Schism – Set on cleansing the world, Damien Darhk launches all the world’s nuclear missiles, giving Team Arrow barely 2 hours to stop him and save 7 billion people. Oliver needs hope to overcome Darhk’s magic but does real power come from finding hope or giving it?
Now earlier this week, The Flash’s finale struggled because it didn’t culminate the themes and stories of its season very well. While Arrow also doesn’t do this perfectly, it is a vast improvement and that above all else, it's what stands out about the episode. The main theme of the season has been Oliver seeking to give the people of Star City hope and overcome his darkness. So here at the close, we see Damien Darhk embodying the said darkness (not just as a pun) by being a world ending force of destruction. Then we have Oliver overcoming him by inspiring hope to the people, not just as The Green Arrow but in the of light of day as Oliver Queen drawing right back to the ideals of his election campaign arc in the first half of the series. It’s all easily relatable and feels like the suitable end of this season’s journey. The play out of the big Darhk/Hive confrontation is extremely satisfying, from the transition of Green Arrow Vs Darhk, one on one to the mass battle that ensues. It feels somewhat reminiscent of last season’s Uprising episode but that’s not a bad thing (I rate it Season 3’s best), and certainly feels bigger in scale and production value this time around. Director John Behring doesn’t shy away from “Darhk” Knight Rises comparisons and instead plays straight into them as Oli and Darhk move through the crowds towards each other for the a climactic heavy slugfest. Throughout the episode, Darhk ticks all the boxes on villain duties. He’s formidable, menacing and sinister when he needs to be while still capable of throwing in some gags for good measure. His interactions with his daughter and another fascinating layer to his character: he’s prepared to destroy the entire world, including his daughter, but refuses to let anybody else kill her in the meantime.
However, the linchpin, the key selling point and in many ways the episode MVP performance happens way before all this. If Arrow just went straight into having Oliver give speeches in the street and rally people, it would have felt cheesy and overly-forced into the episode. Yet thanks to a touching and incredibly well-delivered preceding monologue by Echo Kellum’s Curtis, establishing the idea of a Star city citizen believing in a symbol of hope, everything that follows seems to flow naturally from those foundations. In little over a minute, he creates the emotional bedrock of the episode, which is a contribution that should not be overlooked, “Living in Star City requires a special kind of tenacity”. Kellum really wasn’t utilized enough this season thankfully, he has already been confirmed as an upgraded season regular for Season 5. Hopefully, we’ll finally see him going T-Total (well, it would be fair play).
In continuing the collateral damage theme of recent weeks, --which in itself makes the stakes and peril of the missile threat this episode far more effective-- this is a finale that does not shy away from death and if anything has a recurring theme in establishing it’s necessity in extreme situations. It even creeps in from the most unlikely of places. Before this episode, I genuinely wouldn’t have cared less if the uninspiring Cooper Seldon (Felicity’s college hacker ex) had been dunked in pig blood and tossed into a tank of giant sharks with laser beams on their heads. Yet in the scene, we get to see the team discovering him working Rubicon for Darhk, and it's one of the most powerful in the entire episode. It’s a great balance of the prior themes of hope combined with the morale conflicts of justifying killing. We know that Felicity is appealing to Cooper to save the world, yet she’s fully aware that she’s asking him to sign his own death warrant in the process. Even the flashbacks serve to enhance this well. While most will be about as concerned with a big idol powered showdown between Reiter and Tainna as what a Kardashian had for breakfast last month, the ultimate decision it places upon Oliver resonates well main to the present day story.
In terms of its character conclusions for the season, its mostly good points all round. Arrow gets a lot of beef for veering too far away from its comic source material yet its biggest ending point comes right out of the print. The team sabbatical idea forms a nice reversal on last season. Rather than seeing Oliver and Felicity drive off into the sunset, we see the pair remain while all the others leave to work out their own personal issues. With the exception of Thea (whose exit seems to come out of nowhere), these all feel in character, especially concerning Dig’s need to deal with killing his brother. It will be interesting to see if the show pulls a “Team Arrow asseeeeeeemble” in the first episode this autumn or hopefully, let the characters have their own separate stories for a few episodes before slowly drifting back together. Any that watched The Flash’s finale will be also be wondering if those events should come into play and that is a two-part answer: yes, they should have a big impact for the sake of continuity but no, they probably won’t for the risk of over complication.
So Arrow wraps up its 4th season much better than expected as recently as last month. It’s action packed with plenty of good character based emotion and just enough laughs to break up the more serious nature of the events. Like last season, it’s been a year of ups and downs but overall an improvement. Now Stephen Amell’s off to plug the hell out of TMNT2 as the Arrow-verse puts down its bow for another summer.
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