The Arrow episode we’ve been unknowingly building towards for a season and a half is finally here. At the end of the last episode, our 2040 heroes were flashed to 2019 and put face to face with their fathers. This week, we get some fantastic family moments and the thwarting of a bomb threat that may or may not change the future.
“Present Tense” starts right where the last episode leaves off as Mia, William and Connor meet Oliver, Diggle, Rene, and Dinah. For some this is a long-awaited reunion, for others it is their first time meeting. There are a ton of different relationships to unpack here so let’s dive right in.
It is great to see William and Oliver immediately embrace. There is still some resentment there but for the most part, William has been able to put aside his anger and is just glad to see his dad for the first time in two decades.
This ends up being the least complicated of the new relationships and creates a pretty cool dynamic. William coming out to Oliver, who reveals he and Felicity knew all along, was a great scene and Oliver makes it clear he’s proud of the billionaire superhero his son turned into. William even ends up being the one offering Oliver advice on how to deal with Mia and how to process his emotions without so much brooding.
William and Oliver’s hug makes Connor’s reunion with John even more heartbreaking. Connor is ready for the same kind of relationship but Diggle…has no idea Connor is his son. John seems like he is coming around to Connor and appreciating his skills until they finally reveal that JJ has become the new Deathstroke. This throws a wedge into their brand new relationship.
They have a couple of tense conversations where it is clear that each of them blames themselves for JJ breaking bad. This makes the final scene between the two of them all the more touching when Connor wants to distance himself from Diggle’s family for the sake of JJ and John finally says, “you are my family, son.”
The most complicated relationship is the brand new one between Mia and Oliver. Mia still holds all of her anger to her father for abandoning her and Felicity and rejects his initial attempts to get to know her. It seems like the tension might even come to blows at one point until Laurel is able to diffuse the situation. William’s advice gets Oliver to keep plowing away and he is eventually able to get through to her at a critical moment.
There is still plenty to unpack in all of these new dynamics as well as the relationships between the 2040 crew and the rest of Team Arrow. Here’s assuming they’ll remain for the rest of the season (and through the spin-off) so these relationships can be fully explored.
Intense hallway conversations aside, this episode has a simple plot that moves at a good pace and tests both groups well. Deathstroke is back and terrorizing the rich of Star City. Not wanting to tell their parents too much about the future, William, Mia, and Connor attempt to take down who they assume is JJ. After a Team Arrow rescue, they finally reveal that “future Star City is a terrible place.”
Including JJ taking up the Deathstroke mantle and the overall fact that they failed in their mission to save the city, the hardest-hitting news is finding out Zoe was killed. Rene obviously takes this the hardest, initially lashing out at John and Connor. Dinah ends up playing the voice of reason for Rene and Diggle, reminding them that this is an opportunity to change the future and save both of their children.
The teams are able to bring it together in time to suit up and take down the real new Deathstroke, Grant Wilson. While Mia goes into the mission planning to kill Grant to prevent the future, Oliver is able to stop her and help her through a situation he’s found himself in many times.
There are very clear ways they’ve changed the future, but the question I’m sure will continue to linger is have they really changed anything. The episode ends with Rene making a speech in the Glades and taking one step closer to becoming mayor, Dinah and Laurel considering the idea of the Canary Network, Dinah still training Zoe, and John still taking time away from a young JJ to spend time with Connor.
Meanwhile, let there be no doubt that there are only three episodes of Arrow left until Crisis on Infinite Earths. Oliver brings in Curtis to analyze a piece of fabric from Earth-2 to see if they can replicate the force strong enough to “stop a god, which is what we’re doing now.” The Monitor himself appears to Laurel to offer her a deal to bring back Earth-2 in exchange for her betraying Oliver.
This was a really strong episode that is anchored by finally bringing together the two fantastic casts. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this major change affects the show going forward as we wrap up what has so far been a phenomenal farewell season.