Neither Oliver Queen nor Greg Berlanti could’ve imagined the world they were creating when Arrow began. The dark, gritty, and violent show spawned a universe of optimistic, powerful, heroes. Arrow began as a follow-up of sorts. Smallville had ended and another grounded comic book show probably made a lot of sense at the time. Then, Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and the CW network struck gold as they expanded into The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. Oliver Queen’s universe grew, and so did the group of shows that make up the Arrowverse. Other shows have undergone major changes. Supergirl changed networks and Legends of Tomorrow changed its tone completely. The Arrowverse isn’t static. But since the beginning, Oliver Queen has stood at the center of it, trying to redeem himself for his mistakes and decisions. Now, eight years later, Oliver Queen is dead, and he leaves behind a completely different world.
The idea of a finale for Arrow right now feels a little weird. The Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover marked the end of Oliver’s run as the hero of Star City. But that followed a short eighth season that acted as a season-long series finale. The whole season was not just a build-up to Crisis, but a goodbye tour for both Oliver and Arrow.
Each episode paid homage to different seasons and characters. We got awesome episodes like the one that had Oliver and Laurel stuck in a time loop as they tangled with the idea of letting go and saying goodbye. Or the season opener that took Oliver to a twisted version of his world where Tommy Merlyn was the Dark Archer.
The world he left behind
So what’s left? Oliver spent seven seasons trying to save his city from terrorists, magicians, assassins, and rich guys with dumb ideas. With Oliver gone, the episode looks at the world he gave to his loved ones.
It starts out with a big surprise: Moira Queen is alive.
When Oliver created the Prime universe, he tried to create the world as it was while also creating something he would be proud to leave behind. His mother Moira and best friend Tommy are alive again, and coming to grips with the idea that there is a version of the world where they both died.
Action and inconsistencies
In the midst of all this, we do get some action. Sara Lance drops in on 2040’s Mia Queen and brings her back to 2020 for her father’s funeral. As Mia arrives, her older-younger brother William–the teenage version–has been abducted. The culprit, it seems, is the first villain that Oliver didn’t kill, a human trafficker named John Byrne, who blames Oliver for his ruined life. As much of Team Arrow as the show could get together comes in to help track him down. Roy, Thea, Rene, Dinah, Laurel, John, Lyla, Curtis, and even Rory Regan the Ragman come together with Mia and Felicity to stop him.
The action seems weird in this goodbye episode. It feels like it’s trying to force home this idea of Mia Queen as the new Green Arrow. It doesn’t quite fit. What else doesn’t quite fit is that Laurel and Dinah are in this episode at all. From a show perspective, I get why they’re there. But last week’s episode, the ill-conceived backdoor pilot for Green Arrow and the Canaries, suggests otherwise.
In that episode, Dinah Drake was stuck in 2040, wondering how she got there. Laurel jumped forward to 2040 to wake up Mia and find Dinah. Mia has clearly been woken up, but Dinah and Laurel don’t seem to have gone back. I can’t figure out what the timeline is supposed to be here, and it’s a pretty egregious error. I’m not one to sit and pick at plot holes, but this one is more like a gaping chest wound.
Even so, there are a ton of great moments throughout the episode.
Felicity’s return is at the center of the Arrow‘s finale. Considering Oliver’s journey this year, her departure makes that much more sense. But closing out the series without Emily Bett Rickards would’ve been unthinkable. Rickards is a great actress and brings a lot of emotional weight to this episode. Even her meeting with the adult version of her daughter, Mia, was a tear-jerker moment despite the fact that the two actors had never been on-screen together before that.
Roy and Thea get a few moments together, too. Roy ditched Thea when he was struggling with his Lazarus-fueled bloodlust, but season 8 saw him making peace with that. While Oliver couldn’t get a standard happy ending, Roy and Thea got theirs.
Alongside Felicity at the center of the episode was, of course, John Diggle. Diggle holds down some of the most effective scenes in the finale. He’s mourning his brother in arms and trying to figure out what to do next. The post-Crisis Star City is virtually crime-free (technically, William was abducted in Central City), and that means there’s no need for vigilantes. That makes Oliver’s passing and the end of his mission stand out to Diggle that much more.
Brightest day follows darkest night
Felicity and Diggle get the biggest endings, of course, and both leave questions hanging in the air. At the end of season 7, we saw Felicity step into a portal with the Monitor. Here, we see what happens after. She ends up in sunset-lit office in the Queen Consolidated building. As she looks around the office she appears in, Oliver steps in. It’s not clear if this is the afterlife exactly, some kind of pocket universe Oliver created with his Spectre powers, or something else. The camera pulls out to reveal a whole city around them, so it’s not like they’re stuck in an office building for all eternity, but it’s not clear where they are.
Diggle, meanwhile, is packing up to move to Metropolis. As he packs up his car, though, a spaceship slams into the ground, throwing Diggle back against his moving truck. Diggle investigates the crater and finds a small box. Upon opening it, he’s bathed in green light. On the one hand, this could be just a fun easter egg for fans of the John Diggle-as-Green Lantern idea. On the other, producer Greg Berlanti is making a Green Arrow show for HBO Max.
With the way the Arrowverse has worked to make good on its hints and connections, this would be a weird easter egg to drop in the ongoing universe Berlanti has created. To suggest that he just found a box with green LEDs in it would be cheap. To suggest that Diggle found a Green Lantern ring and then we never heard of him again would be a major ball-drop for the Arrowverse.
An effective, if flawed finale
The series finale for Arrow does what it needs to. We get major closure for the primary cast of characters, and we see many other members of the Arrowverse and Oliver’s history show up, from the Al Ghul sisters to Kara Danvers and Barry Allen. Manu Bennett’s Slade Wilson is disappointingly absent, but we get so many other faces that it’s hard to be too mad.
We get to see the world Oliver created in all of its weirdness and to see the way his actions and decisions affected his friends and family. It’s a somber episode that indeed feels like a funeral. When someone dies, the world goes on. Oliver died, and his world continued. The show was always as much about the city as it was the main characters. Even with the flaws, I’m glad we got to see a world after Oliver Queen.