Friday, October 13, 2017

REVIEW: 'Arrow' - The Aftermath of the Island Explosion Changes Oliver's Life in 'Fallout'

The CW's Arrow - Episode 6.01 "Fallout"

Oliver deals with the fallout of the explosion on the island.

There was a lot of finality in the story of Arrow when it aired its Season 5 finale back in May. It was the completion of a specific story arc. It's easy to infer that that story was the one of the flashbacks. Oliver was gone for five years. Each season of the show depicted a year in his life during that missing time to show how his adventures away had thematic importance in the present day. And now, everything has come full circle. The flashbacks have caught up with the events of the pilot with Oliver being rescued and ready to return to his family in Star City. In the present, Oliver and all of his family and friends were forced into returning to Lian Yu because of Adrian Chase's master plan. It was a huge confrontation. Oliver refused to give Adrian what he truly wanted. He wanted Oliver to accept that he was a killer incapable of changing because he loved to kill. Oliver choosing love for his friends and family over killing Chase was a significant moment for him. And then, Chase killed himself and triggered a hundred bombs to explode on the island. It was a huge cliffhanger to end the season on. It proved that finality really wasn't the purpose of this story at all. It brought some elements to a close while only confirming that things are still moving forward with a ton of complications. Lian Yu may be destroyed but it's still the island with the potential to change so many lives. It is no longer just Oliver who has been changed by his time on the island. It is now home to some pivotal deaths that could change everything in the future.

At least, that's the way this cliffhanger has always been billed. The creative team over the hiatus said that not everyone would be making it out of this cliffhanger alive. The fates of so many characters were left up in the air. There were already fatalities before that moment. It's to be assumed that Malcolm Merlyn is dead even though that happens offscreen. Meanwhile, there are many different levels of characters who were included in this cliffhanger. There were members of the team who are incredibly important to Oliver's life and the overall formula of the show. There were people with a personal connection to Oliver who haven't really been all that important in the story. And there were people who were villainous who could easily die or live depending on the demands of the story in the future. If the show wanted to tell more stories with the two daughters of Ra's al Ghul, then the show has the potential to do so. It's clear that at least one of them survived. But neither of them actually appear in this premiere. In fact, "Fallout" mostly just focuses on the characters who are important. Evelyn was on the island and locked in a cage. She seemed like an easy fatality - especially since she also aligned with Adrian Chase. But the show barely addresses her at all. It's mostly just about the group of people Oliver knows who are collected together at the plane that may or may not be able to survive the impending blast.

And yet, the premiere doesn't open with a continuous pickup. Instead of showing the audience what happened in those moments of death and destruction, it picks up five months in the future to show Oliver back in Star City as the Green Arrow. At first, it's just him protecting the city from crime. And then, it's revealed that Diggle, Rene, Dinah and Felicity are all still alive and healthy enough to help him in this endeavor. It's a slightly weird way to handle this big reveal. It plays on the audience's expectations. Felicity isn't manning the operation from the Team Arrow lair. But there's nothing to worry about with her. She was just picking up Big Belly Burger for everyone. That's weird and a little unnecessary. The show still features flashbacks to that tragic event. Over the course of this hour, it reveals that most everyone was able to survive because they sought shelter in the airplane. Slade wasn't with them. He was outside but is perfectly fine moments after the explosion and is able to help Oliver reunite with his friends. Samantha and Thea are outside as well. They are the big "deaths" of this episode. That's a bit of a letdown. Samantha was another easy expectation. It had already been teased that Oliver would be spending more time as a father to William this season. That only makes sense if Samantha is dead and he needs to step up as a parent. So, that was always a given. And then, Thea's death isn't all that surprising. The show was really good last season but had no idea what to do with Thea. She would come in and out of the story seemingly at random. She was less exciting because she had no idea what to do in her life. She just compromised everyone around her with what she was doing. But her death doesn't actually stick. It's then revealed that she is still alive in Star City but is just comatose. It seems unlikely that she'll survive. And yet, it's the show purposefully setting up the expectation that she'll return. If there wasn't that possibility, then she would have just died on the island. That scene between Slade and Oliver didn't need to happen in her hospital room. It could have been anywhere.

Because time has moved on, there is clearly some distance from the big cliffhanger as well. It does present itself with some interesting complications throughout this premiere. Oliver is now a father to William. Diggle has an injury that he is largely keeping to himself. Lance shot Black Siren who he is convinced is actually his daughter who has somehow just turned evil. Black Siren does appear to be the major villain for the show this season as well. Katie Cassidy is back as a series regular after all. Laurel is gone and has been replaced by her evil doppelganger. That gives this episode its main story. She's the one responsible for all the new chaos in Star City. She has an associate who gets captured by the Green Arrow. Then, he's revealed to have an escape strategy already planned by blowing a hole in the precinct and killing everyone there. It's a thrilling moment. And yet, how many times has that precinct been attacked and destroyed? It seems like numerous occasions. One would think the creative team would grow tired of returning to that over and over again. Instead, it just builds uncertainty amongst the team as they prepare for the big police graduation ceremony. They change the venue to the mayor's office expecting it to be hit when Black Siren is actually targeting the secret lair. That's a pretty conventional twist as well. Sure, it's nice to see everyone dressed up for this ceremony at city hall. But it's also just as thrilling to see them in their various fight scenes with Black Siren and her new mercenary friends.

Of course, some things have evolved over the years as well. In the early going of the show, the characters were defined by their problems with their fathers. Oliver didn't know if he could forgive Robert for what he had done. Laurel and Tommy had issues with Lance and Malcolm as well. And now, the story has shifted to the characters having problems with their children. It forms a new connection between Oliver, Lance and Rene. That was already present between Lance and Rene last season. Lance was trying to help Rene get custody of his daughter once more. He failed because he was captured by Chase. And now, he has been given a second chance because he's friends with the mayor. Meanwhile, Lance is full of anguish because he shot Black Siren on Lian Yu. He had to do that in order to save Dinah. But it's just made him full of self-doubt and on the verge of drinking once more because he truly believes he shot and killed his daughter. That has the potential to become a really frustrating story this year. Lance has experienced a lot on this show. But he hasn't seen some of the crazier things that have happened in the crossovers. So, he just refuses to believe in parallel universes and evil doppelgangers. He can't shoot Laurel again when given the opportunity. And finally, Oliver is adjusting to newfound parenthood when William also blames him for his mother's death. He's learning as he goes. It's nice to see him get help. But it also seems like all of his problems are solved by one speech saying that he will always be there as a father for William even when he doesn't want it. Of course, that's then followed up with the bombshell news report outing Oliver Queen as the Green Arrow. That's a fascinating development. It's a reveal the show has teased many times and always found a way out of any lasting consequences. This feels different because it's happening at the end of the premiere. So hopefully, it is.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Fallout" was written by Marc Guggenheim & Wendy Mericle and directed by James Bamford.
  • Oliver made a deal with Slade to release him and give him information about his long-lost son if he helped him fight Chase. It's a deal Oliver can live with because Slade is no longer a drug-addled villain. Of course, Thea would definitely have something to say about this dynamic. Slade did kill Moira after all. That can't be so easily forgiven. But he's out in the world once more.
  • There's a weird fake out with Rene possibly dying. Team Arrow is engaged in battle with Black Siren. Diggle is unable to help Rene and he goes plummeting off the road. It's up to Oliver to save him. And then, it truly does feel like he dies anyway because of his injuries. And yet, he is able to survive because the team has the connection at the hospital. He's already up and moving by the end of the episode - though against doctor's orders.
  • Things still seem to be going well between Oliver and Felicity. This really isn't an episode about them though. It shows a new domestic side to Oliver. But he needs to focus on being a father instead of a boyfriend. She's there to talk. They have to prioritize things in their life. But it's much more significant for Oliver to have a conversation about William with Lance instead.
  • Black Siren broke into the lair just to steal a prototype of one of Curtis' T Spheres. It takes awhile for the team to notice that something is missing. Curtis is rightfully the one to discover it. The team believes they have time to figure out what she's planning next because it's a prototype and not operational like the spheres he actually carries around with him which can even ground missiles now.
  • Black Siren may have actually died from the bullet wound on Lian Yu. But she was brought back to life by a mystery person. That person lands on the island in a helicopter and goes straight towards her. That could be an intriguing mystery. It's just a tease right now. But this person is likely the one supplying her with all of these new henchman.