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ARROW “Schism” Review: A Fun and Relentless Finale Makes Up For this Season’s Uneven Keel

By on May 26, 2016

Pictured: Stephen Amell as Green Arrow -- Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW

By Justin Carter

Arrow, admittedly, has not been 100% on point this season. It’s been a little tiring seeing how Oliver needs something new to mope about every week, how Malcolm Merlyn has pretty much overstayed his welcome, and how the romantic element between Oliver and Felicity started out sweet and became one of the most unlikable parts of the show.

And then there’s the flashbacks, which fizzled out in terms of interest once Constantine left his guest spot. Not to mention that killing Laurel without giving her any time for the show to live up to the high praise they gave her after her passing simply does not work, which is a shame on multiple levels.

On the other hand, this finale definitely feels like a step up from last season. What helps a lot is that our villain, Damien Dahrk, is a lot more fun than Ra’s al Ghul and has more of a presence. He’s funny enough to be lighthearted without it feeling too ridiculous when he starts eating people’s souls. Neal McDonough is the only person who could ham this guy up to such a silly degree while maintaining his effectiveness as a credible threat, and the show works best when he’s allowed to switch from funny and threatening at the drop of a hat. It even makes sense, in some twisted way, that he decides to wipe out the entire world on the basic premise that he wants to spare his young daughter a world without her mother. (In his defense, kids without parents on this show generally end up being killers, so he’s not entirely off.)

Sadly, Dahrk gets to lean more on the scary switch, though he’s still great when he cracks off some jokes. Losing his wife last week has also left him without a care in the world, so he’s decided to break into Felicity’s loft and steal the computer that can let him launch all the nukes in the world. Keep in mind that all of this happens before the main titles, so the rest of the time is appropriately spent on trying to stop him, and man, is that quite the race against time. It’s always fun when the show goes for action beat after action beat, and it definitely holds true here. Of the different action scenes in this episode, it’s the raid on the Arrow base that stands out as the best. It’s fun, relentless, pretty much everyone gets to do something cool as they take down Ghost after Ghost. And it works on a thematic level as Dahrk’s men destroy everything Oliver and company had been working on for months in just a mere matter of minutes, which is still in shambles come the end of the episode.

If the episode had devolved into a personal fight between Oliver and Dahrk, that would’ve been great. But the nukes have to be stopped somehow, which gives ample time for Felicity and Curtis to do their hacker thing. To be honest, I have no idea if anything they do is remotely possible — the answer is more than likely “no”– but it gets the job done in terms of cementing the latter as a member of the team and giving Oliver the inspiration to make a speech to the people of Star City. I’m not entirely sure how a speech about uniting and overcoming struggles is going to lead to surviving a nuclear bomb, but by this point, you sort of have to let that thing slide and get taken in, as cheesy as it is. These are things that shouldn’t work, but the cast is playing it sincerely and it’s endearing enough to go along with.

Still, as on the nose as that speech is, it doesn’t hold a candle to the citizens deciding to stand up against Dahrk and his Ghosts. If you need an idea of just how cheesy it sounds, just imagine the bridge scene in the original Spider-Man film, and you’re more or less on point here. Again, I have no idea how a bunch of citizens throwing beer cans at a guy who can essentially eat souls works on a practical level — there’s literally nothing stopping Dahrk from snapping all their necks in a domino line — but Oliver gets his mojo back and gets to finally put an arrow in Dahrk. It’s great that the show didn’t even try to do the “is this the right move?” bit; Dahrk is so overpowered that nothing short of Constantine randomly popping in and taking him to Hell would’ve been able to wrap him up just as well. I’m sad to see Dahrk go, since he’s the second best villain behind Slade, but he definitely made the most of his time, so well done on that front.

The fight may be over, but it’s not a win for everyone. Oliver is more or less at peace with himself (I think) and becomes mayor of the city, while everyone else except Felicity decides to leave to get a better handle on themselves. For Thea and Diggle it makes a lot of sense — putting an arrow to a kid’s throat isn’t something you normally shrug off, and ditto killing your brother. It’s easy to see these moves as table setting for what amounts to a soft reboot next season, but the path to get them there doesn’t feel as blatant as it could’ve been. Lance and Donna also decide to skip out of town, and I think I’d be fine if this actually was the last we saw of the former captain. He’s been through so much the past two years that unless next season commits to killing him, I can’t imagine what they can do with him now that he’s been let go by the force. Maybe a private investigator?

Thus ends another season of Arrow, which on the whole has definitely seen some improvements over the last year. While it’s not as great as season two, it’s definitely a step in the right direction and has enough fun to gloss over some of its issues. With that in mind, I do think that it and Flash should follow in suit of their offspring series and slim down their episode count. It’d make the multiple week gaps more bearable, for one thing, and some of these episodes could’ve been cut to better service the main plot. That probably won’t be the case, but it would help maintain the different plots going on. Plus, we got two really good episodes with guest stars in Constantine and Vixen, and it’s hard to fault the season when they’ve got that in their back pocket.

 

Additional Notes

  • Of course Malcolm decides to turn on Damien for no other reason than “hey, I’d rather you not wipe out everyone with nukes, thanks”. Maybe the show should bite the bullet and end him next season.

  • Given the track record of Star City mayors, plus Oliver’s double life, I have no clue how he’s going to juggle all of that without people demanding he be removed from office. I give him a month.

  • Sigh, pour one out for Neal McDonough as Dahrk. If only we could’ve gotten a team up with him and Slade.

  • When this season goes up on Netflix in around August or so, take a shot every time someone uses the words “darkness” or “light.” Just be prepared to also die of alcohol poisoning.

  • Overall grade: B+. Let’s do this again in about 5 months!

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