Arrow series finale recap: Requiem for Oliver Queen
Warning: This recap contains spoilers from the series finale of Arrow, which aired Tuesday.
Fade in on a girl…and her brother and mother. It’s 2014, and Slade Wilson has the Queens tied up in the woods and is threatening to kill one of them. As happened way back in “Seeing Red,” Moira offers her life up in exchange for her children’s, and Slade prepares to kill her. But then something different happens. This time around, Oliver fishes a knife out of his pocket, breaks free of his bonds, and tackles Slade to the ground before he murders Moira. A tragedy has been averted, history has changed, and this is how “Fadeout,” Arrow’s series finale, begins.
What’s the point of starting with this? It’s a means of showing what Oliver’s sacrifice created when the universe was rebooted, thus explaining how Moira is now alive and able to talk to a documentary crew in the year 2020. Yes, the questionable format from the 150th episode returns and the cheekily-named director explains that her project turned into a memorial for Oliver Queen. We’re treated to some new interviews. It’s a very weird and unexpected turn.
In fact, that’s how I would describe the entire finale: Weird and unexpected. But also emotional and heartfelt. There are some very moving moments (Present-day Felicity meeting Mia, Roy and Thea’s engagement), some cool ones (Diggle picking up that a glowing green space box); and some that made me scratch my head (the return of the documentary crew, the flashbacks). I do know that I really liked the final scene, which felt more than earned, and I liked that the finale put a button on the show’s overall theme of redemption.
At the moment, I can’t stop thinking about the weirder aspects of the hour. Shortly after Diggle finishes up his interview with Marcia Pedowitz, Rene shows up with an update: Nothing new to report in Star City because it has been crime-free since the Crisis. So in addition to resurrecting people (Moira, Tommy, Quentin, and Emiko), Oliver apparently used his Spectre powers to save the city. Thanks to last week’s Green Arrow & The Canaries backdoor pilot, we know this peace only lasts for about 20 years, but it’s odd when you start thinking about it. For Oliver to have rid the city of crime, he would’ve had to use his godlike powers to either fundamentally change people by enforcing his will on them, which is very dictatorial in a way that’s reminiscent of season 3 Oliver, or he somehow just removed every criminal from the city, which isn’t totally great either. Part of the problem is that the episode doesn’t explain what “there’s no more crime in Star City” means. Are we just talking major crimes or all crime? Clearing up that ambiguity could help alleviate some of my concerns about this new city.
That being said, Oliver’s decision to resurrect everyone he lost over the course of eight seasons was a perfectly Oliver move. If there’s one thing we know about Oliver, it’s that he feels guilty for almost everything and would gladly trade his life for his loved ones. He finally got the chance to do that. Furthermore, this also reminded me of how Green Lantern Hal Jordan (then known as Parallax) used his powers to resurrect Oliver in The Final Night right before he died.
Initially, I also found the decision to introduce new flashbacks in the series finale somewhat odd, but I’ve started to come around on it because it does work thematically. Given that Oliver died in the crossover, finale writers, showrunner/EP Beth Schwartz, and consulting producer Marc Guggenheim had to find a way to include him in the crossover since it would be weird if the show’s main character wasn’t in the series finale. So, they opted for flashbacks that revealed a previously unseen time at the beginning of Oliver and Diggle’s partnership. Taking place around season 1, episode 5, these new scenes show Oliver’s weariness in trusting Diggle and Diggle’s concerns about Oliver’s murder-spree. This not only gave Amell a place in the episode, but it also allowed the show to stage its most impressive fight sequence yet: Oliver vs. an army of bad guys led by name-on-the-list John Byrne, which director James Bamford staged and shot in a series of impressive oners (Bamford goes full Bamford here). The ambitious fight not only captures the brutality of season 1’s action scenes, but it’s also exhausting and freaking awesome. It’s clear they left it all on the table. In the end, Oliver heeds Diggle’s advice and opts to send Byrne to prison instead of killing him.
The flashbacks also worked for me because it gave the episode a chance to reflect on how much Oliver has changed over the years. As the fight sequence reminds us, Oliver was a cold-blooded murderer at the start of the series, but over the course of the following seasons, he sought redemption for those crimes, as well as who he was before the Queen’s Gambit. Later on in the episode, Quentin delivers a powerful speech before unveiling the Green Arrow memorial statue that perfectly sums up Arrow’s thoughts on the theme of redemption: It is possible for people to change. It’s hard, but possible. The show not only argued that in this episode but in the 169 that came before it, especially because one of the joys of re-watching the series is seeing how much Oliver has grown.
But we should also talk about what happens in the present day, too: Almost every Team Arrow member returns to Star City for Oliver’s funeral, including Mia, who travels from 2040 with Sara’s help. Unfortunately, their reunion is interrupted when present-day William gets kidnapped, which ends up drawing a grieving Felicity out of hiding. Seeing Felicity back behind the deck surrounded by all of Team Arrow was a powerful visual. Emily Bett Rickards’ performance in this episode was also moving, especially the scene in which she watches as adult Mia, who saved William from John Byrne, explain the different parts of the bow. There’s a poignant and heavy hesitancy in her performance. Felicity would love nothing more than to meet her grown-up daughter but doesn’t want to rush since 2020 Mia is currently back at home teething. The joy-sadness in Rickards’ eyes broke my heart.
Katie Cassidy was also responsible for another one of the finale’s most tearjerking moments. Laurel spends the bulk of the episode weighed down by guilt over still being alive instead of Earth-1 Laurel since everyone else came back. Eventually, she tearfully visits Quentin and asks why she’s still here if Oliver’s death fixed everything, and it’s one of Cassidy’s most vulnerable and powerful performances on the show. Of course, Quentin has the perfect response: “Because sweetheart, there is nothing about you that needed to be fixed.”
The next day everyone heads to Queen manor for Oliver’s funeral: The Flash’s Barry, Supergirl’s Kara, Nyssa al Ghul, Talia al Ghul, Emiko (who meets Moira and Thea), Tommy (who shares some light sparks with Earth-2 Laurel), Anatoly, Curtis, Rory, and so many more. No one knows what to say, so it falls on Diggle to eulogize his fallen brother. Of course, his speech is heartfelt and captures Oliver’s journey and what’s so exciting about the unknowable future.
As Diggle talks, we’re shown a montage that ties up several things. Dinah, feeling unneeded in a crimeless city, leaves down via a street named after Oliver Queen. Mia returns to 2040 intent on finding William and feeling more comfortable about honoring her father’s legacy. Diggle and Lyla pack up their things and move to Metropolis; however, before Diggle leaves, a meteor crashes in front of his home and sends him flying. When he comes to, he discovers a box containing a bright green object — which of course is a nod to the popular fan theory that Diggle was destined to become Green Lantern, John Stewart. Personally, I would’ve preferred if they hadn’t gone in this direction just because Diggle was a great character, but this Green Lantern tease tickles the nerdy part of my brain that loves stuff like this.
The episode then returns to Oliver’s grave and smoothly transitions to Star City 2040, specifically to a scene from the season 7 finale. Felicity steps into a breach created by the Monitor and comes out in Moira Queen’s Queen Consolidated office. There, she’s reunited with her husband, Oliver, who seems at peace. Immediately, we realize this is a paradise dimension (Oliver chose Moira’s office since this is where he first laid eyes on Felicity) and this is where the two of them will live happily ever after. It’s an ending that’s perfectly reminiscent of Crisis on Infinite Earths and feels earned.
In the end, “Fadeout” definitely wasn’t what I was expecting from Arrow’s series finale. It’s an odd hour that has to juggle a lot. While it doesn’t always work, it helps that the first seven episodes of the season did such a good job of bringing the show to close to the point that this just felt like a coda more than anything else. I’ll miss Arrow, but at least it went out on as close to a high as possible.
Wall of Weird:
- One of the happiest moments of the finale: Roy and Thea’s engagement! If anyone deserves a happy ending, it’s these two crazy kids.
- There’s a hilarious Powerless Easter egg in the episode: Roy proposes to Thea in front of a Van Wayne Industries sign. And now I miss Powerless.
- The “William gets kidnapped” plot is hilariously unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but hey I love that he got kidnapped one more time before the show ended.
- As the show ends, Rene is preparing for his mayoral “campaign.” I put campaign in quotes because it’s apparently a forgone conclusion that he’ll win once Quentin steps down — which is worrisome, but whatever.
- Sara and Nyssa reunited for the first time in ages. I loved it!
- Did you catch Guggenheim’s cameo in the finale?