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Arrow - Welcome to Hong Kong & Leap of Faith & Present Tense - Review

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My apologies for falling behind on Arrow reviews – personal reasons have prevented me from being able to post. So…. Let’s catch up on Arrow’s final season as we get closer to that final episode. So far, I have not been terribly impressed with our walk down memory lane theme. Yes, it’s great to revisit all those greatest hits, but this feels so much like lazy writing. Let’s just re-hash everywhere we’ve already been – but without the better writing. I’m hoping that Arrow fans are enjoying this season way more than I am….

“Welcome to Hong Kong” was written by the team of Jill Blankenship and Sarah Tarkoff and was directed by Antonio Negret. It featured the return of Rila Fukushima as Tatsu and Kelly Hu as China White. I can’t help but feel that all of these episodes are simply a way to job viewers’ memories about these characters so they can all appear in the gigantic crossover event. And if we have this many characters appearing, how will there be time for any of them to have a decent storyline? I have to say that I was struck by the voiceover at the beginning of this episode and the fact that Stephen Amell (Oliver) doesn’t even sound like he’s buying it…

Oliver is given another quest by the Monitor (LaMonica Garrett) – this time to bring him a Dr Wong (Derek Lowe). He’s angry that Oliver disobeyed him and saved Laurel (Katie Cassidy). It turns out everyone is after Wong – of course. Oliver is helped by Diggle (David Ramsey), who brings in ARGUS and Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson). Lyla ends up helping Laurel.

Katie Cassidy delivers a really outstanding performance in this episode as she deals with the need to get her people back now that she’s reclaimed her life. She’s devastated and overwhelmed by survivor’s guilt when she learns that her universe is gone forever. Lyla tries to help her deal with it. In the end, we learn that Lyla is also secretly working with the Monitor and even hands over Wong.

As always there are some terrific fights. We also get some terrific parkour moves when Oliver chases China White after she takes Wong.  Tatsu shows up to help and reveals that she’s heard of the Monitor. She also counsels Oliver that he seems like he was nine years ago – willing to let others die for his mission. And in fact, we are back with exactly the same story as the Alpha-Omega virus is what Wong has re-created.

Tatsu counsels Oliver that sometimes the mission isn’t worth the cost. Oliver insists that he needs his family to live, but if the Monitor is lying or wrong all of his sacrifice will be for nothing. Oliver finally begins to doubt the Monitor’s sincerity, and Tatsu points out that he always has another choice. Tatsu is almost killed, and Oliver tells her that he’ll make sure that the mission matters. When Diggle asks about contacting the Monitor, Oliver is now determined to get more answers about him. Diggle points out that they may not like what they find out. Oliver tells him that they’ll find another way if they don’t.

In the future storyline, which continues to be almost incomprehensible, JJ (Charlie Barnett) declares he has a vision to take over the city. Apparently, his whole motivation is that he didn’t get enough attention as a child because of Connor (Joseph David-Jones). David-Jones and Ben Lewis (William) continue to be the best thing about the future storyline.

“Leap of Faith” was written by the team of Emilio Ortega Aldrich and Elizabeth Kim – but most importantly it was directed by Katie Cassidy! This was a pretty challenging episode as the action happens on three different fronts: Oliver’s visit to Nanda Parbat, Lyla and Diggle undercover to save Sandra Hawke (Malaika Jackson) and a young Connor (Aiden Stoxx), and the future storyline.

Oliver arrives on Nanda Parbat and we get a nice little fight between him and Thea (Willa Holland). It’s always great to see Holland back – but I would so much rather see her at Oliver’s side than most of the new recruits and rather than making me enjoy this walk down memory lane, this really just made me dislike the current storylines more. The fun part about this storyline was all the Raiders of the Lost Arc references. Apparently, Thea is locked in a battle for supremacy with Athena (Kyra Zaogrsky) and Talia (Lexa Doig).

We do get a fantastic scene between Holland and Amell as the two rest on the cliff face on the way to a final showdown. Thea tells Oliver that she’s been thinking a lot about their parents and that in the end, their lies and overprotection are what turned the two of them into heroes.

We get a big climactic fight – which ends with the ceiling falling on Athena for no apparent reason. Thea defeats Talia which means that she is now the head of the League of Assassins. She decides that they make their own choices. The world doesn’t need a League of Assassins, but it does need a League of Heroes – you gotta love re-branding! And Talia agrees to join too.

They’ve determined that the Montior – or Mar Novu – is going to be the cause of the disaster and Oliver is determined to stop him. Amell is outstanding in the farewell scene with Holland and really brings his A-game. Perhaps it’s not such a stretch for his emotions to be so close to the surface if this is the last scene the two will shoot together for the show?

We get some nice scenes between Diggle and Lyla – I especially liked them dancing undercover. It’s clear that Lyla is planning something. She urges Diggle to remember the good times and enjoy the present. She’s clearly planning on either betraying the team or dying – or both.

The future storyline is the most frustrating. Why anyone would follow Mia (Katherine McNamara) is a complete mystery. She is a sulky child who can’t work as part of a team. Connor has the experience to lead – and the skills. McNamara continues to be unable to deliver a line even remotely plausibly and even her fighting skills are lacking here. My biggest problem with this storyline is killing off Zoe (Andrea Sixtos) – who is a terrific actor. Was she just too good? After all, her performances only highlighted the deficiencies in McNamara’s. Regardless, Zoe pushing JJ away to save Mia and turning her back on him without making sure that he was incapacitated is just stupid – and underscores how incompetent these characters are.

The episode ends where the next begins – in the present time lair with Mia, William, and Connor appearing out of the future. “Present Tense” was written by the team of Oscar Balderrama and Jeane Wong and was directed by Kristin Windell. Once again, the writers go back to an old storyline and this episode centers on Deathstroke vowing to outdo his father and destroy the city – but with bombs instead of Mirakuru. The team at first think it’s JJ who has come through time with them, but it’s revealed to be Grant Wilson (Jamie Andrew Cutler) – and how disappointed was I not to get a guest spot from Manu Bennett??? VERY!!!

My intense dislike of pouty, sulky, stupid Mia only grew with this episode – but I adored every moment between William and Oliver. Lewis and Amell were pure gold together. I loved the scene at the apartment in which William tells Oliver he’s rich – and comes out to him. I loved that Oliver and Felicity knew and were just waiting for William to tell them.

Naturally, Mia forbids the others from filling the present team in on anything. The episode also features an appearance by Curtis (Echo Kellum) to help with the tech issues and to hopefully find a way to take out the Monitor. He does successfully analyze the residue on the cloth from what destroyed Laurel’s universe. They can replicate it, but it will be highly illegal and need plutonium, which they need to go to Russia for….

Of course when Mia, Connor, and William try to take care of everything themselves, they have to be rescued by Dinah (Juliana Harkavy), Rene (Rick Gonzalez), Laurel, Oliver and Diggle. Mia stupidly insists that they can take care of themselves even after they’ve just saved her stupid ass after she stepped on a booby trap. Clearly, you can’t.

William finally can’t stand it and admits that Future Star City is awful and then all the truth comes out. Rene and Diggle are both freaked out, and Rene initially blames Diggle for Zoe’s death. Connor tries to connect with Diggle, telling him what a great father he was to him, but it takes Diggle some time before he can accept Connor. It’s Dinah who finally convinces Diggle to get past his own guilt over Andy and now JJ, and to try to change the future. I’ll even admit that Harkavy was pretty good in this episode.

After the hospital is blown up – and did we lost Dr Schwartz (Venus Terzo) in that blast??? – Mia insists on going to investigate by herself. Laurel steps in to go with her when Mia is once again a super-bitch to Oliver. Laurel manages to talk some sense into her when she tells her that she convince Felicity not to commit murder.

They determine that Grant’s bombing of Star City is the beginning of the future. Their best chance is to do things differently and try to change the future. Of course, once Mia has Grant, she’s going to kill him until Oliver stops her – so much for Laurel having any effect. She eventually thanks Oliver for preventing her from killing Grant, who is going to be imprisoned in Gotham City for 20 years, which will hopefully keep him from influencing JJ.

Diggle invites Connor home with him and calls him son. Dinah asks Rene if he wants her to stop training Zoe, and Laurel points out not all the future is bad – they should start the canaries now.

Oliver takes Mia to Robert’s grave and the two bond over their guilt for those they’ve lost. We see Rene starting his political career and giving a speech about making the future now – very in keeping with the theme of the episode, of course.

In the final scene, the Monitor comes to Laurel and offers her a deal. He’ll restore her Earth if she betrays Oliver. No doubt, this is what he’s essentially asking of everyone. However, the best part of this scene is when Laurel tells the Monitor he looks ridiculous! LOVED it – because he does!!!!

So there we have it. Three episodes, all with very well-worn plots. Lots of our old friends, but not enough time with any of them to be satisfying. Amell is definitely bringing his A-game to each performance. Katie Cassidy is stepping up and is a worthy successor, but neither Katherine McNamara nor Juliana Harkavy are. What are you thinking of this final season? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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