This review contains spoilers.
After eight seasons, and many earths, Oliver Queen has been laid to rest and Arrow is finally over. It can be difficult to stick the landing on something like that, especially after such a stellar final season. Unfortunately, after two deaths and a few memorials during the Crisis, Arrow itself struggled to come up with much new to say about Oliver Queen’s legacy and the end of the show that started it all. While there will surely be fans who have a good solid cry over it or enjoy the allusion to Diggle as the Green Lantern, that feels woefully inadequate compared to the high standard season eight has set.
How one feels about the series finale will largely depend on how heavily you scrutinise finales as a rule, how much stock you put in Olicity, and if the epilogue to the Harry Potter series worked for you. Do you enjoy hearing about what job everyone got, who they marry, and how they all named their kids after dead people? If so, have I got an episode for you! On the other hand, if you were hoping for an actual plot or a meaningful goodbye, Arrow only has a safe, surprise-free middling episode to offer – at least for tonight.
In a rather unusual situation, there are two other series finale-esque episodes of Arrow to which we can compare: the gut-wrenching season seven finale (Emily Bett Rickards/Felicity’s last episode) and the emotionally tense last episode before the crisis, season eight episode seven. In both of those, the episodes themselves had more narrative drive, which helped stave off the feeling of moving from one sad tableau to the next that largely characterised the actual finale. The actual goodbye portions of both episodes were also stronger, with Oliver and a number of other characters giving some of their most moving speeches. On the contrary, tonight’s finale felt like all the trappings but little substance.
First, the good. So many of these endings are exactly what any fan would hope for their beloved characters. John and Lyla are together with their kids, headed off on a new adventure, and there is, of course, that delightful glimmer of the Green Lantern ring for Diggle. After John being excluded from Ollie’s deathbed twice during the Crisis, it was lovely for him to continue his role leading the team in Oliver’s absence. Felicity was right – it had to be John to speak.
Rene is on the path to becoming a (non-corrupt) mayor, with the blessing of the once-again-alive (outgoing) Mayor Quentin Lance. Of course that takes some of the wind out of the emotional sails of Laurel making her peace with his death, but it also means he might appear on Green Arrow & the Canaries, so you win some, you lose some. Dinah is headed off to some other city where she can help others, an appropriately mysterious way to keep us in the dark for the spinoff show. Thea and Roy will get married, and while him leaving her was never properly explained, I can somewhat accept that because these two deserve happiness and the poor guy lost an arm for crying out loud. Bygones!
It was good to see Stephen Amell back in action in the hood one last time, and for a show that relied so heavily (and it truly became heavily, though at first it was so lightly) on flashbacks, it was a nice element to bring back. The documentary conceit was a good one, particularly bringing back the preexisting Marcia Pedowitz and the Emerald Archer documentary. However, it was dropped early on unceremoniously and never mentioned again. For those who only watch Arrow, it’s rather jarring to hear that the entire world knows about the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the compression of the earths into Earth Prime, and the existence of a number of anomalies. That feels like information that could cause serious issues, which aren’t unpacked here.
This episode is plagued by a strangely lifeless pacing. While they crammed a fair amount of facts in there, very little actually happens, and the episode almost never feels like it’s propelled forward by its own plot. Instead, boxes are checked as explanations are deemed adequate. Mark of four tattoos, done. Statue, unveiled. Moments that should hold significant emotion, like Felicity seeing the team for the first time since Oliver died, many for the first time in years, are brushed over in favour of gathering everyone around the bunker’s computer station for the shot we all want to see. I loved many of those big setpiece moments, like Oliver and Felicty reuniting, but there were almost no surprises, and much of the rest of the episode felt like awkward preamble.
It seems Arrow would like us to think Oliver Queen is responsible for any post-Crisis changes. In turn, that means he also chose not to make some changes, as Laurel points out, like not bringing back the Laurel he grew up with from his own earth. He let Dinah’s Vincent stay dead, Connor struggle with addiction (and whatever happens to his parents to lead the Diggles to adopting him), Rene’s wife to still be dead, Tommy Merlyn to still be Tommy Merlyn, and R’as al Ghul to be a dead homophobe who wanted his daughter to be “normal.” And that’s just on this one show! Do they really want to assign all that god-like intentionality to Oliver?
Moira’s explanation to Thea for their father remaining dead, that Oliver probably couldn’t change anything that changed himself, only kinda-sorta makes sense. Where is their step-father? Didn’t Moira’s death make a huge impact on him? It feels like convenient logic. I’m happy to see Susanna Thompson as much as Paul Blackthorne‘s Quentin and Colin Donnell‘s Tommy, but it never occurred to me that the changes in the universe were Oliver’s intent, and making it so seems to needlessly complicate things. Like so many touches added to series finales, it might sound nice on a surface level, but it collapses under even the lightest of scrutiny.
In the end, while this is by no means my favourite episode, I’ll be thinking of what made the show special. The bond between Oliver and John, Felicity and Oliver getting to spend some sort of cosmic afterlife together, and the legacy of Oliver Queen and Arrow. As Quentin and Diggle said, Oliver Queen came such a long way while we knew him, from an isolated man with a plan, focused on vengeance, full of anger, with a sizeable ego, to a proud papa working with a team, motivated by love and justice, who learned the value of patience, sharing his emotions, and letting others take the lead. As John Diggle said, “the Oliver I met eight years ago is not the one we say goodbye to today.” For that we are lucky, and I am grateful to have been along for the ride, even when it was bumpy.