Bettina Strauss/The CW


S4 E23
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May 26, 2016 at 03:38 AM EDT

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

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Billionaire Oliver Queen — under the vigilante persona of Arrow — tries to right the wrongs of his family and fight the ills of society.
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