In this week’s season finale, like all of the prior season finales in this series, Team Arrow must work together to stop Star City from being destroyed. But unlike in past seasons, this time I couldn’t have cared less.
It’s not the repetitive nature of the “city under attack” finale setup that bothered me in “Schism,” although I certainly understand that being a turnoff for some viewers. For me, the problem was there was nothing surprising or inspired about the execution of that “attack” arc. It felt like a pile-on of elements we’ve already seen this season — a thwarted nuclear attack, a grand politician-like speech, light-versus-darkness — elements that were better executed the first time around. Nothing felt truly heightened, and attempts to raise the stakes fell flat. (Not just one nuke, but 15,000!)
“Schism” opens with Darhk threatening Felicity, Curtis, and Donna in the loft. Darhk wants Felicity’s help to get Rubicon back online and is willing to threaten her mother’s life to do it. But before Damien can suck out all of Donna’s life force, the Green Arrow bursts in through the loft’s window … and pretty much can’t do anything because Darhk recently sucked up the life force of Havenrock’s entire population. But despite all of his powerful magic, Darhk still needs to call in the Ghosts to help fight Team Arrow. (I guess the Ghosts were just waiting in the hallway for their cue?)
Darhk starts to work his magic mojo on the Green Arrow and, this time, Oliver’s happy thoughts can’t defeat him. Only when Thea bursts into the loft with Darhk’s daughter as a hostage does Darhk ease up on Oliver. In return, Thea releases his daughter, and Darhk bolts with his girl. This makes zero sense. If he has so much magic, why wouldn’t Darhk immediately just start sucking Oliver’s life force again after Thea released the girl? There was no other card for Team Arrow to play.
Team Arrow is safe, until they realize Darhk took the laptop with the anti-Rubicon program. (How he knew to take this is — like most things this episode — unexplained.) In essence, they have two hours until more than 15,000 nuclear missiles blow up the world. As their time on Earth draws to an end, a sense of gloom hangs in the bunker air. Oliver, again, questions the choices he’s made, and Felicity, again, reassures him. Usually, I eat these Olicity scenes up, but I’ve seen this one way too many times and having their discussion center on Laurel’s death seemed out of left field, considering she’s barely been mentioned.
Curtis, however, convinces Oliver that he can still bring hope to the city by revealing that the Green Arrow’s speech at the beginning of season four inspired Curtis and Paul to double down on Star City. In the next moment, we see Oliver jumping on top of a taxicab in broad daylight and giving a speech to freaked-out citizens, who are rioting because they know missiles are headed their way. There’s no non-cheesy, grounded way to do this scene. The world is ending within a matter of minutes, and they stop to listen to some (former) billionaire give them a speech about hope? There’s not even one heckler? It’s supposed to be uplifting and inspiring, but it felt unearned and like an attempt to shoehorn a bit of Barry Allen into Oliver Queen.
In the middle of this speech, Felicity and Curtis are able to divert a missile heading straight for Star City, but there’s the matter of those other 15,000 missiles. To stop them, Felicity, Curtis, Thea, and Malcolm track down Felicity’s hacker-ex, Cooper, who’s manning the Rubicon program from an abandoned warehouse. I’m at my Malcolm limit. I can’t buy that Team Arrow would bring him into the fold without a moment’s hesitation. HE GAVE DARHK THE IDOL, LEADING TO LAUREL’S DEATH. HE HELPED ANDY BETRAY DIG. HE DRUGGED THEA … AGAIN. I love John Barrowman, but Malcolm is such a hole in this show’s logic that it’s distracting.
While Felicity and the gang track Cooper, Oliver, as the Green Arrow, faces Darhk one-on-one. Not Oliver’s smartest move, but okay. The two fight on the street, but that fight is interrupted when Darhk gets pegged with some kind of rock. It’s a large group of citizens who want Darhk to “get out” of their city. It’s kind of an amusing moment, and Neal McDonough sells it well. Darhk opens his mouth wide, and the whole crowd falls to the ground like Darhk’s got some kind of magical halitosis. Darhk turns his attention to Oliver again, but, before you know it, the crowd rises again.
Eventually, in the spirit of Ghostbusters II, the crowd gives Oliver enough hopeful happy thoughts to repel Darhk’s magic, as he had learned to do in “Genesis.” Only, confusingly, this time it not only protects Oliver from Darhk’s life-force trick, but it seems to take away Darhk’s magic completely. At least that was my takeaway when Darhk is forced to engage in a hand-to-hand combat in the street without the use of magic. But it’s never explained, and it becomes even less clear when Darhk later senses that Cooper is not doing his bidding and kills him remotely with magic. So does Darhk have magic or doesn’t he? It doesn’t really matter, though, because, as the citizens and Ghosts face off in a massive street rumble, Oliver stabs Darhk with an arrow. Darhk is deahd.
Although Darhk is gone, Team Arrow isn’t in the mood to celebrate. While gathered in the bunker, Lance announces that he’s been officially terminated as a police officer and is going to hit the road with Donna. Thea, too, announces that she’s going to be spending some time away from her Speedy persona. Dig also is planning to do some soul-searching away from Star City. This was an odd and awkward scene with everyone making these declarations one after the other.
Meanwhile, Oliver visits Laurel’s grave and does some soul-searching of his own. (Why am I not surprised that Oliver doesn’t have chemistry with Laurel’s headstone?). Felicity approaches and encourages Oliver to embrace the fact that he’s got both light and dark within him. While there, he gets a call from a city official: They want Oliver to become mayor.
It’s unclear whether that means Oliver will be hanging up his vigilante hood. In the final scene, Oliver is alone in the bunker, staring at the row of vigilante costumes. Felicity pulls a Malcolm and appears out of nowhere, surprising Oliver. The episode ends with a nice shot of the two standing side-by-side in front of the costumes.
Look, did Olicity get a full resolution of their relationship? No, but it’s a work-in-progress and one of the more realistic things in this episode. Some may feel cheated, but life can’t always be tied up neatly with a drive in the sunset. Although I always love more Olicity scenes, I’m satisfied with the direction the two are headed.
Overall, Arrow’s fourth season was big, bright, and ambitious — a direct response to criticisms that the quieter and darker season three meandered too much. But the same energy and action that made this season feel more visceral and thrilling could result in chaotic pacing and unceremoniously dropped plots (e.g., Thea’s bloodlust). Of course, having to spend so much of the season’s first half setting up Legends of Tomorrow did the show no favors, in terms of rhythm and internal logic. Let’s not even mention those flashbacks.
That said, that Arrow — the grandfather of CW’s superhero lineup — is so intent on remaining ambitious going into its fifth season is one of the reasons I love this show. Viewers may not always like the show’s choices (e.g., Laurel’s death) and those choices aren’t always executed successfully (e.g., tonight’s episode), but where’s the fun in watching the exact same thing year after year? (Except, of course, when that thing is Olicity.)
On a personal note, this is my last Arrow recap for Vulture. Thank you all for joining me each week and for your continued patience with my headline puns. I wish I could continue on for season five, but other work obligations and creative projects make my weekly recap appointment difficult to keep.
But don’t ask me to say that I don’t love you, Arrow. I plan to keep watching, sharing opinions, and — of course — endlessly (and pointlessly?) waiting for Oliver to take his shirt off again. As always, you can follow my Star City musings on Twitter. Thanks for reading.
Taiana kills Reiter, Oliver kills Taiana, and Amanda Waller reappears. “What was the point?” Oliver asks Waller. I was wondering the same, Ollie.
- “A sane person wouldn’t live here,” Curtis explaining to Oliver why he and Paul almost moved out of Star City.
- Oliver snapping Taiana’s neck.
- Oliver trailing off after he realizes Felicity’s probably already thought to track her laptop through GPS.
MISSING THE MARK
- Those two extras nodding their head at each other during Oliver’s speech.
- Does Donna know Oliver is the Green Arrow? Darhk said the Green Arrow “used to live” in the loft in front of her.
- So Thea’s big getaway plan was to pick lint off her pants?
- A lot of cheesy and overly earnest lines.
NUMBER OF SHIRTLESS STEPHEN AMELL SCENES: 0 (I’m willing to wait for it.)