Spoilers ahead for “Schism,” the Season 4 finale of The CW’s Arrow!
The short version: Damien Darhk is super-powered by all the people his nuclear attack killed, and Team Arrow is on the verge of just accepting the end of the world. But Curtis inspires Oliver to give a speech, which inspires the city, which inspires Oliver to finally take down Darhk once and for all. Oh, and Felicity convinces her hacker ex-boyfriend to sacrifice himself to stop those 15,000+ rogue nukes. Then pretty much all of Team Arrow calls it quits as Season 4 fades to black.
With the chips down, Oliver finally takes down Darhk
We’ll open with the biggest development: Oliver finally manages to fully counteract Darhk’s magic with the power of hope (Thank you, citizens of Star City!), and drives an arrow through his heart to finally bring his reign of terror to an end. Oliver has been grappling with his own darkness for much of the season (and series), but with Darhk juiced up on nuclear soul fuel, he just couldn’t muster enough goodness to counteract the attack. Felicity’s hope in Oliver that repelled Darhk’s assault earlier this season? Not enough now, apparently.
So, just as everyone is getting ready to switch from a superhero show to the opening of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Curtis stumbles into the room (after being knocked out giving a valiant effort to protect Felicity from Darhk) and tells Oliver the story about why he still lives in Star City — it was his speech on TV as the Green Arrow from previous in the series, where he inspired the citizens to pitch in and save their city. That message reached Curtis, and he thinks another speech might be just the thing to rally Star City once again.
There’s a great sentiment and narrative behind this plot point, where Oliver digs deep and gives the rioting citizens a pep talk on Main Street, but the whole thing came off a bit silly. Yes, it was great to see Oliver have a chance to give a speech as a regular guy instead of the Green Arrow (“Former Mayoral Candidate Oliver Queen” has something to say, people!), but the fact that a crowd went from rioting in the streets to holding hands in the span of about 90 seconds seemed to happen a bit too quickly. But, a bit silly or not, it did lead to hundreds of Star City residents rallying behind the Green Arrow to take down Darhk’s forces in a battle for Star City’s existence (a recurring theme in these season finales).
The final moment between Oliver and Darhk also exemplified just how different a hero he is when compared to his fellow DC and CW pal The Flash. When push comes to shove, Oliver Queen will jam an arrow through your heart if he feels it’s what needs to be done. Never forget this is your grown-up superhero show, people. It came around a bit clunky, but Felicity summed it up perfectly: Oliver is dealing with a schism within himself, as he tries to reconcile the darkness required to be the Green Arrow, with the true hope he has for Star City’s future. As we learned tonight, he’s not alone
Everyone is dealing with their inner-darkness
Though Oliver typically corners the market on inner darkness, this season really spread it around the core cast in a great way. Diggle had one of the best arcs of the season, as he had to deal with the betrayal (and murder) of his brother, and the death of Laurel. Diggle has always seen the good in people, but this season that trait truly came back to bite him. This was a messy story (in a good way), and it's not something he’ll easily be able to get over. As Diggle prepares to take some time off, it really feels earned. The guy needs to decompress and process what has happened.
The same goes for Thea: From post-Lazarus Pit bloodlust, to the fact that she’s the love child of Malcolm Merlyn, Thea has a truly tough road to travel. You could feel the turn when she puts an arrow to the neck of Darhk’s daughter as a bargaining chip, and she circled back to that decision later on, pointing out she really needs to hang up the bow and figure out who she is. Here’s hoping this is the start of some real growth for Thea, who has spent most of the series just being manipulated by Merlyn.
Capt. Lance is also hitting the road for a vacation, along with Felicity’s mother. Which, yeah, they’ve certainly earned it. Here’s hoping Lance finally finds some peace.
So that leaves … Oliver and Felicity. Not together, but closer than they’ve been since the breakup. The episode ended on a hopefully note for Olicity fans, with the two standing side-by-side ready to take on whatever insanity Season 5 brings.
The looming threat of a nuclear apocalypse hung heavy over this episode, though they never really circled back to it and celebrated that win after Felicity convinces her hacker ex-boyfriend to sacrifice himself and stop hacking the system. Sure, the real face off was with Darhk, but that storyline could’ve used a bit more focus. Stopping 15,000 nukes is no easy task. John Barrowman oozes charisma, but Malcolm Merlyn really needs some focus next season. He just bounces around from side to side, joining up in the nick of time, and Oliver doesn’t question it. You remember he kidnapped and drugged your sister like one episode ago, right?
With Curtis set to be a series regular next season, can’t wait to see how they bring him into the fold. He’s proven a great addition this year. Darhk’s tactic of lodging a bullet and slowly moving it through hacker boy’s spine was brutal and ice cold. It was great to see the late Amanda Waller back in flashback mode, where she helps bring some narration to the episode’s major themes. When Oliver gave his speech as himself (out of costume), you just knew they were setting up that mayor’s office twist for the end. But, the political stories were some of the most interesting ones this season, so here’s hoping they double down in Year 5.
Up next: A really long off-season, as we wait to see exactly which catastrophe might bring the team back together for Season 5.