sellers (The Originals)
Amy Louise Pemberton (The Laundromat)
Nick Zano (2 Broke Girls)
Dominic Purcell (Prison Break)

Dominic Purcell, David Ramsey, Brandon Routh, Willa Holland, Caity Lotz, Melissa Benoist, and Franz Drameh in The Flash (2014)
Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Donnelly Rhodes (Battlestar Galactica)
Christina Brucato (Th Intern)
Audrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Jerry Wasserman (Paradox)
Lucia Walters (Stargate: Atlantis)
John Barrowman (Torchwood)
Neal McDonough (Van Helsing)
Katie Cassidy (Black Christmas 2006)
Susanna Thompson (Cold Case)
Rick Gonzalez (Reaper)
Joe Dinicol (Scott Pilgrim vs The World)
Jamey Sheridan (Homeland)
Erica Luttrell (Westworld)

Barry Allen investigates a meteor crash outside Central City which is a spaceship from which aliens emerge. Lyla Michaels tells the team that the Dominators had landed during the 1950s, but mysteriously departed. Barry assembles the original members of Team Arrow, Thea Queen, the Legends, and Kara Danvers, Supergirl of Earth-38. The team begins training at a S.T.A.R. Labs facility, sparring with Supergirl to prepare for the aliens. Kara struggles to earn Oliver Queen’s trust. Cisco Ramon finds and reveals a message Barry’s future self sent to Rip Hunter, which exposes Barry’s manipulation of the timeline and its effect on other team members. As a result, only Oliver, Kara, Felicity Smoak, Martin Stein, Jefferson “Jax” Jackson, and Caitlin Snow still trust Barry.David Ramsey, Brandon Routh, Nick Zano, Stephen Amell, Melissa Benoist, Franz Drameh, Grant Gustin, and Maisie Richardson-Sellers in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)After the Dominators abduct the President of the United States, the team goes to rescue him; however, Barry remains behind since most of them distrust him with Oliver staying behind in support of Barry. Kara leads the group, but the Dominators kill the President and activate a mind control device to take over the group. The controlled heroes return and attack S.T.A.R. Labs, where Barry and Oliver confront them. While Oliver holds them off, Barry lures Kara to the device and manipulates her into destroying it, freeing everyone from the Dominators’ control. When the team regroups, Ray Palmer tells Barry that everyone forgives and trusts him. Sara Lance, Ray, John Diggle, Thea, and Oliver are then abducted by the Dominators.Nick Zano, Melissa Benoist, and Maisie Richardson-Sellers in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)They are held in pods on a Dominators’ ship, each one unconscious except for a shared hallucination of simulated reality. In the hallucination, Oliver is living at Queen Manor, having never gotten on the Queen’s Gambit, and is about to be married to Laurel Lance. His parents are alive, and Diggle is operating as the vigilante the Hood, instead of Oliver. The captives begin seeing flashes of their real lives, and realize what the Dominators have done to them. Their escape attempt is blocked by personifications of their enemies: Malcolm Merlyn, Deathstroke and two of his Mirakuru soldiers (who killed Ray’s fiancée Anna Loring), and Damien Darhk and two of his H.I.V.E. soldiers. The adversaries are defeated, and the five awaken in the Dominators’ ship and escape in a shuttle. Felicity, Curtis Holt, and Cisco try to hack into the Dominators’ mainframe. Aided by Barry and Kara, they recover a device to locate the captives, who are rescued by Nate Heywood in the time ship, Waverider. Aboard the Waverider, Ray deduces that the Dominators were gathering information about metahumans, using the hallucination as a distraction, to help them build a special “weapon”. Meanwhile, the Dominator mothership heads towards Earth.Victor Garber and Melissa Benoist in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)Nate says that the first Dominator invasion occurred in 1951 in Redmond, Oregon. He goes there with fellow Legends Mick Rory and Amaya Jiwe and Felicity and Cisco to kidnap a Dominator for information. Although they are successful, the three Legends and their alien captive are taken prisoner by N.S.A. agents. The Legends learn from the Dominator that the aliens have arrived to assess humanity’s threat, now that metahumans have appeared and formed the Justice Society of America. Felicity and Cisco rescue the Legends, and also set the Dominator free, carelessly altering history. In 2016 Central City, the team learns that the Dominators know about Barry’s manipulation of the timeline, deem him a threat, and are demanding his surrender in exchange for peace.Dominic Purcell, David Ramsey, Brandon Routh, Nick Zano, Stephen Amell, Caity Lotz, Melissa Benoist, Carlos Valdes, Emily Bett Rickards, and Maisie Richardson-Sellers in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)After the Legends return, the team discovers that the Dominators’ weapon is a bomb that will kill all metahumans on Earth, with millions of collateral human casualties. The teams dissuade Barry from surrendering, and he and Cisco reconcile. The team manage to destroy the bomb and force the Dominators to retreat with a pain-inflicting nano-weapon. As the heroes celebrate their victory, Oliver offers Kara his friendship; Cisco gives her a device which will enable her to interdimensional travel and communicate between Earth-1 and Earth-38. Martin persuades Jax not to tell the others that his daughter Lily’s existence is the result of a temporal paradox he inadvertently caused when the Legends were in 1987.

Victor Garber, Brandon Routh, Melissa Benoist, and Grant Gustin in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)The first major Arrowverse crossover brings together all 4 shows in one epic stpryline. It’s so nice to Supergirl implemented into arrowverse properly, the crossover really showcases her as a character and a show and gives her the ability to crossover more often as and when the universe needs to her to be. This crossover is a must see for all Arrowverse fans.

REVIEW: ARROW – SEASON 5

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Main Cast

Stephen Amell (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: OOTS)
David Ramsey (Blue Bloods)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Echo Kellum (Girlfriend’s Day)
Josh Segarra (Trainwreck)
Paul Blackthorne (The InBetween)

Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Katie Cassidy (Black Christmas 2006)
Alexander Calvert (Supernatural)
Rick Gonzalez (Reaper)
Chad L. Coleman (The Orville)
Tyler Ritter (Merry Happy Whatever)
Mike Dopud (Stargate Universe)
David Nykl (Stargate Atlantis)
Emy Aneke (Izombie)
Aaron Pearl (Bates Motel)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: TNG)
Joe Dinicol (Diary of The Dead)
Madison McLaughlin (Chicago PD)
Garry Chalk (Beast Wars)
Carly Pope (Popular)
Cody Runnels (WWE)
Michael Rowe (Tomorrowland)
Vincent Gale (Van Helsing)
Wil Traval (Jessica Jones)
Dolph Lundgren (Aquaman)
Christopher Rosamond (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
John Barrowman (Torchwood)
Neal McDonough (Van Helsing)
Grant Gustin (Glee)
Susanna Thompson (Cold Case)
Caity Lotz (The Machine)
Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)
Carlos Valdes (The Flash)
Nick Zano (2 Broke Girls)
Melissa Benoist (Jay & Silent Bob Reboot)
Jamey Sheridan (Homeland)
Erica Luttrell (Westworld)
Amy Louise Pemberton (Suspense)
Garwin Sanford (Stargate SG.1)
Audrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Juliana Harkavy (Last Shift)
Lexa Doig (Andromeda)
Steve Bacic (Smallville)
Kacey Rohl (Hannibal)
Patrick Sabongui (POwer Rangers)
Olivia Cheng (Warrior)
Samaire Armstrong (Stay Alive)
Laara Sadiq (2012)
Kelly Hu (X-Men 2)
Amy Gumenick (Supernatural)
Adrian Holmes (V-Wars)
Rutina Wesley (Hannibal)
Venus Terzo (Beats Wars)
Eliza Faria (Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 2)
Jack Moore (Republic of Sarah)
Byron Mann (Dark Angel)
Manu Bennett (Spartacus)
Katrina Law (Apparition)
Nick E. Tarabay (Pacific Rim: Uprising)
Anna Hopkins (The Expanse)

Michael Dorn in Arrow (2012)More than any other Arrowverse series, Arrow had a lot to prove when it returned in fall 2016. The series had fallen quite a bit from its peak in the Deathstroke-dominated Season 2. Following the thoroughly disappointing Season 4 finale, Arrow was at its lowest point ever. It wasn’t clear at that point whether the show would continue beyond Season 5. Moreover, it wasn’t clear whether the show should continue. But thanks to a change in approach, a terrific new villain and a generally more consistent level of execution, Season 5 wound up redeeming a troubled series and recapturing the appeal of those first two years.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)Arrow had fallen pretty far down the metahuman rabbit hole in Season 4, what with the focus on supernatural villain Damien Darhk and all the magical tomfoolery that resulted. Even ignoring the various interviews leading up to Season 5’s debut, the premiere made it plainly obvious that showrunners Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle were eager to take a “back to basics” approach this year. The series didn’t necessarily ignore the more colorful side of the Arrowverse this year, but it did downplay those elements in favor of a darker, more grounded take on Oliver Queen’s (Stephen Amell) ongoing crusade. The early episodes were very much about Ollie getting back to his roots and shooting arrows into the criminal scum of Star City.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)Initially, there was a worry that the series might be playing things too conservatively, recycling old conflicts and well-worn tropes rather than actually pushing Team Arrow forward in meaningful ways. A lot of that worry was personified in new villain Tobias Church (Chad L. Coleman), a would-be criminal kingpin cut from the exact same cloth as Vinnie Jones’ Danny Brickwell. As enjoyable as Coleman’s performance was, those similarities were impossible to ignore. Nor did it help that the season introduced another dark-clad archer villain in the form of Prometheus (voiced by Michael Dorn). With little real connection to the Prometheus of the comics, this villain initially came across as a poor man’s Malcolm Merlyn.
Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)The other major focus early in the season involved expanding Team Arrow into a true, ensemble fighting force. Alongside returning allies like Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), Diggle (David Ramsey) and Curtis (Echo Kellum), the team ranks swelled with the addition of up-and-coming vigilantes Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez), Artemis (Madison McLaughlin) and Ragman (Joe Dinicol). Ollie also assembled a secondary Team Arrow for his new day job of Star City’s mayor, with Thea (Willa Holland) becoming his chief of staff and Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) his deputy mayor and new District Attorney Adrian Chase (Josh Segarra) joining the fold. Coupled with a new love interest for Ollie in the form of intrepid reporter Susan Williams (Carly Pope), and the new season was never short on character drama.Joe Dinicol, Rick Gonzalez, David Ramsey, Stephen Amell, Madison McLaughlin, and Echo Kellum in Arrow (2012)Looking back, the biggest flaw with Season 5 is that it tried to juggle more characters and conflicts than was really feasible. The second episode of the season, “The Recruits,” exemplified that problem more than any other. That episode focused mainly on Ollie and Felicity’s efforts to build the ranks of the new Team Arrow in Diggle’s absence. And even though each new member showed promise, there was a strong sense that these new characters were falling over each other competing for limited screen time. The show struck a better balance after that point, but it never felt like there was enough room to do each supporting character justice. Artemis felt especially under-served. The writers never devoted much energy to fleshing out her background or motivations beyond what was already established in her initial Season 4 appearance. That didn’t change even after a major Artemis-related twist midway through the season. Susan suffered a similar fate, as she never really developed into a compelling love interest and was treated as little more than a damsel in distress.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)Ragman fared somewhat better. It was nice having at least one metahuman member of Team Arrow just to maintain that bridge to the larger Arrowverse. And the quiet, contemplative Rory made for a welcome counterpoint to testosterone-fueled characters like Ollie and Rene. But Rory was unceremoniously written out of the picture, for no apparent reason other than the fact that he gave Team Arrow too much of an advantage in their war with Prometheus. Between that and the late introduction of new Black Canary Dinah Drake (Juliana Harkavy), it was clear the writers were still fine-tuning and experimenting with the ensemble cast well into the season. But those problems aside, the show tended to make pretty good use of its supporting cast this year. The unlikely friendship between Quentin and Rene helped both characters immensely and allowed Quentin to do something other than wallow in grief-induced alcoholism for a change. Curtis underwent a memorable transformation this year, finally claiming the “Mister Terrific” name and learning firsthand the terrible toll the costumed vigilante game can take on one’s personal life. Even Felicity fared well, with the writers wisely downplaying the Olicity romance and focusing more on her induction into the sinister hacking group Helix.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)But even with the growing supporting cast, this season really was all about the Green Arrow/Prometheus rivalry. Prometheus not proved himself to be more than a mere Dark Archer redux, he developed into the series’ best villain since Deathstroke. That was due both to the actor’s strong performance and the very personal nature of his feud with Oliver Queen. Prometheus wound up being a breath of fresh air for the series. His plan didn’t involve holding Star City hostage, but merely putting Ollie through a complex, painstakingly designed gauntlet of psychological torture. The midseason finale, “What We Leave Behind,” did a great job of establishing the threat posed by Prometheus and setting the stage for everything to come. There were still a few lackluster episodes that followed, including the pseudo-bottle episode “Underneath” and “The Sin-Eater,” an episode predicated on the questionable idea of grouping together several of the series’ more forgettable villains. But for the most part, Prometheus’ revenge plot gave the series a momentum that carried it forward.
Michael Dorn, Stephen Amell, and Josh Segarra in Arrow (2012)The personal nature of that conflict tended to bring out the best in Amell’s acting, as well. The increasing darkness wasn’t merely superficial. Ollie was put through hell this year as Prometheus tested him both physically and psychologically. Amell rose to the challenge with a series of raw, emotionally charged performances that really highlighted his characters inner torment. In many ways, Season 5 as a showcase for how far the show has come in the last five years, and that goes for Amell’s acting as much as anything else.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)The Green Arrow/Prometheus rivalry also allowed the writers to explore the use of violence on the show and address Ollie’s often nebulous stance on killing. As the season opened, Ollie had once again become a dark vigilante not averse to killing his opponents should the need arise. Prometheus forced Ollie to confront his actions, both past and present, and question whether he had actually done any real, lasting good for his city after five years. Nor did the show have any easy answers to provide. The moral wasn’t “Killing is bad,” but merely that actions have far-reaching, unintended consequences. Even going into Season 6, it’s not clear what Ollie’s stance on lethal force is or how his final showdown with Prometheus will influence his actions in the future.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)Season 5 marked the final go-round in terms of Ollie’s five-year flashback odyssey. The flashbacks had pretty well worn out their welcome in Season 3 and 4, often doing little more than filling space and drawing pointless parallels between past and present. The Season 5 flashbacks weren’t immune to these problems, but they were a significant improvement. It helps that the flashbacks were used to fill in a key hole in the Arrow tapestry, fleshing out the shared history between Ollie and Russian gangster Anatoly Knyazev (David Nykl). The flashbacks added much needed context to that relationship while also banking on the viewer’s knowledge that the two characters are doomed to have a falling-out later in life. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Ivan Drago himself, Dolph Lundgren, was cast as the main villain for the Russian storyline. In a season full of strong action sequences, Ollie’s brutal clashes with Konstantin Kovar ranked among the best.
Stephen Amell and Josh Segarra in Arrow (2012)Again, the flashbacks still dragged from time to time, especially in the final couple months of the season when the Russian conflict was all but resolved. But in addition to fleshing out the Ollie/Anatoly relationship, this running subplot helped enhance the season’s larger focus on lethal force and the struggle that men like Ollie face to keep their souls once they position themselves as judge, jury and (sometimes) executioner. The flashbacks showcased Ollie at his darkest – a man who now possesses all the skills needed to become a great warrior but still in search of a symbol to shape his crusade.Stephen Amell and Josh Segarra in Arrow (2012)All of this culminated wonderfully in the season finale, as the series literally and metaphorically came full circle and Guggenheim and Mericle rolled out a who’s who lineup of heroes and villains. Compared to the Season 3 and 4 finales, both of which only managed to make their respective seasons seem worse in hindsight, “Lian Yu” gave Season 5 the punctuation mark it needed. It proved to be not just the best episode of Season 5, but of the series as a whole. Considering where the show was at the beginning of the season, that’s quite an impressive accomplishment.

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: ARROW – WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND

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MAIN CAST

Stephen Amell (The Vampire Diaries)
David Ramsey (Con Air)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Echo Kellum (Ben and Kate)
Josh Segarra (Trainwreck)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Rick Gonzalez (Pulse)
Joe Dinicol (Scott Pilgrim vs The World)
Maddison McLaughlin (Chicago P.D.)
Tyler Ritter (The McCarthys)
Carly Pope (Popular)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)
Audrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)

The Mid-Season finale of Arrow was a great way to cap off the first half of a season that’s been all about rebuilding, regrouping and looking to the past in order to shape the future. There was plenty of progress on the Prometheus front, all of which fueled a suitably dark and depressing ending that suggests things are going to get a lot worse before that light at the end of the tunnel appears for Team Arrow.
One of the few things the Arrow producers have revealed about this year’s big villain is that he has ties to Oliver Queen’s past. Those ties became much more clear in this episode, which featured one of the more memorable uses of flashbacks in the show’s history. In the last couple seasons, there’s been an odd obsession with drawing as many direct parallels between past and present, usually to the detriment of the flashback scenes. But here that approach made sense. In effect, the flashbacks were giving us a glimpse of a lost, early Season 1-era episode, one that also served as the beginning of Prometheus’ origin story.

On one hand, it was fun just to go back and revisit that simpler time. All the details were recreated perfectly, from Ollie’s original, mask-less costume and lair to his goofy interplay with a pre-sidekick Felicity to Diggle being the nonplussed bodyguard. On another, these flashbacks really emphasized how much Ollie has changed as a person and a vigilante over the course of four years. He may flirt with killing now, but back then he was a veritable murder machine. It was chilling watching him mow down those guards with impunity. Enough so that you can’t help but empathize with Prometheus a bit. Maybe Ollie had all of this coming. The way in which this episode regularly bounced between past and present helped build the tension leading into Ollie’s final showdown with Prometheus.

But before getting to that, it’s worth discussing the lead-up to that final showdown. This episode built up an engaging mystery as Prometheus attacked Curtis and then sent Team Arrow on a quest to uncover his identity and motives. There’s still plenty we don’t know about this villain. The implication is that he’s the bastard son of Justin Clayborne (Get Carter’s Garwin Sanford), one of the Hood’s first victims, though even that can’t be taken for granted yet. But even if that is the case, Prometheus’ actual identity remains a mystery. What we do know is that he harbors a serious grudge, and not an entirely unwarranted one, at that. Whomever is under the mask, Prometheus is one who will force Ollie to atone for his mistakes he made when he was still a killer, not a hero.
So after much soul-searching and one early brawl with Prometheus, Ollie finally confronted his foe at the exact spot where he shot down Clayborne four years earlier. And that’s where Prometheus really upped his game. He delivered quite the blow by tricking Ollie into killing Billy. But again, you can see Ollie proving Prometheus point for him. If he wasn’t so reckless and so quick to pull the trigger, Ollie wouldn’t have fallen for that ruse. He tried the killing game again, and this is where it led him. All of this makes Prometheus a more compelling villain because it’s so easy to understand his point of view. He may not be the hero of this story, but he makes a strong case for the idea that Ollie isn’t either. That, more than anything, is what’s distinguishing Prometheus from the rest of the show’s major villains.

That dramatic twist led to a terrifically emotional scene as Ollie felt the crushing weight of his mistakes bearing down on him. To his credit, he didn’t try to hide the truth from Felicity, which is another sign of how much he’s matured in the past four years. But it was quite a depressing way to cap off the first half of the season. The montage where Ollie reflected on his knack for ruining lives while Curtis, Felicity and Diggle all dealt with their new tragedies was an extremely effective way of highlighting the darker turn the season is taking. Echo Kellum in particular gave a terrifically raw performance during Curtis’ breakup with his husband.  It’s funny to compare this episode to the mid season finale of Flash (Season 3). Both leaned pretty heavily on the Christmas motif towards the end, but where Flash tried to find room for hope and optimism in the midst of a dark new threat, Arrow just went all-in on the depressing darkness. But honestly, optimism probably would have felt forced given everything that happened tonight. The final scene was a shocking way to end the episode, seeing Laurel show up at the Arrowcave gives the episode one last WTF moment to see us into 2017.

Arrow has steadily been building steam over the course of Season 5, and that trend continued in the mid-season finale. This episode capped off 2016 on a fittingly dark and gloomy note. Viewers were given more insight into Prometheus’ background and motivations, while also getting the chance to revisit the show’s Season 1 status quo. Things are looking up for the series as it moves into the new year.