‘Arrow’ Post-Show Recap: Season 4, Episode 23: ‘Schism’
It’s time for another installment of Pointed Commentary, the feature where grizzled Arrow watcher Matt D. Wilson and newcomer Chris Haley dig into the details of Team Arrow cleaning up the filthy, crime-ridden streets of Star City.
This week’s season finale, “Schism,” features the big, final showdown between Team Arrow and Damien Darhk, with the fate of the world in the balance as thousands of nuclear warheads blast toward the world’s cities. You know, regular stuff. John Behring directed the episode, based on a story by Greg Berlanti with a script by Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle.
Matt: Chris, we spent 23 hours watching this season of Arrow and countless more writing down stuff about it. Was it worth it?
Chris: Absolutely not. But let’s try to have fun with it anyway. I have two big takeaways from this last episode/season. Would you like to hear them?
Matt: *pulls up chair* Tell me everything.
Chris: 1. The thrust of this season/episode being so much about “hope” is really ironic, because every episode of this show came one step closer to making me lose all hope. In myself. In the ideals I’ve subscribed to. In humanity itself. What kind of a God would allow this show to keep existing? It didn’t beat me, but it came close. It came very close. And keep in mind, I am a man who has watched Mortal Kombat: Annihilation some 50-odd nights in a row now.
I think I mentioned that last week, but it bears repeating, because that’s how debilitating this show is. To me. If you’re reading this and like the show, then understand, I’m not saying you’re dumb or wrong, we just clearly have different tastes. Which is fine.
But you probably are kinda dumb. And also wrong. I kid.
Matt: And takeaway #2?
Chris: 2. Watching part of this episode on my iPad on the toilet felt like the most right and appropriate thing I’ve ever done.
Matt: LOL. FR. IRL. Here’s my big takeaway. Ready?
Chris: I am.
Matt: Arrow should probably be put down. Quietly, with a degree of dignity. But when a show repeats a climax from the middle of its third season as the end to its fourth, that’s a bad sign. That’s a doctor walking into a room with a clipboard saying, “I’m afraid it’s bad news.”
Chris: It really feels like this show has created a universe that no longer has a need for it. It did it’s job and set the stage for the larger DCTVU, but now it feels completely out of sync with that universe. Ollie inspiring people as himself and as the Green Arrow, Team Arrow saving the world, and Ollie becoming the mayor seems like the perfect ending to this show.
I like Stephen Amell and would be happy to see GA keep popping up on The Flash or Legends of Tomorrow, but this show seems like it’s just struggling under the weight of the world it hath wrought. It also seems to be the show that’s getting the least focus and attention of all of the DCTVU shows, so why keep going?
Matt: This ending did feel like a series finale, to a degree, though we know full well we’re getting a season five.
To explain my point, you know how this episode pulls a Spider-Man (the movie)? With a regular citizen throwing something at the bad guy during a climactic fight and saying, “This is our city!” And then in this case, the regular citizens joined the fight after kind of just idly standing by and watching for a while? This is exactly how the Brick arc last season ended. Ollie even got on top of a car and gave a speech (except it was after instead of before). There was a shot of the citizens of Star City charging at the bad guys, just like the one here.
Matt: I don’t know, maybe it was intended as a reference or a callback, but it really just felt like going back to the well.
So the episode opens with everybody threatening everybody. Darhk threatens Donna Smoak, then Green Arrow threatens Darhk, then ghosts show up and threaten everyone, then Thea just like... shuffles out of a corner with Darhk’s daughter and threatens her. In the end, the only person who’s hurt is Curtis, who didn’t seem to be involved at all. I guess he got hit by some random gunfire. That seems to be the ghosts’ MO.
Chris: Okay, that would make a little more sense than him being at death’s door from being thrown across the room by Darhk. Especially considering the fact that Ollie gets thrown all over the city by him later in the episode and is still able to beat him in a straight up, just trading punches, fist-fight.
Matt: And again, Team Arrow loses the one thing they’re supposed to be protecting, this time the laptop that apparently was the only thing protecting the world from nuclear annihilation. Some 15,000 missiles are soon launched. Oops!
Chris: They’re not very good at what they do. And again, I hate to bring this up, but shouldn’t some other super people get involved at this point? How serious does the situation have to be before someone says, “Hey, maybe we need some people who can do more than shoot arrows?”
Matt: Yeah, my big question last week that I never got to was, where’s the National Guard? The Army? Anyone else who would be deployed to stop this? At least this week we do get Lyla sending a small team of ARGUS agents into Darhk’s Magic Bunker (a lot of people seem to have those, and they all happen to look like the same set) to be slaughtered. So they at least kind of addressed it.
Chris: I think Ziah and I talked about that a little when you were away on your secret mission to that mysterious island, but yeah, it is still a question that should be better addressed.
Matt: After the ARGUS guys die a terrible death at Darhk’s hands (Ollie was right on that one), the team rushes to stop the nuclear missile that’s headed at Star City. Ollie gives a speech to rally the people (who don’t have homemade cardboard signs in the worst slap in the face to longtime fans I’ve ever seen). Felicity and Curtis go up on a rooftop and divert the missile with some kind of science thing. It’s comics science, so whatever. I’m fine with that. What I don’t get is why is Star City’s missile so far ahead of schedule of everyone else’s? It’s set to arrive an hour before every other missile. That sure is... convenient.
Chris: I think they tried to explain that by saying that missile was coming from somewhere close? But, you know, all the other missiles are perfectly timed out to hit at the same time, because why not? Let’s pretend Darhk wanted to hurry up and destroy Star City first out of spite… though, it’d seem like he’d want it to go last so he could watch the rest of the world be destroyed first.
It also went from broad daylight to late at night very quickly between those two outdoor scenes. Just saying.
Matt: It sure did. I guess Ollie took his sweet time going to Darhk’s Magic Bunker.
Chris: Even though they only had two hours from when the episode started. Sure. Whatever. It’s fine.
Matt: Here’s another thing that got me: Ollie uses his People Power along with the magic he learned to negate Darhk’s magic, right? They have a conversation where Darhk says he doesn’t need it for their big fight, because he was in the League of Assassins, yes?
Matt: Okay, so while Ollie is fighting Darhk in the street, the rest of Team Arrow is busy locating Felicity’s hacker ex in his underground hacking dungeon, where he’s ensuring that the missiles all hit their targets. He explains that Darhk shot him and is using magic to keep the bullet just a few inches from his spine, but will kill him in a very painful way if he doesn’t do as he’s told.
But then Darhk loses his magic. So shouldn’t that negate his grip on the bullet? There’s one point where Felicity talks Cooper out of helping Darhk (I don’t know why they couldn’t have just rolled his chair away from the computer; what was he going to do?) and then Darhk stops the fight to remotely magic-kill the dude.
Chris: I didn’t think it was that he just lost his magic, I thought it was more that he was weakened/distracted by all the “hope”... which was also maybe powering up Ollie’s defenses against said magic? This show is dumb, Matt.
Matt: Yeah, maybe it’s just Ollie defending against the magic, but it still worked elsewhere. I don’t know. It felt like an editing mistake to me.
I do know that we saw that this idol magic is so powerful that someone can blow up a plane flying through the sky (!), but instead of killing everyone who’s confronting him in the street, Darhk gently pushes them down. He’s just a big softy at heart.
Chris: People’s actions and motivations don’t always seem to line up with what’s happened previously on this show is a thing I have noticed. Also, think about how Reiter was able to blow up a goshdamn plane in flight after killing, what, a few dozen people at most? Darhk nuked a city, absorbed the death power of tens of thousands, and all he can do is throw Ollie around and push some people over?
Matt: While we’re talking about motivations not lining up, let me tell you about the entire arc of seasons two and three of this program. They’re all about Ollie putting aside his mercenary ways and learning not to kill anymore, even when someone seems to really deserve it. I actually appreciated that stuff. He killed a lot of people in the first season and it really made me sour on the show, so I liked that they were setting that right.
So of course he kills Darhk at the end of this because he doesn’t “have a choice.” Of course he has a choice. He could throw Darhk straight into Secret Prison with Deathstroke. But nope. He killed him.
Chris: Because of hope. Man, I’ll tell you what really didn’t sit well with me was when Waller had that speech about “Killing is justice,” because, yikes. I kept waiting for Ollie to say something to refute that and tell her she was wrong, but nope. Just, “We kill people because it’s the only way to get justice.” Cool message, Arrow.
Matt: It’s a massive backpedal and I don’t like it at all.
Hey Chris, did you know you could send thousands of nuclear missiles into space by “inverting the horizons”? Again, that’s fine because it’s comics science fiction, but I did wonder how Earth is going to deal with the radioactive haze in its atmosphere for the next thousand years.
Chris: At what point do you just completely give up when you’re writing a TV show, I wonder?
Matt: I’m not sure. Certainly at some point in the writing of this episode someone said, “Malcolm switches side back to the good guys again, and no one seems to mind!” And everyone was just cool with that. They were like, “Yeah, okay, fine. Let’s just get this done.”
Chris: I think a lot of things happen with this show in that kind of, “Let’s just get this done” headspace. Which is fine, I guess.
Matt: In that spirit, here’s the crazy part: I thought the last four minutes or so weren’t that bad. Getting there was an absolute mess, but the idea that Dig, Thea and Captain Lance are in such bad places in their lives that they just have to get out of town for a while makes a degree of sense. I’m not totally sure why Dig is going back to the Army with a toddler to take care of, but otherwise it more or less works. It even parallels the beginning of the season, where Ollie and Felicity had left Star City, they thought for good. Now they’re the only ones left.
Even the mayor stuff kind-of sort-of pays off, even though Ollie is literally handed the office.
Chris: I just can’t believe that everyone but Felicity leaves. They couldn’t do me this one kindness?
Matt: Maybe next season will be a Thea/Dig/Captain Lance road story.
It’s interesting we’ve barely said anything about the flashback stuff. Pretty much all it did was say, “Hey, these other people used magic earlier.” That was the full extent of it.
Chris: As it did many times this season, it seemed pretty pointless. Especially when Ollie had to kill Taiana. I really thought with all the hope talk he was going to give some kind of speech about hope and light that would save her, but nope, just snaps her neck because there’s no other way, for some reason.
You know, you and I have a history of liking and talking about The Simpsons together, and I’m suddenly reminded of all the times you’d hear in the commentaries that a writer (usually John Swartzwelder) would have something happen “for some reason,” and it’s always hilarious and great. This show isn’t like that.
Matt: No, the closest it gets is Felicity calls herself, Dig and Ollie the “original gangstas,” and it’s supposed to be funny but it really makes me want to find a crawlspace to get into. Like Bart did. Just like Bart.
Chris: Every minute of this show makes me wish I could do this.
I don’t know why this matters, but this episode was also the first time I’ve yelled an “um actually” at the television.
Matt: What was the um actually?
Chris: Dig is talking to Lyla and he says, “You said it was a good kill,” and I could not tell you why, but I immediately, out loud with no one else around, said, “No she didn’t, she said it was a clean kill!”
Matt: And with that I think we can put season four of Arrow to bed. Any final thoughts? Hopes for next season?
Chris: Is a contract dispute between the showrunners and the actress who plays Felicity too much to hope for? What about hoping for a recurring role for the recently available Cody Rhodes?
Matt: I don’t think the Rainbow Archer has shown up yet. Cody could pull that off.
Chris: I think Cody can make chicken salad out of just about anything.
Matt: Finally, some positivity we can agree on.
Here’s my hope for next season: That it starts as late as possible. Thanks for reading, everybody!