Team Arrow’s final battle with Emiko and the Ninth Circle dabbled in the usual tropes. I assume by now everyone in Star City automatically has mid-May blocked off in their calendars so they can schedule their lives around the annual supervillain plotting the city’s destruction. Nothing about Emiko’s plot deviated from the norm. She became just one more villain with a doomsday weapon and a grudge against Oliver Queen. Despite Diggle’s line early on about this conflict feeling different and more personal than the ones before, it was just more of the same. That hamfisted attempt to elevate Emiko over Ricardo Diaz and Adrian Chase fell completely flat.
Another big disappointment came with the quick and easy resolution of Team Arrow’s conflict with the SCPD. For all that Emiko worked to turn the city against its heroes, apparently it was nothing that couldn’t be fixed by waiting for one police sergeant to wake up and talk to his colleagues. This season only ever went through the motions in terms of exploring the relationship between Team Arrow and the police. There was a lot of potential worth exploring there, but most of it remains untapped.
Admittedly, it was fun seeing this episode act as a reunion special of sorts. Roy has already been back in the fold these last few weeks, and the finale brought back Curtis, Laurel and Ben Turner for good measure. Ben’s role was especially welcome, as it capped off his redemptive arc that played out over the course of the season. His final scene with Diggle hinted at a sort of heroic Suicide Squad down the road, and that’s something I’d very much like to see. It might have been nice to see the forgotten Rory Regan stop by, but then again, it’s not as i the odds ever felt particularly stacked against the team as it was. Why bring more metahumans into the mix?
The Ollie/Emiko showdown didn’t entirely disappoint, luckily. Sea Shimooka doesn’t portray a very convincing mastermind villain, but once the conflict moved past that stage and focused more on the brother/sister dynamic, things picked up a bit. The emphasis on breaking the Queen family’s cycle of violence hit home, and Emiko’s ultimate death carried the necessary weight and tragedy. Still, it’s hard not to feel like the series wasted this character. So little of what makes her unique in the comics carried over to the show, and just when it seemed like we might get a more traditional take on the Ollie/Emiko relationship in Season 8, she was killed off.
It was clear something was up from the way the Ninth Circle conflict wrapped up barely two-thirds of the way through the episode. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Maybe the Ninth Circle survivors would return to strike from an unexpected direction. Maybe Ricardo Diaz would turn out to be alive and desperate for one last shot at Ollie and his family. But that didn’t happen. Instead, it became clear that the writers were more interested in moving on and ushering several major characters off the stage. The Ninth Circle conflict fell flat because it was never really the emotional core of this episode in the first place.
Arrow seems to have a bit of a Scrubs situation on its hands. Though the series has one last, truncated season left before the end, it’s looking as though Season 8 will carry on without the star of the series. We already knew this would be Emily Bett Rickards’ final episode, but it also seems we’ve seen the last of Ollie until the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover at the end of the year.
In some ways, that unexpected swerve worked in this episode’s favor. That final sequence with Ollie and Felicity finding their happy retirement and welcoming their daughter into the world hit a lot of strong emotional notes. After all Ollie has suffered in the past seven years, he truly earned this happy ending. And it’s certainly a nice way to send off Felicity, rather than creating a status quo where Felicity goes into hiding and Ollie remains behind in Star City. We got a strong sense of the pain and loss that fueled her after losing Ollie to the Monitor, while also seeing that she and Ollie will get their much-deserved life together when all is said and done.
In a lot of ways, this might as well be the series finale. And the question now is why The CW is even bothering with a Season 8 in the first place. The prospect of an Ollie and Felicity-less season isn’t terribly appealing, especially if it’s going to be framed around Team Arrow dealing with the leftover remnants of the Ninth Circle. Who cares? Diggle aside, these characters have never shown the spark needed to truly take over for Ollie. If anything, I’d just as soon have the series shift focus entirely to Mia taking over as Green Arrow in the future. The flash-forward storyline hasn’t been great, but maybe with a clearer sense of focus and a single protagonist, that can finally change.