Arrow: Present Tense

“Tell me something good about the future, please.”

Arrow has a tendency to sacrifice character development in service of plot. If anything, this episode had the opposite issue. With so many highly charged emotional dilemmas for most of Team Arrow, both present and future, to deal with, the impending Crisis seemed like a distant memory and the Deathstrokes storyline felt like an afterthought.

And since I love character development more than anything, let’s get the pesky plot discussion out of the way first. Oliver no longer believes The Monitor is a force for good. He has enlisted Curtis to develop a weapon powerful enough to stop the would-be god. Yes, Curtis. The fate of the multiverse may rest on your shoulders. No pressure.

For his part, The Monitor seems to be playing up the evil persona. After being absent for nearly two episodes he reappears to offer Laurel an impossible choice – your home or your honor. Black Siren would have made the choice in less than a heartbeat. The new and improved Laurel will at least stop long enough to wonder what is the motive behind the offer?

And that is the big question. Why is he doing this? Is he here to help or harm?

A being with The Monitor’s powers is playing 4th-dimensional chess while Team Arrow is still on Chutes and Ladders. Which is why I believe the mustache-twirling is a red herring. I believe he is either testing Team Arrow to see if they are up to the coming challenge, much as he did in last season’s crossover. Or he has gamed out all the necessary steps to get Oliver mentally and physically prepared for the Crisis. Essentially, this is just part of the plan.

As for Grant and the Deathstrokes, this plot served as a character conflict delivery device. It was the impetus for Connor to come clean to Diggle. It also served as an opportunity for Mia and Oliver to get the measure of each other. That said, this storyline would be forgettable if not for the question it poses and its implication for the rest of the season. By defeating Grant the way they did, have they changed history?

This is where the lack of time is most apparent. There is no discussion about whether the future is mutable, and if so, could their actions make things worse. After all, future Star City may be a mess but this Earth still exists. Oliver succeeded in saving the multiverse even if he failed his city.

Also, the assumption is that The Monitor has brought William, Mia, and Connor to 2019 for a purpose but there is no effort to determine why? There is also no talk about the fact they could be sent back to 2040 at any moment. Obviously, The Powers That Be have the opportunity to delve into this in more detail in future episodes. However, given the pace of this season, I wonder if they will.

Now to the fun stuff. If by fun I mean the high drama of our heroes confronting their successes and failures in the form of their children.

Oliver and William have the only established parent-child relationship and while there is mutual love and respect there is also a mountain of hurt on both sides. Given the continuing violence of Oliver’s world, he thought allowing William to live with his grandparents would give his son the life he deserved.  But it came at cost. As for William, he chose to walk away even as he hoped that Oliver and Felicity would fight to get him back. It never happened. Meeting as adults gave them the closure they both wanted and needed.

And I loved William’s coming out, mostly for the non-issue that it was. Having the Green Arrow for a dad would be daunting for any son. How does one live up to a hero? William’s fear that Oliver would be disappointed in him was palpable. Considering that Oliver had no issues with his ex’s ex being a woman I didn’t expect him to have an issue with William’s sexuality. For him to know and not care was even better.

Oliver and Mia’s relationship is nonexistent. He is nothing more than a collection of bedtime stories and a picture on a shelf. Besides, it wasn’t so long ago that she believed vigilantes, her father chief among them, were the cause for all that was wrong with Star City. A belief, I might add, that has yet to be disproven. So is it any wonder that where William sees honor in the sacrifices Oliver has made, Mia sees a man who abandoned his family to feed his ego and got himself killed in the process? That she’s inherited his stubbornness and the penchant for seeing the world as black and white doesn’t help.

To be fair, Oliver’s imminent death has curbed the worst of those tendencies. There is a clarity that comes from knowing your time is limited. Oliver’s worldview has narrowed to will it secure his family/ city/ world’s safety? If so, great. If not, moving on.

Is it just me or is William’s discussion with Oliver about Mia a replay of Oliver’s season one discussion with Moira about Thea? A little less space and a little more parenting. Oliver takes that advice and stops Mia from killing Grant. She may be an adult but she is still his daughter and he knows better than most the cost of taking another person’s life. That said, does this mean she’s never killed or that she’s never plotted someone’s death? This show can get mighty fuzzy about killing.

Connor and Diggle’s relationship is even more complicated. Connor looks at Diggle and sees the man that raised him. For Dig to not recognize him as his son must be crushing. It also leaves Connor afraid that if Dig discovers how the future plays out he’ll never adopt him. After all, Connor believes JJ’s fall from grace is his fault and he knows he was moments away from killing his brother.

For Diggle, Connor is the son of a former enemy now ally, not family. He’s also the man that points out how some decision or failing of Dig’s causes his son to go rogue. Intellectually he can acknowledge that the man before him becomes a son to him. But that only adds to the anguish of knowing his and Andy’s fate will play out again in the next generation.

In some ways, Rene has the most to deal with. How do you wrap your brain around the fact that although you become Mayor, you’ll turn bad, your daughter will be murdered, and one of your best friends’ son is her killer? Is it surprising that Rene ignores every sci-fi/time travel story he’s ever heard of and decides to change the future?

Since Diggle is neck-deep in emotional turmoil, Dinah assumes his role as the voice of reason. It’s a reminder of why she’s a police captain and the former the leader of the NTA. It’s also proof of how far everyone has come that she is willing to create a crime-fighting organization like the Canaries with the woman who killed the love of her life.

Was this episode perfect? Nope. But it was everything I wanted it to be. If The Powers That Be’s goal was to leave us wanting more, they’re succeeding.

4 out of 5 coordinated bomb attacks

Parting Thoughts:

William referred to Felicity as “Mom.” Is that a first?

Does this mean Dr. Schwarz is dead? Say it ain’t so!

Did anyone else want to see Oliver and Mia throw down? I’m sick. I need help.

If The Monitor could really restore Earth-2, wouldn’t that negate the threat of the Crisis?

Next week – Russia!

Quotes:

Diggle: “Wait, so an hour ago, I was just with Ben Turner’s 6-year-old child, and now he’s an adult, and now I’m his father?
Rene: “At least you didn’t throw up like you usually do. Just sayin'."

Dinah: “As far as excuses goes, a cosmic being asking you to sacrifice your life to save the entire universe is a pretty good one."

Diggle: “How do we stop a god?”
Oliver: “I’m working on it.”

William: “Mia will come around. You know, she can be a little bit… a little bit stubborn... and hard to reach sometimes."
Oliver: “Shocker. Where did she get that from?”

Rene: “Well, the vic is some rich Wall Street type and those guys are easy to hate."
William: “We’re not all bad.”

Curtis: “Hello Bunker. Oh, it feels so good to be back. Wait. Are those the kids from the future? Those are definitely the kids from the future!” (I’d forgotten how fast Curtis talks.)

Oliver: “It’s a wave of energy that’s powerful enough to destroy a planet, so it’s probably powerful enough to stop a god... which is what we’re doing now.”

Dinah: “I didn’t know it was bring your kid to work day.”

William: “I’m getting a case of deja vu in the worst possible way.”

Laurel: “Were you ever planning on sharing that information with the rest of the class?”
Mia: “No.”
Laurel: (to Oliver) “Clearly, your daughter.”

Connor: “Maybe if I had been a better son, JJ would never have broken bad and Zoe would still be alive.”

Mia: “I survived my whole life without you. I don’t need you playing dad now.”

William: “Mom really liked playing fast and loose with the Fourth Amendment, didn’t she?” (It deals with searches and seizures, in case you were wondering.)

Dinah: “We’ve seen our worst. Now let’s be our best.”

Laurel: “Clearly no one has informed you that I used to play for Team Villain."

William: “I’ve been told by several ex-boyfriends that I do this moody-broody thing when I’m problem-solving. Must be genetic.”

Curtis: “Look at us. Holt and Smoak 2.0.”

William: “I guess things have never not been tense around here, huh?”

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, and anything with a cape.

5 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I thought this episode was absolutely terrific. Just Oliver with William and Mia would have been plenty, but Diggle with Connor was also pretty amazing.

Mikey Heinrich said...

I'm looking forward to every single episode of Arrow for the first time in years. Great review. And I agree about how great the choice was to have William's coming out be such a non-event for Oliver.

Shari said...

I know what you mean. When they announced that this would be the last season, I thought "it's time." But they have been operating at such a high tempo that I wish this wasn't all there was going to be.

Connor has been the breakout of the season for me. I've become so invested in his story. I can't wait to see how it ends. My gut says he'll find a way to redeem JJ but I guess that depends on if the future is changed or not.

Billie Doux said...

I like Connor a lot, too. Striking-looking guy, interesting and complicated story.

CoramDeo said...

I'm really glad to finally have a reason to care about the future storyline now that it has intersected with the present. I couldn’t bring myself to be interested in it once it was just the kids, but I finally am.