Arrow Season 4 Finale Review: 'Schism' [New Beginnings]

When it comes to season finales they don’t always have to be world-changing or jaw-dropping in their nature. The mark of a truly great season finale is the satisfaction that comes with watching the season come full circle. Sometimes the best thing a season finale can do is deliver a satisfying end to a season as it hints at what’s to come when the journey picks back up.
That is how you do a season finale.
Arrow’s season four finale (“Schism”) was quite satisfying given the rocky journey this season. These last few episodes have been solid, and the finale was no different. There was a definite tonal shift following Laurel’s death that seemed to set the show on a distinct path as it heads into its fifth season.
Something I love about Arrow is the parallels between the season premiere and the season finale. At the start of the season we found Oliver trying to find a way to be a hero in the light of day – to inspire hope – and by season’s end we saw that Oliver was able to get to that place of inspiration, which was great character progression on his part.
The season premiere also found Oliver and Felicity living away from the superhero life as Diggle, Thea, Laurel, and Quentin kept fighting in Star City. But the finale saw the tables turn as Diggle, Thea, Quentin, and Donna all took a much-deserved break from the chaos of this emotional season. But the season ended just as it started: with Oliver and Felicity standing side-by-side.
And that final shot…

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LORD. Chills. Legit chills. It gave me goosebumps just to think about what’s to come in season five as we pick back up with Oliver and Felicity watching over Star City and the other central characters taking a much-needed break before they ultimately return (come on, they are going to return).
One of my favorite things about the finale was that it hinted at the more grounded direction that actors of the show have expressed a desire for. That means less magic, less supernatural powers, and more grittiness when the show returns. You know, the stuff that made Arrow that relatable superhero show we fell in love with.
There was so much to love about this finale. While it certainly had its “meh” moments, the good far outweighed the “meh.” We saw Oliver embrace being a hero in the light like he set out to do in the season premiere as he inspired hope in a city that has a pretty good reason to be pessimistic. We saw these characters that we know and love make the right decisions for themselves and where they are at to this point. We saw Arrow set the stage for an even greater return come October.
Something that I also really appreciated was how Arrow addressed this whole killing thing directly. Obviously killing has been something Oliver has struggled with since his time on the island, but it’s been a central focus on the show in these four seasons. First it was killing was the only answer; then it was there was another way; and now Oliver has learned that sometimes killing is necessary in order to prevent the further loss of lives.
Basically there’s a fine line with killing that Oliver appears to have gained understanding of. As Felicity told him in the cemetery, there’s a schism within him. That Yin and Yang. But while Oliver used to give in only to that darkness, he’s finally tapped into that light that helps balance him in a way that makes him stronger as a person and as a hero.
One of the criticisms that I’ve seen with Arrow and this nuclear missile storyline was how Felicity hacking into a missile was “unrealistic.” I’m sorry, but logic does not exist on shows centered around superheroes – especially ones with superpowers (looking at you, Flash). If we want tot talk logic, Arrow’s finale was the most believable of all of them.
When I think back on Arrow’s fourth season, I think of a season that was solid in its foundation but during that midseason stretch got lost in the forced drama of it all. But it managed to find its way back in these final four episodes. Arrow has always been a show that thrives off its ability to relay this grounded take on the superhero genre; to deliver us characters that inspire hope within us; to remind us that being a superhero isn’t about having powers or a cool nickname. Being a hero is about how you present yourself. It’s what you do that makes you a hero.
Let’s break this down one last time this season:

The Schism

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Given the title of this season finale, most of us were validated in our prediction that the end of season four would see Team Arrow break apart as each member needed to go discover themselves. While Oliver and Felicity decided to stay and watch over Star City, Diggle, Thea, Quentin, and Donna each decided to take some time for themselves following this rough, emotional season.
But then there was another schism at play within Oliver, as Felicity pointed out. For so long Oliver has been at war with the darkness inside of him. He’s someone who’s experienced so much darkness, housed so much darkness that it’s always threatened to overpower him. This season was about Oliver harnessing his own light, stepping into that light and using that light to inspire hope like a hero should.
There was an interesting turn as Oliver faced off with Darhk for the last time. Darhk told Oliver that he knew that he wouldn’t kill him because he knows him. This is someone who let the man who killed his own mother live. But Oliver has evolved drastically in the past two seasons as he’s come to a place where he understands that sometimes it’s necessary to kill. But that shouldn’t be your first instinct as it was in season one. Oliver has found a balance within himself. That same man that killed Darhk was the person that got on top of a car and inspired hope within the city.

Rebuilding a Relationship [Oliver + Felicity]

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How fitting that Arrow’s fourth season started with and ended with Oliver and Felicity together side-by-side. While they were in different places in the premiere and finale – together as a happy couple in the premiere and together as friends in the finale – this show solidified how important Oliver and Felicity are to each other’s journeys, as well as to Arrow itself. That final shot was stunning. Oliver and Felicity standing side-by-side looking at the Green Arrow suit and knowing that they are going to work together to watch out for this city as their friends take a much-needed vacation. That shot though. It was a really powerful moment.
While we all were hoping for an official Oliver and Felicity reunion as a couple, this kind of gives some space for them to really focus on rediscovering who they are as a part of this team and as a couple. In a way it was resolution. It wasn’t the resolution that maybe we all necessarily wanted, but it was resolution nonetheless.
Let’s be honest, we’d all probably would’ve hated a quick fix in their relationship. Because a quick fix wouldn’t solve the problem. It would only make them susceptible to this again in the future. But this end, Felicity staying with Oliver to fight alongside him for Star City when he thought she’d leave – “Not a chance” – was basically validation that we’re going to see these two take some much needed time to rebuild their relationship starting from the friendship level and working back up to that solid, trusting foundation of their romantic relationship. That’s what we deserve as an audience. And that’s what they deserve as a couple.
Sure, most of it will probably occur offscreen, but it’s happening. Oliver and Felicity being given time to work through the causes of their breakup will make them even stronger. Given the timing of the initial breakup there was never really enough time within the story to really focus on their relationship given the immediate threat that Damien Darhk posed. It would’ve come off as not genuine and something we – and these characters – don’t deserve. This is what they deserve. This is what will make them even stronger than how they started.

Oliver Steps into a Mayoral Role

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Just when you thought Oliver’s potential as Star City’s mayor was crushed, the final minutes of the season finale surprised us with a storyline that had gotten lost in the shuffle. Following Oliver dropping out of the mayoral race – after he’d gotten 48 percent of the vote not running – Oliver was approached after that inspirational speech that he delivered to the city about being the interim mayor of Star City. Oliver finally got his wish of being able to stand in the light as a hero, as well as guard the city by night as the Green Arrow. Well, at least we know there’s one mayor that won’t die. Seeing as he’s the show’s main star.

Diggle Enlists in the Military

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For Diggle, stepping away from Team Arrow meant reenlisting in the military. In a way Diggle was heading back to his island. In a way, Diggle wants to rediscover who he was; gain what he felt he lost when he killed Andy. Obviously leaving his family behind — Lyla and Sara, as well as Team Arrow — will be incredibly hard, but it’s something that Diggle needs to do for himself before he ultimately returns to the team.

Thea Needs to Find Herself

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From the start of season four, we saw Thea fully suited up as Speedy without really understanding why she was doing it. Thea finally realized — after she threatened to kill Damien Darhk’s daughter — that she needed to take some time for herself to find herself in the midst of all of this Lazarus Pit and Malcolm Merlyn mess. The smartest thing Thea could do was take a break. She needs to figure out who she is, and why she’s doing this.

Quentin and Donna Leave Town

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You could say Donna and Quentin have been through a lot emotionally this season. Quentin lost his daughter Laurel, Donna dealt with Felicity’s accident and the return of her father, and both have found a solid source of support with each other. Quentin has officially lost his job as a cop, which apparently he wasn’t too broken about. These two deserve a break away from this mess to make the most of their lives. Here’s hoping they elope in Vegas!

Russia is Coming in Season Five

While it makes absolutely no sense for Oliver to feel this need to go to Russia and uphold his promise to now-dead flashback girl, I’ll take whatever ridiculous logic you throw at me if it gives me Bratva Oliver. While we’ve known for some time that the final season of “island” flashbacks would take us to Russia, the logic behind his decision to do this because of this flashback girl made no sense. But I’m going to focus on the positive as we’re heading into the final season of island flashbacks and how we’re finally going to get to see Bratva Oliver before he finds his way home.
Arrow returns Wednesdays this fall on The CW.

What were your thoughts on “Schism?”

2 Comments

  1. Thanks, your description is perfect in many ways. Every character, and every scene.

  2. Its funny the one character I wanted to leave, and who has left many times before, decides to inexplicably stay on. ugh.

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