Damien Darhk just wants to watch the world burn, that’s all.
WARNING: This review contains spoilers. It’s about the season finale, yo. Oh, and it was disappointing.
When it comes to an Arrow season finale, the stakes are always high, the tension is always strong, and the excitement is always big. You watch a typical season, it has its fair share of flaws here and there, but then, you get to the final batch of episodes. The setup is intense, things are revealed that can’t be unseen, some people die, and the villain’s master plan is becoming a reality. Our heroes have to risk everything to save the day, but once they do, we’re left with a satisfying feeling, and we’re left in awe. The producers pull out all the stops to give us a big bang of a finale that makes tuning in to a long twenty-something episode season all worth it.
But that’s not always the case, is it? It certainly wasn’t the case with “Schism”, the finale to Arrow’s fourth season. I mean, yes, the fourth season definitely had the main ingredients for a typical season ender, but they forgot to leave us in true awe. Instead, they left us with an “aw sh*t”.
Before we get into this review, it’s important for me to say right away that I didn’t entirely hate this finale. The flaws of this finale are not going to make me stop watching this show. I do not like the idea of quitting a show, especially when I’ve already watched more than two seasons. So when I hear of people threatening to stop watching Arrow because of this finale, I shake my head and laugh. But that’s on them. I’ll say it right now, yes, I am disappointed with “Schism”, but I’m not here to bash this series as a whole (like many people in the Twitter-sphere) simply because they dropped the ball with this finale. In fact, it’s hard for me to have to review this series because I am a fan of it. I do forgive it for its missteps, because the show provides me with enough entertainment value to make me forget about my own dull life. However, I can’t blindly ignore its flaws, say each episode was great, post that on a site and call that a review. No, I have to be somewhat critical while still retaining my love for the show.
Season four started with so much promise. They introduced Damien Darhk, a villain with magical powers that could crush his enemies with the flick of a wrist. He instantly proved to be a challenging nemesis for the Green Arrow. Casting Neal McDonough to play the charismatic villain was a great decision. He stole the show almost every time he was on screen. He was equally dangerous as he was gleefully cocky. Then there was that flash forward funeral scene, where the show told us point blank that someone was going to die this season. Most of us speculated on who was in that grave, and we were tricked into thinking it may have been Felicity since she was in a relationship with Oliver, and killng her off could have led to some emotional revenge story elements. Then it turned out to be Laurel Lance. While her death was somewhat emotionally effective, the character wasn’t necessarily a big loss. But either way, it lead the team into despair, but once they overcame their grief, they were motivated to stop Dahrk.
There was a lot to enjoy in this fourth season, such as an abundance of highly stylized fight choreography and spectacular action sequences, some really great performances from the cast, and a lot of character development. There were some situations and storylines that fell short or didn’t pay off, but looking back, I think season four had more good than bad. Of course, I could just be a blind fanboy talking, but this season didn’t effect me in a negative way. I mean, hey, I actually ship Ollicity, so maybe I’m just insane.
So what the hell happened with this finale? Plain and simple, the action was fine, but the writing was crap. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t entertained, but at the same time, some of the action sequences were heavily flawed, and moments leading up to them were weak. Team Arrow is faced with multiple ghost agents who seem incapable of firing their weapons with any kind of accuracy, and are easily taken down with very little effort. The huge brawl by Starlings City’s citizens was fun but very cheesy. Especially when we see ghost agents charge into the melee while holding their rifles instead of just shooting at the crowd. The final showdown with Oliver and Damien trading punches was great though. Then seeing Oliver stab Darhk in the heart with an arrow was exactly what needed to be done. I love that he saw the reality of there not being a choice. Damien Dahrk had to die to protect the world.
Neal McDonough’s performance as Damien Darhk was hands down the best thing about this episode. I knew Darhk was destined to die in this finale, so all I wanted was enough screen time with him and for him to be his usual arrogant self while causing havoc throughout the episode. With Darhk, there was no disappointment. It all went down the way I was supposed to.
Other than the fight scenes and Darhk’s last stand, it’s kind of hard to find anything else that’s truly good about this episode and the outcome of these events. The tone was lacking in tension too. The end of the world was going to happen in less than two hours with nuclear warheads reigning down on the earth, but it didn’t feel that way throughout the episode. Sure, the threat had to be neutralized, and our team was doing everything in their power to end the conflict, but it just seemed like business as usual, and not as urgent as it should have been. Not to mention, everything seemed to have an easy fix.
Can I just flat out say that I really don’t like the decisions made by the characters by the end of this episode? Diggle, okay, he feels guilty and torn apart for killing his brother, Andy in cold blood, then lying to Lyla that it was self defense. When he finally admits what he did, Lyla, being a soldier herself, totally understood, and told him he did what he had to do. That should have been the end of it. But no, Diggle says he has to find out who he is. So he leaves his wife and kid, ditches Team Arrow, and re-enlists in the military?! Does he not think he’ll see some sh*t and have to make tough decisions in the military? Then there’s Thea. Yes, she’s had issues with her bloodlust after coming out on the Lazarus Pit, but she’s since had control over it. In fact, it has been cured. However, she’s freaking out because she threatened to kill Damien Darhk’s daughter when he was about to kill everyone in the loft, starting with Donna. Okay, fine, she felt bad about that, but it’s not like she did it, and leaving the team to “find herself” is totally unnecessary. If she feels that bad about it, she should stick around and redeem herself by helping her brother fix the city. Her decision just seemed so petty. And what is Malcolm Merlyn’s deal? He sure hates to be on the losing team. He had been serving Damien Darhk for the longest time, but since he’s going down, he suddenly starts helping Team Arrow. He’s done this before. He seriously doesn’t know if he wants to be a bad guy or not. You can argue and say he’s doing it to protect Thea, but it’s really ridiculous how suddenly and often he switches sides and helps Team Arrow. Then again, there were thousands of nuclear missiles about to destroy the earth. Maybe he just didn’t want that to happen.
Oliver and Felicity were fine, in my opinion. I don’t have any major complaints against them. I like that while Diggle and Thea help break up the team, Felicity stuck around. I don’t care what anyone says, I love Felicity. I still think her calling off their engagement was wrong, but at least she’s still willing to help Ollie fight the good fight.
This episode was packed with a lot of cheese. Oliver’s speech to inspire hope with the citizens was not a bad thing, but the way it went down was ridiculous and poorly edited. Seeing Ollie instantly stop a massive riot just by standing on a taxi, yelling his words of encouragement was almost hilarious. Then seeing the city unite to tell Damien Darhk to get out of town was something you’d see out of an 80’s family flick where the evil businessman gets booed at. Very silly. And now, because of Ollie’s speech, the very subplot that annoyed me this season came back to haunt me. Oliver Queen, who had to quit his mayoral campaign earlier, is now acting mayor of Starling City, since, you know, Ruvé is dead and all. Seriously?! I know the character at some point was mayor in the comics, but seeing him take office and be the Green Arrow is going to be weird.
Ugh, and then we finally come to the damn flashbacks, which every fan and critic seems to be united in saying, these flashbacks need to end. They designed the show for the current events coincide with the five years Oliver spent away from home. That means, next season will have flashbacks, unfortunately. I’d rather they dedicate an episode to wrap up the flashbacks for good. The way season four’s flashback ended was incredibly lame and dull. Taiana is consumed by the idol’s power, her and Reiter have a brief fight, but Oliver throws a knife into Reiter’s back, killing him… That’s it? The guy blows up a plane with a hand gesture, and he’s killed with a knife in the back? Then to top it off, Taiana can’t control her powers (or her accent), so he begs Oliver to kill her. He does but not without saying he’ll keep his promise to her. What promise? What did I miss? Seriously, I forgot the promise he made to her. Anyway, we see Amanda Waller (one last time before Suicide Squad hit theaters and she’s forbidden to appear on TV) free Oliver of his obligation to A.R.G.U.S. and… well, that’s it, isn’t it? So much wasted time on a flashback that didn’t amount to d**k.
With the team disbanded for dumb reasons, with the flashbacks destined to continue, with Ollie continuing his political career, with no real idea what comes next, it’s really hard to get excited for season five after this disappointing finale. This episode gives the naysayers way too much fuel to complain on “how bad” the show has gotten. Obviously, I’m a more forgiving man than most people. I’ll continuing watching Arrow for as long as it lasts. Not a lot of people are patient when it comes to TV shows though. So for the producers and writers to allow such a mediocre season finale to be made, giving those who are on the fence about continuing the show a reason to leave, it’s really quite shocking. Maybe it won’t seem so bad once it’s revisited after binge watching the entire season in the future, but for now, it stings to have to think about this finale, and imagining what it could have been, how great it should have been.
By the way, did Damien Darhk’s daughter ever come out of that cave below City Hall???