A Final Trip to 'Lian Yu' - Arrow S5 Finale

Yikes! "Lian Yu" was intense!

And no fooling, this was one of the best episodes Arrow has ever done, let alone one of the top for season five.

In fact, season five is one of this show's top seasons, harkening back to its strong foundations in season one. And speaking of season one, "Lian Yu" features the cameo returns of Malcolm Merlyn, Slade Wilson, and Moira Queen to Arrow.

Spoilers beyond the fold.

I actually missed a couple of reviews over the past few weeks, due to being involved in a car accident, so I apologize (I actually had people ask me on Facebook about the missing reviews). At this point, I'm not going to backtrack. Suffice to say that Adrian Chase has continued being the super genius bastard that he's always been, and that Team Arrow has never been able to keep up with him. In the previous episode before this one, Chase has, one by one, abducted the members of Team Arrow, as well as William, Oliver's son (and his mother, as we discover in this episode).

Thus, Oliver is in a bit of a pickle. Malcolm Merlyn also showed up in the Arrowcave last episode to offer help in getting Thea back. And Oliver ended up calling in another ally: Nyssa, his "wife." The sparks flew immediately between Nyssa and Malcolm as they growled at each other, and their verbal sparring continues in "Lian Yu" and it is great. Once on the island, Oliver picks up a couple more unlikely allies.


Happy to report that Slade Wilson was absolutely amazing (and that despite weeks of trolling fans about how he wasn't involved in this episode at all, Manu Bennett was indeed back and in awesome form). With the mirakuru cleared out of his system, Slade is sane again, and remembers everything he did under the influence. He wonders why Oliver didn't kill him for the execution of Moira Queen, and he's especially surprised when Oliver not only lets him out of ARGUS prison AND provides him with his gear, but also hands over a flash drive with information containing the whereabouts of Slade's missing son. You can almost see Slade softening, especially with the last.

Not gonna lie, Slade and Oliver fighting together again was a thrill I hadn't realized I was missing so very much.

This is a scene I didn't know I needed...

The other baddie Oliver picks up is Captain Boomerang, which he needn't have bothered, since the jackass turns on them almost instantly. Apparently Chase and his goons got to Boomerang first, but we don't learn that until Oliver rushes into an ambush and Boomerang pulls a gun on him. Slade appears to betray Oliver in that moment as well, but actually, he just proceeds to kick Boomerang's ass. Thankfully, Evelyn also gets her ass kicked in this scene, and put into a cage. And because Oliver is a much better person than I am, he promises to come back for Evelyn when Chase has been dealt with. Personally, I'd just leave the wench to rot on Lian Yu.

In other news, Ollicity is back on again!

Oliver sends Felicity, Curtis, Thea, and Samantha back towards the plane along with Malcolm as the pilot. The idea is that he wants to get the weaker members--Felicity and Samantha--safely off the island, and of course he wants his sister out of the line of fire. Despite Malcolm being Malcolm, he's certainly proven time and again that he will do whatever it takes to keep Thea safe, so I suppose he's trustworthy enough for this mission. Of course, the reunion between father and daughter is less than warm. Once again, John Barrowman and Willa Holland have fabulous chemistry together. They argue back and forth up until the moment there's a click and Thea freezes in place.

Yeah, how did everyone forget that Lian Yu is riddled with those stupid mines?

In a strangely heartbreaking scene, Malcolm shoves Thea off the mine and takes her place, and then tells them all to run away because Boomerang and some thugs are approaching.

Yeah, Malcolm freaking Merlyn sacrificed his life for Team Arrow (well, really for his daughter, of course). We see the explosion in the distance from Thea's point of view.

It's worth noting that while this is the comics genre and no one ever really stays dead, John Barrowman has thanked his fans for a wonderful five years. It sounds pretty final to me.

Oliver takes Slade and Nyssa to an old Chinese temple thing that's never been shown before in previous flashbacks of the island. Apparently that's where the rest of Team Arrow is being held. The three of them split up, with Nyssa going off on her own, and instantly Slade betrays Oliver and gives him up to Black Siren. But don't despair! It was all planned! Oliver wanted to get captured, because it gave him access to Dinah, and he gives her the collar that Curtis made for her that lets her focus her canary cry. It also allows her to break their chains.

Love me some lady assassins, NGL

What follows is a pretty awesome fight. We get treated to some beautiful fight choreography, starting first with an all-too-short fight sequence between Nyssa and her sister Thalia. Truly, if I have any complaint at all about this episode, or even this season, it's that we didn't get more of an explanation on why Thalia turns on her old student Oliver (yeah yeah, he killed my estranged father yadda yadda), and why Nyssa and Thalia seem to hate each other. I truly wish we'd had more development of the relationship between the sisters. There's some decent dialogue to that effect here, but still... I was left wanting so much more. These are two genuinely badass assassin ladies, and I am ALL about the assassin ladies of the world getting more screen time.

There's also a much larger fighter scene where everyone is fighting everyone: Dinah and Laurel have a canary face-off, Diggle gets to punch stuff, Slade and Nyssa fight more thugs, and ultimately, Oliver and Adrian face-off in their own apparent final battle. Once again, the fight choreography was phenomenal. Bonus points for Quentin getting the opportunity to knock Black Siren in the back of the head. And triple bonus points for Quentin insisting that Dinah be called the Black Canary.

It's worth noting that this giant fight scene in particular beautifully juxtaposes scenes with a flashback of the fight on Lian Yu between Oliver and Dolph Lundgren's Russian thug, just before Oliver's boat back to Star City is supposed to arrive. We keep switching back and forth between the flashback fight and the current fight, and instead of being jarring, this actually really works for the episode.

This is bad, right?

Ultimately, where in the flashback Oliver ends up breaking Kovar's neck and rushing off to catch his boat, Oliver has the chance to end Adrian's life once and for all, and he chooses not to. Which is a good thing because that's about when Felicity calls him and lets him know that the island is covered in c4 that is set to explode on a dead man's switch. If Adrian dies, the island gets blown up.

Nothing is ever easy for Oliver Queen. Nothing. Adrian won't tell him where William is, and he even suggests that he killed the boy, just to try to get Oliver to kill him (and thus everyone) too.

Ultimately, Adrian ends up escaping (because of course he does), and Oliver sends everyone to rejoin the rest of the team while he runs after Adrian. The team finds out pretty quickly that they are hosed, though, because Adrian sabotaged the plane, so it isn't going anywhere.

That freaking smirk! Josh Segarra, you are so good at making us hate you!

William is on the boat of course, and Adrian has one final card to play. Kill Chase, OR Chase will kill Oliver's son. Of course this was Adrian's plan all along: make Oliver make the impossible choice between his entire team or Oliver's son.


Okay, time for this jerk to die. Srsly. 

Oliver almost had his cake and eat it too. He manages a trick shot of an arrow that hits Adrian's foot and makes him let go of William, so Oliver grabs the boy. But our hero is not always the sharpest knife in the drawer, not to mention the fact he was in the process of freaking out about his son. So he fails to shove William behind him and then smack Adrian upside the head and knock him out, which would have been the obvious solution. Instead, he stands there shouting at Chase, while Chase plays his final final ace.

It's like the 4th of July up in here...

OMG the cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers! Who will live? Who will die? Is Oliver a single dad now?

Unfortunately, some of the suspense was killed by the recent announcement that Dinah and Rene are still series regulars in season six. Thanks, CW! Also, the showrunners have explicitly stated that Thea Queen will not be killed off, ever. So there's three right there that you know survived!

Still, in my opinion, the combination of excellent writing, amazing acting (Stephen Amell has come so far since season one, he was brilliant here), and gorgeous fight choreography, really made this the CW's best superhero finale this year, hands down. And really, looking back on the whole season, despite a few duds here and there, Arrow had the overall best season period this year.

We won't know until October how anyone on Team Arrow survives (if you want my opinion, Slade saves all or most of them by taking them underground to the ARGUS bunker). I have my doubts that Samantha, William's mother, survives. But even if she does, William now knows that his dad is the freaking Green Arrow, so there's that to look forward to next season.

I'm also loving the return of gruff, cool Slade Wilson as an ally of Oliver's. I kind of really hated him in season two when he was basically the villain out of Days of Our Lives (like literally, in a suit with an eyepatch), and Manu Bennett is on record as saying he didn't care for the way Slade was written in season two either. I expect that Slade will disappear to find his own son, but that we can expect him back for cameos. I like the idea of a somewhat enigmatic antihero Slade Wilson at large.

Besides Nyssa and Thalia not having enough screentime together, my only complaint is that Moira Queen didn't have as much screentime either as I would have liked. But Susanna Thompson was still heartbreaking and fabulous as Oliver's mother when she receives that phone call from him as he is leaving the island. I love her so much.

I almost quit watching Arrow after the trainwreck that was season four, but I'm glad I stuck with it. The showrunners and writers really stepped it up a notch, and it was worth it.

What did you think of the finale? Let us know in the comments!

See you in the fall, everyone!

Ivonne Martin is a writer, gamer, and avid consumer of all things geek—and is probably entirely too verbose for her own good.