Arrow season 4 finale recap: Schism
Oliver Queen has spent most of season 4 hoping to be the symbol of hope Star City needs to rebuild. He just didn’t expect to face a mystically superpowered villain with dreams of destroying the world.
Yes, Oliver tried to inspire while as the Green Arrow and as Oliver during the failed mayoral campaign, but so often he came up against the debilitating power of Damien Darhk. He lost a public seat of power, he lost his engagement, and he lost a beloved friend. So with not just Star City but the entire world on the brink of nuclear Armageddon, Oliver makes one last stand in the hopes of inspiring Star City.
Does it work? Yes, but not without some major fallout that scatters the members of Team Arrow to the wind ahead of the next season.
Before their decisions about where life goes from here, of course, comes the fight to actually ensure they keep their lives. Powered by the deaths of tens of thousands, Darhk is seemingly unstoppable. Even with the hope and support of Felicity and the other people around him, Oliver cannot counteract Darhk’s magic as the Green Arrow defends Felicity and Donna from Darhk. His surprise appearance at the end of the penultimate episode lays waste to Felicity’s beautiful apartment, and they only escape because Thea threatens the life of Darhk’s daughter.
Speedy hands his daughter over, but as Darhk flees to fulfill his plan, he takes with him the laptop on which the anti-Rubicon program is installed. He also leaves an injured Curtis in his wake, and a giant dearth of hope as the team regroups down at the Arrow base.
The only lead they have is Felicity’s laptop, which she’s currently tracking. But for now they’re powerless, and Felicity’s tracker leads them to the abandoned offices of HIVE. There they discover Darhk and his hacker Cooper Seldon (whose name is just close enough to The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper for it to never feel natural to type) have launched just about, oh, 15,000 missiles that should cause global destruction in about two hours. And one heading for Star City will desecrate the metropolis in 45 minutes.
So, no pressure, Team Arrow.
Though naturally, the team isn’t just feeling the pressure — they’re giving into it, assuming there’s no real way to solve this problem. Felicity directs Quentin to flee town with her mother and find them a safe place, John and Lyla call a goodbye to their daughter just in case they don’t see her. And Diggle is fresh out of positivity, still grappling with killing Andy despite Lyla doing her best to comfort him.
Lyla is still trying to give Darhk hell via Argus, but her attempted assault on his magical chamber beneath town hall goes awry almost immediately. Via an audio comm, the team listens in as they confront Darhk, which is followed by gunfire and shouting. And then, silence.
Darhk has a surprise attack of his own planned, though, as Ghosts swarm the team’s base, tearing it apart with gunfire and flying bodies. The team takes down their attackers, with even Malcolm Merlyn showing up to help keep them safe. (Well, he’s concerned about Thea, at least. Probably.) But their base isn’t the only place where chaos reigns — the news is reporting of the nuclear attack, and there’s already rioting in the streets.
Hope has disappeared from Star City, and even from the man who wanted to restore it. Oliver can’t believe he was ever arrogant to think he could unite the city, but he learns just how wrong he may be about that when Curtis wakes up.
Ambling over to Oliver (and presumably, helping to secure himself a spot on the team in the season to come), Curtis recounts how he and his husband were almost going to leave Star City last fall. It takes a tenacious type to live in a city with almost near-constant terrorist threats from every manner of villains, he explains, but then he saw the Green Arrow on his TV. This hooded figure reminded him this city is worth fighting for, worth saving.
If Oliver could give him inspiration and hope then, why can’t he do the same for others now?
NEXT: Streets of rage — and hope
So Oliver finds his way into the calamity topside, hopping on top of a car and offering a speech to the people around him. The crowd stops and listens as Oliver tries to unite them. They’ve survived an undertaking, a siege, and an outbreak. They’ll survive this too, so long as they cling to one another for strength.
The speech seems to take hold, but the missile clear as day in the sky heading their way doesn’t exactly inspire the same sentiment. Luckily, because it’s so close, Felicity and Curtis can lock onto the missile and disarm it, tricking its computer system into thinking it already detonated. They save the city with seconds left to spare, and that, coupled with Oliver’s speech, sows the seed of hope Star City so desperately needs.
At the very least, his words inspired the rest of the team as they make a play to finally take down Darhk. Felicity, Curtis, Merlyn, and Thea will track down Cooper, as the disarming gave them a window into his whereabouts, while Oliver will head to city hall and take on Darhk. Sure, all those other soldiers died attempting the same, but Oliver doesn’t intend to die tonight.
He wants to go alone, so he asks Diggle to instead help keep the civilians safe, though he’s clearly still in a fragile state as he preps at base. He reveals to Lyla that he didn’t kill Andy in self defense, and she tries to tell him he was merely doing what he had to do. (It’s a decision that plagued him even during the assault by the Ghosts, as he hesitated shooting one before Lyla had to step in and save him.)
Go it alone he does, and so Oliver appears in Darhk’s chamber, only for their fight to erupt to the street level. In his last bit of big bad monologuing, Darhk proclaims he’s enacting a mercy killing on the world while knocking Oliver around in the process. He’s stopped in his paces, however, by the denizens of Star City. They’ve gathered to yell like an angry mob, but a mob fighting for good. They want him to leave, and though he unleashes a bit of magic to intimidate them, they don’t go away.
They stand by Oliver’s side, and their combined hope, belief, and power allows Oliver to cut through Darhk’s magic. He even grazes Damien’s cheek with an arrow, a warning shot goading Darhk into battle. Hand to hand they fight, Darhk employing his training as a League of Assassins member for the street brawl while Felicity and the others strike.
They discover Cooper glued to his computer, furiously typing away like his life is on the line, and that’s because it is. Darhk is moving a bullet closer and closer to his spine, forcing him to work or face the pain of his death. Felicity, asking for the room, tries to appeal to Cooper’s better nature. He believes he’s no better than the selfish man before her, but she believes he can stop, even if that means dying.
WANT MORE? Keep up with all the latest from last night’s television by subscribing to our newsletter. Head here for more details.
Cooper finally stops, but aboveground Darhk can sense it, letting Cooper writhe in pain and die as a result. Felicity, only taking a brief moment, jumps into his seat and begins doing whatever she can to counteract the plan in place.
While she figures out a plan to stop the missiles and send them into space, Oliver and Darhk continue to duke it out. But they’re not alone. Darhk has his ghosts, while Oliver has Diggle, Lyla, and the people of Star City. They erupt into all-out battle, invoking The Dark Knight Rises in a handful of ways, and not even an arrow to the chest can stop Oliver. He’s helped up by Quentin, who’s returned after dropping Donna off to help save his city. That Oliver Queen fella inspired him, after all.
Everyone jumps into the fray once again, Oliver going for Darhk directly.
NEXT: Where do we go now?
He takes him down, grabbing his enemy in one hand and a stray arrow in another. Darhk baits him, knowing Oliver can’t bring himself to kill his foe if he wasn’t even willing to kill the man who murdered his mother.
But, Oliver reasons, he had a choice with Slade. With Darhk, there is only one option. So he stabs Damien Darhk dead, ending the battle, and, collectively with the rest of his team, stopping a tiny thing known as Armageddon from unleashing upon the entire planet.
Recuperating back at base, the near-world ending event has given much of the team pause, allowing them to reflect on the state of their lives. Frankly, many of them aren’t too fond of where they find themselves.
Quentin is going to head out of town with Donna, his suspension from the police force now a little more permanent. Thea has to wonder who she really is if she’s willing to threaten the life of a little girl, Darhk’s daughter, in this line of work, and so she needs some time before she loses herself.
So it comes down to the original three, Diggle, Felicity, and Oliver. That is until Diggle tells Oliver he too needs some time away. Lyla may understand why he killed Andy, but John still doesn’t quite understand it. He wants to take this moment to figure out where he went off the tracks so he can get back on them. So he’s re-enlisting in the army, a decision Lyla clearly looks unpleased with, but one John obviously believes is necessary.
On the Island
Season 4’s flashbacks end with a final showdown between Reiter and Taiana, the former dying with the help of a thrown knife from Oliver after Reiter attempts to sap the life and power from Taiana. Yet Taiana then asks Oliver to kill her because she can feel the power of the idol consuming her. She sees no other option, and so Oliver kills her, only to be found by a bunch of her fellow former prisoners.
They’re primed to kill Oliver, but he explains what happened, that Reiter destroyed the plane of prisoners which almost escaped. He offers them another way off the island after they dig a grave for Taiana, that way being the assistance of Amanda Waller and Argus.
She comes, offering him the ability to continue working for her, but he has a promise to fulfill. He and Taiana made a pact that, should either of them die on the island, they would visit the other’s loved ones. So it looks like Oliver’s heading off to Russia in season 5’s flashbacks, which will hopefully find some more thematic and narrative resonance than the disappointing flashbacks did this season.
While that trajectory to Russia seems quite obvious in the flashbacks, things are less unclear in the present day. The fracturing of Team Arrow, at least for the moment, leaves Oliver in a puzzled state himself. While visiting Laurel’s grave, Felicity helps him to see that he’s at war with himself — he’s having trouble reconciling the man who killed Damien Darhk and the man who stood among the people and offered them hope.
He then gets a call that, at least for the moment, gives him some purpose. It’s just an interim position, but Oliver is sworn in as mayor of Star City. He now has two ways of inspiring the people and battling whatever threats come their way (threats which the season finale doesn’t seem interested in necessarily hinting at).
He returns to base, ready to protect Star City seemingly on his own. He’s not alone, though. Felicity returns to stand with him amid the rubble of the Arrow homebase and, really, the rubble of Star City in the wake of Darhk.
They have quite the mess waiting for them, but together — united — they can rebuild.
And so ends Arrow’s fourth season, one that at times hinted at the promise of the show’s glory days but often was almost as at odds with itself as Oliver is with himself. The show seemed as unengaged with the flashbacks as viewers, the season-long arc dipped in and out of properly building up Darhk’s presence and his plans, and the many dour notes the season hit felt at odds with Oliver’s personal endeavors to provide hope.
Still, the finale seems aimed at addressing that last point, of not just instilling hope again in the people of Star City but in the viewers as well. It certainly sets up the possibility of a back-to-basics approach in season 5 that could harken back to the highpoints of the series. Star City can rebuild, and hopefully watching it do so will be worth the wait when Arrow returns in the fall.