In “Missing,” Oliver is forced to deal with the reality that his loved ones aren’t safe because of the life he chooses to lead. We’ve seen this plot line explored on Arrow before. Let’s say it comes around every May. (Or, as we now know: every Oliver’s birthday.)
Though the plot of “Missing” was all-too-familiar to fans who have been watching this show since Season 1, this episode had something special: scope. “Missing” may have hit familiar plot beats, but it brought back some of the best characters of Arrow’s entire run. This isn’t just a season finale. This is the end of an era: the flashback era. (Please let it be the end of the flashback era.)
Chase kidnaps everyone Oliver loves
Like, literally everyone. It actually takes Oliver an embarrassing amount of time to notice. (We’ll blame it on the birthday festivities.) This repetitive plot structure made for a slow first act, but it was helped along by just how refreshing it was to see this show get back to the Chase storyline.
No, I don’t understand why Chase is doing any of this (past a vague motivation to teach Oliver a lesson in retaliation for his dad’s death). His motives don’t exactly line up with his methods or results. He allowed himself to be arrested just so he could force Oliver to break him free. Why? Why not make Oliver do something worse — something more in line with the “monster” persona Chase thinks Oliver truly encapsulates? I don’t know. I stopped trying to figure out Arrow’s Big Bads a long time ago. (That’s a lie.)
At this point, however, I don’t care as much if the villainous plot is a little convoluted. If it leads to Oliver joining forces with Malcolm Merlyn, Nyssa al Ghul, and Slade Wilson, then I can ignore the part of my brain yelling for some better-articulated character motivation.
Team Arrow: Monster Edition
The reason this team-up works so well is because, for once, it is drawing on the power of the flashbacks, as well as the early seasons — at this point, the distinction is almost indistinguishable. The past hasn’t truly mattered on Arrow for a long time, but this is the first time that I have ever felt like Oliver stood a chance against Adrian Chase. Yes, because it is almost the season finale, but also because, as much research as Chase (and Talia) has done on Oliver’s past, there’s no way he can know just how traumatizing, painful, and batshit crazy those five (plus) years were for our hero. No, only we know that truth. Because we sat through it. Oliver’s past deserves this victory. We deserve this victory — for all of those hours of flashbacks and terrible episodes we’re never getting back.
Chase has kidnapped all of Oliver’s loved ones and, yes, that’s sweet and everything, but Oliver has recruited the man who killed his mother, the man whose hand he once chopped off, and the woman who he was forced to marry in a bid to save Star City from the killer virus he once saw unleashed in Hong Kong. Chase thought it might be cute to bring Oliver to Lian Yu, but Lian Yu was where Oliver learned to fight. It’s the place he lost his father, Yao Fei, Sara (kind of), Slade (kind of), Taiana (whatever), and himself. Chase thinks he’s reminding Oliver that he’s a monster, but, really, he’s reminding him of why he never wants to go back to being the monster Lian Yu forced him to be.
What didn’t work
Not everything worked in this episode. As much fun as it always is to see Malcolm, it’s an awkward, abrupt reintroduction from a character who has really played out his functions on Arrow. And, as for William, the show has never even tried to make us care about his character, so I really don’t. On a theoretical level, of course I don’t want Oliver’s innocent child to be murdered. On an emotional level, I could not pick this kid out of a CW child actor line-up. (Sorry.)
Though this episode was a bit all over the place in the message it was trying to teach Oliver, ultimately, I liked the one Malcolm Merlyn spelled out for Oliver best: “You can’t live on an island. You’ve tried.” In other words: People need people. People affect people. That’s just how the world works. To attempt to avoid that reality is not only ill-fated, it’s a little arrogant.
Cue flashback! On the surface, the Kovar island subplot was pretty unnecessary… like most Arrow flashbacks we know. There was something brilliantly meta, however, about the fact that Kovar literally used the show’s flashbacks to torture Oliver. The Arrow writers room has finally publicly recognized the torture they put us through in watching some (OK… most) of those flashback arcs. That’s all we wanted, friends.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good
— I can’t get over how perfectly tragic it is that Oliver’s birthday falls during season finale season, which means he is always dealing with The Worst Crisis Of His Life during his birthday week. This is the most Oliver Queen thing ever. This is how committed he is to his angst.
— There were so many great references to seasons long past, starting with the mention of Thea’s Season 1 birthday party when she got high off of Vertigo, crashed her car, and was arrested. (Oh, good times.)
— “Being happy doesn’t mean you don’t have issues; it just means you’re working on them.” Sometimes Oliver’s aphorisms don’t make a lot of sense once you look away from his abs, but I kind of like this one. Especially because it is delivered to Thea.
— “With who? Please say not Susan Williams.” — Thea’s reaction to news of Oliver’s birthday date. This is even more awesome when you realize that Thea knew that this was a decoy date to cover the surprise party, so she knew it wasn’t even a real date. She just wanted to give Oliver a hard time about Susan Williams. It really is great to have Thea back.