The CW‘s Arrow Schism TV Show Review. Arrow: Season 4, Episode 23: Schism brought a bittersweet end to a bittersweet season of Arrow. Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) may have been defeated with the power of hope, but Oliver’s (Stephen Amell) darkness ultimately saved the world. There was some really attractive writing in the finale of Season 4. Schism had each member of the team contemplating their own souls, light and dark, while under threat of extinction. In the end, though, the finale was only good when it should have been great.
The flashbacks finally made sense. It took a million baby steps to get there, but Oliver learned a valuable lesson in his fight against Reiter (Jimmy Akingbola). At times, Oliver will have to be violent and kill when necessary. Something Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) constantly harps on about, mind us. It was necessary especially where a mad man drunk with power decides the world is his to rule or destroy as he pleased. What hurt about this lesson was that Oliver had to kill Taiana (Alysia Rotaru) in order to stop her from becoming mad with evil power. Cynthia Addai-Robinson made a welcome appearance as Amanda Waller, who summed it up nicely: “sometimes killing is the only path the justice” for Oliver Queen.
Was the mission on Lian Yu also a training exercise for Oliver’s vigilantism? Was Waller’s ultimate plan to make sure Oliver remained capable of ruthlessness despite his big heart. Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) echoed the sentiment later in the episode when she spoke to Oliver about the schism in his persona – the light and the dark at war in him. Oliver may always wrestle with that dynamic in himself, but it does not have to be a bad thing. Darhk thought Oliver was predictable because Oliver was reluctant to kill, but recall the powerful image of all the graves on Lian Yu associated with Oliver’s past lined up at his feet. Oliver is a killer.
Other members of the team struggled with their darkness too. Diggle (David Ramsey) especially. He was struggling with Andy’s (Eugene Byrd) death. He finally came clean to Lyla. She was understanding and supportive as expected, but he was ashamed of his own capability to kill his own kin. That had to be devastating to his psyche, and Ramsey played it like a man apart. I cannot blame Diggle for wanting to get away for a while, but did he actually re-enlist?
Thea (Willa Holland) threatened to kill a child, Damien Darhk’s child, and it really messed with her mind. Bloodlust did not make her do that. She was willing to kill an innocent in order to stop Darhk. So, it was understandable that she felt she needed to step away from crime fighting. (Yeah, hun, I definitely agree, because that was a shock and awe moment for me, like something out of Sons of Anarchy). Darhk seemed to really bring out the worst in the entire team all season.
That was the brilliance of Damien Darhk as the villain, although some may disagree. Sure, he could grandstand entirely too much, but as far as villains go, I was impressed. I just wish that we did not have to wait till the last episode to see him actively fighting for his own cause. (“I was a member of the league of assassins” indeed. We should have seen McDonough this active way before now.)
There were some interesting character moments too. Cooper Seldon (Nolan Gerard Funk) actually pulled himself away from the computer that controlled Rubicon, even while under the threat of an excruciating death by Darhk. That slow-moving bullet thing was a diabolically imaginative incentive. Felicity actually talked Cooper over the ledge. Wow. I have to say, I would have loved to see more from this villainous character all season given so much of the season focused on tech genius. He would have also made a great recurring nemesis for Overwatch in the future.
While Felicity and Curtis (Echo Kellum) displayed some super techy heroics keeping Rubicon from blowing up the world, it was ultimately hope that defeated Darhk. Yes, Oliver Queen was able to inspire a swell of hope in Star City that channeled enough light to quell Darhk’s power. (I know, it was subtly implied, but you had to be paying attention this whole time to get what happened on the street when Darhk’s magic suddenly failed him.)
The fight scenes were great (courtesy of James Bamford, yeah!). Diggle employed his economy of movement, while Thea’s wild almost acrobatic abandon put down some Ghosts. Although, I must say it was disappointing to see Ollie getting beaten up in his own streets! He was not a match for Ra’s al Ghul, but he still stabbed him. He can wipe the floor with Merlyn, but he could not put a dent in Darhk. Oliver even got hit with one of his own arrows, come on!
If I were to rate this season as a whole it would be 3 out of 5 stars. I would have to rate the first half against the second. The first half of Season 4 would get 4 out of 5 stars. The drama, action, and emotional journeys in the first half were poignant and poetic. Heavy themes like brotherhood, trust, forgiveness, and fatherhood were explored and there was a lot of meat to chew. The second half gets 2 out of 5 stars for me. The stories largely took a back seat to magic, Felicity’s verbosity, and some misplaced comedy. Whereas the midseason previews all pointed to a darker harder path for our hero, I felt like the show veered off course into something like Scooby-Doo land and just kept on trudging through to the bitter end.
The end was bittersweet too. Season 1 and 2 finales of Arrow left Oliver and the team with renewed vigor to continue the mission. End of Season 3, Oliver took off to experience life without the mission. Now, in Season 4, everyone abandons Oliver – oh, except Felicity, of course – and the state-of-the-art bunker is in shambles. The world continues to turn, but the team is battle weary. They do not leave us very hopeful. In fact, Oliver got a day job. Go figure. Still looking forward to more Arrow next season – with hope that some of its heart returns. What did you think of the season finale and this season overall?
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