Review: Arrow 8×07 – “Purgatory”
Director: James Bamford
Writers: Rebecca Bellotto and Rebecca Rosenberg
Starring: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Rick Gonzalez, Juliana Harkavy, Katherine McNamara, Ben Lewis, Joseph David-Jones, LaMonica Garrett, Katie Cassidy, Charlie Barnett, Audrey Marie Richardson
Reviewed by: Jason Larouche
The mission’s next destination is Lian Yu, where Team Arrow faces not only a familiar foe but Oliver receives help from an unlikely familiar face.
So…Lian Yu. The writing team probably referenced Star Trek movies to take inspiration for how to explain the complete restoration of what Adrian Chase reduced to rubble. Tying it in to an offshoot of the Crisis to come was probably the only possible explanation the writing team could come up with. Returning to where his journey began makes perfect sense as the place where it ends for Oliver Queen. And, in true Green Arrow fashion, ghosts crop up to haunt him.
Nostalgia continues to lay the foundation in the main plot; this is where Green Arrow was truly born the day he and his father’s body washed ashore 12 years ago. Well, that and an arrow in the shoulder by Yao Fei, now miraculously brought back to life alongside Ollie’s first kill, Edward Feyers. Oh and Billy Wintergreen aka Proto-Deathstroke. The central argument this week: Although accepting his fate, Oliver has rushed the adjustment period with Mia and William when he should have been honest from the start. The stoicism of Yao Fei and its contradiction to Oliver’s still-restless nature work to remedy that by using Yao Fei’s example. Byron Mann and Stephen Amell’s characters now on the same level of both warrior and parent offers more of a dialogue between them. Just as Yao Fei accepts his resurrection may be brief, he acknowledges the need for patience. Like Dr. Martin Luther King, he doesn’t need to see the full staircase to take that first step forward. However brief their exchange may have been, there is a balance that Oliver achieves which we’ll be covering later.
In contrast to Oliver’s clear path, there is friction in the Diggle household after Lyla’s betrayal. Audrey and David have the conversation that fans wanted to see last week and it was worth the wait. The writing works to convey that Lyla’s allegiances to the Monitor go beyond their reconciliation and second marriage. Diggle the realist is being forced to try and reconcile his wife’s idealist side, but her lies make that difficult. Ultimately, John is forced to understand why Lyla is forced to do this because he has no other choice. This relationship has had continual ups and downs and has weathered many storms. With the Crisis looming, that last exchange between them before she vanishes feels very open-ended and rightly so. There is much that cannot be covered in one episode and hopefully there’ll be much more ground post-Crisis. If everyone survives, that is.
Roy losing his arm is a nod to pre-Flashpoint Red Arrow’s mutilation at the hands of Prometheus in “Cry For Justice”. The scene of the back-and-forth argument over the heart-wrenching decision is appropriately a forced conclusion. However, this shows how much Colton Haynes’s character has grown as a hero since his pickpocketing days in season one. Rather than succumb to grief and depression, Roy just sees this sacrifice as part of the job. His exchanges with John seem more in-depth than with Oliver, and rightly so. John has served as a mentor to Roy when Ollie was out of commission and was brought on board by Diggle personally. Their discussion over what went down was needed, and revealed much about Harper’s maturity. From Mirakuru-crazed guinea pig to presumed-dead vigilante and finally Lazarus-enraged loose cannon, Roy’s been through the woodshed a lot. It remains to be seen if we will see Roy fitted with an arm like Oliver wore in a Legends episode that was set in 2048. His exchange with William was symbolic since both are seeing each other from different points of view. For William, he’s seeing the archer that helped reunite him with his sister, and for Roy, he’s seeing the 13-year-old boy he knows suddenly a man. It remains to be seen if these two will have any further conversations about the future. Plus, now that the timeline has been altered, how will that affect the way William first met Roy in 2040?
This week also allowed relevant goodbyes to be had between Oliver and his family. Ollie and John’s conversation is very poignant because it’s a farewell between brothers. From bodyguard and employer to comrades in arms, the bond between these two has been forged and reforged time and again. There are multiple layers of unspoken brotherly love between them. One can tell that Stephen puts a lot of himself into Oliver when he says “I couldn’t have done any of this without you.” There is no Arrow without John Diggle, a character that, like Felicity Smoak, had been created for the show and caught fire. The scene is appropriately not as gushy as it had been between Oliver and Felicity last year. The simple hug and promise is enough. The writing team handles this goodbye as well as those conveyed to his kids. Oliver acknowledges his son’s work today makes him a hero, and, at the feet of his father’s grave, has that one last moment with his youngest daughter. People online have noted this, but Stephen’s look for this year almost makes him resemble Oliver’s father, Robert. It’s symbolic because he, himself, is now a parent and has come full circle.
Although nostalgia layered much of the foundation, what chipped away at it were misfires and holes in the plot. For starters, this was the island on which William lost his mother. Completely missed opportunity to address those demons with his dad and maybe see him bond with Oliver at his grandfather’s grave. Also, why were only those in the first season brought back to life? The explanation as to the nature of this resurrection feels as flimsy as the lazy way of cutting their strings. Wouldn’t the island return to its decimated state as well if the radiation emitted from William’s device affected the living? There is also even a missed opportunity to call back to Yao Fei first showing Oliver the bow via demonstration of Ollie’s mastery as an archer. Connor also feels like the odd man out when the situation between Diggle and Lyla – his future adoptive parents – should have been his mess to try and fix. The final fight itself also felt rushed and tried too much in a short time frame. Yeah there were some great moments but there was no emotional impact; it was a Michael Bay-esque battle and that says a lot about lack of emotional investment.
I am forced to give this 3.5 out of 5. What should have been a solid 5 stars was upset by the aforementioned plot holes and missed opportunities. Regardless, Arrow 8×07 did its job in addressing how far Oliver Queen has come since first setting foot on Lian Yu as both a man and as a father. Regardless of what’s been left unsaid, The Crisis is here, so load your quivers and grip your bows, fans, because this will be the fight of the century. Also, why didn’t Yao Fei go into the base with Oliver in that final prep scene before the big fight, which was way too fast. The choreography tried to be too much like an Avengers movie this time. There was no emotional investment, and that hurt its impact.