Arrow “Schism” Review (Season 4, Episode 23)

I wanted to like Arrow’s season four finale. I really did. Alas, it just wasn’t meant to be. Instead of an emotionally impactful story that wrapped up the season long story arc, I got a jumbled mess that left me more frustrated and confused than excited for what comes next.

Let’s start with the constant flashbacks to the island. I don’t recall whether I’ve mentioned this at all this season, but at this point, the island flashbacks are completely unnecessary. They’re not providing any new insight into Oliver and they’re not expounding upon current events. Not really. Everything that we learned about the totem and the power it gives the owner, we found out in present time. It would’ve been a more effective use of the show’s time to scrap all that island stuff and spend that time building Damien Darhk as a more effective villain.

Then there was Oliver’s supposedly rousing speech to the citizens of Starling City. It’s all well and good to try and calm the panic, but um, did everyone forget about the NUCLEAR MISSILE headed toward the city?! Oliver giving a speech is just fine, but how about someone keep working on figuring out a way to stop the missile’s while Oliver’s talking. The missile was literally about to drop right down on Oliver and everyone else while he’s proclaiming that the city will survive. Um…no. Not if y’all just keep standing there feeling all hopeful and stuff while a missile detonates on top of you. That lack of urgency and lack of tension throughout that scene specifically (but the episode in general) didn’t make sense considering the very real threat of nuclear annihilation looming above.

Oliver’s decision to kill Damien Darhk would’ve been more of a surprise if that’s not exactly what Oliver’s been trying to do the ENTIRE season. Not to mention the fact that Oliver essentially told the audience early on that he was going to kill Damien when he lamented to Felicity the fact that doing things “a different way” didn’t yield the positive results he thought it would. I also had to scoff when the show (through Darhk) compared this situation to the situation with Slade Wilson. Why did I scoff? Because the story that the show crafted leading up to the Oliver/Slade confrontation was a much more focused, cohesive, interesting story than the one they’ve told leading up to the Oliver/Damien confrontation. The show didn’t give me an opportunity to really become invested in Damien the way I was in Slade. Even though I knew Slade had to be stopped because his mind was poisoned by a combination of mirakuru, jealousy, and rage, I was still very much interested in him as a character. Slade did more than just show up on screen and proverbially twirl his mustache. Slade was surgical and precise in his decimation of Oliver and everything Oliver cared about. The show spent the entire season building up to the inevitable confrontation between Oliver and Slade, so when it came, there was no way for it not to carry significant emotional weight. Furthermore, Slade’s connection to Oliver was deeply personal. Thus, each attack Slade delivered and each loss Oliver suffered was a blow to the audience just as much as it was to Oliver. I cannot say the same about Oliver and Damien Darhk. Yes. Darhk had a nefarious plan to destroy Starling City (and the entire world apparently) and Team Arrow needed to stop him. But stop the bad guy and save the world is kind of an abstract and generic theme. Confrontations between heroes and villains are always much more exciting when there is a personal connection and a personal reason for the fight. It seems the show recognized this towards the end of the season which is part of the reason they had Darhk kill Laurel. It was a quick and dirty way of creating an emotionally significant reason for Team Arrow to risk so much in going after Darhk and Oliver deciding to kill Darhk during their final showdown.

This was an extremely anticlimactic season finale. Oliver’s personal journey this season has been muddled at best, and it feels like the show has regressed him emotionally as opposed to moving him forward. Many people blame Olicity for this, and to some extent that’s true. But not in the way I’ve heard people argue it. Olicity is to blame to the extent that the writers didn’t seem to understand that Felicity doesn’t need to be a two-dimensional character in order to be with Oliver, and Oliver doesn’t need to be emotionally retarded to be with Felicity. Given the nature of their lives, there was more than enough dramatic ground to mine there without taking away pretty much everything that made Felicity awesome in the first place and negating the emotional growth we’ve seen from Oliver over the last three years. I was also pretty disappointed with the way they wrote Diggle this season as well. It was like they replaced the Diggle I’ve spent three years getting to know with a completely different person. The change was abrupt and didn’t seem to flow organically from the story at all. I’m also wondering why Team Arrow hasn’t installed some kind of alarm system on their not so secret hideout. It wouldn’t stop the bad guys from invading the hideout (every single freaking season) since apparently the address is printed in all the bad guys’ address books. But at least they wouldn’t be able to sneak up on Team Arrow so easily. I mean honestly. It’s pretty much beyond ridiculous that HIVE was able to just walk in on Oliver and Co. without so much as a cat bell ringing. This was an extremely weak episode and did nothing to inspire excitement for next season. The ending was more bleak and depressing than anything else. Arrow has suffered a great deal this season because it seems to have lost sight of its own story and its own voice. My feeling is that since it’s been serving as a springboard for all the network’s other DC projects, Arrow doesn’t seem to know what story it’s telling anymore. That’s a problem. Hopefully, the powers that be will spend some time over the summer getting back to basics and finding Arrow’s voice again because I kind of miss Arrow.