‘Arrow’ Season Finale Review: “Unthinkable”
‘Arrow’ season 2 lets loose its twenty-third and final episode of the year with season finale “Unthinkable,” as Oliver rallies his friends and allies for the final confrontation with Slade Wilson, while the fate of Starling City hangs in the balance.
Last week’s penultimate ‘Arrow’ installment “Streets of Fire” saw Oliver and his team racing around the city to combat Slade’s destructive army, while Malcolm Merlyn returned with a proposal for Thea, and Sebastian Blood had second thoughts about their reign of terror, so what does the twenty-third and final episode of ‘Arrow’ season 2 bring? Is all hope for Starling lost as Oliver Queen’s second year comes to a close?
Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Arrow’ season 2, episode 23, finale installment “Unthinkable!”
Oliver stresses about the cure’s apparent lack of effect on Roy, just as Slade’s men storm the clocktower and prepare to invade. Roy suddenly awakens, notably lacking his super strength, as Oliver orders the team to evacuate by rappelling to the street. Once downstairs, a helicopter takes aim at the men in the clocktower and destroys it, revealed to be the work of Lyla.
With the city in chaos, the team returns to the foundry to find it in shambles, as Oliver tasks Diggle and Lyla with getting through to Amanda Waller, while Felicity and Roy gather up the injection arrows. Elsewhere, Thea walks away from Merlyn’s bullet-ridden body, only for him to get back up and reveal his Kevlar, expressing admiration that Thea had the conviction that Tommy lacked. Back at the SCPD, Detective Lance readies his men to face the worst, as Laurel finds Sara just outside, and gets darted by Nyssa al Ghul at Sara’s request.
Felicity lies to Roy in claiming that he’d been unconscious ever since being kidnapped by Slade, just before Sara appears with Nyssa and the League Assassins, alarming the others. Oliver warns that the League’s help always comes at a price, to which Sara reveals that she agreed to go back with them in exchange, and that Oliver should be ready to do the unthinkable as well. Oliver urges Roy to remember his training and hands over his very own red mask, for having survived his own crucible. Roy calls Thea to confirm her safety, but upon learning of her whereabouts, asks her to meet him at his home. Malcolm assures Thea that Roy is every bit a liar as her brother and mother, but he’ll understand if she needs to see for herself.
Sara and Oliver make their attack on Slade’s forces at the Queen office, finally coming face to face with the man himself, but even with the help of the League, Slade gets away before Oliver can hit him with a cure. Nyssa manages to incapacitate and unmask Isabel Rochev, but even as Oliver demands she be spared, Nyssa snaps the woman’s neck. In the past, Slade continually injects men with the Mirakuru serum in front of Oliver and Sara, as Oliver attempts to appeal to Slade’s better nature and their mutual memory of Shado. Still seeing visions of the girl demanding he kill Oliver, Slade masks up and prepares to fire, only for the boat to be hit by one of Anatoli’s torpedoes.
In the present, Quentin finds Laurel just as Slade’s men attack the precinct, incapacitating Quentin and taking Laurel hostage. Shortly after, Oliver, Nyssa, Sara and Felicity arrive to find Laurel kidnapped, as Felicity gets word that all of Slade’s men have begun gathering in a tunnel, likely to escape the blast that Slade anticipates. Quentin implores Oliver to return to killing in the interest of getting Laurel back, but when Oliver briefly considers the notion of killing Slade, Felicity reminds him that he has a choice, and only needs to make Slade believe he’s out-thinking Oliver in order to get close.
Thea finds Roy at his apartment, as Roy denies the Arrow having had anything to do with his recovery, and suggest the two of them get out of town forever. Thea agrees, but just as soon as she does, Felicity texts Roy that the time has come, and Roy tells Thea he loves her, imploring that he only needs to do one more thing before they leave. Meanwhile, Oliver brings Felicity to the Queen mansion in order to keep her safe, but when Felicity insists on joining him, Oliver reveals that Slade took the wrong woman whom he believed Oliver to love. Elsewhere, Diggle and Lyla exchange their own “I love yous” before infiltrating the A.R.G.U.S. facility, and Waller discovers that her men in Starling City have been killed.
Oliver leads Roy, Sara, Nyssa and the League fighters into battle against Slade’s army, armed with cure shots to disable the soldiers’ super-strength. Everyone does their part (including Quentin!) as Oliver and the others defeat Slade’s army, while Diggle and Lyla free Deadshot and the other criminals to even the odds against Waller. Diggle demands that the A.R.G.U.S. leader call off the drone strike, before Amanda in turn reveals that Lyla is pregnant with Diggle’s child. Meanwhile, Oliver discovers that Slade managed to kidnap Felicity as well as Laurel, while Thea discovers a bow and arrow hidden among Roy’s possessions. In the past, Oliver and Slade fight amid the sinking ship, before Oliver destroys the Mirakuru and Sara is once again pulled out to sea.
Oliver arrives to the facility wherein Slade has Laurel and Felicity, and agrees to drop his bow on Slade’s order. Oliver insists that he remembers Shado as someone beautiful and kind, who would be disgusted by what Slade has done in her name. Slade remains adamant on making Oliver feel what he’s been through, to which Oliver suggests that his hate has blinded him to the danger right in front of him. Just then, Felicity manages to inject Slade with one of the cure shots, having been given the syringe back at the mansion, as Oliver had anticipated that Slade had cameras observing their exchange, and would target Felicity.
Sara frees Laurel, as both past and present Oliver and Slade come to blows, the past Oliver vastly outmatched by Slade’s strength. Amid the fighting, Slade ends up pinned by a bit of falling Amazo debris, but insists that even if Oliver cures him, he’ll still fulfill the promise to kill those Oliver loves. Given the choice, Oliver stabs Slade in the eye with an arrow, but is knocked off his feet by an explosion. Back in the present Oliver fights the de-powered Slade all the way to the roof, where Slade insists he’ll win regardless due to the drone strike. Oliver manages to pin Slade with a number of restraining arrows, refusing to kill him in the end, before calling Amanda to cancel the drone strike.
Shortly after, Quentin and Sara see Laurel off with the League of Assassins, Sara assuring that it was her own decision to make this time, and bequeathing her leather jacket to Laurel. Quentin and Laurel depart the dock for a meeting, until Quentin suddenly coughs up blood and keels over, having been wounded internally during the earlier fight with Slade’s men. Meanwhile, Roy returns home to find a note from Thea atop his bow, wherein Thea explains that she can no longer trust anyone, and has since fled the city for good. That morning, Thea gets into a car with Malcolm Merlyn, departing to find her own source of strength.
Slade awakens in a cell to find Oliver waiting outside, as Oliver thanks Slade for making him a killer when he needed to be, but also for pushing him to develop the strength to become a hero, and let the villain live. Slade insists he’ll escape and fulfill the promise, as Oliver climbs a ladder to reveal that the cell is below a hatch on Lian Yu. Felicity jokes that Oliver will need to find a job until he gets back Queen Consolidated, as Diggle offers the two a minute to sort out their feelings. Felicity admits that Oliver nearly had her convinced when he told her he loved her, and Oliver wryly returns the sentiment.
Oliver volunteers to fly the plane home, leading Felicity to wonder when he might have learned to pilot, given the five years spent on the island. Back in the past, Oliver awakens from the Amazo’s sinking in a hotel room, as armed men escort him outside to meet Amanda Waller, who welcomes him to Hong Kong.
Man, what a ride. There were a lot of expectations heading into the ‘Arrow’ season 2 finale, plenty to clean up in a relatively short amount of time, and more than a few questions to answer, but for the most part, we’re thrilled to see that it lived up to the challenge, bringing a fantastic season to an effective conclusion. In earnest, looking back we might have expected “Unthinkable” to have a few more jaw-dropping shocks, nods to DC lore or even a few significant deaths, though we can perhaps see that it reinforced the overall theme that the people around Oliver needn’t necessarily die in order for the Arrow to become a hero.
Right of the bat, the team did a fantastic job with the finale’s action, ranging from the more FX-heavy scenes like Lyla’s helicopter attack, the drone strike, or the all-out chaos in the tunnel, to some of the more intimate sequences. In particular, Oliver’s final fight with Slade beautifully mirrored their conflict in the past, with more than a few layered subtexts, like the manner in which Slade was the one initially masked in the past, while in the present Oliver was the one to remain hooded as the fight began, suggesting a respective embrace, and shedding of their own identities. We should hope ‘Arrow’ turns a few heads in the awards department for its stunts, as many of tonight’s sequences were an absolute doozy.
The emotional stakes also proved exceptionally heightened across the board, with most every character given their due, even Diggle, who got his own crucial mission (and a baby!) despite repeated sidelines over the course of the season. Roy and Thea had their proper reunion and inevitable breakup as well, though at least in the midpoint it was especially endearing to see not one but three major declarations of love in close proximity, a nice little nexus of hope buried amid all the racing action. Olicity fans are no doubt still in shock how close we came to the two finally coupling up tonight, but the ultimate hesitation continually begs the question if the writers would truly embrace the idea. Just about everyone got both their proper due and a moment to shine (well, maybe save for Summer Glau), and we might have thought a few old, departed faces to have shown up, but with everything “Unthinkable” had to accomplish, we can certainly understand keeping the focus among the living.
Perhaps strongest of all was “Unthinkable”s efforts to come full circle not only with the premiere, but with Oliver’s journey toward becoming a hero. The character (and perhaps series) will always have the first season’s many deaths hanging over its head, thought Oliver has at least learned to recognize that he needed to kill in order to survive, and ultimately would never have been able to begin the path to redemption without it. It’s of interest to wonder if ‘Arrow’ had quite always intended to course-correct the murderous Oliver of the first season, but season 2 clearly ran with the idea, and crafted a clear and concise emotional journey for Oliver to recognize himself as a hero, and honor Tommy’s memory by allowing Slade to live. Of course, Slade will inevitably come back to haunt him, but good! Manu Bennett was exceptional tonight, so the more we have of him, the better.
A few moments felt vaguely rushed, or awkward by the end, in particular Roy’s near-immediate decision to return to the fight seconds after assuring Thea they’d run away together, or Quentin’s sudden medical issues in the closing minutes. All the same, the closing tag of Oliver awakening in Hong Kong proved a great (if not altogether unexpected) jumping off point for season 3. In the end, “Unthinkable” may not have blown our minds in quite the manner we expected, but still provided a concise, and thrilling resolution to an overall extraordinary season.
AND ANOTHER THING…
- It was a nice fake-out fake-out to see that Thea really did shoot Merlyn, and It’s impressive to think that news of his survival never once reached Oliver over the course of the season, but count Thea’s evolution as something we’re definitely interested to follow in season 3.
- “Felicity Smoak. MIT, class of ’09.” Ugh, I’m older than her.
- The visual of Roy donning his mask and bow during the fight was great, but…wasn’t his aim still terrible, the last time we checked?
- Admirable restraint on the part of the writers, for never giving Oliver and Felicity their first kiss.
- Presumed first line of season 3: “Oh, so here’s the next thing I never told you guys, which will undoubtedly ruin our lives over the course of this year.”
Well, what say you? Did ‘Arrow’ hit the mark with its final season 2 installment? What did you think about the decision to let Slade live, the Olicity aww-ness, or season 3 heading to Hong Kong? Give us your reactions in the comments, and join us later for more coverage on tonight’s epic finale, as well as what we can expect from ‘Arrow’ season 3 this fall on The CW!