REVIEW: ‘Arrow,’ Season 8, Episode 2 – “Welcome To Hong Kong”

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Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and John Diggle (David Ramsey) assessing the situation.

Arrow, CW’s long-running Green Arrow series, is in the second episode of its final season. After the devastating cliffhanger ending that episode one left on, the importance of the mission that Oliver (Stephen Amell) is on is felt more than ever. In “Welcome to Hong Kong”, Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy-Rodgers) struggles with the loss of her entire earth, both literally and emotionally. Meanwhile, The Monitor (LaMonica Garrett)  scolds Oliver for putting personal attachments above the core mission. With Diggle (David Ramsey) providing the voice of reason for Oliver, the two team up with old ally Katana (Rila Fukushima)  as part of a mission to prevent the upcoming Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Much like the first episode of this final season was an ode to the first ever season of Arrow, this episode is a love letter to the third season which featured the character of Tatsu Yamashiro (aka: Katana), Hong Kong as a location and the dreaded ‘Alpha/Omega’ virus. The mission the Monitor gives to Oliver appears to be simple, now that they’ve returned to Earth-1 they must capture a Dr. Wong whose expertise are supposedly helpful to stopping the Anti-Monitor’s goals. It turns out the mission is not so simple after all when it is revealed that Dr. Wong has recreated the deadly alpha/omega virus which was a key threat in both the main and sub-plots of Arrow Season 3, including causing the death of Katana’s son Akiro.

The inclusion of Katana is a welcome one, once again giving the show a celebratory send-off while also having a important role to play with Oliver’s journey this season. Tatsu’s character has known Oliver for quite some time during his original stay in Hong Kong and also through the events of Season 3, which gives her a significant understanding of both his character growth and shortcomings. Much like Diggle acts as a voice of reason for Oliver, Tatsu also helps to remind him not to put all of his faith on Mar-Novu – especially regarding his callous attitude regarding the destruction of Earth-2.

Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy Rodgers) dealing with the loss of her Earth.

Speaking of Earth-2, the key star of this episode has to be Laurel as played wonderfully by Katie Cassidy Rodgers. With the destruction of a fan-favourite and beloved world in the previous episode it was important to also be able to see the effect on these characters. Laurel makes an important point in this episode regarding Oliver’s view of the world’s destruction, while he does empathize and is devastated by the deaths of billions, they are still facsimiles of his own world. For Laurel, Earth-2 was her home and these people were her family who have now been killed. The show does a great job at not glancing over Laurel’s grief, and Katie does a fantastic job at showing the emotional repercussions of this Crisis from a character perspective.

This captivating subplot leads us to a really fascinating conversation between Laurel and Lyla Michaels (Audrey Marie Anderson) who helps the former deal with her survival guilt by being both open and honest about her own experiences with loss. It’s a fantastic scene that is beautifully acted by both Katie and Audrey. Beth Schwartz’s leadership of the show has improved Arrow in many ways, but the inclusion of scenes like this is the icing on the cake which utilizes these actors to the best of their potential.

The mysterious Monitor (LaMonica Garrett) scolding Oliver for not following the mission.

In the future, Mia (Katherine McNamara), William (Ben Lewis) Zoe  (Andrea Sixtos), and Connor (Joseph David-Jones) continue to investigate the Deathstroke gang led by John Diggle Jr. (Charlie Barnett). Based on their father’s own experience, it really shouldn’t be a surprise that the future Diggle brothers are embroiled in their own brotherly-rival, but it’s fun to watch. Much of the flashbacks focus on Connor and John’s brotherly love and rivalry, with the latter feeling that their parents pushed most of their affection on their adopted son.  Deathstroke is a visually appealing villain, but having someone who has a personal axe to grind with the heroes like John does makes him even more compelling.

Team Arrow manage to stop China White, who returns to make one last return to the show, from receiving the Alpha/Omega virus and Oliver begins his own investigation into The Monitor and whether he can trust him to stop this crisis. Where will that search take him? To Nanda Parbat of course, as next episode appears to be another farewell to Season 3 and the League of

Overall, “Welcome to Hong Kong” is another terrific episode that deals with the personal repercussions of losing an entire world, while also saying goodbye to some key characters from the show’s past.

Arrow airs every Tuesday at 9 PM ET on the CW

Rating: 8.5/10