“The time of vigilantes is coming to an end,” Samanda Watson declares near the end of tonight’s “Thanksgiving” episode of Arrow, and it’s not hard to see why she thinks so. Star City has passed anti-vigilante legislation. Cayden James seems poised to take out Team Arrow. And Samanda officially arrests Oliver for his murders as the Green Arrow. Could this be the end of Team Arrow and other vigilante teams like it?
It’s not hard to understand where Samanda Watson is coming from, even though she is set up as an antagonist of sorts within the world of the show. This show has flirted with the idea that vigilantism is a flawed way of saving the city. It’s why Oliver wanted to become the mayor in the first place: so he could serve Star City in the light, so he could make the kinds of changes the Green Arrow never could.
The limited effectiveness of vigilantism isn’t the only hard, long ignored truths “Thanksgiving” faced, making it one of the best episodes of the season. This was most especially true in Oliver and John’s confrontations, in which Oliver expressed disappointment over John keeping the secret of his nerve damage and drug use, and John accused Oliver of forcing John to prioritize his needs, goals, and family above his own.
Both accusations held more than a little truth in them, and both Stephen Amell and David Ramsey knocked it out of the park in their emotional performances. It speaks to the depth of the characters’ bond that they were able to apologize and recognize the truth in the others’ statements. If only Oliver didn’t think that lying to William about his decision to pinch hit for Diggle as Green Arrow. When have secrets ever worked out for Oliver? Besides, William tends to see right through him.
Elsewhere in the episode, the strength of another partnership was tested: the one between Felicity and Curtis. Frankly, I feel like Curtis had way more to be upset about in this situation. Not only was Felicity’s unilateral decision to name their new company and pick their first product kind of a dick move, but she spent $500,000 of their start-up money on Oliver’s bail. I mean, I want to see Oliver out of jail for Thanksgiving as much as the next person with a heart, but Felicity didn’t even check in with Curtis on this. It’s Curtis’ right to forgive Felicity or not, but I probably would have needed a little more time to be angry about this.
“Thanksgiving” was filled with character-driven heart-to-hearts. While the one between John and Oliver may have been the most overdue, the one between Quentin and Dinah was my favorite. When Quentin expresses blame for Evil Lauren’s actions because he let her go that time, Dinah gives him a different perspective: “We’re good people, Quentin. We see the best in the people we care about. And I, for one, am not ready to think of that as a bad thing.” What did Team Arrow do before Dinah came along?
The episode ends on a pretty happy note. Though the threat of Cayden James and, you know, jail may loom over Team Arrow, at least they have one another… and Thea! That’s right, Thea finally woke up from her months-long coma, and you can tell the cast had a pretty great time playing the scene when they discuss that particular miracle. There are Lazarus Pit jokes, a pseudo-science explanation, and a cutesy shrug from Thea. Willa Holland practically winks at the camera.
Oliver’s family celebrates Thanksgiving gathered around Thea’s hospital bed: Oliver, William, Felicity, and John at her side. Oliver has so much to be thankful for, a fact that he revels in. Thinking back on where Oliver was at this point in Season 1, it’s hard to believe how far he’s come. Arrow may not have been the strongest show over the last five and a half seasons, but it’s episodes like this one — installments that draw on how well we know these characters and how well they know each other — that makes sticking with a show past its prime worth it.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Rating: ★★★★ Very good