Arrow, CW’s long-running Green Arrow series, is in the fourth episode of its final season. After investigating the Monitor’s goals in Nanda Parbat and reuniting with his sister Thea, last week’s episode left on a massive cliffhanger when Oliver (Stephen Amell), Diggle (David Ramsey), Dinah (Juliana Harkavy) Rene (Rick Gonzalez) were transported back to the bunker, alongside Future Team Arrow.
In “Present Tense,” both present and future Team Arrow try to figure out what exactly is going on, as Oliver has an emotional reaction to seeing his children William (Ben Lewis) and Mia (Katherine McNamara) as adults. As Connor (Joseph David-Jones) and the future team struggle with the death of their ally Zoe and keeping the secret from their fathers, a new Deathstroke emerges from the shadows.
While the vital threat and plot for “Present Tense” is relatively simple with both teams attempting to stop the Deathstrokes from attempting “Siege 2.0”, a nod to the second season of Arrow, the episode has plenty of emotional weight. Not only do the Future Team have to carry the burden of Zoe’s death on their shoulders, but Past Team Arrow also has to come to terms with the fact that their sacrifices may be for naught as they learn about the future. The writers of the show have done an excellent job reexamining past themes and concepts this season, and this episode is no exception – with hints of Diggle, and his brother, Andy’s betrayal, reflected between JJ/Connor.
But the core crux of the episode’s emotional core is the meeting between Oliver and his children. So far this season, we’ve seen how hard the decision to leave baby Mia and William was for Oliver. We’ve also seen this from Mia and William’s perspective through the flash-forwards in Season 7 and 8, and it all leads into this episode. While some have criticized the flash-forwards, they were significantly essential to gain a perspective into the children’s POV regarding Oliver and the feeling of abandonment.
Both of these perspectives finally merge, resulting in some of the finest acting this in the show’s history. Much praise should go to Ben Lewis and Stephen Amell, who deliver such a heartfelt and beautiful performance in which William comes out to his father. It’s a great scene that allows both characters to finally have a moment which both thought they would never have the chance to have.
The episode also features the return of Echo Kellum as Curtis Holt/Mr. Terrific, who fits right back into the group and whose presence alongside Future William not only helps to bring back ‘Curtis and Smoak’ as a team but also adds the perfect amount of comedic timing to the group. Sure, the multiverse could end soon, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun. Arrow continues to bring back familiar faces with Deathstroke 2019 being unmasked as Grant Wilson. If that name seems familiar, it’s because he also appeared as the Deathstroke of the future in Legends of Tomorrow’s ‘Star City 2046′ episode. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
One of the most exciting themes in the episode is whether the future is set in stone, or if it can be changed. For Diggle, it’s whether or not his children will continue to fall down the same path as he and his brother did. While Rene has to believe that he can go against his future selves’ political corruption and stay true to the beliefs as he begins to partake in politics for the future, it was great to see the characters having learned from the past for once and pushing forward for once.
For Rene, he accepts the future can be changed and can’t live in the fear that he will lose his daughter – and knows it isn’t Diggle’s fault, as Connor learns he can’t be mad at his past for going through an understandably difficult time. It was also lovely to watch Rene tell Dinah that Zoe could continue to train to be a Canary, rather than following down the generic overprotective parent route.
As for Mia, it can be challenging to watch the character at times as she continues to feature “Season 1 Oliver” attitudes and personality, but it’s also understandable. Fortunately, the ending of ‘Present Tense’ shows another terrific parent/child heart-to-heart between Mia and Oliver, which shows how fantastic Katherine McNamara is.
Overall, “Present Tense” is quite possibly one of the best episodes of Arrow, one that is full of tearful scenes, humor, and trick arrows that freeze things.
“This is the beginning of the future.”
Arrow airs every Tuesday at 8PM CT/9 PM ET on the CW.