TV Review: Arrow - Season 4 Finale "Schism"
Join us each week as we review the latest episode of ARROW. Warning: the following review contains major spoilers for the newest episode of the show.
Episode 23: "Schism"
Synopsis: Oliver teams up with a surprising force in an attempt to stopDamien Darhk and his magic once and for all.
Review: The thing that hurt Arrow so much this season was the banality of it all. The Flash managed to balance darkness with a light-hearted nature which still drove home the drama and stakes of the story while not losing the elements that made that show so much fun. On the flipside, no one on Arrow seems to be having any fun and where the end of this season finale leaves everyone just proves that point. Team Arrow is scattered and fractured as each member must deal with the darkness within themselves. But, before they can do that, they must deal with the personification of that evil, Damien Darhk. By giving Darhk's master plan the kibosh in the penultimate episode, this hour loses all real sense of doom or thrills and instead ends what could have been a strong season on a whimper. Nothing truly feels resolved, it just stops.
In mourning for his dead wife and failed Genesis plan, Damien Darhk steals the Rubicon software from Felicity and launches 15,000 nuclear missiles across the globe. With only two hours to disable the weapons, the world will end in a fiery apocalypse that not even Oliver Queen can stop. This leads our characters to, instead of doing everything they can to stop the detonations, talk to each other about their failures and what they could have done better. Diggle admits how he killed Andy to Layla, Felicity talks to Oliver about Hope, and more whining that just doesn't fit with a group of people trying to stop the end of days. It takes Curtis, the recently critically injured tech support, to explain how the Green Arrow's speech last season gave him hope that gives Oliver an idea. Heading downtown as the citizens of Star City riot in the streets, Oliver jumps atop a car and easily gains everyone's attention. He explains why hope is important and they all nod and listen while the speech is also broadcast on television and radio.
Felicity gets the bright idea to trick the missile into thinking it has detonated and she and Curtis manage to divert and stop one of the 15,000 weapons. The crowd cheers and Oliver has his faith renewed. So, with a small fraction stopped, Oliver decides to go on the suicide mission of confronting Darhk himself. With 27 minutes until the end of the world, this seems like a bad time to have a showdown, but that is what we get. Oliver and Darhk battle in the streets and when all seems lost, the citizens of Star City come to Oliver's defense. That's right, the hope of the people restores our hero's immunity to Darhk's power. What follows is a small budget knock off of the city battle in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES as the people fight Darhk's HIVE forces while our main characters duke it out in the middle of it all. The fighting just doesn't make sense but it gives the impression of a massive showdown despite no real stakes. Felicity finds that her former boyfriend Cooper is the hacker controlling Rubicon and she manages to convince him to stop. Darhk kills Cooper and Curtis and Felicity divert all of the missiles to detonate in space.
Back in Star City, Oliver finally has the upper hand but Darhk teases that he doesn't have the strength to kill. Oliver cites letting Slade Wilson live as being a choice, but Darhk has left him with none. Oliver thrusts an arrow into Darhk, killing him and saving the day. At this point, I was expecting the season long Lian Yu flashbacks to have played a part in the ending, but they had no real impact. The brief flashbacks show Taiana killing Reiter and Oliver then killing Taiana out of mercy, When Amanda Waller shows back up she offers Oliver his foot locker from his first stint on the island. Waller says she can give Oliver more work as an assassin, but Oliver says he has a promise to keep. And that is it, no tease of next season, no closure, nothing. By far, these flashbacks have ruined the narrative device for this show and really have proven there is no reason to use them ever again. But, with Darhk dead and the city saved, what is there left to do?
Well, last season, Oliver and Felicity headed off on their own to try and find happiness. This season, everyone else leaves while the two of them stay. Oliver is elected interim Mayor of Star City and Felicity stays by his side. Diggle decides to re-enlist and leaves his wife and child behind. Why he does this is never explained but it doesn't make a lick of sense. Thea decides she needs to have time to herself to try and find her path outside of being a vigilante. Quentin Lance decides not to return to the SCPD and takes a break, leaving the city with Donna Smoak. With the Arrow Cave decimated and Oliver now the Mayor, what need will there be for a Green Arrow any longer? Oliver is still distraught by the death of Laurel and feels he owes her some sort of resolution in the form of fixing the city the right way, but we are left with a very limp ending that is a low point for this series and doesn't give much of a reason to come back in the Fall.
Overall, this season didn't do much for me at all. There were some good episodes in the mix, but the majority of this season was mediocre at best. There was no excitement and no impact to Damien Darhk as a villain. As much as I loved Neal McDonough's sense of humor in the role, it detracted from taking him seriously as an arch-nemesis or supervillain. Each of the foes that came before him was a better match for Oliver Queen while Darhk's powers should have easily outmatched the mysticism on display here. By embracing the supernatural side of things, Arrow may have jumped the shark and that is a shame after three enjoyable seasons that came before. You can blame it on the forced Legends of Tomorrow episodes earlier in the season or the painfully boring and useless flashbacks, but this season just did not work.
Next on ARROW: Season 5 premieres Fall 2016