Arrow Recap: Season 5 Finale Ends on a Massive Cliffhanger

SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for the Arrow season finale, which has not yet aired on the west coast at the time of publication.

Arrow went out with a bang tonight in an emotional finale that brought years of storytelling to a close. In the flashbacks, Oliver had mere hours to escape from Kovar's custody to make it to the rescue boat. In the current timeline, Oliver, Nyssa and Malcolm recruited the help of fan-favorite Slade Wilson to rescue Team Arrow and William.

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The editing in this episode was razor-sharp, as were the transitions between past and present. Oliver had the opportunity to make the same choice in both timelines, which allowed the audience to see just how much Oliver has changed in five years. The episode also featured action-packed moments of closure between multiple characters, including the daughters of the demon (Nyssa and Talia al Ghul), the Black Canaries and Thea and Malcolm Merlyn. Oliver and Slade even shared a few heart-to-heart moments where they got to level with one another as friends, as fathers, and as former adversaries. Slade was able to offer Oliver some advice about self-forgiveness -- something Slade had learned during his years imprisoned on the island.

Fatherhood was a clear theme in this episode, as well as the ability to change. The island flashbacks also showcased Oliver's pivotal rescue from the pilot, and a new scene between him and his mother. The episode concluded with Oliver being forced to make the hardest decision of all -- which left the season (and the audience) hanging on the most shocking cliffhanger The CW has ever pulled off. Let's jump into "Lian Yu."

Old Friends

You know it's going to be a great episode when Nyssa al Ghul shows up -- even more so when Slade Wilson makes an appearance. This episode took pages right out of Season 2 and Season 3's playbook, especially in the witty banter between Nyssa and Slade, as well as the rivalry between Nyssa and Malcolm. Oliver's liberation of Slade was such a smart choice, because by now the Mirakuru has worn off. Slade has returned to himself and is now filled with regret over the pain he caused everyone, including Oliver.

Oliver was able to bargain for Slade's release with information on Slade's son. He also bargained for Digger Harkness' release through a promise of freedom. Together this merry-yet-unlikely band of outlaws traversed the island until they found the first group of Prometheus' prisoners. After liberating Diggle, Curtis, Felicity, Thea and Samatha, Oliver gave Malcolm charge of their escape off the island. Felicity and Oliver shared a kiss and Oliver promised Samantha that he would find their son. Digger did betray the team and Slade appeared to betray them -- but it turned out to be a ruse to help the second group of Prometheus' kidnappees, Dinah, Rene and Quentin. Oliver was able to get Dinah's Canary Cry necklace to her, and they were all set free.

Old Adversaries

Team Arrow then got to engage in a fight of epic proportions. Nyssa and Talia got to fight each other after decades of bad blood between them. Oliver and Chase went round after round against one another. Black Siren and the newly christened (thank you Quentin) Black Canary went cry to cry, which resulted in a massive power disruption. It was every man and woman against their equals. Nyssa got the upper hand on Talia, and chose to show her mercy. Black Siren almost killed Black Canary, until Lance shot her. Oliver did beat Chase and almost killed him, but instead showed him mercy. This scene, in particular, was mirrored in the flashbacks, as Oliver had Kovar in the same headlock as Chase. In the past, Oliver chose to end Kovar's life. In the present, he chose to let Chase live. Oliver refused to be the killer Chase wanted him to be, no matter how much Chase pushed him to become it. Oliver had truly grown in that moment, which ended up saving everyone's life because if Chase died, a kill switch would have blown the entire island.

Choosing Family

Both of the fathers in this finale had to choose between their children and their own lives. Malcolm had to choose to put his own body on a mine when Thea stepped on it. In the distance, Thea watched as the mine exploded, presumably killing Malcolm. While we know that Malcolm is never truly dead, this likely means we won't see John Barrowman on the show for a while (which was confirmed a few weeks ago). Thea's relationship with Malcolm has never been easy, but there was a part of her that missed him when she realized he was gone. Oliver was forced to make a similar choice as well. 

Prometheus' final play involved forcing Oliver to relive his father's suicide. Fleeing on a boat, Chase held Oliver's son William by the neck. If Oliver killed Chase, the island would explode. If Oliver did nothing, Chase would kill William. Oliver had to choose between his son or his team. Oliver chose his son and was able to rescue him by only wounding Chase. This seemed to make Chase proud because he knew that William would be growing up with a father who was not truly a monster. Then, as if it was his plan all along, Chase shot himself in the head (just like Robert Queen) and hundreds of bombs went off on the island. The episode cut to the Arrow logo and then went black. Holy green arrows, Batman -- what a finale!

In the flashbacks, we also saw Oliver get rescued off the island, which officially concludes his "five years in hell." We also saw a new scene, where a very broken Oliver called his mother to let her know he was alive. While the flashbacks won't be gone forever, this particular set of flashbacks has concluded. If the show does feature flashbacks in Season 6, they will likely be of events that have taken place over the last five years of the show, instead of the last 10.

Looking Ahead

So where does that cliffhanger leave us? We know Oliver is coming back next season. We know Black Siren is joining the show next year. We also know that Dinah and Rene are coming back as series regulars -- but what about everyone else?

That leaves the fate of Diggle, Felicity, Samantha, Curtis, Quentin Lance, Evelyn, Nyssa, Talia, Slade and Thea in the unknown category. Hopefully, Slade, Thea, Felicity, Quentin, Diggle, Nyssa and William's mother Samantha make it to the Season 6 premiere alive. Slade could have taken everyone down into the prison tunnels, which would have sheltered them from the explosions. Some of them are going to have to escape somehow. Perhaps we'll get some updates from the cast as they prepare to film Season 6.

As for the narrative, what will Season 6 look like? It appears Oliver will still be mayor when he returns to Star City. Will Dinah still be at the SCPD? Will Rene and Quentin still be on Oliver's staff? Will Thea return for a full season? These questions and much more will have to be answered when the show returns this fall -- and don't forget it's moving to Thursdays!

Starring Stephen Amell as the Emerald Archer, Arrow moves to Thursdays at 9pm ET/PT on The CW next fall. The series also stars Emily Bett Rickards, David Ramsey, John Barrowman, Willa Holland and more.

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