Major spoilers for tonight's season five finale of Arrow, 'Lian Yu', below!
Tonight's season five finale of Arrow included a death of one of the show's longest-running characters. But, as is relatively commonplace with shows within the DCTV universe, there's a possibility that things aren't as they currently seem.
In the middle of tonight's episode, 'Lian Yu', Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) volunteered to stand on a land mine in place of his daughter, Thea Queen (Willa Holland). This allowed Thea and several members of Team Arrow to begin to get away to safety. Once Merlyn was barely in their sights, he was cornered by Digger Harkness (Nick Tarabay) and several of Talia's men. The episode then cut back to Thea, who turned around to see a large explosion - presumably killing Merlyn, Harkness, and the men.
But is there a chance that Merlyn, in fact, survived? At this point, it's honestly hard to tell. Barrowman has insinuated that he will not be returning to Arrow or its sister shows next season, which caused many to assume his untimely end before tonight's episode even aired.
Barrowman has had a pretty significant reach across the DCTV universe this past season, as he was heavily featured in Legends of Tomorrow's sophomore season as a member of the Legion of Doom, as well as in the musical crossover between Supergirl and The Flash. With that amount of involvement over the past year, it would make sense that Barrowman would want a break from the DCTV universe - but not that he would be done with it forever.
Which brings us back to Merlyn's onscreen death... or at least what we saw of it. The choice to show the death only from far away - as essentially Thea's perspective - creates a number of possibilities for the show going forward. As the scene between Thea and Felicity illustrated, Thea is certainly affected by her father's death, despite their tumultuous relationship. What direction this takes Thea as a character (one whose fans have been eagerly anticipating a new storyline for) has yet to be seen, but it gives her the emotional drive to take on that arc.
And in addition, not showing Merlyn's death up close leaves open the possibility for him to return in the present day timeline. As has been joked before within the show, characters seem to come back from the dead pretty regularly, and that certainly wouldn't be implausible for Merlyn. After all, he already faked his death once before, between the season one finale and his return in season two.
Even then, the question remains how Merlyn would be able to survive the episode's conclusion - the explosives throughout Lian Yu. But realistically speaking, there was more than enough time for Merlyn to enact whatever 'ass backwards' plan he had, and get to some sort of transportation off of the island.
It's safe to assume that Merlyn's death will stick - at least for the time being - within the world of Arrow. But don't be surprised if Merlyn lives up to his nickname of "The Magician" and cheats death once again.
The battle between Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Adrian Chase (Josh Segarra) culminates in a final epic battle on Lian Yu. After recent events, Oliver decides to recruit a group of unlikely allies – Slade (guest star Manu Bennett), Nyssa (guest star Katrina Law), Merlyn (John Barrowman) and Digger Harkness (guest star Nick. E. Tarabay) – to defeat Chase. However, Chase has his own army – Black Siren (guest star Katie Cassidy), Evelyn Sharp (guest star Madison McLaughlin) and Talia al Ghul (guest star Lexa Doig) – and the forces collide in an explosive season finale.
Jesse Warn directed the episode written by Wendy Mericle & Marc Guggenheim. It will air on May 24 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.
Based on the characters from DC, ARROW is from Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with Berlanti Productions and Warner Bros. Television, with executive producers Greg Berlanti (The Flash, Supergirl), Marc Guggenheim (Eli Stone, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters), Andrew Kreisberg (The Flash, Supergirl), Wendy Mericle (Desperate Housewives, Eli Stone) and Sarah Schechter (Supergirl, Blindspot).
Arrow airs Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW Television Network.