When Arrow returns in the fall, it’ll be for an abbreviated stretch—greatly abbreviated, by Arrow standards, clocking in at only 10 episodes. One of the 10, it’s safe to assume, will be part of the annual Arrowverse crossover event; this year’s upcoming crossover, “Crisis On Infinite Earths,” was first teased in last year’s, “Elseworlds.” Perhaps that crossover will look at lot like the others we’ve seen, one storyline broken into four (or three) parts, pulling together actors from all four (or three) casts for a spell before sending them back to their home courts. Then again, maybe not. Oliver Queen just walked into the night with a powerful being, and whatever else might happen, it seems likely that Arrow, and thus these crossovers, will never be the same.
“You Have Saved This City” makes a few things about the future quite clear. Oliver’s time saving Star City is done. It’s the end of an era, and the start of something new. His time with Felicity is done, or nearly so; it’s also, in some corner of the Multiverse, just beginning. And while Oliver’s legacy lives on in the generations of heroes he describes in that last scene in the bunker, he does not. Barring some twist—and the Arrowverse does love a twist—“Crisis On Infinite Earths” will see Oliver Queen die, and ready or not, the farewells have already begun.
I couldn’t help thinking about Avengers: Infinity War quite a bit while watching “You Have Saved This City,” an episode that mostly fails as a season finale but works wonderfully well as a precursor to a series finale and as set-up for that next crossover event. Like the predecessor to Avengers: Endgame, this episode of Arrow has a very different set of priorities than most stories of its stamp. Yes, it needs to put a bow on some of the stories from this season, and it certainly needs to set up stories for the next. But even the show itself seems aware that whatever is happening with Emiko Queen, the SCPD, or the Ninth Circle pales in comparison to what’s going to happen in those last 10 episodes. When Emiko dies, the episode is just past the halfway point; from there on out, it’s one escape and then nothing but farewells, a long honeymoon, and Oliver and Felicity alike stepping into the unknown, accompanied by no one but The Monitor (LaMonica Garrett). It is not a typical season finale; both its flaws and its successes, like those of Infinity War, are unique, and as with Infinity War, we’ll ultimately judge its success both by how well it works on its own, and how successfully it sets up what’s to come.
The Arrow in the back half of this episode (and, to a lesser extent, the one seen in flash-forwards) ranges from mostly to hugely successful, cashing in as it does on seven seasons’ worth of emotional investment and history. It’s a situation, like those two Avengers films, in which one is willing to forgive some clumsiness, because tall that time spent with these characters starts to press down on you as you watch. The odd callbacks to early days, the sight of old friends sharing a moment in which words are unnecessary, the weight of history—all come into play and render the whole greater than the sum of its parts, by virtue of your own investment.
The knowledge of the show’s impending end, and of the departure of Emily Bett Rickards, also adds to the potency of some of those closing scenes, because it’s all too easy to look at the fond, grieving smiles of Rickards, Stephen Amell, and David Ramsey in particular and see not the characters, but the actors themselves saying goodbye. To the bunker. To each other. To the characters, the story, the cast, the crew. There’s a lot going on, and while it might not all be life-changing stuff, it’s emotional, rich, and deeply satisfying—all that, and great set-up for what’s to come, too.
Alas, “You Have Saved This City”—and again, note the past tense there—isn’t just its back half. That half, while flawed, packs such a punch that it’s difficult not to see it as one of the best chunks of Arrow in years. But there’s the first half, too, which if not quite perfunctory, gives the impression that the writers simply whipped out a to-do list and started checking boxes. Wrap up Emiko, drive Felicity into hiding, get Dinah back on the force (for now) and Roy back on the way to Lian-Yu, get Oliver to feel comfortable walking away and resolve at least some of his family trauma. Things have to be good for it to hurt as much as possible when The Monitor walks in the door. Arrow checks those boxes with admirable efficiency, but even with director James Bamford’s familiarly strong action sequences, it all comes off as pretty rushed. It’s as though the writers simply couldn’t wait to get to those goodbyes, and to the next phase of the story.
I don’t blame them. Perhaps that’s why the flash-forwards continue to mostly work for me; the clock is almost up on Arrow’s 2019 storytelling, while the future storyline has both its own future and 20 years of past from which to pull. Still, even that works better as the promise of what’s to come, a future in which William, Mia, Conor, and Zoe keep on saving the city, long after their elders have closed up shop. Maybe there’s a spinoff in it. Maybe they’ll be there for the crossover. Maybe the next 10 episodes will just be Oliver and The Monitor, hopping from earth to earth. What that next 10 will look like is anyone’s guess, but what is certain is that there will be many more goodbyes. We might be headed into hiatus, but with this episode, those goodbyes have already begun.
- Next season, Arrow coverage will again consist of premiere, finale, and crossover. See you then.
- Was there any salmon ladder?: I’m guessing we’ve seen the last of ye olde salmon ladder.
- TAMVP: I assumed this was going to be Emily Bett Rickards, but this episode felt a lot less like a farewell to her than to the show as we know it, and OTA more specifically. As such, it’s got to be Stephen Amell, an actor who has always been good at Oliver Queen’s gruff stuff, but who I could never have imagined giving so vulnerable a performance six years ago. Good for him. EBR still did great, though. They all did.
- Seriously, that Emiko resolution was almost comically fast. They just wanted it done.
- I don’t know if that shot of Oliver’s face right before the lights went out in the bunker for the last time was an intentional A Star Is Born reference, but it sure looked like one.
- See you next season. Or better still, come join the Legends chat next week!