At the end of the fourth act in Monday’s Arrow season finale, fans who aren’t watching the clock could easily think it was the end of the episode. In fact, they might think that it was the end of the entire series. Only, the CW already announced that the show will return for an eighth season. Yet, instead of the typical run of 20-plus episodes, they will only deliver ten. The series will end after next year’s crossover for CW’s DC-roster of shows, also known as the “Arrowverse.” The show that kicked off the most successful live-action shared universe based on D.C. character will hang up its bow. The Arrowverse will be without its Arrow for the first time. It’s fitting that in a year that sees the current iteration of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ending that we see a final chapter in the other great shared universe.
In 2012, Marvel had back-to-back successes with Thor and Captain America, two characters who wear ridiculous costumes. It became clear that superhero interest was not going away. So, the CW tapped Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and others to bring comic book stories back to their network. The first choice was the Green Arrow, with a tougher backstory and, at first, few trick arrows. A grounded and violent show, it eventually served as the launchpad for the Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. Supergirl eventually came into the fold, and this last season it introduced Katy Kane, Batwoman (who just got her series). And it appears that before the show ends, Oliver has one more very important thing to do in order to save the multiverse. Be warned, spoilers for everything below.
The Arrow Season Finale Was a Goodbye for an Original Character
Still, if the show is ending next year, why did this year’s Arrow season finale feel more, well, final than most? The answer is because a key member of what’s known online as “the Original Team Arrow” is leaving early. Emily Bett Rickards announced via Instagram that her time as Felicity Smoak-Queen would end with season seven. Originally in a role not much more substantial than a cameo, the awkward technology expert soon ended up in the Arrow Cave. As time went on, she became an indispensable figure, her tech skills often solving time-sensitive plot problems. Need a lead on a bad guy? Felicity will hack traffic cameras and run “facial recognition.” These amazing feats often take time, usually until the fourth act. Still, she added a lightness to the dark and brooding nature of the rest of the team. Eventually, she became the Arrow’s ultimate love-interest.
Honestly, it’s unclear what the show will look like without this character, often used as the emotional grounding rod for the heroes in crisis. With no powers or special fighting skills, Felicity’s addition turned the team into a family. Now, in the Very Online community, her relationship with Oliver was a point of contention. Some fans felt he belonged with his “Lois Lane” from the comics, Dinah Laurel Lance. While that debate played out online, fans of the pairing and people against both were harassed pretty terribly. That’s part of a larger problem in fandom that’s a discussion for another day. Nonetheless, without Felicity there would be no Arrowverse as we know it. While it’s impossible to believe that she won’t return for, at least, the finale, her character had her last big scene.
Why It Might Be a Good Time for Arrow’s Series Finale
As an episode of television, the Arrow season finale was just okay. The last two acts were big emotional pieces that serve more as a capstone on the series up to this point. The first three acts, which wrap this season’s story line, failed to land with the same emotional impact. The main villain of this season, Oliver’s long-lost half-sister Emiko, had a last-minute change of heart. Immediately after that, she’s killed, which sort of robs the whole story of emotional impact. The storytellers wanted the audience to feel the emotion of Team Arrow’s dissolution, so they needed Oliver’s very complicated half-sister out of the way quickly. This is a shame, and that character deserved better than she got. In fact, the whole mid-season twist that she was a villain probably should have been avoided.
The show has some great villains. Deathstroke, Prometheus, Damien Dahrk, Ras Al Ghul, and, of course, Malcolm Merlyn. Yet, once the storytellers finished their five-season plan for the show, it’s felt sort of aimless. If anything, they’ve fallen victim to the problem faced by a lot of network shows. It can be difficult to make 20-plus episodes of a serialized narrative. So, the best choice for the show might be to finish the story definitively. As another shared-universe flagship character said, “part of the journey is the end.” This season sees the vigilantes in Star City deputized and out in the open. Yet, Oliver’s baggage is such that he needs to step away. He wants to try to have a life for himself, his wife, and new baby. After eight seasons and three spin-offs, he deserves it.
The Tragedy of Emiko Queen: The Green Arrow We Hardly Knew
Emiko Queen is a character that first appeared in the comics very recently, inspired by Oliver’s sister Thea in the show. She’s given a tragic backstory, and she assumes the mantle of the Green Arrow after Oliver’s been arrested for his vigilantism. Like her half-brother, she kills her prey at first. Yet, Oliver tries to teach her what he learned the hard way: killing your enemies only makes you as bad them. Alas, Emiko was apparently already as bad them, because she’s eventually revealed to be the leader of a secret worldwide terrorist organization known as the Ninth Circle. Despite this unnecessary twist, Oliver never loses faith in her. He hopes to save her, and himself by proxy. He may not fail the city, but he (and the storytellers) definitely failed Emiko.
On her first introduction, many fans thought she was clearly being set up to take over the mantle of Green Arrow. Or perhaps she’d become the sidekick like her comics counterpart and Roy Harper taking up the mantle. It seemed like Arrow could on forever, changing out the core cast over time. Sadly, this is not to be. Nonetheless, her story felt like a retread mishmash of those involving the League of Assassins and the show’s Prometheus arc. Still, while the character may have deserved a better storyline, this season was all about Oliver’s failures. This is mostly made clear through flash-forwards, that show a decimated Star City in the future. If Oliver reformed Emiko, that the city would so decline would be unbelievable.
Arrow Introduces the Star City of the Future!
In the flash-forwards, Oliver’s son William returns to the island that marooned his father when the series first began. There he finds an older Roy Harper. They go back to Star City, reconnecting with the surviving characters still in Star City. As a side-note, their attempts to age up the present-day Team Arrow actors barely worked. Often, older characters would stand next to younger ones, and the audience can easily tell the actors are all the same age. This story revolves around a Big Brother-like program that can track people by DNA being used, of course, for fascism and genocide. These flash-forwards were confusing at first, but their role becomes clearer in light of the show ending. Like the new Star Wars sequels, these bits are tough for fans because it suggests the original heroes fail and the younger generation is our only hope.
The main point of these flash-forwards are how after being on-the-run from Diaz, Felicity becomes ruthless. She’s ready to kill to protect her family, and she cares little about the way her tech solution to the problem could be abused. At no point does she ponder the implications of giving the government a system that can track people’s DNA. These are meant to show that her trajectory through the Arrow season finale is set. They are also meant to tell fans the bad news that both Oliver and Felicity fail their ultimate mission. Oliver is unable to prevent his city from becoming a dystopia, and Felicity fails to keep her family safe and together. It’s all very bleak, but in the Arrowverse (with no less than two shows featuring frequent time-travelers) bleak futures are meant to be undone.
What’s Next after the Arrow Season Finale?
The final act of the Arrow season finale features a call back to this year’s incredible crossover, Elseworlds. The mysterious cosmic entity known as the Monitor made a deal with Oliver Queen to spare the lives of both the Flash and Supergirl. The Monitor says that Oliver is destined to die fighting the unknown enemy that’s coming. In the future flash-forwards, Felicity says goodbye to her children at Oliver’s grave. Then she meets the Monitor who says that he can “take her” to Oliver, but she will not return. This suggests that Felicity and Oliver will not see each other again, until at least the finale. Yet, as comic book shared-universe crossover events are wont to do, perhaps things are not as set in stone as we think.
The crossover always happens around episodes eight or nine in the season. With Oliver Queen, essentially, retired as the Green Arrow, it suggests that much of that story will be set-up for the Crisis event. The original Crisis on Infinite Earths comic storyline rebooted the DC comic universe for the first time, killing both Barry Allen and Kara Danvers. It’s unclear how the television Crisis will play out, however the Arrow season finale suggests it will be costly for Oliver Queen. Yet, these Crises are all about making changes and resetting characters’ storylines. It’s very possible that Oliver and Felicity’s could be one of them. They may be able to fix Star City in the future (and team up with the younger heroes) along with the rest of the multiverse.
The Future of the Arrowverse
Whatever happens this winter, the Arrowverse isn’t going anywhere, at least for next year. Since they teased next year’s crossover during Elseworlds, the early renewal of all the Arrowverse shows by the CW wasn’t a surprise. With the news that Batwoman is on her way to the universe, it seems that the Arrowverse will continue to expand even without its namesake. The Crisis will likely shake things up in big ways. Obviously, Arrow is ending. Supergirl, currently hanging out on Earth-38, might be brought into the Earth-1 universe that almost all of the CW characters occupy. Supporting characters might die, and new characters might make an appearance. The parallels to the MCU continue, because while the Crisis will end the Arrowverse as we know it, there is plenty of superhero fun in the future.
With Arrow gone, the Flash will become the senior show on the programming block. Oliver Queen was the stand-in for Batman, e.g. the dark and brooding vigilante. Barry Allen, on the other hand, is the Arrowverse’s answer to Superman (even though Supes actually made it into the canon via Supergirl). The Flash represents hope and has the strict no-killing policy of comic book heroes past. Legends of Tomorrow also occupies a unique, absurdist space. The show is expensive, which is why their seasons are usually little more than a dozen episodes. Supergirl will still be flying around National City, and even if she remains on a separate Earth, team ups with the Flash and Batwoman are likely. Finally, Batwoman will occupy the space Arrow did, featuring a dark knight with family drama and cool toys.
The Last True Season of Arrow
The next season seems like it will be largely focused on the cosmic problem Oliver’s found himself in. So, this means that the Arrow season finale marked the end of the last true season of the show. And, even with its struggles, Arrow served as a fitting foundation on which to build an entire multiverse.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.