May 25, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Arrow”


ARROW had a somewhat unsuper fourth season.  That was partly due to its villain:  Damien Darhk, however enthusiastically played by Neal McDonough, was an all-smirk-all-the-time Big Bad in dapper suits, a Bond-ish villain whose added dimension of magic was very sub-Darth Vader, with much flicking of the wrist to send foes flying into nearby walls.  Even Darhk’s evil plan felt like something out of a Bond movie, launching every nuclear warhead in the world so that he and his minions could survive in a ludicrously large “ark” below Star City (it was the size of a suburb)–and then deciding to go ahead with the destruction of the Earth even after his bunker was destroyed, just for the hell of it.  Unexpectedly, Arrow found itself outcrazied by its golly-gee whiz CW/Greg Berlanti/DC Comics stablemate The Flash, which embraced not only time travel and alternate timelines but parallel dimensions, and not just doppelgangers but (at least) triplegangers, becoming so drunk on its own complications that it became quite captivating.

Arrow‘s character-based arcs weren’t better than its central storyline.  The show broke up Arrow/Oliver (Stephen Amiel) and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), one of the most appealing couples on TV, for reasons that felt contrived even by comic book universe standards.  The killing of Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) seemed to be an exhausted admission that the writers just didn’t know what to do with her, even after she’d become superhero Black Canary in her own right.  (Laurel had been on the series as Oliver’s presumptive love interest, until Rickards and Felicity, originally a guest star role, stole that position out from under her.)  Things perked up when Felicity’s mother Donna (Charlotte Ross) and/or felonious father Noah (Tom Amendes) showed up to make her crazy, but even they were softened and weakened as characters over time.  The show did disappointingly little with the interesting idea of having Oliver run for Mayor of Star City, although the final scenes of the season indicated that will be a bigger part of Season 5.  There was, not atypically for Arrow, much hand-wringing, not just by Oliver but by Diggle (David Ramsey) and Thea (Willa Holland), about the vigilante violence they committed to defeat evil.  The island flashbacks, involving a baddie with the same kind of magic as Dahrk, felt even more unnecessary than usual.  The one unquestionably good move of the season was adding Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum) as Felicity’s recurring fellow technological genius, since he restored some comic snap to the mostly glum proceedings.

The theme of the season was the power of positive thinking, and that was pushed to a point of silliness by the season finale, written by series co-creator Marc Guggenheim and Executive Producer Wendy Mericle (from a story by Berlanti), and directed by John Behring.  As the bombs flew overhead, the world just minutes away from destruction, the script had Oliver standing on the roof of a cab in downtown Star City and convincing the extras to join together and be united, a sequence meant to be so inspirational that other characters kept referring to it for the rest of the hour as proof of Oliver’s heroism.  Later, after an entire season of insisting on Dahrk’s massive magic power, Oliver deprived the villain of his magic in ten seconds flat by making some more extras think good thoughts, like the Frank Capra version of a superhero story.  It all may have been intended as a counter to DC’s abortively dark Batman v. Superman, but it played as something dangerously close to farce.  In the end, despite Oliver’s elaborate vow a few seasons ago not to kill again, he stabbed Dahrk with one of his arrows, but this time we were assured that the execution was OK.

Arrow still has the strongest fundamentals of the Berlanti/DC crew, with a solid ensemble of well-delineated characters played by a cast that’s mastered the superhero tone.  In previous seasons, it’s weaved humor and romance into its action and soul-searching in a very effective way.  This season, the balance wasn’t there.  But the finale, which had the gang going its separate ways over its last few minutes (to be reunited again in the fall), ended with Oliver and Felicity sharing the screen, and that at least is a good place to start the rebuild.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."