The Oliver Queen farewell tour makes its way to Russia, and something downright shocking happens. It’s not the violence, the vodka, or the fact that Anatoly Knyazev (David Nykl) refers to himself as “fun uncle”—perhaps my favorite in a long series of perfect Anatoly moments. No, what’s shocking about “Prochnost,” and indeed most of this season is this: Everyone’s shockingly emotionally healthy.
Did the members of OTA all get therapists in the off-season? Did William and Mia google “star city therapist vigilante dad” to see who’d come up? This isn’t something I’m writing for giggles. It’s been a trend in this season so far. It was certainly true in the last episode, but “Present Tense” was about feelings and tough conversations and stuff (plus new/old Deathstroke, a villain designed to provoke strong emotional reactions). This episode is, on its surface, about getting plans for a god-killing weapon and stealing plutonium.
After seven long seasons of Oliver and company keeping secrets, telling lies, and pushing each other away, it’s sincerely startling to see them all (or nearly all) behaving in such a healthy manner. And in Russia, no less! That’s not to say that these fine people aren’t still messed up in some way, nor that they all make exclusively good choices. But an episode that ends with Oliver answering questions about Lian Yu without protest is obviously far outside the norm. When Digg tells Ray that he eventually conquers his bloodlust with the help of a team, he might as well be saying, “No one should have to process their trauma alone—so consult a therapist! And be open to your friends! It’s all good!”
In most cases, this healthy equilibrium is reached with some stumbles and starts; both Oliver and Mia receive necessary pep talks and advice on their way toward making their relationship more honest and trusting—again, I can’t really believe I’m writing stuff like this about Arrow, but here we are. They both, especially Oliver, put in work to make things better. The Ollie/Mia dynamic is at the heart of this episode, and its simplicity allows the writers to draw Mia (Katherina McNamara) with more complexity than they had previously. Yes, there are still some generic “I’m tough, very tough, don’t you love how tough I am” moments, but there’s also that terrific scene with Laurel, in which Mia reveals that:
- She thinks her father is perfect in a way he definitely isn’t; though her reaction to his departure is still one of great hurt, it’s more of a “you chose saving all of this world and all others over me because you’re such a hero and it sucks” thing than a more generic anger.
- She thinks he and Laurel are both capital-H heroes, and she is not and could never be, because:
- She let Zoe die, because she’s not good enough, and every time she fails or is told to stay put, she’s reminded of that.
Good stuff. Oliver revisits some of the same old arguments, but in his case, it’s all a matter of watching him do things Oliver would never have done two seasons ago, or even less. He doesn’t just tell the “kids” they’re benched; he explains at least part of why they’re, even though it’s hard for him to say. And after he’s gotten some fun uncle words of wisdom, he’s even more forthcoming. Stephen Amell is great in this episode, as he has been all season, particularly when struggling with the complex blend of joy, grief, remorse, gratitude, and fear dredged up by the appearance of his adult children in what he believes will be the final months of his life (and he’s probably right about that).
But thematically, the most interesting cases are sort of twins and opposites at once: the two former Diaz deputies, one fully on the side of the angels (though he does shoot a guy), and one still making her way in that direction. This is probably Nykl’s final Arrow appearance, though I wouldn’t rule out some kind of big final farewell from the members of the Arrow supporting roster; he goes out not in a state of conflict or fluctuating allegiance, but as a trusted brother, and not the Bratva kind. That’s not the journey of this episode, it’s just the status quo, the endpoint of a long journey that began in season two. The relationship has assumed its final form, and Anatoly finds himself in a position to give some advice to his longtime friend and sometime foe. Again, all very healthy! What show am I watching?
But Not-Laurel, who has the steepest hill to climb, is the one who really puts the seal on the whole “Arrow, but we’ve grown and done some workbooks” energy. First, when she finds out Lyla was manipulating her (and helping her! Both things can be true!) she doesn’t lose her damn mind. Big steps. Second, she goes to talk to an angry and hurt Mia and without knowing it does exactly what Anatoly suggests Oliver do, pretty much as he’s suggesting it: She doesn’t paint some rosy picture, choosing to tell her what she needs to hear rather than what Not-Laurel would prefer to say. As she does, she listens to Mia, and realizes there’s a future possible for her in which she is the hero she, like Mia, doesn’t truly believe she can be. And last, after an apology from Anatoly about judging her incorrectly, she (offscreen) fesses up to Oliver and Diggle, trusting they’ll understand and forgive her choices, and brings them straight to the source of the problem.
That leads to yet another great final twist in a season that’s had a couple winners, as some Lyla-minions (or Monitor-minions) zap Digg, Ollie, and Not-Laurel with some tranquilizer darts. It leaves the youngsters, Curtis, Roy, Dinah, and Rene with the task of figuring out what the hell is going on, and sets us up for another Arrow staple: The alternate reality/dream episode. Bring it on, especially if they’re able to emerge and immediately call their therapists to deal with the trauma it will inevitably bring to the surface.
- “Oliver and Mia cage-fight six dudes at once” seems like a thing that was on Stephen Amell’s Arrow bucket list.
- This title card was for season five, the Bratva flashback season.
- Was there any salmon ladder?: No, but apparently parent/adult-child stick-fighting is a bit of a motif this season.
- TAMVP: Stephen Amell has been TAMVP a lot lately, so good as he was, let’s split it this week and salute both Katie Cassidy (so good in her brief scenes with Lyla and Mia) and good old Anatoly (David Nykl, always welcome). Put them both on Legends.
- This week’s Arrow as a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend song. For Ollie and Mia: