TV Review: ARROW Season 2, Episode 23 'Unthinkable'

PrintE-mail Written by Andrew Pollard

So, here we are: the finale of the fantastic Season 2 of Arrow. Just to sum things up, usually I try and bring these episode reviews in at 600 words or so. Just from making notes whilst watching Unthinkable, I managed to knock up 553 words. Yes, there’s a lot going on, a lot getting resolved, and a lot of questions thrown up as this brilliant season of television comes to a close.

To bring you up to speed, Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) has unleashed his mirakuru-ridden army on Starling City, has killed Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson), and is now targeting the person who Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) loves the most. Elsewhere, Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) has been in a coma of sorts after being injected with snake venom in an attempt to cure him of the mirakuru running through his system, Thea Queen (Willa Holland) has shot her recently-revealed father Malcom Merlyn (John Barrowman), Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) has fled Starling City to find “help”, Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) is now well aware that Oliver is the Arrow, Oliver is well aware that Laurel knows that he’s the Arrow, and Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorn) has got his badge and balls back. And breathe. Oh, and due to Slade’s roided-up army, Amanda Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) has given orders for A.R.G.U.S. drone planes to destroy the city if the threat of Deathstroke is not neutralised with a certain time frame.

Unthinkable starts off as a huge group of Slade’s soldiers swarm upon Team Arrow. Conveniently, this is when Roy Harper finally decides to regain consciousness. One rather impressive-looking zip-line escape later, and we see the reappearance of Lyla Michaels (Audrey Marie Anderson), former wife/current love of John Diggle (David Ramsey). Near enough as soon as it’s revealed that Agent Michaels is in Starling City to help Digg, we flip things over to Thea and her daddy issues, not to mention the reigniting of the young love that is Thea and Roy. Detective Lance now finds himself having to lead and inspire the remaining police numbers of the city, and Sara Lance’s Canary returns with that help she’d mentioned. And yes, as alluded to in previous reviews, Sara does indeed brings Nyssa al Ghul (Katrina Law) and the League of Assassins to back up Team Arrow in their fight against Deathstroke’s army.

Whilst this review is a near certainty to end up lengthy, Unthinkable simply does not let up. Whilst Season 1 of Arrow was very pleasing on a variety of levels, Season 2 has just blown its predecessor out of the water. If you’re wary of a flat-feeling finale, leave your fears at the door. All that you hoped for and more are given to you here. With Roy seemingly now a fully-fledged member of Team Arrow, and with the League of Assassins at their side, Oliver and co. take the fight to the streets and to Slade’s army, resulting in a barnstorming butting of heads reminiscent of The Warriors or various other street gang-type movies of years gone by. Taking place in a tunnel, Unthinkable delivers a set piece that is right up there with the very best that Arrow has given us to date. An army of baby Deathstrokes taking on the combined forces of the Arrow, Canary, Roy (can we officially call him Red Arrow/Arsenal yet?) Detective Lance, Nyssa al Ghul and the League of Assassins? Yes. Yes, please.

As much as Unthinkable delivers an action-packed, attention-monopolising extravaganza, there’s a lot more going on than just fists (arrows?) to faces. Here we get to fully see the character progression of the Arrow. Tied into that is just how well the team behind the show has done with Oliver/Arrow and his supporting characters. Throughout Season 1, the Hood would think nothing of killing those he was up against. As Season 2 began, Oliver swore to become more than just a killer. And now here we are: the Arrow, despite a threat that could cause widespread damage, refusing to kill. Despite the encouragement of those around him, such as Sara, Nyssa and even Detective Lance, the Arrow is shown constantly looking at any alternative but death for those he is facing. Despite Sara’s explanation of, “To fight the unthinkable you have to be able to do the unthinkable,” there is always another way for this refocused Arrow. With the mirakuru cure attached to his arrows, he instead looks to be the bigger man, the better man: the hero. If this season of Arrow has given us anything, it’s given us Oliver Queen’s ascension from murky vigilante to full-blown hero. For that, credit must go to the show’s creative team. But credit must also go to Stephen Amell. For those very first few episodes of Arrow, it’s doing the actor no great disservice to say that he wasn’t always convincing in his delivery. Credit where credit due, just as much as Amell had upped his game by the Season 1 climax, this current season has seen him constantly delivering the goods. To say that this is an actor that is now comfortable in his role is an understatement of gigantic proportions; Amell is so comfortable in the skin of Oliver Queen, the mannerisms, emotions and delivery, that it is near-impossible to think of anyone else under the hood, be it on the small screen or on the big screen. Yes, that means you, DC cinematic universe.

To bring things back to this finale, though, it is a worthy conclusion to an epic arc. For months we’ve waited for the climactic battle between Oliver Queen and Slade Wilson, Arrow and Deathstroke. Whilst the island flashbacks, which also see Ollie and Slade do battle, feel a little less tense than they should be due to us knowing that both obviously survive to see the present day, both the past and present battles deliver what’s needed. On the island, as predicted last week, we finally get to see just how Slade came to lose his eye. In the modern day, we get an angst-ridden collision that is dramatic in terms of action but exquisite in terms of depth, emotion and history. It’s hard to explain just how badass Manu Bennett looks in the full Deathstroke armour, especially when he’s without his mask, but it’s as equally heartbreaking as it is enjoyable to see where Oliver and Slade’s relationship has gotten to. In some ways striking similarities between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, their relationship is best described as a twisted brotherhood that has soured. This time out, though, rather than the young pupil going off the rails, it’s the turn of the wiser, older master to go insane. The parallel stories of Oliver and Slade to hero and villain is great to see, and this is truly where the delicate storytelling ofArrow prevails.

One thing that we’ve learnt from Arrow by now is that the show is very grounded, a very sensible approach to its world of heroes and villains, yet when it does go over-the-top, it does so firmly in tone with what you’d expect from a comic book, which generally delivers a show that is a joy to watch. Things are no different here. There are some moments where there may be a suspension of disbelief needed, particularly Laurel punching out one of the mirakuru-enhanced thugs, but Arrow handles these moments in the right way. It knows its audience, it knows what it can get away with, and the show reacts accordingly.

Unthinkable is literally littered with moments that will have Arrow fanboys clapping along, but arguably the most jaw-dropping scene is one that involves the love life of Oliver Queen. Despite what follows, for that one moment it’s the perfect fodder for jaws being firmly on the floor. For fear of spoilers, we’ll leave that topic there. If you’ve seen the episode, you know what we mean. Similarly, there’s a bit of a bombshell that accompanies Lyla Michaels’ return, plus her and Digg call in the assistance of the Suicide Squad for their part of the “Save Starling City” deal. More Deadshot? Always a winner. Unthinkable is that impressive, even Colton Haynes and his perfectly-groomed eyebrows are interesting and entertaining. Quite the feat, no?

When all is said and done, Unthinkable does what a season finale should do: it answers questions and ties things up. We find out how Sara Lance became lost from Oliver Queen for so long, we find out how Slade Wilson lost his eye, and it appears that in Season 3 we’ll be finding out just what happened to Oliver Queen once he left the island. And that’s where Season 2’s finale does even more good work: it poses plenty of questions going forward. Several of the Arrow’s key supporting characters, such as Diggle, Laurel, Det. Lance, and Thea have big question marks looming over them. Then there’s the big question of just who the villain will be in the next season of Arrow. It appears that the answer could be a lot closer to home than Oliver realises.

As Arrow rides off into its break, it has brought audiences a show that has been compelling and must-see TV. Amell is constantly hitting a home run as the titular hero, and his supporting cast back him up perfectly. Credit has to go to both the writers and the supporting actors for the fact that Arrow has now developed each supporting character to such an extent that the show can hold episodes or scenes without the presence of the star of the show, the Emerald Archer, the Arrow, Oliver Queen, Stephen Amell. It’s also worth noting that in Deathstroke we have seen one of the finest villainous turns of any DC adaptation. Granted, there’s more time in a TV show to flesh out a character, but Manu Bennett has treated us to a remarkable take on Slade Wilson. It’s no exaggeration to say that all of the occurrences throughout this season will only reward audiences on repeat viewings, which says a lot about the planning, pacing and care taken in producing a truly excellent season of television.

Whilst there are a plethora of questions on where the story will go for the modern day Oliver Queen, it appears that the flashback elements of Season 3 have been set up nicely. Bring on Hong Kong!

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