The biggest challenge in the series finale for Arrow is that the main character, Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen, isn’t there. He sacrificed himself during the Crisis On Infinite Earths finale in order to bring about a new universe. This move served to allow the other Arrowverse series to tweak small things on their shows. Yet, for Arrow it allowed them to, literally, bring back to life fan-favorite characters killed during the run of the series. In giving up his life, Oliver Queen was somehow able to save his mother, half-sister, best friend, alternate father figure, and possibly some others. The episode also served as another retrospective of the series as a whole. It was a victory lap inside the victory lap the show’s been on since the final season premiere of Arrow last Fall.
Though, we did get to see some genuine Oliver Queen action during the episode, thanks to the return of flashbacks. A staple of the first five seasons of the show, they flashed back to a time when Oliver still didn’t fully trust David Ramsey’s John Diggle. Also, the action sequence in these flashback scenes is one of the best and most cinematic in the show’s history.
Still, this episode was a little disjointed. It felt like they really should have taken two hours to tell this final story. An extra hour would help balance the action with the quiet, emotional scenes. It also would have given more space to the returning characters. Still, the episode was a fitting send-off that paid tribute to everything that was ever great about this series.
What Didn’t Work in the Arrow Series Finale
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The Arrow series finale was successful in much of what it tried to do. However, the episode did feel a little maudlin, with so much time spent talking in low tones about how sad they were Oliver was gone. When I learned there would be an A-story (in this case the “A” stands for “action”) I was disappointed. I felt like it didn’t need that, especially after how big each episode of this season has been. Yet, when it happened I was glad William (Jack Moore’s younger version) ended up kidnapped for the billionth time. While it was necessary for the characters to mourn Oliver, I feel like the rest of their stories got a bit of the short shrift. For example, I’d have loved to see the reactions of the resurrected characters learning about their pre-Crisis fates.
The first few acts felt a little discordant, too. They revisited the vigilante documentary motif from last season. Again, this makes sense in light of the revelation that Oliver saved the universe. They also slipped into a flashback and cut, suddenly, to a commercial. Again, part of the Arrow series finale should be about mourning Oliver. Still, I had hoped to see more of how life moved on without him. Also, the resurrected characters, particularly Sea Shimooka’s Emiko Adachi-Queen, deserved some screen time and exposition about how their lives differed from the stories we saw play out over the series. They were the gifts Oliver gave himself, the chance to make right what once went wrong. Oh boy.
Really, all of this would have been fixed with an extra hour of television. And what we got instead was still a pure delight.
What Worked In the Arrow Series Finale
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Despite a choppy first act, the series finale really did capture all that was great about Arrow. We saw so many familiar faces reprising beloved characters. (Though Manu Bennett’s Slade Wilson and Colin Salmon’s Walter Steele were missed.) The first and final acts allowed the characters on the show to give voice to many of the same tributes they’ve made about the show and Amell himself. It was basically a group of characters staring down the barrel of the camera and reminding us that Oliver Queen was a hero. The inclusion of the flashback, to when he was still more murderous, was also a great choice. The action sequence was brilliant, in the running for best in the history of the show.
It also allowed the storytellers to show what Paul Blackthorne’s Quentin Lance said at the statue unveiling. That Oliver Queen was essentially the Punisher (read: a villain) when he started makes his redemption even more impressive. The series was always about Oliver Queen, and all the other characters served his story. Yes, they had their own arcs and each one could carry their own spinoff. Yet, the story Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim wanted to tell was Oliver’s. It begins with his “birth” as the vigilante and ends with his death as “something else,” which Diggle reminds us is “a good man.”
Also, the return of Emily Bett Rickards for the series finale showed how much Arrow really needs Felicity. One gets the sense that if she hadn’t left the show, the series might have continued a few more years. (And, honestly, no one does nonsense tech-hacker speak better than she does.) Her joining Oliver in “the afterlife” was his final reward, and the happiest “death” scene ever.
What’s Next for These Characters
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With the exception of perhaps Colton Haynes’ Roy Harper, most of the major Arrow character have moved on. Rickards left the series behind for other work, as did Blackthorne and William Holland. There is still no word if The Green Arrow and the Canaries will get picked up. Diggle fans got the best ending they could possibly hope for. In the final moments of the episode, he sees a meteorite fall to Earth. He pulls a box from the crater, opens it, and is bathed in a green light. This is the payoff to a long-running implication on the series that Diggle (whose stepfather’s name is Stewart) becomes John Stewart A.K.A. the Green Lantern. Yet, that might not be what happened.
As Marc Guggenheim told Deadline:
“That was something that we’ve been working our way towards for a good long time now. I think for maybe about a year, year-and-a-half we’ve known that this was a moment we’re going to be able to do, and it made sense to do it in the finale because my attitude is that even though the show ends, as long as the characters are alive the characters continue on. One of the things we wanted to do with the finale was give you a sense as to what their post-show trajectories would be. And certainly, Diggle’s is probably the most intriguing.”
The character will be moving to Metropolis, the location of the new Superman and Lois spinoff series starring Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Bulloch. If he shows up on that series, it’s possible that the green thing in that box will turn out to be kryptonite or something. A Green Lantern series is in development for HBO Max with Greg Berlanti and his team. So, it’s unlikely that the Green Lantern would come to the new Superman series. If he doesn’t come back? Well fans can imagine that he did become the Green Lantern and had plenty of cool off-screen adventures.
The Arrow Series Finale Marks the End of an Era, but Not the End of the Arrowverse
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When Arrow began in 2012, it was just supposed to be a grounded superhero series with no powers or aliens. Yet, even in that first season, the sense that it could become something so much bigger was obvious. This show is the backbone of the shared universe of the CW DC series. However, thanks to the strength of shows like The Flash, Black Lightning, Supergirl, and the rest, it doesn’t need Arrow to keep going. Even if Stephen Amell never suits up again, Oliver Queen’s mark on this version of the DC multiverse is indelible. (Though, frankly, I think he will for special occasions, especially if the spinoff gets picked up.)
The Arrowverse is the closest thing we’ve ever gotten in live-action to a real comic book. The series had highs, lows, big drama, and surreal silliness. There were team-ups and resurrections. And, whether the enemies were soldiers armed with automatic weapons or anti-matter ghosts, this dude shot arrows at them. Arrow was a gift. It was a fantastic show in its own right that took big swings into nerdy comic book territory. It helped to birth (at least) the second-best superhero shared universe we’ve got going. The cast and crew took great care to deliver the best they possibly could for fans each week. The Arrow series finale may have been a victory lap inside of a victory lap, but they damn sure earned it.
What did you think of the Arrow series finale or the show in general? Let us know in the comments below.
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This post was updated to include a quote from Marc Guggenheim.
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.