Arrow: 6.23 Life Sentence
It's been a long season of Arrow, and while the show has delivered a few genuine surprises, it has not been without some issues. The return of Deathstroke was all too brief (no doubt impacted by the continuing meddling of the DC Cinematic Universe). The broke team Arrow divide was frustrating rather than dramatic and it took far too long to muddle through the muck to get to decent villain Ricardo Diaz.
Fortunately, the latest run of episodes have been rather good and last week's explosive instalment (thanks to Steven Slatter for covering the review), saw Diaz's fury unleashed, the Arrow-cave destroyed and war coming to Star City. The stakes were high for the season finale and it was surprisingly good pay off, taking some surprise turns. The biggest turn of events was Oliver teaming up with FBI agent Samanda Watson to take down Diaz and this week certainly delivered on that surprise alliance.
It was a hugely dramatic finale, opening with the explosive take down of Star City PD as Arrow and every vigilante hero in the city team upped with Watson's FBI officers. There were plenty of cool fight sequences and dizzying direction that really upped the stakes as the audience flitted from one fight to another. It was great to see everyone reunited and some real moments of closure between Oliver and his former allies, most notably Dinah and Rene. I feel the whole team divided has really diminished these characters, particularly one as strong as Dinah Drake / Black canary, so it was satisfying to see some closure to what has been less civil war and more dull, frustrating spat.
It was also satisfying to see Watson given purpose after vanishing mid-season and Sydelle Noel brought some real presence to the role, so much so that when she found herself lured into a trap alongside Rene and a rather pathetic FBI Agent, I actually feared for her life. The three trapped between laser trip wires and a rigged bomb made for a tense sequence and Rene's heartfelt goodbye to his daughter actually had me thinking this was the end of Wild Dog.
But the real tragedy was the death of Quentin Lance. I'm frustrated that his departure from Arrow was announced long before the finale, lessening the impact of his death but it still gave Life Sentance some emotional trauma as he took a bullet for Laurel. His final conversation with Oliver was incredibly bittersweet, while the death in surgery was a surprisingly low-key affair, much like the death of the real Laurel a couple of years earlier. The show has struggled with what to do with Quentin in recent years but this felt like a satisfying emotional ending and Paul Blackthorne will be missed on the show.
This episode also gave us our first meeting of Sara Lance with the doppelganger Laurel as the Legend was called back to be at her father's bedside. It was rather sad that Sara didn't get to speak to Quentin before his death, but the real emotion was in that uneasy first meeting. I know she's a regular on Legends of Tomorrow, but it might be interesting to have Sara stick around for an episode or two in season seven and work with Laurel on her path to redemption.
Perhaps the biggest surprises were in the ultimate fates of Diaz and Oliver. After a dramatic, frenzied action sequence, Arrow delivered another superbly choreographed fight on a rain-swept rooftop as the Dragon and Green Arrow battled it out. Laurel blasting Diaz into the water was a huge and emotional mistake, not least because it left the season with Diaz still alive. What this means for season seven is a mystery, but the show has never ended a season before with the villain not completely defeated (even Malcolm Merlyn and Slade Wilson were beaten in their survival).
As for Oliver, those fond farewells revealed a more tragic end to the season as he turned himself into FBI custody, knowing that the city had been freed from Diaz's grip. I wonder what it will take for Oliver to become a free man again - and whether next season will actually see Diggle as the new Green Arrow as the finale teased - but with Oliver pulling a Tony Stark and revealing his superhero identity, the possibilities are endless. At the very least Oliver will have to be back in the mantle for the usual episode eight crossover event at the end of the year!
Life Sentence delivered on what has been a strong final run of episodes. It left Arrow in a very uncertain position and the change of showrunner will most likely shake things up further. The finale didn't quite make up for what was a very sagging middle section of season six (and justification of a reduced episode count for Arrow and its sister shows all round), but it was a satisfying conclusion to this story and showed there's still life in the old show yet.