Arrow: 7.12 Emerald Archer
Celebrating your 150th episode is quite an achievement for any show and Arrow reached this milestone with a reflective affair that delved into the legacy of the vigilantes of Star City, while teasing the future to come. While there was plenty of emotion in the show's 100th episode, it came right in the middle of the Invasion! arc, robbing it of its own celebration. But Emerald Archer was something both indulgent and satisfying, told largely through the lens of a documentary camera.
Nothing feels quite so celebratory as seeing old characters - some dead, some on other shows or places - brought back to the fold and the snippets of interviews in the opening act flitted from Caity Lotz's Sara Lance to Bex Taylor-Klaus's Sin and most heart-warming, an encore performance by Paul Blackthorne, playing Quentin Lance as his 2012 self back when he was the police captain. What we witnessed was a deep and engaging look at the legacy of the Green Arrow and the vigilantes that followed him.
And of course Arrow has a legacy beyond the confines of the show that really helped kick-start much of the modern superhero TV genre, with The Flash , Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow following it and Batwoman on the horizon. Oliver's story has come a long way since he was 'rescued' from Lian Yu in the pilot episode and there was something quite bittersweet about watching this 150th instalment, knowing that the show is ending with it's short eighth season later this year.
The premise of Emerald Archer was a documentary following Oliver and the Star City Police Department to gain public support for his new deputised role as Green Arrow while delving into the legacy of vigilantes themselves. In some ways it was disappointing at first to see the shaky footage cut to the usual style of episode - flitting between documentary footage and 'real life' - I wondered if Arrow could have been brave enough to have done the whole episode as the 'Emerald Archer' documentary, along the style of something like Babylon 5's infamous And Now For A Word. But it was clear that this episode had a lot to cover, not just in celebrating its past but getting the old gang back together for the first time this season.
The villain of the episode, in his Wayne-tech battle armour, was a formidable threat, hunting down vigilantes while further setting up the world of Batwoman to come. I actually wondered if he might emerge as the big bad of the season, but I suspect, like everything else this season, that we aren't following quite the same old season-long format with the one big bad. It's certainly what is keeping Arrow ahead of the game this year, at least compared to The Flash and Supergirl, which already feel like their treading water.
The new Green Arrow Emiko Queen was reduced to a background player, which was probably the right thing given the focus on Oliver, becoming one of the villain Chamelion's victims rather than another member of the roster of heroes. Oliver admitting to Dinah and John that he had kept her identity from them offered a little bit of character growth and bemusement, given that they have come to expect secrets from their old boss.
We also saw William return home from boarding school, troubled and angry as you probably would be if you mother had died, your father been sent to prison, lived a life on the run and then been carted off to boarding school when your father returned home. Given what we have seen of him in the future adds a greater sense of importance to his role in the presence, particularly his friendship with Rene's daughter Zoe, who has her own part to play in the grim future we have glimpsed.
But the real fun was the build up to the final showdown as everyone returned to the fold to help Oliver fight the bad guy out to kill him. From Felicity back as Overwatch to Spartan and Mr Terrific back in action with Wild Dog, there was a real sense of return to form happening in a way that didn't feel forced or contradict the current storyline. It's nice to see Laara Sadiq's Mayor Pollard wasn't played completely as a villain either, recognising the heroics, particularly Dinah 'coming out' as Black Canary to save her and deputising them all rather then send them to prison. I'm intrigued to see how this storyline progresses over the rest of the season.
From Kelsey Grammer's narration to Curtis accidentally blurting out secrets on camera to Grant Gustin popping up as Barry Allen and totally failing to convince that he didn't know Oliver had been the Green Arrow all along, the documentary footage had everything. We got a glimpse of Joe Dinicol's Rory Regan / Ragman, who vanished in season five, flashes back to the first season in 'bodyguard' John Diggle dismissing Oliver's secret identity. It really felt as if this was seven years of interview snippets and location filming brought together to tell the story of Oliver Queen.
The final reveal that it was being watched in the future by two new characters to the ever-expanding roster - played by Katherine McNamara and Joseph David-Jones - and suddenly Emerald Archer had greater purpose in setting up the next phase of the season's intriguing future storyline. Certainly the reference to the destruction of Star City being linked to its vigilantes hints that the deputising of team Arrow is going to go horribly wrong as the season progresses. As Arrow heads towards its end game, the stakes certainly seem to be getting higher than ever...