Arrow: You Have Saved This City

“I thought I had more time.”

The Powers that Be had the impossible task of wrapping up two season-long arcs and setting up a third. They came damn close to pulling it off.

With so much ground to cover the plot became secondary to the emotional journey of our heroes. Which is why each obstacle was resolved with a minimum of fuss.  The bioweapon attack, which took three episodes to set up, is dispatched with several well-aimed freezing arrows and the two other dispersement sites were foiled off-screen.  Team Arrow is blamed for Emiko’s attack but Bingsley’s testimony restored them to hero status. Palmer Tech AKA Queen Consolidated was destroyed, but the city was saved. And everyone lived happily ever after. At least for the next 4-5 months. The flash forward plot was equally unimportant. What matters is that William and Mia live up to their promise and become the heroes their father wanted to be.

The real story is the answer to the deeply disturbed but prophetic Dr. Parker's statement from the beginning of the season. “A father passes on more than just his name to his children.” Through seven seasons of the show and the use of flash forwards, we’ve witnessed two generations of parenting and its effects on their children. And while the Queen legacy of destruction and violence has been the seasons main focus, it has not been the sole focus.

Robert Queen was not a moral man. His image as a pillar of society is in stark contrast with the man who repeatedly cheated on his wife, covered up the accidental death of a councilman, was involved with a plot to destroy a section of his city and kill thousands, murdered his bodyguard to save his son, and abandoned his child.  All of these actions visited lasting and harmful ramifications on all of his children.

Thea’s childhood was warped by her grief for her father and brother’s deaths, while Emiko’s was warped by the knowledge her father loved his “other family” more than her. Oliver literally bears the scars of his father’s choices – some from his five years of hell before returning to Starling (now Star) City and some from his vow to right his father’s wrongs.

Robert’s failings as a parent are contrasted most directly with Oliver’s and by extension Felicity’s. And I believe we are meant to see Oliver’s choices as superior to his father's. Where Robert asked Oliver to make amends for his transgressions, Oliver strove to insulate his children from the effects of his choices. However, in the final analysis, they followed a remarkably similar path. Oliver and Felicity abandoned William as assuredly as Robert abandoned Emiko. His decision to be a vigilante led directly to the death of William’s mother and to multiple violent attacks on William during his childhood. And it ultimately led to what we assume is Oliver’s death leaving Mia to grow up without ever knowing her father or brother. Sound familiar?

The actual contrast is with the Diggle family. General Stewart raised John to be a strong, honorable man. And rather than dishonor John’s memory of his father, he allowed himself to be villainized in John’s eyes for decades. John tried to instill that same sense of honor and responsibility in both of his sons. And like the General before him, he had mixed success. Connor went into the family business of serving his country by joining Knightwatch while J.J. rebelled and turned to a life of crime as his Uncle Andy had.

All of which begs the question of what we are meant to have learned from this season. Should Oliver be thought of as a hero? Or are we meant to believe he was the next evolution towards that goal with William and Mia bringing it to fruition? Did he save the city? From the Ninth Circle’s quest to destroy it, certainly. But ultimately, we’ve seen its downfall.

Are William and Mia, with Connor and Zoe’s assistance, meant to be the true saviors of Star City? It would appear so. The flash forwards end with an explicit changing of the guard. Mia as the new Arrow, Connor as the new Diggle, Zoe as the new Canary, and William as Overwatch. It felt more like a setup for next season than a tying up of a loose end.

And what of Emiko, whose appearance was so central to this discussion. In some ways, she is an argument for nature vs. nurture. Robert’s treatment of her was inexcusable. But, as Oliver tells her, it was her reactions to his behavior that led to much of the pain and misery of her life. Joining the Ninth Circle placed the first domino in the long and inevitable line that ended with her mother’s death.

In contrast, Robert showed Oliver the love he withheld from Emiko but he passed on his sense of entitlement to Oliver in a BIG way. Even after his selfish tendencies were beaten out of him during his many years “in hell,” Oliver’s sense of entitlement continued to manifest itself in his unwavering faith that he knew best despite truckloads of evidence to the contrary. Yet Oliver’s decisions were based on a desire to help where Emiko’s were made to assuage her pain by visiting that pain upon others.

Yet, they are cut from the same cloth.  When Oliver confronts Emiko he admits to what was hinted at last week. The knowledge that Emiko’s inaction led to all the pain and loss in Oliver’s life is the reason he wanted her dead and not because “there was no other way.” Emiko may be on a dark path but Oliver’s is gray at best.

That said, they both choose to do the right thing in the end. Oliver's willingness to sacrifice himself for others culminates in his departure with The Monitor.  And while Emiko’s redemption is cut short by the showdown with the Ninth Circle and her subsequent death, her refusal to kill Oliver when she had the opportunity is meant to mark her transformation. In one of Oliver’s final acts to redress his father’s wrongs was to bury her beside Robert’s gravestone as Emiko Adachi Queen.

And that was just the first half hour. While we know there will be another season of Arrow, if the last third of this episode is any indication, it will be very different from what’s gone before. It looks like all roads lead to the Crisis.

So what do we know?

The Monitor collects Oliver to begin his quest to balance the universal scales that saved Barry and Kara’s lives. A quest that will lead inexorably and unavoidably to Oliver’s death. We know that Felicity will create Smoak Tech which will be phenomenally successful even as she continues to live in seclusion and raise her daughter. Alena will betray her trust and give Archer technology to the precursor to Galaxy One. And somehow, Team Arrow will cause Star City to turn against vigilantes for a generation causing a rift between The Glades and the rest of Star City as well as a rift between the members of Team Arrow. Getting from here to there is a lot of story to pack into eight final episodes.

I have been a big fan of this season but I’ll be the first to admit that it has been uneven. Gone were the unbelievable character choices for the sake of forwarding the plot. In its place was a well-designed season arc filled with oodles of interesting thematic issues and character questions they never had time to fully unpack. The finale was emblematic of this issue.

Given my love of all things character-driven, I applauded the time spent on Oliver and Emiko’s parental issues, Felicity and Oliver’s separation, and the development of William and Mia’s sibling bond. But it came at the cost of a cohesive plot. While, I’d love to give it a four, I just can’t.

3 out of 5 wall-free zones

Parting Thoughts:

Curtis was back. Yay! He’s getting married. Double Yay!

Future Alena became a badass!

Bingsley’s testimony somehow wiped away Roy’s involvement in the security guards’ murder, not to mention assaulting multiple police officers during the drone attack. Huh?

There is a character listed on IMDB as “Teen Keven Dale” but I don’t remember seeing him, do you? I’m assuming it’s his mother we saw killed in the drone attack. It would explain his hatred of vigilantes.

In the loose thread category:
Unsnipped - We never did find out why Emiko dressed as the Green Arrow.
Snipped - The drones were back in play with the Cygnus bacteria. It makes you wonder why they went through the trouble of stealing the Sarin gas ingredients if it was only for empty buildings. Does that make it a half a snip?
Snipped - The Mark of Four was finally mentioned.
Snipped - Ben Turner has been freed from Slabside and his redemption journey is complete.
Unsnipped - We still don’t know how or why Dig adopts Connor.
Unsnipped - Whatever causes Star City to turn on its vigilantes, did not happen in the episode. It must be Crisis related.

Quotes:

Felicity: “What do you think is worse, Emiko being in possession of a bioweapon or the team being Star City’s Most Wanted?"
Rene: “Can I choose both?”

Zoe: “Duck.”

William: “Yes, what she did may be overprotective, and overbearing… but it could be the break we’ve been looking for.”

Future Felicity: “This is not the life Oliver and I wanted for them.”

Virgil: “Well, if you’re not going to kill him, we’ll gladly oblige.”

Emiko: “You’re still here.”
Oliver: “I don’t leave my family.”

Emiko: “I wanted to be a Queen.”

Curtis: “I’m sorry, I hate to save and run.”

Felicity: “Star City is a wall-free zone once again.”

Diggle: “A cycle of heroes who will defend this city with every fiber of their being.”
Felicity: “Anyone ever told you you always know exactly what to say?”
Diggle: “I have been told.”

Felicity: “It’s not Ivy Town but it’ll work.”

The Monitor: “I have seen your future, Oliver, inexorable and unavoidable. I have watched you die.”

Oliver: “This is bigger than us. Than all of us.”
Felicity: “Why does it always have to be you?”

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, and anything with a cape.

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