Despite the best of intentions, Arrow never quite hits its mark these days. Season 7 opened with a new startling status quo: Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) in jail. Well, it would’ve been startling had Riverdale not opted to put its lead character in jail at the same time or had The Flash not gone with the same idea last year. But almost immediately, Arrow had the flash-forward story going for it.
Featuring Oliver’s son William (Ben Lewis) and Roy Harper (Colton Hayes) returning to a vaguely cyberpunk Star City in the year 2040. That world slowly populated with aged versions of Team Arrow characters and grown-up versions of the children already introduced into the narrative. It also clarified the Connor Hawke ( David-Joseph) the Legends met in a broken 2042 Star City by making him the son of Bronze Tiger (Michael Jai White). But it also created tons of story potential by introducing Oliver and Felicity’s daughter Mia (Katherine McNamara) mid-way through the season. Though realized on hastily redress sets — they got a lot of mileage out of the two-story prison set — the 2040 story was by far the most interesting thing happening on the show this year.
Which means it is time to talk about Ricardo Diaz (Kirk Acevedo). Arrow villains are traditionally disposed of in the season finale, but Diaz managed to hang around into Season 7. It only makes sense as he was the worst villain the show ever introduced. His motivation was clumsy and his persistence strained the patience of viewers. And, in the end, he was finally killed off in a ignoble way. Yes, it completed his arc by ending him in the exact place he didn’t want to die, but it was too little too late for a character who overstayed his welcome by 18 months. That is to say, his entire time on the show.
But his continued existence meant the show experimented with multiple big bads this year. It is something Arrow and The Flash both needed to do. Sadly, Arrow fumbled this by introducing the Ninth Circle in slow motion, bringing in supposed leader Dante (Adrian Paul) too late into the season, and tying it all to Oliver’s latest reason to hate himself. Emiko (Sea Shimooka) was a non-starter from the moment she revealed her evil intent. As the half-sister Oliver never knew he had, she was almost interesting. As the season-ending menace, she lacked weight. In fact, it seemed like a late change to the story once it was decided Season 8 would be Arrow‘s last. No matter the truth surrounding her development, though, the key part of her existence was to once again employ an old Arrow trope: Oliver atoning for his father sins.
You can get why the writers chose to return to this, Diaz’s non-vendetta motivation failed to engage viewers. Unfortunately, revenge against Oliver will never be as well done as it was with Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) in Season 2 or Adrian Chase (Josh Segarra) in Season 5. Note that Diggle (David Rasmey) even mentions them as having less motivation for revenge than Emiko, and yet they will always live as better antagonists for Oliver than anyone the show has thrown at him in the last two seasons.
All of which means Arrow was something of a slog this year, but there were some high-points. The slowly emerging bond between Dinah (Juliana Harkavy) and Black Siren (Katie Cassidy) was a nice twist considering their history. In fact, it led to one of the best episodes of the season; in which all the women of Team Arrow unite to bring Black Siren back from the edge after being outed as a former Diaz associate. And as said before, just about everything in 2040 worked. It also had some great fight scenes to back up its story.
Nonetheless, we have to accept one sad truth about the show as it now exists: its most thrilling twist involves “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” As we’ve now seen, the Monitor (LaMonica Garrett) needs Oliver to go on one last mission. It will result in his death, but save the multiverse. It is a good way for Oliver’s story to end, but it short-changes Arrow as its own series. That could be why all the goodbyes in the bunker felt like a series finale; Arrow is over. Season 8 may look more like an extended “Crisis” spinoff series than a proper conclusion.
Of course, some would say it ended when Chase blew up Lian Yu, but that’s an argument for another day.
Arrow returns this Fall on The CW.