Back during his pre-WWE, independent professional wrestling days, Daniel Bryan (née Bryan Danielson) would come out to the ring to the sounds of Europe's "The Final Countdown." I assume that without any knowledge of such things, it sounds absolutely ridiculous, much like most things professional wrestling. Arguably the best professional wrestler in the world being associated with such an arguably terrible song (and one forever immortalized as a joke by Arrested Development) couldn't honestly be taken seriously. And yet, whenever those opening chords would play, everyone knew business was about to pick up. "The Final Countdown" went from joke to an omen, a warning to Bryan's opponents: "You're gonna get your fucking head kicked in."
The point is, all I could think about while watching Team Arrow go to work this episode was "The Final Countdown." (Absurd, I know, because if Oliver is any professional wrestler, it's—and it pains me to say it—Randy Orton.)
"Unthinkable" is the culmination of a fantastic second season of Arrow, with an all out war on the streets of Starling City (which is possibly close to beating Gotham City as Worst Place To Ever Live). The episode begins with Team Arrow—including an awakened, de-Mirakuru'd Roy—ziplining out of Sarah's HQ, with a bunch of Slade's goons hot on their heels. There's a big explosion, but I think the most hardcore moment is Diggle and Roy ziplining without any gloves. Because, you know, major rope burn.
Despite their somewhat obsolete nature, the SCPD are still in this fight, and newly reinstated Detective Lance rallies the very few men he has to take on Slade Wilson's army. Laurel sticks around and wants to help, but Quentin makes it clear that she should stay behind with her sister. Obviously, that plan falls through, with Sara telling a shadowy figure that she wants Laurel kept out of all of this and Laurel getting tranq'd the eff out. Quentin later finds Laurel on the floor of the police station, and as soon as they try to leave, one of Slade's men pops up. There's a scuffle, resulting in Quentin getting tossed into a desk and Laurel getting kidnapped. So now Slade has Laurel. Way to go, Sara.
Somehow, Team Arrow manages to still have skin on their palms as they regroup at Arrow HQ, but they only have a limited amount of time because the place has also been compromised. Enter Sara, Nyssa (hey gurl), and seven League of Assassins...assassins. Felicity introduces herself to Nyssa the best way she can—"Felicity Smoak. MIT, Class of 2009"—and I laugh to hide the pain that the character is the same age as me and the actress is three years younger than me. Oliver thinks it's a sketchy idea to have the League of fricken Assassins on their side, but Sara points out the important truth that "to fight the unthinkable, you have to be ready to do the unthinkable." In my mind, that's when those first chords of "The Final Countdown" begin.
Oliver's "no kill" decree this season has been a welcome and worthwhile stance, especially on his way to transitioning from The Vigilante to The Arrow to, presumably, The Green Arrow, but "Unthinkable" reminds us that being a superhero means making the hard decisions, especially when they're the right decision. It's part of the reason everyone hates Man of Steel: Yes, Superman makes a hard decision at the end of the movie, but most would agree it's not the exactly right decision. They'd also agree that there are a lot of flaws with that movie. I know a lot of people were turned off by early Arrow because of the killer route the character went, but without that, we wouldn't be where we are today.
So, with a working Mirakuru cure, the plan is not to kill Slade—it's to weaken him and take him the prison.
Of course, A.R.G.U.S. has a different plan: Eliminate the threat by blowing up Starling City. Because of this, Diggle is unfortunately not on the frontlines of the big battle, instead working with Lilah to stop a drone-obsessed Amanda Waller. If I have one complaint about Arrow's New 52, anti-CCH Pounder-esque version of The Wall, it's how drone-obsessed she is. I know they're cool, but damn, girl. In order to call off the hounds, Diggle and Lilah commit treason and free good old Deadshot to put some pressure on Waller. Really, all it does is get her to drop the bomb that Lilah's got a Diggle-baked bun in the oven. A little Diggle!
Meanwhile, good news: Thea did shoot Malcolm. Like, a lot. Bad news: Malcolm has heard of kevlar (this is why you go always go for the head) and just gets right up to continue speechifying at Thea. It's actually a proud father moment, since Tommy never had the guts to do such a thing. Essentially, Thea has proven herself not to be a "useless bastard" and actually the child Malcolm always wanted. Poor, poor dead Tommy. Thea doesn't want her father's recognition or appreciation, but he strikes a nerve when he points out the very fact that, with the exception of himself, everyone always lies to Thea. Even her beloved Roy; he's just like her mother and her brother. See, he's not wrong, but this is why I say Walter should be in every single episode, setting everyone straight—Walter never lied to Thea, because Walter never lied, because Walter is the best.
So when Thea meets up with Roy at his place, her first order of business is to ask him what the hell happened. He tells her that he woke up there, no idea how he got there from heading out of town. Earlier in the episode, Roy tells Felicity how he actually has no memory of his Mirakuru'd time, only that he remembered heading out of town to Bludhaven and then waking up surrounded by the rest of Team Arrow. Silly Roy, Bludhaven is not a place that you go, it's a place that you end up! But lucky him, not having to remember how terrible he was. Thea suggests they run away together (maybe run away to Metropolis or even Coast City this time, you guys), and a Roy is all for it, but first he has to go and save the day.
Thea then decides to pack for him—even though he only wears the one thing at all times—and she discovers a bunch (a gaggle?) of arrows underneath his bed, which is the opposite of something one would have if they're completely done with The Arrow. Thea books it and leaves town with her father, the only person who never lied to her, wearing leather pants of evil on her way out. There's this whole "I'm never ever coming back!" riff from Thea, but considering how obsessed Malcolm is with Starling City, I'd say that's a fallacy. Anyway, having a bitchin' summer, Thea!
Before the battle, Oliver takes Felicity to Queen Manor to keep her safe. The battle is going to be bloody and he doesn't want anything to happen to Felicity. Before this scene even kicks off, I ask, "Are you guys gonna kiss?" There's a lot of close talking here. At this point, Oliver knows Slade has Laurel, and Felicity assumes that he's being overly emotional because of that. But this is where everything changes, so are you ready? Oliver tells Felicity that Slade took Laurel because he wanted to take away the one that Oliver loves (the way that Slade believes Oliver took Shado from him), but he took the wrong woman. And he's not talking about Sara. If you find yourself to be a fan of romantic things between Oliver and Felicity, you probably high-fived someone (or yourself) during this scene. More on that later, because it's time for a fight.
"It's the final countdown!"
One of the great things about Arrow's fight scenes is that they're absolutely amazing but also absolutely terrible to write about. Just watch the scene with hearts in your eyes, and then you'll have the experience I did watching the Battle of Starling City (which is what I'm calling it now). This isn't the same as the street chaos in the first season finale, "Sacrifice." This is organized madness from people who know how to fight. Felicity, as great as she is, would have gotten killed dead in this situation. Killed so dead. Plus, unlike Roy, she doesn't even have a mask.
Also, watching Quentin save Nyssa from getting killed by one of Slade's dudes is basically the equivalent of him giving her his blessing to marry his daughter, if you ask me.
Oliver is able to get to Slade and has a pretty cold-blooded moment where he honestly tells Slade "do what you have to do" re: Laurel. Like, I get that she's maybe fourth in your love interests now (Sara, Felicity, and dead Shado rank above her, and Helena only doesn't because of the whole insanity thing), but that's still rude, man. However, Slade reveals that he also has Felicity, and Oliver changes his tune pretty quickly (I mean, it's still "The Final Countdown," but it's at the bridge or something). Slade wants Oliver to step up and make another choice, but before Oliver can even make a move, Felicity jabs him with the Mirakuru cure.
Sike! Oliver knew Queen Manor was bugged and used that knowledge to get Felicity kidnapped with the Mirakuru cure on her person. He's not in love with her! It was all a ruse!
Honestly, as much as I like the possibility of an Oliver/Felicity relationship, him telling her that he was in love with her make no sense at this point in the series. Despite his protective nature of her and his jealousy during Barry Allen's stint on the show, the guy just broke up with Sara. It wasn't because he wanted to, it wasn't even because it was "for her own good"—it was because she chose to leave and figure out a few things. As nice as it would be for an "it was you all along" moment from Oliver to Felicity, it would be the kind of cheap fanservice Arrow doesn't really do. While it sucks for her (and those invested in the relationship) that Oliver just shut her down, it was the best plan and it worked. So I approve.
With everything winding down, the Lances have to say goodbye one more time, as Sara leaves with Nyssa and the League. Sara leaves behind her Canary jacket for Laurel, telling her it looks good on her, and I could write probably a thousand more words about that alone. Also, Sara leaves on a boat, and if I were Sara, I would never get on a boat ever again, but that's just me. Quentin and Laurel are off to an AA meeting when Quentin collapses, the aftermath of his scuffle with that goon earlier in the episode. Knowing Arrow, Quentin probably won't die over the hiatus, but the show's definitely come a long way from me expecting him to die back in season one to me actively wanting him not to die.
This episode, there are flashbacks to Oliver's time leading up to the moment he puts an arrow through Slade's eyes instead of giving him the cure. We see how Oliver thought Sara died and how Slade threatened even back then to go after Laurel, Moira, and Thea. This Oliver now doesn't crack under Slade's pressure and is able to outsmart him and take him down, placing in A.R.G.U.S.' new supermax (which reminds me, I still kind of wish the Green Arrow: Supermax movie was a thing) on Purgatory, that dreadful, dreadful island. All that's happened has allowed Oliver to "thank" Slade for everything that he's done to and for him. With nearly every episode of this season reminding us that Oliver must becoming "something else," he's finally done it: He's finally become a hero.
Now he must become a superhero, right?
The third season might be focusing on that, if the fact that the flashbacks will feature Oliver's time off the island—when he met Amanda Waller—are any indication. Plus, the promo trailer for The Flash gives off a vibe (no Vibe pun intended) of a strong superhero universe. Whatever's in store, I'm just ready for it to be set to "The Final Countdown."
[Image via The CW]