It's Oliver's birthday and Team Arrow is in the mood to celebrate in the wake of Prometheus' capture. Unfortuantely, Black Siren has been sprung from ARGUS custody and - with the aid of Prometheus' other allies - has begun taking down Star City's heroes, one at a time.
In the flashbacks, having been ambushed by a not-quite-dead Kovar, Oliver must endure the greatest torture drug known to the KGB if he is to survive to see his homecoming.
The film version of The Princess Bride (Kovar's torture of Oliver, with his request for honest answers at the start and his philosophical talk about pain mirrors the torture scenes with The Machine) and the comic Justice League: Cry for Justice (a villain named Prometheus holds Green Arrow's loved ones and city hostage in order to escape capture.).
Given the destruction of John's car, it seems unlikely that he and Felicity could walk away from it as they do here.
If Black Siren is meant to seem honestly sorrowful that she's chaining up her own father, Katie Cassidy is doing a piss-poor job of portraying it.
The hallucination of Laurel that convinces Oliver not to kill himself is wearing an obvious wig that is the wrong color for Laurel at that time.
It's good to see John Barrowman back as Merlyn.
It's even better to see Manu Bennett back as Slade, even for just five seconds.
The fight as Malcolm and Oliver move to free Chase is amazingly shot and directed.
As is traditional for the penultimate episode of each season of Arrow, the title is a reference to a Bruce Springsteen song.
The song Missing comes from the 1995 album The Ghost of Tom Joad. In it, a man sings about how the woman he loves has walked out of his life and how he sometimes thinks she's come back to him.
It is revealed in this episode that Oliver Queen's birthday is sometime in the month of May.
Depending on the exact day, this would make Oliver either a Taurus (The Bull) or Gemini (The Twins) using Western astrology. Either one might be a good fit for Oliver, as Taurus' have a reputation for stubbornness and Geminis are said to be charming but prone to keeping secrets and living two lives.
According to a 1976 DC Comics calendar, Oliver Queen's birthday is December 9th. Fittingly, this would make Oliver Queen a Sagittarius - The Archer - using Western astrology.
The "Happy Birthday Oliver" signs at Oliver's party are in the same font as the Arrow logo.
Felicity says that Oliver's birthday cake came from Lord Mesa Bakery. This is a nod to artist Lord Mesa, who has become famous among DCTVU fandom circles (to say nothing of beloved by the show stars and creators) for his portraits of various superheroes and his one-panel comics based upon them. The cartoon Green Arrow on Oliver's cake is one of Lord Mesa's designs.
Felicity, being teased by Curtis, compares him to a shipper on a soap opera. It's worth mentioning tat the Arrow fandom has an incredibly active shipping community, with fans of the Oliver/Felicity pairing (or Olicity) being the most numerous.
Curtis builds a pair of sound modulators for Dinah. He claims that they will not only allow her to better focus her Canary Cry but will also allow her to overcome any kind of sonic-dampening technology.
The Red Death is the name given a drug devised by the KGB for use in interrogations. It is meant to break men's wills by enduing psychological anguish.
Purgatory - according to Catholic dogma - is the immediate state following physical death.in which some souls who are destined for Heaven must first undergo purification.
Felicity has access to a keyhole satellite that can track the heat signature of any plane in the world.
Oliver: Being happy doesn't mean you don't have issues. It just means that you're working on them.
(Oliver has just said he has plans when Thea invites him out to dinner to celebrate his birthday.)
Thea: With who? Please say 'not Susan Williams' ?
Oliver: Um, it... No... ah.... with Felicity.
Thea: Ah. As in a date?
Oliver: As in... I, I don't know if it's a date.
Thea: (teasingly) But you're hoping that it is?
Oliver: It's dinner! People go to dinner.
Thea: See, I don't believe you. But I find it incredibly cute.
(Oliver sighs in exasperation as he exits the room.)
(Quentin arrives at Oliver's birthday party.)
Quentin: I'm late, aren't I?
Thea: Its all good. You didn't miss much. Just Oliver flipping Curtis over his shoulder.
Quentin: (sighs) I told you a surprise party wasn't a good idea.
(The rest of the team have left Oliver and Felicity alone.)
Felicity: I guess since the dinner at Chez Marta was a ruse, they think we deserve some alone time.
Oliver: Well, I mean... I didn't know if it was a...
Felicity: We can take it one step at a time.
Oliver: I would like that very much.
Felicity: This is hard for you, huh?
Oliver: Hypothetically dating my ex-fiancee? (sarcastically) No, it's fi-
Felicity: Wow. No. I meant "summer vacation" as they are now calling it.
Oliver: It's incredibly hard. It's borderline impossible.
Felicity: We won. (pauses, before whispering) Oliver, we won. Take a step back. You know? You could put your feet up, no matter the state of your socks. You could just - God forbid - relax.
(Felicity laughs and reaches up to Oliver's tie, loosening the knot.)
Oliver: (softly, without much conviction) Yeah.
(Curtis is teasing Felicity about her and Oliver dressing up for each other.)
Felicity: Can you please stop? You're worse than a shipper on a soap opera.
Oliver: Chase doesn't think I can game out what he;s planning, but it;s obvious.
Felicity: (sarcastically) Yeah. Obvious to a murdering psychopath.
(Oliver just looks at her.)
Felicity: And present company excluded.
Oliver: He's trying to leverage our friends to make me set him free.
Felicity: That's crazy...
(Oliver just looks at her again.)
Felicity: ... which would be consistent with Chase.
(Kovar slides a gun to a shaky-handed Oliver.)
Kovar: That gun only has one bullet. You can waste it on me. But I think we both know who is responsible for your pain. (pauses) I've seen the strongest man resist for up to 12 minutes before... ending his suffering Such is my respect for you, that I... I think you last for uh... 14 minutes.
(Oliver senses someone behind him in The Bunker and throws a dart. Malcolm Merlyn catches it.)
Malcolm: I see your sense of hospitality remains intact.
Oliver: You are not welcome here, Malcolm!
Malcolm: You aim to cut off my other hand, Oliver?
Oliver: Maybe. Are you going to tell another person about my son?
Malcolm: Last time I was down here I saved your life.
Oliver: Do you really think that gives you a pass for serving up William to Damien Darhk?!
Malcolm: I'm sorry about that. I wasn't thinking clearly. (raises his prosthetic hand) I let my emotions get out of hand. That's all in the past. The only thing I'm concerned about now is saving my daughter!
(Talia Al Ghul is standing in the road in front of John's car.)
Felicity: Angry woman with two swords. Are you getting major Isabel Rochev flashbacks right now?
Felicity: You remember how we handled her, right?
(John speeds up.)
Malcolm: Friends are one thing but family is family. And a child? You would do anything - absolutely anything - to keep them safe.
Oliver: A little while ago I worried to John... that the personal connections I had were making me vulnerable. Because as long as there are people in my life that I care for, I have to be something else to protect them. That's something I can't leave in the past.
Malcolm: I admire you, Oliver. It takes a special kind of idiot to actually get dumber with time.
Oliver: I am not in the mood, Malcolm.
(Oliver turns from Malcolm and moves back towards their bikes.)
Malcolm: Human connections are what keep us human. And it's sad that it's a sociopath who's gonna have to point this out to you! You can't live on an island! You've already tried! But you are always going to have people in your life, Oliver. And they will always need you, for better or worse, baggage and all. And if you can't accept that, your past is going to stay your anchor!
(The proximity alarm in The Bunker goes off.)
Malcolm: Are you expecting someone?
Oliver: Yes, I am. Because Chase is working with at least Black Siren, Evelyn Sharp, Talia Al Ghul and whatever army she's currently controlling.
Malcolm: (smirking) So you called in reinforcements? If I wasn't such a confident individual, my ego might be bruised.
Oliver: Malcolm, your ego is what I'm going to need you keep in check.
Malcolm: (suddenly tense) Why? Who did you reach out to?
(Nyssa Al Ghul exits the elevator.)
Nyssa: Husband. (she nods to Oliver before looking to Malcolm.) Mr. Merlyn. I assume you still have no title?
Malcolm: (spinning to Oliver) No.
Oliver: (warningly) Malcolm...
Malcolm: I will not work with her.
Nyssa: I told you.
Malcolm: I'd sooner slice her throat.
Nyssa: Try to, you mean.
Oliver: Malcolm, you said you'd do whatever it takes to get Thea back. So... (suddenly shouting) here we are!
Malcolm: Fine. But does she know?
(Oliver blinks, clearly not having planned on this happening. Nyssa sense this and steps closer to them both.)
Nyssa: Know what, Mr. Merlyn?
Malcolm: One of the people we're up against is your sister.
(Nyssa inhales slowly -the closest thing to a gasp she will allow herself as she stares at Oliver pointedly.)
(Oliver pushes his way past a security door with the ARGUS log on it into a prison block. He drops a bag by the door and sighs before moving deeper into the room toward a row of bars. He sighs deeply before finally speaking.)
Oliver: I need your help.
(We switch to a POV shot from Oliver's perspective as he looks into the cell... and sees Slade Wilson.)
Slade: Hey kid. (chuckles softly) I'm glad you came back.
Following the capture of Adrian Chase, Oliver Queen's approval rating as Mayor is 70%, according to a Star City Sentinel poll. This is the highest his approval rating had ever been, according to Quentin
Though no exact date is given, Oliver Queen's birthday is sometime in May.
Oliver refers to the events of 111 and Thea Queen's disastrous 18th birthday party.
At the time of this episode, Lyla and John Jr. are in Chicago visiting family.
According to John, he and Lyla are patching things up after their fight in the last episode.
Based on the number of newspapers outside his apartment, Rene hasn't been home in several days. Also,shockingly, Rene subscribes to a newspaper.
The team discuss vacation plans. Curtis would like to go to Florence, Italy. John wants to take his son fishing. Felicity wants to walk the Pacific Crest Trail before taking a spa day. Oliver just wants to have a day to go shopping and buy some new socks. (Apparently he's almost out.)
Oliver determines that Talia Al Ghul is responsible for abducting Curtis, Dinah and Rene based on one of the darts he finds at Dinah's apartment.
The Red Death causes Oliver to hallucinate the pain from his old wounds whenever the scars are touched.
While hallucinating while suffering from the effects of The Red Death, Oliver has past visions relating to his sins (i.e. killing Taiana in 423), failures (i.e. Shado's death in 209), guilt (i.e. Oliver killing one of Ivo's men in front of Shado in 201) and bloodlust (i.e. Oliver torturing General Matthew Shrieve to death in 323). He hallucinates both his fist teacher, Yao Fei, encouraging him to commit suicide and then a vision of Laurel Lance telling him to live.
Black Siren was broken out of ARGUS at some point after Curtis' abduction. It is later revealed that she was released by an ARGUS agent, who was being blackmailed by Eveyln Sharpe.
As of this episode, Quentin had still not been told about the existence of Black Siren.
Thea apparently had been informed of Black Siren's existence.
Malcolm Merlyn refers to the events of 423 - the last time he was in The Bunker, when he arrived just in time to help defend it from a team of Damien Darhk's Ghosts.
Felicity refers to 222 and how she hit Isabel Rochev with a van when she and John are confronted by Talia.
Oliver recalls that Curtis did put tracking nanites in Felicity in 518, but that they were rendered useless by the EMP from 520.
Oliver figures out that Chase is escaping to Lian Yu.
Nyssa says that her father once told her to visit Lian Yu and that it was where she discovered Sara Lance. This is because Sara, during her time in the past with a younger Ra's ah Ghul and Talia (as seen L109), instructed Ra's to send his next daughter to the island in October 2008. This establishes Sara's recruitment into the League of Assassins as a closed time loop.
Oliver deduces that Talia must have told Chase about Lian Yu.
Oliver uses his one bullet to break the lock on the door of his cell.
In the final scene of the episode, Oliver enters Slade Wilson's cell on Lian Yu and tells him he needs his help.
A freeway 10 miles outside of Star City.
We do not see how Reme or Dinah were captured. We don't see how Black Siren escaped from ARGUS.
The Bottom Line
A fantastic episode, curiously, because of how little it has to do with Season Five's on-going plot. It's all because of the other little bits of character business that harken back to the show's glory days. The interactions between Oliver and Malcolm. The chemistry between Oliver and Felicity. The brief scenes of Thea and Quentin together. The flashback sequences that actually tie into the current storyline.
It would have been nice to see Roy Harper show up to offer some back-up too but I can't complain. Apparently they won back Manu Bennett despite his promise never to do the show again after Slade's treatment in Season Three. That's as much a symbol of how far this show has turned around this year as anything.