Review: ARROW 7×22 – “YOU HAVE SAVED THIS CITY”
[Editor’s Note: Review May Contain Spoilers]
Director: James Bamford
Writers: Beth Schwartz and Rebecca Bellotto
Starring: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Juliana Harkavy, Colton Haynes, Sea Shimooka, Katie Cassidy Rodgers, Echo Kellum, Andrea Sixtos, Joseph David-Jones, Danny Wattley, Raj Dale, Michael Jai White, Kat McNamara, Kacey Rohl, Ben Lewis, LaMonica Garrett, Christopher Gerard
Reviewed by: Jason Larouche
As the SCPD pursue a framed Team Arrow, old friends come by to offer assistance; Oliver and Emiko have one final showdown as Oliver tries one last time to reach out to his sister; Mia and William attempt to take down Galaxy Corp’s plan by destroying the Archer program.
I just got through the finale, and it’s taken me a few additional views of key scenes, so bear with me. This had to be one of the best episodes this series has produced. Further, it was a worthy departure for one of its most beloved cast members. It’s one of the most emotional episode of Arrow I’ve ever watched, which is why it took an entire day to put my feelings into words. So, that being said, let’s get to it, shall we?
This episode’s themes were atonement, debts, family, and beginnings. The writers did their best to interweave them as they worked to resolve the most prevailing conflicts: Emiko’s vendetta, the city’s distrust of Team Arrow, the Flash-Forward face-off with Galaxy Co., and the looming biological threat the Ninth Circle posed.
The episode picking up where it left off was a strong decision given the stand-off with zero evidence to contradict the frame-up. It also gave the suspense needed to draw the viewers in as the possible lead-in to what becomes the beginning of the end. (More on that later.) It also helped to enhance the threat to show the biological weapon in action in that minor drone attack. It did nothing to just talk about it for several episodes or seeing it destroy an inanimate structure. The effects team did a great job showing it in action. It also took the opportunity to cultivate the alliances and second chances built over the past year in the cases of Earth-2 Laurel and Ben Turner. The latter was a surprise to see, coming out of nowhere to offer support. Katie looked great in Black Canary gear with her natural hair instead of that ridiculous wig. It also further links up the present to the future in small scenes such as Oliver shaking Laurel’s hand and Ben and Diggle exchanging words. The fight choreography amongst the team was fantastic and perfect irony having Bingsley be the voice of reason in Team Arrow’s defense. As previously mentioned in last week’s review, the biggest detractor in the SCPD-Team Arrow alliance works as the key to unraveling the frame up. The loudest voice in the room pulling a 180 is always rewarding when the odds are stacked the underdog.
The showdown between Oliver and Emiko was expected, but it was more than just a physical brawl. The poetic notes – the irony of the battle’s setting – were loud and clear. The defunct Palmer Technologies and former sight of QC was the only place the emotions could run high. Between Emiko and Oliver the viewer sees the unspoken parallels between them. I remember in the conclusion to Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, where the antagonist, Andrea Beaumont, mirrored Emiko’s arc and had seemingly met her end. “Vengeance blackens the soul, Bruce, ” Alfred had said. He further said while Bruce hasn’t fallen in to that abyss, Andrea had years prior and was beyond salvation. The same can be said of Emiko. The verbal exchange between brother and sister draws you in as much as the fight.
In Oliver, you see a man who has conquered his demons through conviction self-examination, and moving past his sins. Emiko, in contrast, is a woman who has become ruled by her demons and her uncontrollable desire for revenge. Perhaps, that is where Oliver rises above her; his rage matches hers, and yet he is the only one to recognize the cycle they are both trapped in. He has every reason in the world to despise and want Emiko dead, but he knows via last week’s hallucinations where vengeance leads. The time for “who did what to whom” has to end. Emiko, more so than Sarah was, is entrapped by her own darkness as Oliver was when he first came home. Where the series has always marvelled in is misdirection with their character arcs; the writers give the viewer a possible avenue, only to pull a U-turn and go in a different direction. The writers had Oliver touch on this in how he noted she chose to not embrace the hero in her. This is an allusion to her superhero identity as Red Arrow in the comics, a destiny they hinted at through the red in her costume. In the end, however, it was misdirection. In spite of her revenging herself upon her mother’s killer, it is not enough. The total destruction of her father and Oliver is all she has and all she desires.
The writers formed a sharp distinction between agendas in this duel. Stephen, as Oliver, does a fantastic job conveying his outrage at Emiko’s sins as much as he does his focus on pulling his sister back from this dark path. With the seeds of doubt in Emiko’s actions shared in her subordinates’ reactions, having her fall to her own fanaticism is the only route that could have made sense. Sea did a fantastic job in her emotional range; she withholds her emotional involvement in verbal exchanges for her scenes with Stephen. It’s only with Oliver that that rage bubbled to the surface. Moments involving her tears at Oliver’s words finally breaking through, and her admitting to her brother the machinations she put in place for his family, make this death more tragic. Her crimes were too cardinal for the viewer to forgive, and her story arc could only end in poetic irony: Her burial in the rubble of the building and legacy she wanted to be a part of.
The Flash Forward sequence has a satisfying conclusion and foundation laid for a continuance in the likelihood of a spinoff. The theme of legacy is keenly felt as the older generation gives the new license to engage the main antagonist. Kat and Ben are the official new Oliver and Felicity in their roles of field person and guy in the chair. Roy handing Mia her father’s bow and quiver definitely has a torch-passing feel to it. This was her time to rise as a hero like her father and she didn’t disappoint. That moment where she was willing to sacrifice herself to destroy the wall was when she truly embraced Oliver’s legacy.
The storyboarding of both Mia’s escape and Oliver’s escape following the same line of thought drives that notion home even more so. The final chapter in this glimpse at the future holds up in that the war for this new Star City and Glades will wage on after the cameras are turned off. They have a new team and a new crusade. The destruction of the wall separating the Glades from Star City will mean unity to some, but opportunity to others. Regardless, what makes it poignant is that moment where the entire Queen family gathered at the grave sites of Moira, Oliver, and Robert. Reunification has been achieved and brother and sister come together, which parallels Oliver and Emiko’s parting of the ways. The writers try to leave the audience with a sense of hope for Oliver and Felicity’s kids while layering the conditions that lead to their separation up against it.
Speaking of a parting of the ways, writers tried to give the final scenes with the entire team a sense of closure. While there will be an eight limited season, this truly felt like the series finale. Spot-on speech and delivery from Stephen; Oliver’s reflection on how he started his mission and how his legacy lies in the team he’s built feels very fitting. The symbolism and explanation of The Mark of Four tattoo works perfectly. It signifies the bond amongst the entire team and lasts into 2049. It’s in this final moment with the entire team that validates both this episode’s title and what he said in that press conference in last year’s finale. The strength in this final scene in the bunker is the final shot of the original three together. Oliver, Diggle, and Felicity began this crusade, this team, together and formed a surrogate family.
Oliver crying shows the depth of feeling he’s invested in this place, these people, and how he has to put down his bow to ironically protect his family. He turned on the lights of the first facility in the pilot, so the gradual shut down of the bunker conveys things have come full circle. What works is that the “epilogue” with the original three – Emily’s last day on the set, by the way – suddenly becomes a new chapter. Those scenes of time speeding time along to link Mia’s flashback scenes together deliver for the audience a sense that Oliver had achieved a peace long denied him. Discussion of bringing their kids together in their new normal is derailed abruptly by fate. Enter The Monitor.
The use of a knife as defense against the intruder is a callback to Mia’s choice in the aforementioned flashback. The tying in of Oliver’s final fate to the Crisis, and discussion of the multiverse, teases the eighth season. His life in Star City is over, and now so is his life as a family man. For the second time in his life, at the height of happiness he’s being taken from his family by a cruel destiny. The only difference is that he chooses to leave for the right reasons. To set up the conditions of the Flash-Forward sequence, that sense of sacrifice had to be conveyed in a way befitting both characters. It also brings to mind how Felicity blamed herself for what happened to Oliver; rather than The Archer program, it was her not putting up more of a fight to stop Oliver from leaving, even though it was unavoidable.
Above all of the emotional scenes in this installment, the final moments between Oliver and Felicity was masterfully written and performed. Oliver and Felicity’s final exchange was perfectly written in that it summed up both what they went through and what they meant to each other. Oliver kissing his daughter one last time was essential, as was his asking his wife to tell Mia he loved her every day. The irony in those tears being shed on camera is that it is Emily that is leaving the series rather than Stephen, so there’s that underlying sadness they’re able to convey in their performance. The strongest moment in that scene was Oliver’s tearful regret about not telling her how he felt sooner. It’s through Felicity’s love and support that Oliver managed to truly find his humanity again after his five-year odyssey. Emiko’s actions may have plunged him into darkness, but it’s her love that gradually pulled him back into the light. Both characters had evolved and changed over the course of seven seasons, culminating in their marriage and now parenthood. The writers also offer viewers a glimmer of hope with Flash-Forward Felicity leaving with the Monitor to see Oliver. Will we then see her in the series finale next year? Time will tell. Overall, the pacing, performance, and choice of background music delivered the powerful send off this couple needed.
Even though she was in the Flash-Forward, what the hell happened to Elena? She seemed to just drop off the map and no one even addressed the disappearance of Felicity’s new CTO. With such an integral role she plays in the disaster in the future, you’d think there’d be more groundwork laid. Also, even though that demonstration of the biological agent was horrific, it was shoved to the back of the room too soon. It seemed a little anticlimactic to just limit the collateral damage in the takedown.
From Slabside to the country, Oliver has had one hell of a year and every ounce of progress he and the team had made climaxed in this episode. Very strong performances from the principal cast and especially exiting villain Sea. The poignant moments in the bunker and at the safehouse drove home for the viewers the emotion needed. Emily, you will be sorely missed next season and this reviewer personally hopes that Felicity and her trademark hyperverbal, quirky nature makes it back for the final episode of one of the best superhero series of all time. This review was difficult for me to write solely because Arrow is not about just Oliver Queen, but John Diggle, Felicity Smoak, Laurel Lance, Roy Harper, and all involved. It saddens me that not all are coming back next year because it was a team effort to make this show what it’s been as much as it was to keep the peace in the fictional Star City. I look forward to where Oliver goes from here. Have a good summer everyone. Mark of Four!