Thursday, May 26, 2016

Arrow Season 4 Finale Misses It's Target

Season 4 of Arrow was all over the place, failing to play to its strengths.

Wednesday night saw Arrow wrap up its fourth season. In what should have felt anything but anticlimactic, one of The CW's brightest shows came up short in its final act. Like the entire season, Episode 23 (Schism) was all over the place. I may sound like Stefon from SNL, but it had everything. And not in  a good way. Nuclear weapon threats, magical powers, an entire city destroying itself, child hostages, constant flashbacks, mercy killings and many a character questioning their motives.

I'm all for having many dimensions to a show, especially one as good as Arrow- especially in a finale. But this wasn't a case of adding layers. It seemed to be adding things for the sake of it, like a Michael Bay film with explosions.

Damien Darhk was his usual brilliant self, but his character's reliance on magic doesn't play to Arrow's strength as more of a street-level crime show. The focus on Darhk's strength growing with last week's nuclear attack in a different city (costing at least 10,000 casualties) was quickly swept under the rug. Darhk goes from opening the show an nearly killing Felicity's mom and Oliver to being unable to use his powers mysteriously twenty minutes later.

I admire Arrow for trying to include numerous plot points, but it felt a bit much. Here are some of the season's biggest events:

- Oliver and Felicity becoming engaged
- The two re-entering the crime-fighting life 
- Oliver discovering he had a son
- Darkh emerging with his magical powers
- Oliver running for mayor
- Felicity becoming paralyzed
- Felicity becoming unparalyzed
- Olicity breaking up
- The death of Laurel
- Diggle's brother Andy being a Darkh sleeper cell
- An entire fake city being destroyed
- Nuclear threats

The show runs from October to May with multiple breaks in between. Maybe The CW and Arrow should consider a shorter season? Or at least not spread it out as much as they do. Just like Fox's 24 a few years ago, having so many episodes waters down the quality of the show with unnecessary side plots as filler.

Another microcosm of season 4 that came to light in the finale was Arrow's love of flashbacks. While a useful and creative tool in the first few seasons, over the last two and more-so in season 4, they seem overwhelming. With a few per episode, they all begin to blend together and don't always add something significant like they once did. They should be used only when needed, and not even every episode.

Of course with so much going on, major plot points had to be tied up with extreme brevity.Star City is a free for all, and miraculously Oliver decides to hop on a taxi and pull off a Braveheart-style rallying speech. The speech felt incredibly generic (never mind the fact that the angry mobs of people all turn their attention to him almost immediately). Then with a collective shrug of the shoulders, everyone's on board and that's that.

Then with an estimated 27 minutes until 15,000-plus warheads destroy the entire planet, Felicity and Curtis whip together a plan in mere minutes that averts certain destruction, beginning with a missile heading directly towards Star City. I'm all for them figuring out a solution, but to make the odds so stacked and then fixed so easily downplays the entire scenario.

Towards the end, after the multiple crises have been taken care of, the fallout is felt by the characters. Instead of celebrating saving the world, everyone is down on themselves. Former Detective Lance and Felicity's mom bolt. Thea and Diggle decide they need to leave the city for an indefinite amount of time. Oliver is his typical dark self. Felicity is uncharacteristically chipper despite being a drag for the majority of the season. In a very odd scene, after Diggle, Oliver and her are left in their headquarters having a serious heart-to-heart, Felicity mentions that they are the "OG's" and forces a high-five from Diggle. It seemed so out of place and random.

Then at the very end, Oliver and Felicity are the only two left, hinting towards the two reuniting in season five. It seemed forced like most of the episode, as Felicity was an absolute pessimist all season.

I really wanted to come away feeling more from this episode and the season as a whole, but there's no denying they both underwhelmed greatly. Here's to hoping season five returns to its roots and gets back to the basics of what makes Arrow and its cast so strong.

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Let me know @SeanNeutron.

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