I have a question for everyone reading this post. I assume you’re all Arrow fans with at least a casual interest in the show. Whether you’re a regular reader or you’re brand new here, I really want your opinion.
Did the finale fix anything for you?
It’s a serious question, because I have seen the reactions to “My Name is Oliver Queen” run the entire spectrum. Some people are overjoyed. Some people have quit the show. Some people are angry about Oliver/Felicity but willing to continue. Others don’t really care about Oliver/Felicity but they’re angry about Laurel.
If we ignore spin doctor Guggenheim and actually examine reactions to the episode and the season as a whole, the only thing we can conclude with certainty is that fandom has experienced a dramatic shift this year. The people who have been with the show since day one are quieter. The shippers are manic and tunnel-visioned. And you know which shippers I’m talking about — not a specific ship, either, but certain factions of fandom that just want their endgame and they don’t care how they get it — so don’t get offended, because I don’t include everyone who ships. I still consider myself an Oliver/Felicity shipper, I guess by default, even though the characters that drove off into the sunset in the finale were unrecognizable from the dynamic duo I used to ship. Shippers who value good writing and storytelling over endgame, those are the shippers I want to talk to.
And people are angry. Even the people who are happy and got exactly what they wanted, they’re engaged in angry, defensive debate with people who dare to argue. There’s been a pervasive sense of appropriation of fandom and characters this season that’s made any sort of meta discourse nearly impossible. If you get critical about certain characters, people converge and condemn you for being “too negative,” as if positivity is the only way to approach the media you consume. If you’re not positive, you’re just wrong, and your motivations are up for debate.
This is not to say that constant negativity is any better, and while my reviews have definitely fallen to the negative side this season, I still try not to approach this show looking for bad things. I’ve had varying levels of success (I would not say I’m very rational about the Ray Palmer aspect. At all.) but on the whole I’ve tried to strike a balance. But today I feel lost. I feel that no two people are having the exact same reaction to this episode.
This is why I genuinely want you to comment and leave your honest opinion of Arrow’s season finale. I’d love to know what you expected, whether you enjoyed it, whether it was predictable or surprising, and if it “fixed” the problems of the season for you — if this season was even problematic for you in the first place.
As for my opinion…
**This post contains spoilers for episode 3.23 of Arrow, “My Name is Oliver Queen.”**
If you want a gauge of just how negative my review will be, I’ll start off with the blunt truth: I have no plans to continue reviewing this show next season. I will watch the first couple of episodes out of sheer curiosity, mostly related to Speedy and to see how the writers awkwardly attempt to bring Oliver and Felicity back into the fold, but overall, I have no interest in watching this show critically anymore. To me, this has fallen in my eyes to the TV-viewing equivalent of Once Upon a Time — a perfectly entertaining show, but riddled with enough plot holes and out-of-character moments that I can’t take it seriously enough to be critical. That’s why these reviews have been a bit of a slog; I’ve gotten so far removed from thinking of the plot from a meta perspective that I can’t completely engage anymore.
To me, this episode failed almost every single character. Let’s break it down:
– Oliver learned almost nothing. He confessed that maybe he should’ve trusted his team and not tried so hard to protect Thea, but he did it in such a way that he never really apologized or admitted he was wrong. In fact, he did that kind of tired superhero-y trope of treating his ‘ragtag team’ like a bunch of scamps who escaped with their lives by pure luck, and not because of any talent, skill, or heart. And then he quit, because I guess after 3 terrorist attacks in 3 successive Mays, he thinks his crusade is over.
But yeah, let’s talk about how Oliver thought an apology would be enough for any of them. Thank GOD, in the end, that Felicity was the only one to actually accept it (and I’ll get to that in a moment) because no one else really forgave Oliver for his crappy treatment of them this season. Remember when he trusted his team? Remember when he put his entire life and trust in Felicity when he handed her a small syringe and whispered “Do you understand?” Remember, oh, all the countless times he’s confided in Diggle and Diggle ALONE over the course of the first two seasons?
But here we are, only a year later, and his team has given him no reason not to trust them, but Oliver still chooses to leave them out of the loop on his Grand Failure Experiment to Half-Assedly Infiltrate the League of Assassins with Malcolm Merlyn’s help. And when faced with the fact that he survived and that his team is angry, all he can do is mutter vague references to “protection!” and issue borderline non-apologies. He is virtually unrecognizable from the Oliver in the s2 finale, or oh gosh, the Oliver in the s1 finale, who was propping up an injured but determined Diggle as they both surveyed the destruction of the Glades with horror. Remember that? Remember who caused that? THAT is who Oliver trusted over his own team.
Him holding Malcolm Merlyn accountable, in the end, is a farce, because he also gives him the League of Assassins. This is pretty much 80% of the reason I barely want to watch next season, Damien Darkh notwithstanding.
– Felicity actually regressed as a character. (Yes, this is controversial. I expect your torches and pitchforks.) Her scenes with Oliver were almost as cringeworthy as her scenes with Ray earlier in the season, because they were full of misplaced swooning and affection in the midst of terrorist attacks, team splintering, and oh yeah, Oliver’s totally awful betrayal. She was mad for about 17 seconds and then she was screeching at Ray to drop his nanotech work to go save Oliver. She actually asked Ray to stop trying to fast-track life-saving technology for the entire city so that he could go save her not-quite-a-boyfriend. For the first time all season, I was on Ray’s side, and that’s something for which I may never forgive this episode. So she donned the suit, rescued Oliver, and I guess the brush with death (which he’s neeeeever had before, and certainly not in the last six months) made her want to kiss him and run away with him to places unknown, but you know, places which hopefully do annulments for Nanda Parbat marriages. (All I can think about is Laurel incredulously asking, “How can you be so sanguine?!” as Felicity stares doe-eyed at Oliver. That would’ve been fun to see.)
Argue with me all you want, but you can’t tell me dialogue such as this is organic and in-character. This is the same Felicity who gave TWO impassioned speeches about believing in Oliver and out-foxing Slade Wilson in the big finale episodes last season. This scene is just lip service — this is literally some writers sitting there saying “Well Oliver is a man and he needs a woman to be his motivator so send in Smoak!” and this is the tired, stilted dialogue she was forced to deliver. This was an attempt to say “See! This whole season really WAS about identity, like we said! We stuck to the plan!”
– The only person in the trio of the original Team Arrow that didn’t regress or act out-of-character was Diggle, who held Oliver accountable, maintained his broken friendship and trust, and expressed his deep disappointment when Oliver quit the team. I’m proud of Diggle, who has become the only Every Man on this show, the only person we were able to consistently relate to throughout this fiasco of a season.
– Then there’s Laurel. Believe me, before season 3 started, I never thought I’d be sitting here saying that the Black Canary deserved a better arc, but here I am. She didn’t regress, she did nothing wrong, but she was still treated very poorly by these writers. She was excluded from the Rescue Thea Mission a few weeks ago, she was included as afterthoughts by most of the team (except Roy, really) and SHE had to go to the TEAM when Nyssa had information on Oliver’s fate with the League. As in, the team never had any reason to check up on her. She was flying solo. And that sucks, because her own sister was fridged* just to give her this arc which was supposed to be meaningful, but instead it was directionless at first, then had purpose for the three episodes Oliver was dead, and then she was just shunted to the side for the rest of the season because Oliver’s manpain took precedence.
This middle-of-the-road stuff doesn’t work with Laurel anymore (not that it ever did, but it’s glaring now). Either she’s essential to the show and the team, or she’s not, we can’t have it both ways. This is leaving aside all personal feelings about the actress and her abilities, I’m talking strictly from a storyline and writing standpoint — she ended this season just as middling as the last. And she deserved better — Sara deserved better.
– Ray signed over the company to Felicity without her knowledge, then didn’t mention it during the entire finale. He let her ride off into the sunset even though she runs a company now and then he pressed a button and blew up the top floor of Queen Consolidated (I refused to call it by his dumb company name). But before you get too excited, no, he didn’t die, he just successfully turned himself from Iron Man to Ant-Man, so have fun with that on his spinoff show which I probably won’t be watching. Wonder who he’ll stalk on there.
– Nyssa got the worst deal of all. After battling her father all season, then battling Oliver, then being banished, then being forced to marry Oliver, you’d think Nyssa would be gifted her birthright of becoming the next R’as al Ghul by her reluctantly betrothed. Well, Oliver Queen had a different idea, as he handed the League to Malcolm, who then forced Nyssa to kneel before him. Think for a moment about this: Nyssa becomes the next R’as. She uses the League to hunt down and kill Malcolm, once and for all. Thea’s not really that sad. Everyone else is relieved. I feel like maybe this whole season wasn’t a total farce after all. And Nyssa is a badass leader who just so happens to still be married to Oliver. That’s ripe for all kinds of fun shenanigans next season, including a couple of unholy alliances.
Alas. This show failed this city once again. Now an unhinged, untrustworthy mass murderer who Officially Isn’t BFFs with Oliver Queen Anymore is in charge of the deadliest league in the world. So next season will be the same old same old and Malcolm isn’t held accountable for anything. Again.
– Captain Lance fell off the wagon, which was disappointing for a lot of people to see, but I actually sort of buy it. Sobriety isn’t a state of being, it’s an action, it’s a constant struggle, and Lance has been through some pretty bad stuff in the last few months. Most people have such a low opinion of the writers that they think this was used as a poor plot device to up the drama ante, and I don’t disagree with that as a distinct possibility, but maybe it’s the Elementary fan in me that is willing to give them a little bit off leeway on this one. To me, this didn’t come out of nowhere. (The guy needs a break though. His life has been terrible of late.)
– At least there’s Thea, the only wonderful, no-holds-barred development of this crap-tastic season. She donned Roy’s Arsenal getup and made her appearance as Speedy (or as she would call it, Red Arrow) and she’s hopefully going to be an integral part of the team next season. She is still mad at Malcolm, but she grudgingly admitted that he did make her stronger. She’s not happier now, though, and that’s sad, because we know those Queens are prone to brooding.
*Turns out Sara Lance is the latest in a growing list of deaths on this series that needs an asterisk, since she’s magically coming back to life via the Lazarus Pit in order to star in Legends of Tomorrow. Even though they buried the body. So we have some retconning, plot holes, and more unnecessary twists to look forward to. Nothing against Sara or Caity, obviously (I wish she’d just stayed alive on this show and then spun off onto LoT) but the more they do this, the more they weaken the fabric of the credibility of the entire universe. At this point I think the only person who will truly stay dead is Tommy Merlyn, because the writers just hate us that much.
To me, this episode fixed nothing. None of the things set in motion by Sara’s death were resolved. Malcolm is still out there, the League still exists, Oliver is still self-righteous and stubborn, and there has been too much loss this season (Roy, Sin, Ted Grant, not to mention the shattered interpersonal relationships that don’t directly affect Oliver…). This was not the amazing, tying-up-loose-ends sort of finale that we’ve come to expect. It made this poor season end with a whimper and not even a small toot, much less a bang.
The episode itself was poorly paced, with a lame attempt by Oliver to kill R’as on the plane, then R’as telling Oliver his entire plan, then R’as summoning Oliver to a duel to the death… Which Oliver won rather easily, because again, poor pacing. (It’s worth noting that ol’ Guggenheim has already hinted at bringing R’as back next season, so that’s gonna happen.)
Half of the dialogue was cringe-levels of cheesy, especially the sunset scene at the end, and the rest of it was almost unbearably expository considering we didn’t really need that much recapping.
Oh, and Barry was there, he freed the team from the dungeon (“an actual dungeon!”) and half-heartedly defended Oliver, while no one could explain how Oliver managed to make it to Central City while he was supposed to be on a virus-bearing plane with R’as. Barry was his usual delightful self but he was also a victim of anvil-y dialogue. No one was able to escape it in this episode.
So our ‘heroes’ (the quotes denote sarcasm) have spun into different directions: Oliver and Felicity for the coast, Diggle to his family, Laurel and Thea to keep fighting, and Ray to his own show. We’re supposed to believe this is truly the end of Oliver’s story, but we at least know we have two more seasons of flashbacks to endure, even if it’s just Oliver hunting and eating berries on the island. Who knows.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading and commenting along the way. It’s been a challenge of late, but once upon a time, I truly enjoyed writing these reviews. Optimistically, I want to believe that Arrow can recapture the magic next season, but I’m gonna manage my expectations during the hiatus.