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Warning: gigantic spoilers ahead for the Season 5 finale of Arrow, "Lian Yu."
The Season 5 finale of Arrow marked the end of an era as Oliver came full circle on the flashbacks to his five years of hell. This was one episode that absolutely had to be epic, as it needed to provide closure on Oliver's five-year journey after his return to civilization and set up Season 6. The finale has finally aired, and it just so happens that it was the perfect way to set up what's to come in Season 6.
First of all, the finale was basically an hour of Arrow wiping Oliver's slate clean for Season 6. Malcolm's presumed death via landmine means that Oliver's very first nemesis and the source of a lot of his trouble over the past 10 years is out of the picture, and Prometheus' quite definitive death via bullet to the brain means that Oliver has endured the villain who basically embodied every single one of Oliver's doubts and mistakes over the course of the series. We can bet that Oliver will still face some of his old familiar bad guys in Season 6, but Slade Wilson is currently the only one of Oliver's supervillains still among the living, and that bodes well for a fresh start.
Second, Lian Yu was literally blown up, and Purgatory as it was is no more. Oliver has found himself stuck back on that godforsaken island over and over again during the past 10 years of his life. Whatever is left of the island won't be littered with the corpses of his victims or chock full of land mines or concealing his booby traps behind bushes. The crashed plane is gone, the temple is gone, even the graves are probably gone. Oliver can't run and hide on the island anymore; he'll have to move on.
Third, "Lian Yu" brought closure to Oliver's story so far. We saw him get his last wounds to complete the picture of the physical specimen he was in the pilot, scars and abs and all. Some of the final flashback scenes were the very same as those that we first saw in the present of the pilot. Oliver shot off his flaming arrow, intrigued the fishermen, and got himself rescued while wearing a straggly wig and beard to look like he'd spent five years marooned alone on an island.
The episode even went beyond what we saw of Oliver's rescue in the pilot with a scene that had me sniffling from emotional overload. Susanna Thompson reprised the role of Moira in a scene that featured Oliver's first phone call back to his mom to let her know that he was alive. Moira couldn't even believe that he was alive at first, and Oliver's progressively choked-up responses as he talked to his mom and told her he was coming home made for a wonderful surprise addition. Oliver and Moira weren't the only ones tearing up.
Finally, by taking the action away from Star City for this year's finale, the Season 5 closer really feels like a departure from the norm that is preparing everything for a fresh start in Season 6. Obviously Oliver will still be reeling from the end of Season 5 when the next batch of episodes hits the airwaves, and it's possible that the Season 6 premiere will be the first in Arrow history to pick up without a time jump. We just don't know, because everything could be new.
Admittedly, the synopsis for Season 6 doesn't sound like anything new, but how much can we really gauge from a synopsis that was released before the episode even aired? All things considered, I'm optimistic about what Season 6 could be after how the Season 5 finale was handled. There was a solid balance of character development and plot, Oliver made decisions like a functioning adult and the very first hero of The CW's superhero universe, and Stephen Amell was at his best. If we get more of this in Season 6, we could be in for something great in the fall.
If you're still reeling from the events of the finale, check out our breakdown of who lived and who died in "Lian Yu," and drop by our list of what we know so far about Season 6. Don't forget to take a look at our summer TV premiere schedule to discover all your viewing options now and in the coming weeks. Be sure to see our rundowns for cable/streaming and broadcast TV renewals and cancellations as well. Our TV season finale schedule can give you all you need to know about your shows ending.