Arrow season 5 has been building to this confrontation all season long. It’s been a successful game of brinksmanship between Oliver and his newfound nemesis Prometheus, and now the stage has been set for the two to have a much more fulfilling encounter than the one that ended last week’s episode with the villain’s apparent surrender. As any big bad would his or her salt can attest, being apprehended only to reveal that it was all part of the plan is pretty much expected if you’re going to be a card-carrying member of the league of television, movie, and comic book villains. And naturally, Prometheus didn’t miss the chance to prove yet again that he is, and will seemingly forever be, 10 steps ahead of the Green Arrow.
To make things worse, the reveal of the next phase of Adrian Chase’s master plan is to ruin Oliver’s surprise birthday party with a far more unwelcome kind of acknowledgement – that he’s still around and even being incarcerated won’t stop him from making Ollie’s life a living hell. Chase’s plan demonstrates just what a formidable opponent he continues to be and also that he’s not above being petty enough to orchestrate the kidnapping of Curtis and Dinah so close to a day that has personal meaning to Oliver and those who are close to him. The personal nature of Adrian’s attacks has been escalating all season long, and even the fate of Oliver’s son William remains up in the air. If anything, the credit should go to the Arrow writing staff for taking their time in building up the season’s big bad and having him pursue his ends by any means necessary. It may be a little commonplace for the villain to enact his plan from a holding cell, just as the hero begins to relax and thinks he’s finally won the day, but, you know, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
It’s that kind of thinking that’s made Arrow season 5 into a strong turnaround for a series that was in decline. Sure, there have been plenty of lukewarm episodes this season, but the focus on a single villain (for the most part) and the thematic undertones of the arc as a whole have produced something about as close to a late-game resurgence for the show as viewers are likely to see. The escalation in ‘Missing’ to what will be the final showdown between Prometheus’ crew and Oliver’s makeshift Team Arrow goes a long way in generating a strong sense of anticipation for next week’s season finale.
Perhaps not surprisingly, then, ‘Missing’ comes across as being a little too intent on helping the series set up its finale endgame, which is… well, apparently Adrian just wants to duke it out with Oliver and his Team Arrow doppelgängers on an island that holds some emotional weight for he hero. It’s not exactly the most complicated motivation for a villain, but both Chase’s personal incentive and the chosen setting of his endgame do offer a welcome change of pace for a series that has been ready to shed certain familiar layers for quite some time. As noted by Wendy Mericle and Marc Guggenheim on multiple occasions, ‘Lian Yu’ isn’t just an island in the Pacific; it could very well be the final resting place of Prometheus and perhaps a few others who decided to tag along and represent Team Arrow or Team Throwing Star Killer.
To that end, ‘Missing’ operates largely as a team-building hour, which again speaks to just how intent the episode was on making sure all the necessary pieces were in place before the season comes to a close. That meant seeing Prometheus call in his helpers in the form of Evelyn Sharp, Black Siren, and Talia al Ghul (though it seems Lexa Doig might not have been around to run Diggle and Felicity off the road). Meanwhile, the rest of Team Arrow is picked off (or up, really) one by one and in startlingly easy fashion until Chase drops the bombshell the series set up for viewers weeks ago: that he’s holding William captive.
There’s not a whole lot of intrigue in watching members of the team grasp at darts that later render them unconscious and at a certain point it seems like Arrow knows this. To the show’s credit, the writers do poke at the sensitive nature of Quentin Lance’s experience over the past couple of seasons by having Black Siren take part in apprehending him and Thea. The episode reaches for something similar by having Merlyn show up out of nowhere to in an effort to save his daughter. The result goes beyond the welcome appearance of John Barrowman as its clear Merlyn’s words about the necessity of having people close to you seem have some effect on Oliver, and his continued efforts to put the past behind him.
While not everything can stay in the past – especially as the show is now hinting heavily that Oliver and Felicity might be even more open for a possible reconciliation – the degree to which the season has matched the story line to its thematic underpinnings feels ready to deliver a satisfying conclusion next week that will, with any luck, lead into a sixth season that has something new to say and for its (surviving) characters to do.
Arrow will conclude season 5 next Wednesday with ‘Lian Yu’ @8pm on The CW.