Arrow – Season 8 Episode 10
Arrow ends its 8 year run with the return of some old friends and a final goodbye for Oliver Queen.
Planned series finales are difficult because the writers have to come up with a way to conclude a show in a way that proves satisfying for fans while also finding the right final words to say about something that many will hold dear. In a way it’s easier if a show is abruptly cancelled because “what happens next?” becomes an enduring mystery that can’t be blamed on those producing it.
The ending of Arrow was built up in a way that has never been done before on television with a final season designed as a love letter to fans of the show combined with preparation for the end and a mega crossover event between several other airing TV shows acting as part of that. It was a great idea to do it this way as there was room to explore different aspects of what makes Arrow special while allowing “Crisis on Infinite Earths” to supply the epic confrontation that will be expected by those who follow the show and the universe. This leaves the final episode to act as something of an epilogue where the remaining characters along with the audience get the chance to reflect and say goodbye in a very deliberate way. Is the finale perfect? Of course not -and I’ll get into why that is as the review progresses- but it delivers where it counts; in meaningful character moments.
Diggle is the focus of the finale with every aspect of the episode revolving around him in some way. This makes perfect sense as Diggle was there from the very beginning and was the first extra hand brought into Oliver’s mission. Over the course of the series they became brothers in everything but blood and there is nobody who knows Oliver better. In his absence he naturally falls into a leadership role and is deeply affected by the loss of his best friend.
The whole episode is basically an extended funeral where various characters all have an opportunity to talk about how much Oliver meant to them. Oliver isn’t directly present but his influence hangs over every second of screen time in one way or another. This feels right as funerals exist for exactly that purpose. People show up, pay their respects, share stories of the deceased and then get on with their lives without the person they lost. There’s something comforting about the idea of sharing grief with others going through something similar before drawing a line under it and getting on with life. Attending the funeral isn’t the end of the grieving process but it’s an important part of it and this episode deals with how the characters deal with closing this particularly significant chapter of their lives.
I can only write these reviews from my own perspective as a huge fan of the show and I would definitely say that the episode absolutely succeeds in what it sets out to do. Every emotional beat lands exactly as its supposed to assuming you’re invested in the characters and what they’ve been through together. This is a production team that respects the fanbase that enabled them to create 8 years of television while also having an awareness of what makes for strong characterisation.
The focus on Diggle is a great idea as Oliver’s mission impacted a lot of lives with many of them appearing here. It would have been so easy for the episode to be overloaded with cameos and fan service but using Diggle as the anchor means that everything comes back to him before becoming unwieldy. Diggle becomes the audience’s rock just as he was Oliver’s and that’s a perfect way to take the viewer through the final step in the journey that ends with saying goodbye to the show.
One thing that every show is still working through is the fact that the events of “Crisis on Infinite Earths” ended with the creation of a whole new world where all airing CW shows exist on the same Earth. Many things have changed as a result of this and it was unclear before now whether those changes were something Oliver did on a conscious level or if it was a side effect of whatever went on to reboot the universe. There isn’t a definitive answer on that but this episode heavily suggests that Oliver fixed a lot that went wrong in the previous reality. The opening scene appears to be a replay of Moira’s death at the hands -or sword- of Slade Wilson but this time it ends with Oliver freeing himself and stopping Slade from killing her. As the episode progresses we learn that Tommy, Quentin, Moira and Emiko are still alive with Emiko being far less villainous than she was during her last appearance. If it was Oliver’s doing to bring these people back then it gives them a second chance which fits with what he had been established to want for all of them.
This is one of those inclusions that works on an emotional level but doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Moira offers the possible explanation of Oliver being unable to undo the deaths that changed him which means that Robert remains dead because if he hadn’t Oliver would never have become the Green Arrow. It ties into the realisation he had just before Crisis that ending up on Lian Yu was an essential part of shaping the man he would become. In order to have that experience his father needs to die which means at least some of his journey has to be defined by tragedy.
The trouble with Moira’s theory is that it doesn’t make sense when you think about it. Tommy’s death changed Oliver a great deal by informing how his mission would change in the second season and Moira’s death had a profound effect on him for different reasons. It’s one of those catch all explanations that sounds profound in the moment but is actually complete nonsense. It also doesn’t matter because it is only a theory that Moira has. It couldn’t be anything else because she’s far from an authority on how these things work so it reads like something she says in order to take some comfort in Oliver’s sacrifice. She chooses to see this new universe where she wasn’t impaled by a sword as a gift from Oliver because that gives his death meaning for her. Attributing bizarre things that happen to the unseen hands of deceased loved ones is a common thing for people to do when grieving so it could easily be seen as that. It’s clearly something the episode wants us to take as a given but interpretation is in the eye of the beholder.
Accepting that Oliver gifted his friends and family a better world that undoes a lot of the heartache endured over the years opens up a can of worms with the lack of Earth-1 Laurel’s resurrection being the only element the episode actually addresses. There’s no real answer for why the Earth-2 Laurel is the only one there though subtext implies that she is living out her second chance and deserves the opportunity to carry on with it. It’s unclear why Rene’s wife, Rory’s father, Diggle’s brother, Dinah’s partner Vincent, Barry’s parents and pretty much any other loss suffered by a character on any of the shows. I’ll personally choose to believe that Oliver provided the spark that rebooted the universe and that reboot had some unintended side effects rather than the whole thing being a conscious design on his part.
Another potential issue with the return of various characters is that it could cheapen their deaths by undoing them. I don’t believe that to be the case as all of the main characters have their memories of the previous reality meaning that the losses they endured still happened for them and were still shaped by the impact they had. The shows now take place in a reality where these things never happened but the impact is still real. It’s also worth noting that they only appear in an episode designed to pay tribute to Oliver so the characters may never be seen again which means that there’s nothing to undo. The Arrowverse has proven that anything is possible and there are plenty of shows to choose from to bring these characters back but bringing dead characters back doesn’t do a disservice to what their loss represented in this context.
In the case of Quentin it adds considerable weight to this closing chapter. He gives a speech where he chronicles his complex relationship with Oliver from hating him as both Oliver Queen and his alter ego to seeing him as a hero as well as a good and honourable man who acts as a symbol of the potential for change that exists within everyone. Quentin is the only one equipped to say those words because he has been there for every step of the journey and has had his opinion changed because of Oliver’s actions. It’s a really moving speech delivered wonderfully by Paul Blackthorne. It sums up the theme of growth that existed right from the beginning.
Growth should be on the mind of the viewer throughout this episode because of the flashbacks to an unseen portion of season 1 taking place shortly after Diggle joined Oliver. It paints a very clear picture of Oliver back them and shows how far he had to go to become the man that he was at the point of his death. Early season 1 Oliver is angry and single minded with a very brutal approach to accomplishing his mission. Diggle tries to tell him that he doesn’t need to kill in order to cross names off his list but Oliver is too stubborn to listen to that advice because he feels that death is appropriate justice for those people. He is also resistant to the idea of bringing Diggle out in the field with him so this is arguably the point in his life where he has the furthest to go. The fact that he lets one of the targets live and softens on the idea of letting Diggle come with him by the end of this series of flashbacks is a clear indicator of the influence Diggle had on him from early on. It’s a great use of the flashback device to chronicle Oliver’s growth by showing him at the beginning of his mission as a contrast to how he was at the end. Stephen Amell does a great job slipping back into the tortured and damaged season 1 Oliver as well.
Diggle’s main issue over the course of the episode is that he is struggling to accept that Oliver’s mission is over. Star City is apparently completely crime free which means that there is no need for vigilantes to protect it any more. If this new world is a gift from Oliver then he’s rendered everything that gave life meaning for some obsolete. Diggle doesn’t know what to do with himself if he’s not helping Oliver save the city and Dinah doesn’t see the point in being chief of police in a city that doesn’t seem to need police. The desire to hold onto what is familiar and comforting is very relatable as is the need to accept that life changes. Adapting to that change in circumstance is Diggle’s arc for the episode and doing so allows him to honour Oliver properly as he is taking the opportunity that his sacrifice allows him to take. His speech sums up everything that he comes to accept and realise with talk of the universe that now exists because of Oliver -both in a literal and meta sense- and the uncertain future for each of them that they have to face without him in it. David Ramsey’s sorrowful line delivery perfectly shows Diggle’s grief and the reluctance to accept that he has lost the man he considers a brother.
The uncertain future he talks about is punctuated by three key teases of things that could be followed up on. Most obvious is Mia’s return to her own time after having the opportunity to attend her father’s funeral and see first hand the impact he had on those around him and another is Dinah getting on her motorcycle and heading to another city that needs her help. It begs the question why she doesn’t get sent to 2040 though that’s probably a mystery to be answered by the potential spin-off. The final tease is a mysterious box violently descending from the sky right in front of Diggle that emits a green glow when opened. This strongly suggests that Diggle has been chosen by a Green Lantern ring and will take on that mantle. I really hope that the upcoming Green Lantern TV series will have Diggle as its lead or at least in a supporting role. Alternatively I’d like to see him be a supporting character in the upcoming Superman & Lois TV series as suggested by his move to Metropolis. Either way I’d love to see the further adventures of Diggle as a Green Lantern. It might never go anywhere and amount to little more than excellent fan service but hopefully there is more to it than that.
Fan service isn’t something this episode is lacking in. Long time readers of this site will know that I have a particular fondness for Thea so any time she appears is good by me. Her presence here makes sense because she wouldn’t miss the chance to say goodbye to her brother but there is also some form of closure offered for her when Roy proposes and she accepts. Happiness has been a long time coming for these characters who have consistently had an engaging relationship. Rory’s brief appearance is also welcomed and was used really well. Having him tell Rene how much he’s like Oliver was a great touch as was having his own growth validated by Diggle who tells him he’s a great man.
Felicity’s absence throughout the truncated final season was certainly felt so it was great to see her back for the final curtain. She is largely a background character with a couple of key scenes mostly focused on her inability to hold herself together. The moment she realises that the adult Mia is right in front of her and being reluctant to meet her because she doesn’t want to skip the joy of watching her grow up was great as was Mia making that decision for her by approaching her.
The final scene that picks up from where season 7 ended with Felicity being taken somewhere by The Monitor was a beautiful way to end the series. Felicity joining Oliver in the afterlife that is made to look like Moira’s office at Queen Consolidated because that’s where Oliver first saw her was a really poignant moment. They get to be together in peaceful bliss for eternity as a reward for their collective sacrifices which absolutely works for me as an ending for them.
An emotionally devastating epilogue that emphasises how far the character of Oliver Queen has come since the show began and the wider impact he’s had on the universe he helped create. Using Diggle to anchor the episode was a great idea as a lot of characters made a return so having him as the focus prevented the episode from becoming overwhelming. The finale basically acts as an epilogue after an entire season and a crossover designed to end the show. All of the key characters gather to pay their respects to Oliver before deciding on the next chapter of their own lives. Ultimately it’s an extended funerals exist for those left behind to gain closure on loss. Diggle struggles to accept that loss and how it means that Oliver’s mission is now over but eventually comes to terms with it as is reflected in his very powerful speech about Oliver’s impact on everyone. Quentin’s speech gets at that idea in a different way that could only be delivered by him. Punctuating Oliver’s growth with a flashback to an unseen portion of season 1 taking place shortly after Diggle joined Oliver was a great choice as it shows an Oliver Queen at the very beginning of his journey as a contrast to the man he was at the point of his death.
There are some logical issues such as the suggestion that Oliver consciously made the new universe the way that it is. Moira, Quentin, Tommy and Emiko all return from the dead but there are many who don’t. Moira’s theory is that Oliver could only bring people if their death didn’t change him but that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny as Oliver was changed by the deaths of those who are brought back. There is the reading that Moira is only saying that so she can contextualise her son’s sacrifice in her own mind but the episode is framed to encourage the audience to accept that as an explanation. Either way their return doesn’t undo their deaths as the characters still remember the old world and the impact those losses had on them. The episode does a great job with fan service with Thea accepting Roy’s proposal, Rory telling Rene that he’s a lot like Oliver before having that validated by Diggle who calls him a great man and Mia getting to see first hand the impact Oliver had on those around him. Felicity’s return was welcomed and her key scenes with Mia was brilliantly done. The final scene where Felicity is taken to the afterlife to live out eternity with Oliver as a reward for their collective sacrifices is a beautiful note to end on.
- using Diggle as the anchor for the episode to prevent the abundance of content from being overwhelming
- Diggle’s arc that ends with him accepting that Oliver’s mission is over
- Quentin delivering a speech that could only be delivered by him
- characters honouring Oliver in their own way
- using the final episode as an emotional epilogue
- Diggle’s moving speech about accepting loss and dealing with an uncertain future without a loved one in it
- showing Oliver’s growth by flashing back to the very beginning of his journey
- strong fan service
- a beautiful final scene
- always hitting the right emotional beats
- Moira’s clumsy explanation for why some people have returned from the dead and not others
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( votes)
I’ve been watching Arrow since the very beginning and I’ve been reviewing it since towards the end of season 2. It remains my favourite of the Arrowverse shows and one of my favourite shows overall. It can’t be overstated how profound an impact this show has had on me. Entertainment is important especially if you manage to engage with it on a personal level. I love comic books and super heroes so there was never any doubt over whether I’d watch Arrow though there is always doubt over whether it will be for me. Watchmen is something I don’t enjoy despite it being based on a comic book for example so I have a specific wheelhouse within my wheelhouse.
One thing I’ve been asking myself is: Why did Arrow resonate with me so much? I enjoyed the show right from the beginning because I found Stephen Amell’s portrayal of Oliver Queen to be compelling, I liked the other characters because I was invested in their relationships and found them to be well written. It also had a sense of humour I could engage with, fight choreography that was consistently impressive, plots I found exciting and a general reverence for the source material that never got in the way of good storytelling. In short, there were a lot of ingredients that added up to something I greatly enjoyed when it started and continued to enjoy the more it went on. Not that there weren’t less than stellar seasons but there was always something worth tuning in for.
It can’t be ignored that Arrow ended up being the first in what is now an expansive universe of TV shows that share characters, continuity and a world shaped by the choices of those that inhabit it. It’s so much bigger than Arrow and now has to go on without it but it all started with Oliver Queen returning from a 5 year stint in exile and starting to reclaim his humanity. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that this has grown from the humble beginnings of a vigilante in a relatively grounded world going after rich criminals to stop them exploiting those less fortunate to the fate of the multiverse but the shift happened so organically that there was never an issue accepting it.
When watching the finale I couldn’t help but think about my own life and how things have changed for me. I recently had to deal with a significant personal loss which has taught me a lot about how losing someone close changes you on a fundamental level. My own feelings are echoed by what Diggle says in the final episode about coming to terms with the fact that your life and world will be forever changed by the absence of someone so important to you. I’ve mentioned in recent reviews of other Arrowverse shows that they have all been showing diverse representations of coping with grief which is something I really pick up due to my own recent experience. The final episode deeply affected me because I recognised so much of what I’ve been going through in the eyes of the characters I’ve admired for so long. My reaction may differ from that of other viewers because the episode hit me on a very specific level but it just goes to show how nothing exists in a vacuum and your emotional state is important in how you consume media. If Arrow had ended with this episode a year ago I doubt it would have affected me in the same way. I’m a firm believer in revisiting things you enjoy at different stages in your life because what it means to you will change. I suspect different aspects of Arrow will change over time and it’s a testament to the quality of the show that I’m able to engage with it in different ways.
Of course everyone is different and Oliver Queen dealt with so many different challenges over the course of the series that will connect with people in numerous ways. As cheesy as it sounds as a final statement I’d really like to thank Arrow for being a part of my life and for ending in a way that will stick with me. Rest easy Oliver Queen for you have earned it.
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