Arrow: 8.02 Welcome to Hong Kong
After a somewhat alternate take on season one of Arrow last week, episode two continued Oliver's 'greatest hits tour' with a trip back to Hong Kong -season three-style. Old faces and an old threat reared their heads as his latest mission on behalf of The Monitor continued to deal with the build-up to Crisis on Earth X. Spoilers, as I delve into the fallout of last week's episode too (read our review here).
So Earth 2 is gone. It wasn't clear to me last week that the alternate Earth Oliver had been sent to was the one where Black Siren, Zoom, Doctor Wells and Jessie Quick all originated. What I presumed was a version of Laurel Lance aware of alternate Earths, was in fact the Black Siren version of Laurel, who has been a recurring presence in the last three seasons of Arrow. Which made a lot of sense, considering her path to redemption she took last season. The tragedy of course is that she found it, along with a family in the likes of Adrian Chase as The Hood. With Adrian and her sister - an alternate Sara Lance - killed in the destruction of her universe, everything she had fought so hard for was lost in an instant.
The destruction of Earth 2, a world seen in a number of episodes of The Flash, is a huge event for the Arrowverse and raises a number of questions. Among them - is Doctor Harrison Wells and daughter Jessie Quick gone too? It really sets the stage for the upcoming Crisis On Infinite Earths in spectacular style.
Welcome to Hong Kong also brought a sense of closure to Laurel Lance's story on Arrow. We saw her in the future Star City setting last season and with the next generation battling the Deathstroke gang in 2040, everything is set up for her to star in the upcoming Canaries spin-off. Grief-stricken over the destruction of Earth 2, Laurel found an unlikely ally in Lyla, as the ARGUS head helped her attempts to 'fix' the broken device that could take her home. As for Lyla, I'm intrigued by her connection to The Monitor and what that means for the upcoming Crisis on Infinite Earths. Is there going to be some last-minute betrayal of Diggle come the show's end?
There was no mention of JJ or Connor's mother as the two adoptive brothers shared a tense reunion in the flash-forwards. While the scenes were good, with Charlie Barnett in particular playing the fallen son of John and Lyla-turned Deathstroke well, this future storyline till feels more a set-up for Canaries than something that fits with the current Arrow narrative. As good as they were, the season seven flash-forwards never really impacted on the present day storyline and they continue to feels disjointed in the wake of Oliver's epic adventures ahead of the Arroverse crossover in December.
The trip to Hong Kong back on Earth 1 brought about a reunion with Rila Fukushima's Tatsu Yamashiro / Katana, as they sought to prevent the deadly virus - unleashed in Hong Kong back in season three's flashbacks - from resurfacing. Long-term villain China White (Kelly Hu) also made a welcome encore performance as Arrow's 'greatest hits' theme continued and there was plenty of violence and terrific action sequences that demonstrates for all the impact of Crisis on Infinite Earths, this is till very much Arrow business as usual. Having Diggle along for the ride helps too.
Just why The Monitor wanted Oliver to find Doctor Wong, the man behind the virus, remains a mystery and there was certainly a suggestion that he might not be as noble as he first appears. Perhaps it is the shortened final season having an impact, but Oliver potentially turning away from his mission feels too quick and certainly squanders the alternate Earth-hopping adventures teased with Earth 2 last week. I almost found myself disappointed that we were back in Earth 1 and will continue to stay there for at least another week. But then, maybe the nostalgia wave of last week's Starling City can only carry season eight so far?
Welcome to Hong Kong was a good episode but didn't carry the impact of the season opener. The Hong Kong storyline has always been a bit of a mixed back for Arrow (it was there the flashbacks lost their momentum) and the threat of the virus and China White didn't offer the same level of excitement they might have done first time round. As great as it was see to see Katana once more, the better moments of the episode were centred around Laurel and her loss, while once again, Star City 2040 entertained but seemed disjointed from the main narrative. Still, if this is the level season eight is working too, it is a solid place to be and will undoubtedly ensure Arrow goes off with a real momentum and not a whimper.