Arrow: Life Sentence review S6 E23

Lian Yu was Arrow’s strongest season in five seasons. Part of what made it so compelling was the tease that there was going to be some major lasting changes to the status quo. In a lot of ways the Arrow writers seemed to use their mistakes in following up Lian Yu to make Life Sentence an effective Season 6 finale. Did they succeed? Yes and no.

On the action front that was a major affirmative thanks to the return of James Bamford in the director’s chair. Bamford is pretty much on another level when it comes to making the fight scenes look fluid, painful and explosive. That didn’t take long as Team Arrow and the FBI teamed up to invade Diaz’s strongholds.

Of course the biggest nagging issue with this especially given the telegraphed payoff was why couldn’t Lyla and Diggle have done this earlier with ARGUS? The CW writing teams in general are getting really bad about ignoring logical resolutions to the villains just to get the heroes to point E. That’s very frustrating when with some slight changes, the heroes could take care of a situation at point B or C. I got a nice laugh over the one goon on Diaz’s police payroll who still felt the need to wear a mask despite the entire police department being on the take. That’s commitment.

arrow life sentence review - team arrow and watson

With his forces in shambles, Diaz tells Anatoly he’s calling in the Longbow Hunters. Sadly, that was just to get a rise out of longtime Green Arrow fanboys. It was all a ruse as Diaz finally figured out Anatoly was a rat and used him to lure Team Arrow to a laser field.

The problem with having a season finale centered around an exploding island and no one getting killed is it obliterates all the suspense of an explosive room. Especially with Felicity using hacker magic.


Felicity caught on that Oliver was making amends to everyone, but missing the obvious reason why. That made the smartest woman in the history of the Arrowverse sure seem incredibly dense. Oliver had a suit ready for Diggle, but after months of fighting about it, Diggle was fine letting Oliver be under the hood. Not that Diggle could stay mad at Oliver for long, but this resolution got wrapped a little too neatly and quickly.

Diaz wants Quentin to get the FBI out of Star City and threatens to kill Laurel if he refuses. It was hilarious when Quentin rightfully called Oliver out for failing to protect Laurel Vol. 1 when Oliver assured him they’d keep Laurel Vol. 2 safe. It falls on Quentin as usual to make the real sacrifice as he takes a bullet to save Laurel. This was probably the first time in any kind of hostage situation where the person getting blackmailed into doing something doesn’t comply and manages to get shot. Diaz definitely lost his cool at the wrong time.

arrow life sentence review - quentin lance

Team Arrow arrives in time to stop Diaz from killing Laurel and proceeds to wipe his goons out with little trouble thanks to Watson’s crack shot FBI team. It’s really a shame the Suicide Squad was off limits to Arrow as it would have made so much more sense for Lyla to start a new team of crooks to take down a city overrun by criminals.

Green Arrow takes down Diaz in another very well executed fight scene. Laurel arrives at the last minute and sonic screams him off the roof. This put such a monkeywrench in Oliver’s plan I almost wondered if she still wasn’t working for Diaz. Good news though as Felicity made a magic cloning device to copy all of Diaz’s files. Star City is safe for the decent people again.

Diaz might be in the wind, but Team Arrow is more concerned with Quentin, who’s being prepped for surgery. It was nice for Quentin to have a moment with Rene since they’d bonded so tight throughout this season, but it was weird that Quentin didn’t get time with Laurel. Instead, Sara returned just in time to have an awkward reunion/meeting with Laurel. In hindsight, the CW really shouldn’t have let the word get out that Caity Lotz was returning and Paul Blackthorne was leaving the series as it made the end result very obvious.

arrow life sentence review -diaz

But before then, we got a really great scene with Oliver and Quentin. They’d evolved from bitter rivals to a surrogate father and child relationship. Not as much as Quentin and Thea though, who’s presence here was definitely missed. This made for a nice final scene with Stephen Amell and Blackthorne.

Always happy to piss on a rainy parade for kicks, Watson arrives to drop the bomb on Team Arrow that Oliver is being arrested. Oliver’s sheepish there wasn’t enough time was inaccurate and laughable. And from the things can’t get any worse department, the doctor comes to the lobby to say Quentin died. While he’s being led to prison, Oliver finally confesses to being Green Arrow, but delivers a message to his allies to keep fighting the fight that led him to imprisonment. OK then…

If you’re keeping track at home, Life Sentence accomplished some excellent season finale moves:

  • One of the longtime characters gets killed off thanks to the villain who’s still alive. Kirk Acevdeo was pretty great and there’s no reason to kill off another strong villain.
  • The succession of the hood storyline actually mattered with Oliver in prison.
  • Laurel has a path and reason for redemption whether in this timeline or with her ‘sister’ in Legends.

arrow life sentence review -laurel

But…and you knew there was a but here. This is the exact same story we saw in the mid season finale of The Flash. Oliver probably can have more story line potential in prison than Barry, but the end result is the same — counting down the episodes until he’s Green Arrow again. And after half a season with Diggle as Green Arrow is it really the best timing to revisit that so quickly?

Life Sentence wasn’t perfect, but it left Arrow in an intriguingly messy state with some repercussions that should give Season 7 a chance to start off strong.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Photo Credit: The CW