Are you still breathing after that midseason finale, "Arrow" fans? Yeah, me neither.
"Arrow" has always known how to deliver on its winter finale, somehow combining both holiday cheer and an absolutely devastating cliffhanger for its final episode of 2015. Here were the nine moments — both good and bad — that will have us crazily debating through the holiday season. (Because what else are you supposed to do with your holiday season besides talk about TV?)
Oliver takes a stand against Darhk.
When Darhk attacks a group of Queen campaign volunteers cleaning up the Star City bay, Oliver shares Darhk's handsome mug with the Star City press. This seriously pisses Darhk off. He breaks his TV and everything. Now he's not going to be able to watch "Scandal."
It's interesting that Oliver is the one who is least on board with this plan, but still goes along with it. This is yet another reminder of how far Oliver has come. This time last season, he was making unilateral decisions for the entire group. This season, he is going against his inclinations because the rest of Team Arrow thinks another course of action is wisest. Let's hope that doesn't change now that...
Felicity "Practically Engaged" Smoak figures out Oliver's engagement plans.
And, by "figures out," I mean asks some follow-up questions after Donna finds the ring and all-out screams in the middle of Felicity and Oliver's apartment. Later, she pieces together the souffle plan based off of an adorable aside from Curtis' own engagement story. [Side note: We met Curtis' husband and they are ADORABLE together. More of this, please.]
When Felicity confronts Oliver about it (because, unlike some people in this relationship, she is honest with what's going on in her head), Oliver uses the old "my life is dangerous" excuse. But Felicity is ready. "I chose this life and I chose you, and I don't understand why we can't have both," she tells her future hubby.
Darhk kidnaps Felicity, Diggle, and Thea.
Hold that thought, Felicity. Because you're about to be kidnapped — along with Oliver's other two "nearest and dearest" by Darhk. This leads to a relatively Team Arrow-lite episode in some regards. Oliver must lean on Laurel, Lance, and (reluctantly) Merlyn.
It's a cool coda to the Lance-heavy arc we had earlier this season. Laurel hasn't always had the best luck storyline-wise since she was freed from an Oliver-centric romantic storyline, but she is my absolute favorite when she is telling the men in her life that she doesn't need protecting.
HIVE kinda, sorta outlines their plan?
Up to this point, we haven't really understood what HIVE is up to in Star City, but now we have a bit more information. According to Darhk, HIVE is using algae from the bay to fuel some gas chamber that will be used to "reset" humanity. This was all very underbaked and vague, and I could have done without the HIVE membership meeting. Furthermore, if you're going to use Holocaust rhetoric, then you better have a good reason for it. I'm not sure that "Arrow" does.
Later in the episode, we got a sneak peek into HIVE's underground field of crops. Are these the same crops being grown in the flashback son Lian Yu? Is HIVE just a bunch of evil farmers? (Please let HIVE be a bunch of evil farmers.) Use the hiatus (and the comments) to discuss.
Laurel and Merlyn save the day.
Um, I did not see that coming, but it was pretty cool to see especially Laurel get the chance to shine in what may be the most apt use of the Canary Cry ever invented, as she swoops in to save the rest of Team Arrow from a gas chamber. (And to save us viewers from having the final moments of Olicity being these two cinnamon rolls mouth "I love you"s through a glass wall. Just a friendly reminder that, this time last year, Oliver was peacing out to die by himself on a snowy cliff after telling Felicity that he loves her.)
It was also pretty rewarding to see Merlyn don the green hood. I still don't think this show has ever adequately explained why Team Arrow would trust this sociopath, but this is the closest they've come to it. Also, with Merlyn, there's no way Oliver and co. would have made it out of there alive. (But did anyone else think that Thea was going to use her magic-sucking powers to save the day?)
Well, Andy Diggle is absolutely no help.
Where is your Christmas spirit, Andy Diggle? Why do you have to be such a jerk all of the time? TBH, Diggle probably could have tried to carrot at some point, in addition to the stick (the "stick," in this scenario, being pictures of Andy's wife and son), but still. What does Andy have to lose at this point? In the words of Diggle, in what may have been the best line of the episode: "Chemically speaking, you're no longer his bitch."
TBH, this subplot was hurt by the Flarrow crossover. It would have been nice to get another episode of Diggle trying to connect with his estranged brother. Without it, it's hard to form an emotional connection to this storyline past our concern over Diggle's emotional health. But, with everything else going on, the Andy Diggle supplot definitely got the short end of the stick.
There are still flashbacks on this show.
Oliver went for a creepily-rendered-by-visual-effects swim. The guy who hates him the most on Lian Yu caught him and his future-past girlfriend. Call me when Slade shows up again.
Oliver proposes to Felicity.
Actually, he doesn't even get the chance to ask the question before Felicity says yes, which is pretty much my favorite thing ever. These two have been through so much together, and to see Oliver finally, finally accepting that he can have love in his life despite what he has done and despite the dangers of his life is so gratifying on so many levels. She is his light. He is her lobster. All is right in the universe. Nothing could possibly go wrong.
There were several characters in this episode — both Laurel and Felicity, actually — who made it clear to the men in their lives that they don't get to choose how to protect them. And, I'm not gonna lie, friends, this is downright revolutionary in much of the superhero genre or, you know, mainstream storytelling in general. If I had a dime for every time a man in a story took a decision away from a woman under the guise of "protecting her," I could probably fund an entire wing in the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Just saying.
Damien Darhk has a loving family.
WTF?! When he's not at his day job, Damien Darhk basically lives inside of a Hallmark commercial and it is So. WEIRD. Let's just hope that this reveal leads to more time for exploring Damien Darhk's character past his magical machinations within HIVE. Because, if we've learned anything from the Slade Wilson School for Villainy, it's that the best villains are the ones we have empathy for. (This seems like a tall order given what we've seen Darhk do so far. Ball's in your court, "Arrow.")
Felicity may be dying in Oliver's arms.
Nope, nope, nope. I am not going to spend the holiday hiatus assuming that Felicity "Actually Engaged" Smoak isn't going to make it. (See earlier story on this subject here.)
Let's get to the point here: the promo for the next episode really wants us to think that Felicity is dead. But, still, I'm not buying it. Aside from the hospital stuff, the footage used was from the flash forward in the season premiere. You will NOT ruin "Drummer Boy" for me, "Arrow." I refuse.