Arrow: 8.04 Present Tense
The best thing about Arrow's final season, besides the slew of returning faces, is it's ability to deliver the unexpected. What first looked liked Sliders-esque jaunts through multiple Earths to prepare for Crisis On Infinite Earths suddenly became a mission to uncover the truth about The Monitor. And this week it became a quest to save the future.
As fast-paced and exciting as it has often been, the flashforwards to Star City 2040 have largely felt disconnected to the present day storylines. The lack of resolution at the end of season season pictured a grim outcome for our heroes and their offspring that put a bit of a damper on the series. What was the point of everything Team Arrow did to save Star City if ended up in the bleak dystopian events in which Mia, Connor and William lived?
With Present Tense, I came to the realisation that Arrow has been playing a longer game. Since the Dragon storyline was left unresolved at the end of season six, the show has not so neatly wrapped up each season's story arcs, instead blending one into another. If season seven was about setting up the dystopian future, then season eight might be about tearing it down by changing the past. The showrunners have confirmed even without Crisis, the season eight arc would have been largely the same - I suspect the arrival of Mia, Connor and William from the future was always planned this way.
There was plenty of opportunity for compelling drama as the next generation of heroes found themselves united with parents from the past, while trying to keep the fate of Zoe, JJ et al secret. Perhaps the most interesting connection was the one between John and Connor, the latter trying to forge a father son relationship that didn't exist yet. The reveal that JJ has killed Zoe certainly added some tension, not just with Connor but between Rene and John too, fuelling the need to change the course of history. Interestingly, there was still a desire to keep the good things on track, such as Rene's run for office. I'm not sure I buy his transition into politics, but enough time has passed since season seven to allow a bit of character progession.
The scene where William and Oliver reconnected was lovely, from the pride at his son's accomplishment to a sweet 'coming out' scene. It's moments like this that make the convergence of present and future storylines work. Just as fun was William taking up his mother's mantle as the tech guy and teaming up with a guest starring Curtis, who became the latest in a long line of returning faces in Arrow's greatest hits final season.
Mia's worst traits - acting just as impulsively as her father - really stood out and I liked the awkward contrast to Oliver's reunion with William. This wasn't an earned reconnection of father and daughter. Oliver was firmly in the father and mentor role, working hard to win her over and stop her from going down the same killing path he has taken more than once. The midnight snack toasted sandwich also helped.
Perhaps more interesting was sewing Mia mentored by a returning Laurel. While I assumed the Canaries series would be set in 2040, I wonder of it might become a.more contemporary-based spin-off, particularly if Mia's world is changed and she is left out of time. There were hints of Laurel and Dinah setting up the Canaries network seen in the future, another step forward into the world beyond Oliver Queen.
The Deathstroke gang really didn't work as well, though there was plenty of decent action to entertain. While having the Deathstroke Grant Wilson appear, having played the same villain is Legends of Tomorrow season one episode Star City 2046, it was all resolved rather easily and served more to tease JJ's return and reveal secrets about the future to present team Arrow.
The dynamic of the show has shifted again and I'm excited to see where it goes before Crisis On Infinite Earths. With the next generation now part of team Arrow and the Monitor turning up to pull Laurel back to the dark side, I can't wait to see how the next few weeks play out.