Arrow raced to the finish line this year, and for good reason – with the show ending, a primary cast member leaving, and an ultra-sized crossover to set up, the show had a lot to do. Oh, and it had not one but two stories to tell. That’s too much, man. And for the most part, it actually works. I’m almost as out of breath as that time I tried to tell someone everything that happens in Aquaman. The finale didn’t nail every part, but it got the important parts right for what feels in some ways like part of a series finale.
So let’s talk about what didn’t work for me, and then we’ll talk about what worked – with full spoilers.
What Didn’t Work
This season has been about Oliver stepping out into the light, embracing a public version of the Green Arrow, and finding a way to be a hero and have a family. Part of that has been Oliver learning about and acknowledging his family’s final secrets. In particular, that Oliver has not one but two half sisters. The second, Emiko Queen, was this season’s surprise reveal and secret villain.
Emiko’s story and the stakes of it never really landed for me until her final battle with Oliver, when the two laid the entire story out and talked about it. Her appearances mostly felt tedious to me, and that’s not a judgement of the actress or character but rather how Emiko was used. She was meant to be this character with a lot of genuine hurt, but instead became more like a mustache-twirling villain whose motivations felt more more and more far-fetched.
When her face-melting drones were all frozen and the bomb disarmed, it was time for the pair to finally talk, and it was only then that any of what Emiko was feeling began to land. This was all set up well by a return of Colin Donnell as Oliver’s long-dead friend Tommy Merlyn, who returned as Oliver’s inner voice and gas-induced fever dream, to talk some sense into him.
Because Emiko’s motivations didn’t land, neither did anything her organization, the Ninth Circle, was doing. Ultimately, every moment spent on the Ninth Circle felt like wasted time, and nothing about this part of the episode felt like a season finale. As flat as some of the villains organizations hell bent on destroying Star City in particular have fallen, none were so toothless as the Ninth Circle.
And can we talk about the acting that went down when Emiko’s drones were febreezing the local strip mall? I don’t really ask a lot of extra actors, but this stuff was especially bad.
What Did Work
The latter half of this overfull episode was actually wildly successful. One of my biggest questions was how the writers would handle writing off Felicity Smoak in a way that felt believable and true to the show but still let Emily Bett Rickards off the hook for season 8. And they actually nailed it and set up a very different final season.
We all knew season 8 would be different, though. We started to get the idea when Oliver had an off-screen conversation with the Monitor during Elseworlds. After a montage of Oliver and Felicity enjoying a quiet married life together for a few months, that conversation came home to roost.
During one of those quiet moments, the Monitor appeared in the Queen family’s off-grid cottage to reveal what we all kind of knew once the CW announced that Arrow season 8 would be a much, much shorter one at just 10 episodes instead of the usual 20-something: Oliver Queen will die during the upcoming Crisis on Infinite Earths. But it’s not that he’s going to be caught unawares by his final moments.
Instead, he has to go away with the Monitor to prepare for the Crisis, and that tells us just how permanent all the goodbyes that preceded the Monitor’s coming actually were.
Before this, Oliver passed the torch to Diggle, Dinah, and Rene, and the scene ended with the team shutting down the bunker and the set disappearing into the darkness around Oliver. The true weight of all of that hits doubly hard when the Monitor shows up, because we know that these were real goodbyes. I’m not sure whether we’ll see John Diggle in season 8, for example, but the got-your-back status of Diggle and Oliver’s relationship is forever changed after this. Friends forever, but no longer brothers in arms. This goodbye was a cathartic flip from the grim, lonely Arrow we’ve seen in previous seasons, who actively resisted the idea of being part of a team. Looking back it almost looks like the writers had a plan.
With the Monitor’s words, the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover is truly set in motion. Arrow season 8 will be setup for the crisis and puts Oliver firmly at the center of the whole thing.
But most important is the fate of Felicity Smoak. By taking Oliver away from his true love, we now have a good reason for why Felicity won’t be present next season. The goodbye the couple shared was genuinely emotional – probably for the two actors as well as for us, sitting and watching at home. While Oliver and Emiko’s goodbye didn’t quite land, these final moments with Felicity and Oliver were just about perfect.
And to put a nice bow on all of it, the 2040 storyline tied back into the whole thing perfectly. It hit home that, while Oliver was done saving Star City, Star City still needed saving – and that he’d picked the right team to do it. As the story ended, with Oliver and John’s kids and the remaining Star City vigilantes victorious, Felicity surprised us by meeting up with the Monitor, 21 years later, to go to a place where she can’t come back from. I suspect that we’ll see Rickards again in the series’ very last moments. Instead of undercutting Oliver’s sacrifice, it felt like a satisfying ending for Felicity.
Very little of this episode actually felt like a season finale. Half of it felt like a mid-season finale or just another episode; the other half felt like a series finale, because when Arrow comes back this fall, I think it’s going to be a very different show for those 10 episodes. That this finale managed to do as much right as it did in the time it had is kind of a minor miracle and it has me looking very forward to whatever season 8 holds.
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