Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s Season 4 Finale, “Schism”:

Oh, man. Threat of a nuclear apocalypse was just not the best conflict for Arrow to hinge its fourth season finale on. It seemed tremendous enough an overreach in the prior two episodes, to ignore the global ramifications of Felicity directing a foreign warhead into a small American town, that “Schism” returning immediately to that threat (x 15,000) in a 45-minute window seems almost laughable. Worst of all, slapdashing technobabble does nothing to treat the seasonal arc of Oliver finding his ability to inspire the people, itself already an on-the-nose metaphor of defeating Damien’s Darhk-ness.

Problem is, “Schism” never really found anything to say on that front either, as even with the team at its lowest; the lair practically destroyed from a time-consuming excursion with Darhk’s endless supply of Ghosts; it took the span of Curtis reminding Oliver “no, optimism = good” to turn things around. That’s apparently enough cue for Oliver to pick a random street in a major American city, hop atop a random cab, and hope like hell panicked civilians cease their rioting long enough for an inspirational pep talk.

You know, before they’ve actually come up with a plan to stop the imminent nuclear explosion.

Arrow Season 4 Finale Review Schism
Fingers crossed, Felicity's weird coat still somehow burned in unholy nuclear fire.

Worse, even if we accept Star City feeling sufficiently jazzed by the speech, and subsequent dissolution of one (of 15,000) nuclear missiles, their willingness to fight with Oliver (or the Green Arrow, who they don’t know is the same person) ends up culminating in the same street brawl we’ve seen practically once a season. That kind of knock-down drag-out fight adds absolutely nothing to the internal “schism” Felicity references Oliver to embrace after the fact, and more baffling still, climaxes in Oliver arbitrarily deciding it’s morally acceptable to kill his battered opponent. Nevermind the three seasons we’ve spent pushing Oliver closer to the light; the math of Darhk’s murders apparently trumps the philosophy of Oliver’s heroism altogether, and no one seems to argue.

Even later, Oliver questions the decision by Laurel’s grave, rightly presuming that a fallen district attorney would frown on Oliver abandoning his principles for her sake, but the moment ends up awash in the rest of the team’s own internal disillusionment. Diggle, Thea, and even Quentin all seem to say their temporary goodbyes, but before we can even ponder the handful of episodes it would take to undo that in Season 5, ring-ring! Oliver’s mayor now! What.

As I said back in “The Candidate,” Oliver-as-Mayor could never serve as sustainable status quo, exactly the reason “Schism” presents it as a button to be dealt with later, rather than an immediate upending of Oliver’s entire life. The same could likely be said of The Flash’s own “Flashpoint” twist, something too drastic to not end up undone in the span of a few episodes, though that case at least offers a world viewers get to explore in the meantime.

Arrow Season 4 Finale Review Schism
In ours, the Mayor makes weird poop-faces in a green unitard.

Drastic exits* and abrupt elections weren’t the only aspects of “Schism” the felt notably out of place, atop a list that also included Diggle still struggling to confess the reality of his brother’s death to Lyla, or Felicity sharing one last confrontation with Cooper to shut down the nukes. That isn’t to say that Andy’s death shouldn’t haunt John for the rest of his days, and I like the symmetry of Lyla’s “soldier” reaction inspiring Diggle to return to military service, but neither inclusion felt tethered to the main story in a meaningful way.

*Oh, and should you wonder if the flashbacks managed to suss out anything relevant to Baron Reiter’s final stand, nah. He dead, she dead, and barring some suggestion from Amanda Waller that Oliver go on a murder-spree across the globe, we’re off to Russia, as predicted.

I’m not necessarily inclined to pile on Arrow Season 4’s missteps the way Season 3 stood out as a clear stumble, and Neal McDonough’s Damien Darhk was lightyears ahead of any menace the League of Assassins could offer. Still, when you’re trafficking in narrative concepts so vague as magic, it helps to focus all your specificity into emotional arcs and firm rule sets. In that regard, the final showdown with Darhk never felt like any kind of clear test for Oliver, regardless of spectacle, and breaking his own rules to kill Darhk felt wildly out of line with any message of optimism.

I’m about ready to abandon my own hope of Season 5 turning things around, so if anyone wants to get on top of a cab and yell at me about it, now would be the time.


  • Darhk exploding the arrow in slow motion was a cool display of power, but as expected, they never found anything more interesting to do with 10,000 souls than throwing people around.
  • Lyla sent a team after Darhk that everyone said was going to die. They all died. Cool story.
  • At the very least, I appreciate that The Flash finale pretty well negated any chance of Barry coming to help, but it’s at least odd we never once referenced him, or Central City. And don’t start with that “he’s no longer The Flash because he saved his mom” business, at least not yet.
  • There is zero chance Oliver could see a nuke coming, and still leave Felicity and Curtis enough time to go to the roof and stop it, let alone that none of the other 15,000 made impact over those two hours.
  • I have no concept of who was in the flashback plane, vs. who was confronting Oliver after killing Taiana.
  • Clearly a Dark Knight Rises reference to have Oliver fighting Darhk in the brawl, but didn’t we already use that parallel with Brick’s uprising in Season 3?
  • Waller’s “sometimes killing is the only path to justice” makes a lot of sense for Season 1 Oliver, but in context seems like an attempt to justify present-day Oliver killing Darhk, which is all kinds of nonsense.
  • Thought for sure Oliver and Felicity would at least hold hands in that last shot.

Arrow Season 5 will premiere this fall, airing at 8:00 P.M. on The CW.

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