This season of Arrow has given us a rich stew of villains, with all kinds of different flavors. In this last episode, "Streets of Fire," the true alpha villain of the series is at last revealed — and it's a huge surprise. Spoilers ahead...
This episode isn't so much one big story as a lot of little emotional arcs, all of which give us a portrait of a city in chaos. There are some good little stories going on here, and we'll pass through them before we get to the alpha villain.
Sara Lance's Two Big Hero Moments
On the island, Ollie finds out that Slade has kidnapped Sara. He'll swim over to the ship and rescue her. If they're not back in an hour, Anatoli is to go ahead and torpedo the freighter. Anatoli gets a little emotional, saying that Ollie has a "friend for life." Ollie tries for a manly handshake, but Anatoli knows that real men hug. On the freighter we get a very touching moment with Sara. Ollie frees her, and tells her to go. He has to try to cure Slade. Sara, for a second, dissolves, telling him to come with her, crying that she just wants to go home and see her family.
This contrasts with nearly everything we've seen from Sara in most of the episodes. For a moment, she is just what almost anyone would be in those circumstances — at the end of her tether and begging to just to walk away and get her life back. It also demonstrates for us something that is cliched but true. It's more impressive to overcome fear than to have no fear in the first place. When Ollie says he's staying, she says that she's staying to help him, and swallowing down that fear really is a heroic moment. (Of course Slade captures them.)
This episode may be Sara's final turning point, in terms of how she sees herself. She comes back to Starling City to save Laurel, and barely arrives in time, because Laurel gets attacked every other block. Sara confesses her assassin name of Canary to Laurel, and says she can't be a hero after all she's done. Laurel tries to convince her that she is a hero, and then it happens. A woman starts screaming that her child is stuck in a burning building. This is such a cliche that it's in nearly every superhero film ever. They used it in the Toby Maguire Spider-man movies. Twice. And that doesn't matter. There's a reason why they use this, and that's because it's awesome. Nobody doesn't emotionally respond to a mother who's desperate to save her child. Nobody doesn't bite their knuckles when things explode in the burning house and the mother collapses, thinking all is lost. And nobody is unaffected by the hero staggering out of the house, unhurt child in their arms, backlit by the flames.
And nobody doesn't smile a little when Laurel has her absolute best moment in the series so far. The woman, after taking her daughter from Sara's arms, watches Sara walk away and says, "Who was that?" Laurel does a little half-smile and says, "That's the Canary."
Sebastian Blood is Gone For Good (Hopefully)
STAR labs lets Felicity know that they have a cure for the supersoldiers — but the messenger with the cure gets murdered by the supersoldiers, and the cure is delivered to Slade. Sebastian Blood has finally gotten the picture that Slade isn't out to help him "save" Starling City. Perhaps it got through to him when one of the masks murdered everyone in the DA's office, including Kate Spencer. (RIP, Kate. I bet Laurel becomes DA next year, so I guess she'll have to blackmail herself.)
Blood smuggles the cure away from Slade, gives it to Ollie, and then has what I can only describe as an anti-redemption speech. His mask, he says, was his conception of his father — full of rage and desperation. He thought he could overcome his fear by becoming it, and save the city. He wants Ollie to stop Slade so he can resume his place as mayor and build the city up again. At the last part of that speech, Ollie looks as incredulous as, I imagine, everyone sitting at home does. Blood is unrepentant, saying that Ollie won't expose him — and if Blood had lived past this episode, Ollie would probably have proved him right. How fortunate that Isabel comes to kill Blood off. His last words are, "I loved this city." Isabel's facial expression says pretty much what I'm thinking: "Nobody cares. Just die." (I like that Blood died without being redeemed, though. It's nice to see a bad guy stay bad, sometimes.)
Thea Meets Her Dad
This is my favorite storyline for obvious reasons. Of the thousands of people at the train station, of course Thea is the one who gets caught by the masked madman. She is saved by another masked madman. The supersoldier attacking her is shot full of arrows by Merlyn, and asks him, "Who are you?" Merlyn whips off his mask to reveal that glorious chin and says, "I'm her father."
Having not even a lick of sense, Thea runs away from the guy trying to save her, farther into the train station. That's okay. It makes for a father-daughter confrontation that is artfully decorated by long walkways, harsh lighting, and plenty of pillars to hide behind. Thea screams that he's nothing to her, which Merlyn seems to take very well. He asks if he can at least get her to safety. She says no. Then along comes the supersoldier again. Merlyn fights him, nearly getting himself killed in the process, stabs the soldier in the neck, and painfully gets to his feet again. Thea is pointing a gun at him. Merlyn is overcome with fatherly feeling, taking the gun as a sign that she grew up just like him. Unfortunately, he and Thea share a lack of sense. He first tells her how to work the gun, then says that their rage, pain, and capacity to kill really do make them just alike. She pulls the trigger and we hear a thud — but I'm pretty sure that she just shot the supersoldier behind him. I hope we see more of him next season. I hope Thea and he team up and whine and murder people and train to be villains together. I hope, while shooting next season, John Barrowman roams the Canadian forests like the world's most perfectly groomed sasquatch. I am filled with hope for this.
And Then There's the Villain
Save all these nice storylines in your head, because here comes the villain. It's Amanda Waller. You see, while Quentin and Ollie are coordinating ways to cure the supersoldiers, she has had ARGUS block off all the bridges into town, and is going to send a drone to annihilate the city of half a million people if Ollie doesn't cure the supersoldiers by dawn. She insists that this is for the safety of the nation.
That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard.
Some might argue that it's an evil plan, and it certainly is. But even a half a million lives worth of evil can't transcend that amount of stupid. I'm not saying that Ollie covered himself in glory in his conversation with Waller. He could have explained to Waller that the soldiers fall down if you shoot them a few times, or hit them with grenades. They're not really that indestructible. But Waller already knows that Slade can be hurt and that he lost an eye. And that makes her decision so dumb that she ceases to be human, and basically becomes an elaborately sculpted cell phone holder. There is nothing between the point of her chin and the crown of her head but teeth and cat litter. She is as dense as a neutron star.
First of all, the supersoldiers fall down when hit in the head or neck by bullets and she has a team that includes the world's best marksman. Shoot them in the head. Walk over while they're down, unload a clip of bullets into each eye, each ear, and each nostril. Even assuming that doesn't kill them, there is a limited amount of havoc they can cause if they are newly blind and deaf. Stun them with a bullet, open a cut in their throats, shove in explosives, and literally blow their heads off. Shoot them, put a team on them, and keep shooting them once in each eye every fifteen minutes for the next few weeks. Keep them immobile like that, and eventually they will starve to death, if nothing else. These are three solutions that I came up with while speed typing. I'm not even trying, Amanda! Use your brain!
Secondly, why would she think that bombing Starling City into the ground would even work? People survived the eruption of Vesuvius. They survived the bombing of Dresden and the firebombing of Tokyo. These were ordinary, squishy people. Why would she assume that bombing a city indiscriminately will take out all fifty guys who can put their fists through concrete?
Merlyn is evil and insane, but he only wanted to kill a few thousand people in his deranged plan. Slade is evil and insane, but he's going to stop after one city. Waller? Her solution to destroying a vat of nerve gas on the sly was blowing up a party full of people. Her solution to taking out fifty strong guys is killing an entire city. This isn't doing what "needs to be done." This is using a nuclear bomb to kill a spider. Waller is both evil and stupid, and is in charge of a government agency that gives her access to bombs and drones. The only way to end this season is to take out the real villain, and evidently that is her. I look forward to it, because I really can't take another plan this idiotic. Goddamn, that was dumb.