He doesn’t see it that way at first, of course. It takes Diggle, his brother and his Clarence, to point out that despite the longing, affectionate gaze he turns his long-dead loved ones, this earth is not better for Oliver’s absence. Nor is it better to somehow go it alone. After a 12-year absence—twice the five years Oliver spent “lost at sea” on Earth-1—he returns to find his sister dead, his best friend wrecked by rage and self-recrimination, his city un-saved, and his mother married to Malcolm Merlyn. (Even if he’s a good Malcolm Merlyn, he’s also a turd.)


John Diggle takes a little portal-opening gizmo from Cisco and lands on Earth-2, ready to dish out hard truths, refusing to let Oliver once again forget a lesson he’s learned over and over and over again. “And I will be damned if I just let you go gently into that good night,” he says, right before Oliver whips out the move he first used to shake Digg from his tail back in the pilot. And yet eventually, he relents. Eventually, all seven seasons of Arrow somehow reenter his memory. Eventually, he stops being The Hood and starts being one half of the earliest iteration of Team Arrow: the two-person version.

If this is a set-up for the rest of the season—John and Oliver, possibly with Not-Laurel, roaming the multiverse to prepare for the Crisis while Oliver slowly lets go of all of his burdens—then it’s a great set-up. Even if it’s not, it’s a terrific start. Arrow has earned this level of sentimentality. Watch the first few episodes of the series and it’ll become clear how densely packed with references to early Arrow this hour is, a “Yachts suck” here, an “I missed tequila” there. Sure, it may not earn every beat—Oliver’s big speech is, as Tommy says, a good one, but it’s perhaps not quite that good. And sure, not every reappearance is welcome—Adrian Chase (Josh Segarra) isn’t really a character I needed to see again, even as a good guy, though maybe I’m just scarred by the nine lives of Ricardo Diaz. But because the show takes an “Oliver Queen, this is your life” approach, even the wink-wink moments play as bittersweet. (See: “It’s supposed to be red.”) And it anchors Oliver to Diggle in a way that, regardless of what’s to come, can only be a good thing. After all, “We’re only as good as the people we have in our lives.”


The whole thing works because Amell and Ramsey make it work—particularly Amell, who plays his hellos and goodbyes as though Oliver’s heart might burst at any moment, were the stakes not so high. It works because the writers allow those winks and easter eggs to carry real emotional weight. And it works because it’s a fittingly bittersweet place to start what’s likely to be a bittersweet season.

Stray observations