“A cycle of heroes…who will fight to defend this city with every fiber of their being.”
Season seven of Arrow has been one of the more frustratingly up-and-down affairs as I have seen in a genre show. While it had a promising start, somewhere around the midpoint, things started to unravel. Much of the care taken developing some of the earlier themes disappeared, replaced by a rushed, almost careless advancement of an uninteresting story arc that overshadowed what made this show so fun in the beginning; it’s characters. “You Have Saved This City” falls into that same trap, albeit in a reverse order, where both the Emiko Queen and flash forward story arcs are completed with all the grace of a toddler wrapping a Christmas present while the last twenty minutes display some of the best emotional character moments every produced in the series’ seven-year history.
Stop me if you heard this one before, but thanks to Emiko doing a job better than most villains, the team is once again in the crosshairs of the SCPD. This makes their attempts to stop Emiko from releasing the Cygnus virus a bit of a chore as, during the first instance of the virus release, they have to battle with recalcitrant civilians that believe they are the enemy (thanks to some fake news identifying them as terrorists) and the police.
Thankfully, they get a boost from two former members in Curtis and Laurel as well as one surprise ally in Ben Turner/Bronze Tiger. With Curtis and Felicity working the controls, they track down the primary switch for the Cygnus release and stop it while Oliver makes it his mission to break his family’s cycle of violence and prove that Emiko can, in fact, be redeemed.
Unfortunately, what should have been a hard-hitting and emotional confrontation between Oliver and his half-sister feels more like plotline: interrupted. The face-off between Queens starts off well enough but Emiko never really gets a chance to fight through her emotional uncertainties. Though it seems as if Oliver’s heartfelt words (Stephen Amell does do a wonderful job here) any type of resolution is cut short when Virgil and the Ninth Circle newcomer Beatrice, along with a score of goons, attack the pair. With no satisfactory conclusion to their conversation, Oliver and Emiko fighting together ring extremely hollow. As does Emiko’s death at the hands of Beatrice. Though she never got a chance at redemption, Emiko warns Oliver that he must put his family in hiding, lest the Ninth Circle track them down. And with that, she dies. Oh, what could have been.
But whereas the first half of the finale stumbled on so many levels, the second half (or third to be exact) performs as if it was written by an entirely different person. I’m not sure if the news on Arrow ending next season came before they started filming this finale, but the emotional weight of the final 15 minutes of the show encompassed everything good about this series over the years. Not only do we get a payoff for the earlier flash forwards mentioning the Mark of Four (Courage, Compassion, Selflessness, Loyalty), but each of our characters get to say a proper goodbye to Oliver and Felicity. Diggle is the last one to leave them, helping the couple settle into their new life away from Star City. The montage of Mia’s birth and the former vigilantes making a life as new parents tugs at the heartstrings.
And then the Monitor arrives.
It’s no surprise that the Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline will play out during next year’s crossover but what does shock is that Oliver will pay the ultimate price to save Barry and Kara. This peek into this CW event adds even more gravitas to “You Have Saved This City”, as Oliver, with no complete explanation other than hinting at the deal he made with the Monitor, has to leave his family, never to return. His goodbye to Felicity hammers down on that emotional vein the writers failed to get with his confrontation with Emiko. Though next season is already scheduled for 10 episodes to officially wrap up Oliver’s story, the end to “You Have Saved This City” played out as one would expect of a series finale. Now that the why of Oliver’s end is written in stone, we only await the how.
- If there was ever a season finale that needed another 30 minutes to tell a cohesive story, look no further than this week’s episode. With such a contrast between the first and second halves of the episode, I almost want to rate each one separately. The first half resolving the story elements fell victim to the rushed nature that plagued the last several weeks while the emotional weight of our character moments was so brilliantly written and acted, one can almost forget the stumbles of the Emiko Queen/Ninth Circle storyline.
- While the flash forward was consistently the least interesting aspect of Season Seven, it had its moments. More than the present time, it seemed that the flash forwards suffered from hurried fight choreography. Granted, the crunch these weekly shows are under must absolutely be a strain to the choreography folks but that doesn’t excuse some of the mess prevalent in these action pieces. Though I never fully connected with the adult William, Mia, or any of the others, the Queen kids saying goodbye to Felicity was genuinely heartwarming. I’m not sure if this segment of the story will play any role in next season’s truncated broadcast, but having Felicity walk into the great beyond at the Monitor’s side to reunite with Oliver is, I believe, the proper capstone for a good idea that just never made the desired impact.