Arrow has been through more ups and downs than any other show in the Arrowverse, with some of the best and worst episodes in the entire library belonging to good old Ollie. This last season, though, has been consistently excellent, cashing in on years of character equity in all the right ways. This episode is no different. Spoilers follow for Arrow Season 8, Episode 6, “Reset.”
This episode exposes its conceit quickly: Oliver is trapped in a time loop. In this version of reality, Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) is still alive and is acting as Mayor. The charity dinner the two are at is put on hold when mercenaries take hostages at the police station. Despite Oliver’s planning, though, the terrorists denotate the bomb. The time loop resets.
After a few more resets, Oliver and Laurel meet up and figure out they’re both in the time loop. They go after Lyla, who they now know is working for the Monitor, but get nowhere. Rather than teaching themselves to throw cards into a hat, they continue to push forward, getting further into the time loop each time.
That is until Laurel has to watch her pseudo-genetic-adoptive father bleed out (remember, he’s Earth-1 Laurel’s father, and she’s Earth-2 Laurel). This takes its toll and Laurel checks out after saying goodbye to the man who helped her redeem herself and get onto the path of heroism.
Oliver, on the other hand, is more tenacious, and it takes him longer to figure out what’s going on. He knows this isn’t reality, but his stubbornness keeps him from understanding that certain fates can’t be changed.
Oliver has a heart to heart with Quentin, at which point Lyla appears to let Oliver out of the loop.
Unlike so many of the ongoing stories on these shows, this episode is refreshingly easy to follow. It takes the time-loop trope and uses it effectively to both pull Oliver back into the Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline but also give both us and these characters a chance to talk to Quentin Lance.
Lance was a core character until he died at the end of season 6, and throughout he was always shown to be someone who believed in good and tried to do his best to deliver on that. Despite the adversarial relationship he had with Oliver in earlier seasons, the two found common ground and bonded. Bringing a character back from the dead can feel cheap, but the show uses it effectively once again here to first zero in on what made that character so crucial to the show for so long. It then lets both the characters and us as viewers say goodbye to them.
Feels like home
I usually have a lot more to say about these episodes, but this one is so simple and elegant that all I can say is that I loved it. Paul Blackthorne was one of my favorite actors on the show, and this episode was a great way to bring him back for one more adventure. Seeing Lance, Laurel, and Oliver working together feels immediately like ‘home’ as far as Arrow is concerned.
It’s impressive how clear of vision this season feels. Each episode has a mission, whether it’s showing Oliver what Star City would be like without him, letting him say goodbye to someone, or giving him a chance to be a father for just a little bit. Each episode is effective. And the effectiveness is going to make that moment when he dies in Crisis bite with that much more power. I’m glad Arrow is getting to go out like this, rather than being canceled or just not continuing. This season feels like a reward to viewers for sticking with the show, the show itself for launching a whole universe of other shows, to and to Oliver (and Stephen Amell) for everything he’s been through.