Arrow Season 8, Episode 4, “Present Tense” review, Aired Nov. 5, 2019.
Simply, it was William and Oliver’s laughing after a particularly heavy conversation at the apartment where they last saw each other. It was Mia’s mouth slightly agape when she sees her father for the first time that reminded us so vividly of Felicity’s classic shocked and upset expression. It was Connor pleading with a father that does not yet know him.
Explosions came second. Villainous monologues and evil plans came second. The badassery that came second was and always will be important ingredients in Arrow‘s patently yummy chocolate cake. But oddly in this action-packed television show we had an episode to ruminate with these characters and had the understanding that that’s what we should do.
The questions of “Present Tense” weren’t “what’s the bad guy going to do next?” and “what complicated tech can fix all our problems?”. It asked how the characters will all feel and react to each other. What are the things that need to be said?
“Those are my kids,” says Oliver Queen. Then we began our ascent into tearful euphoria.
William is the warm and gooey center in this episode’s chocolate cake. His moments in this episode are poignant, hopeful, and healing.
William, immediately as his little sister muttered the word, “dad?” at their father and at some of Team Arrow, had a willingness to be vulnerable. One of the first things he does in that moment was give Oliver a hug. He’s as excited as we are (the fans) to see them interact after all this time.
It was nice to see William reflect a little bit on his childhood with Oliver, and his perspective on it. Because quite frankly, it’s hard to ever truly ~stan~ a thirteen year old. This time with adult William awards us insights into young William, and makes William a fully formed person in our eyes.
As Oliver takes William and Mia to his empty apartment, Mia goes to bed and William and Oliver get a chance to chat. William seizes this opportunity with his father to tell him about his life. He tells him he has a tech empire, and he tells him that he’s gay.
In a word, it was cathartic. For both William and Oliver, and for us watching. Oliver says “yeah buddy, I know” and gets a chance to comfort William in the fact that he was always planning to support him with this… but he regrettably never gets the too. And William gets the catharsis of speaking his truth to his father. The moment was simultaneously heavy and lighthearted… it was emotional.
William very clearly admires his step-mother Felicity, and he takes after her in more ways than one. He takes on Felicity’s role as the one with “perspective” as Smoak’s often do. He doesn’t want Oliver all to himself, he wants Mia to have time with her dad too. Anyways, William Clayton-Harris-Queen-Smoak is my son and I will ~violently~ destroy anyone that hurts him with a smile on my face.
Oh, Mia. My wild-child. She doesn’t know what to do here. Very understandably. It’s hard to completely forgive someone you don’t really know. And Mia’s perspective is technically right. Here’s the facts:
- He abandoned her.
- And her mom.
- He was never there.
And technically, that’s true. Even though he had no choice, she’s allowed to feel her feelings about that. Honestly, it would be a little unrealistic if everything was automatically sunshine between Mia and Oliver.
And William and Oliver talk a little bit about the balance of when to push and when to give space. We saw that Oliver was not really good at that with William (a lá pancakes before explaining why you were expelled from school). And we all know he would of had a hard time disciplining Mia as well.
But they did take their steps forward. Oliver offers insight to his little spit-fire of a daughter. He says, “I know you didn’t want too” after he stops her from killing Grant Wilson.
Ugh, so much angst! And a lot of it came from the Diggle’s this week. He heartbreakingly blames himself for JJ. Thinking that he “stole the love that was supposed to be his”. And side note, I love Connor. I can feel his struggle, while simultaneously crying at his willingness to be vulnerable with his father.
Connor is just trying to do right by everyone on all fronts. Do right by Mia and the complicated rules of time travel by not telling them about the future. Do right by Zoe… by killing his brother (whether or not it’s morally right). He wants to do right by his adoptive father by giving him an explanation. And also his insight and tactical skills were a very valuable part of the episode.
He’s trying so hard to take care of everyone, who takes care of him?
- Dinah was actually really great in this episode. “Knowing what’s happened can either destroy us, or save us. We’ve seen our worst, now let’s be our best.” That’s just really great time-travel advice. (Are you listening Flash)?
- “Nyssa Al Ghul trained me. Do you want to see how well?” Sh***t! 👀
- Laurel has an arrogance that I just don’t like. No, Laurel, you were not the sole reason Felicity didn’t kill Ricardo Diaz (you were probably #5 on a list of 5 reasons). It’s like if Felicity said her influence is the sole reason Oliver stopped killing the bad guy. Boy, would she gotten so much sh*t she ever said that.
- Dinah and Laurel are BFFs suddenly? Mmmkay.
- LOL at William’s reaction to having kids.
- LOL at Rene “shockingly” discovering he was a corrupt politician.
- Stephen Amell and Ben Lewis have a nice chemistry.
- Will Laurel betray Oliver? That tracks. But probably not if she’s going to be on the spin-off.
- The promo for next week, though!
- So, I was listening to music while writing this. And this Taylor Swift gem came on, and I thought it was a fitting song for the episode:
Catch Arrow all new on Tuesdays at 9 PM on The CW!