Arrow: Seasons 7 & 8 — a review

ArrowS8

I wrote a review of Season 6 of Arrow way back in May 2018. I said then that the series was doing an incomplete job of keeping my interest and announced I was stepping away from it for a while. Absence making the heart grow fonder, and all that.

Which is what I did, not watching the final two seasons of the series until 2020. I’m a completist at heart. I just had to see how the flagship program of the Greg Berlanti Arrowverse would take its final bow.

After the flashback structure that anchored the series since the beginning came to an end in Season 5, I felt that the series had lost most of its central purpose. Season 6 had what I thought was the weakest villain of the series to date in Ricardo Diaz (Kirk Acevedo), also known as the Dragon. Oliver Queen’s vigilante identity was revealed (once again, and incontrovertibly) and at the end of the season he was headed to Supermax prison for his crimes (he used to kill people, you may recall). Plus, Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) was dead. The entire series seemed to be in a death spiral to me. The CW must have agreed, since Season 8 was eventually revealed to be the final season.

I’m writing a review of both seasons together for the following reasons. First, I just watched both seasons, back-to-back, with no break in-between. Plus, the final season was only ten episodes long. Actually, only eight—we’ll talk more about that in a moment. The second reason is because I’m still not happy with what happened to this series since the Lian Yu flashbacks caught up with the in-series present, and I didn’t want to write two separate reviews merely reiterating that point.

If you have any completist OCD tendencies in your genetic makeup, you will also get some satisfaction out of watching these final episodes. And since this is an action series based upon superhero comic books, you’ll find some things to enjoy in these episodes if that sort of thing appeals to you. I’m not calling this series conclusion a total failure. However, if you’re looking to be more than mildly entertained—occasionally—you can safely skip this. I’ve taken the bullet for you.

In Season 7, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) spends nearly one-third of the season’s 22 episodes in prison. That he is eventually released and exonerated should surprise no one.

Some fans of the Green Arrow comic books were excited that the series was going to do the Supermax plot, and also fold in the Longbow Hunters. When I last actively kept up with comic book continuity, I was strictly a Marvel guy, and back in my DC days (during elementary school), Green Arrow was a junior varsity hero at best, a blond Robin Hood knockoff. Beyond some of the Dennis O’Neil/Neal Adams stuff in the ’70s (which was way ahead of its time), I knew little of the Green Arrow story arcs. The television story arcs were okay, but muddied with too many side- and subplots. There’s been someone going around in a Green Arrow costume while Oliver’s been inside, and her name is Emiko (Sea Shimooka). She’s Oliver’s half-sister, because convoluted family relationships are an important trope of this show.

Ricardo Diaz continues to be the Big Bad through much of the season, and then for a minute it is someone called Dante (Adrian Paul), and, finally, in a clumsily telegraphed twist, it is someone else who came as absolutely no surprise to me, and won’t to you either, but I’m not giving up all the spoilers here.

The writing staff of this show lost interest in the present-day plot about the same time I did, and resorted to a variation of the old flashback story structure, beginning with the first episode of Season 7. This time, instead, we began doing flashforwards 20 years into the future. I didn’t want any of this, and I didn’t enjoy much of it either. I’ve made this point concerning Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, when they did their future cracked-egg Earth-with-the-Kree story arc. I find these what-might-happen plots to be about as compelling and frustrating as it-was-all-just-a-dream plots. That this future time jump was also self-serving was self-evident (more on that in a bit).

The future plot introduces a new spate of protagonists. There’s Mia Smoak (Katherine McNamara), who is the future version of Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak’s daughter. Oh yeah, they have a baby that they kept secret from all of their friends for rather nebulous plot reasons. The adult version of William Clayton (Ben Lewis), Oliver’s son that he didn’t know about until a season or two ago, is also on hand, and—sidebar here—he’s gay because Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum) isn’t around in this future, and the DC-on-CW series all have this gay character Affirmative Action thing going on. I’m in favor of inclusion, just not bureaucratic predictability. We also get Connor Hawke (Joseph David-Jones), who is John Diggle’s adopted son somehow, but JJ Diggle, John’s actual son, is serving another typical plot convention. Charlie Barnett portrays JJ in Season 8. I thought he made an actual appearance in 7, but I’m apparently mistaken. The character certainly made an appearance, just not the actor.

An adult Zoe Ramirez (Andrea Sixtos) is around in this future, as are some enduring “older” adults, such as Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), Mayor Rene Ramirez (Rick Gonzalez), Dinah Drake (Juliana Harkavy), and a version of Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy Rodgers). We also get the triumphant return of Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) to the series, after being famously absent (except for some guest star appearances) for quite a few years.

The crux of the future plot is that things aren’t going so well, and somehow it’s all Felicity Smoak’s fault for something that began 20 years ago.

The preceding recitation of character names should be some indication of how busy and confusing this series tends to become, whether past, present or future. However, it is the adopted-family feel of Team Arrow that most fans, including me, are drawn to in this series. Aside from characters I mentioned already, we also get Oliver’s own Jiminy Cricket, John Diggle Sr. (David Ramsey), and his wife, the head of ARGUS, Lyla Michaels (Audrey Marie Anderson), as well as Oliver himself, Curtis Holt, and the past versions of all those Team Arrow characters who appear in the 20-years-later flashforwards. Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) also makes a return appearance, proving you can’t keep a good man dead, and he’s also in Season 8.

Season 7 seems to satisfactorily conclude a story arc, seeming almost like a series finale in itself as Oliver and Felicity leave Star City to go into seclusion, off the grid. Then the Monitor (LaMonica Garrett) shows up, reminding Oliver that he made a deal, and he has a role to play in The Crisis on Infinite Earths plot that has been building over several seasons across all of the DC shows. Oliver is fated to die at the conclusion of that event, something we’re told over-and-over.

That, my friend, is the raison d’etre of Season 8. It is Arrow: Endgame, really. It’s all about the martyrdom of Oliver Queen and his legacy.

His legacy, unfortunately, includes doubling down on the Star City 2040 plot that ran throughout Season 7. Most of Season 8 is the ramp up to the eighth episode of the season, “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part 4.”

In the spirit of full disclosure, this is the only installment of this four-part event that I actually watched. I haven’t watched DC’s Legends of Tomorrow for several seasons now. I used to say that I would probably get back to it, but I’m waffling on that commitment now since some of my favorite characters are no longer a part of the series. I skipped both Supergirl and Flash last season, and still plan to play catchup (although I reserve the right to change my mind). And, finally, I haven’t watched Batwoman and currently have no plans to do so. Batwoman was never a part of my comic book experience as a child, and I don’t feel compelled to watch this series. I feel pretty much the same about the upcoming Stargirl series. I’m on the fence about Superman & Lois (I never watched a single episode of Lois & Clark, either).

Perhaps the market for superhero television series has finally become oversaturated. I’m looking forward to more seasons of Titans and Doom Patrol, if that makes you DC fans feel any better. I’m not over superhero television. I just suspect that the CW brand of superhero television may have jumped the proverbial shark.

But, I digress—

In spite of not watching parts one through three of the crossover event, I don’t feel that I missed anything. I understand what was going on in this episode, and I cop to my fanboy moment at seeing the Spectre and the Anti-Monitor on a network television episode. The ending came as no big surprise. Here, truly, was the end of Oliver Queen’s story, which, over the years, morphed from a story of a non-powered hero trying to save his city to that of a cosmic-player who had to save the Multiverse. A lot more than what I signed up for, and, as I’ve learned over the years, more isn’t always better.

Speaking of more . . .

Even though the series really ended with Episode 8, we still had two more episodes to cap off Season 8. Episode 9 was a shameless backdoor pilot for a series that was meant to be called Green Arrow & The Canaries, featuring Oliver’s daughter Mia as the new Green Arrow in the future. The flashforwards of Season 7 and bringing the future characters into our “present” in Season 8, however briefly, were building towards this spinoff series. As far as I know, the CW has chosen not to go forward with the series. At least, it hasn’t been officially announced although recent stories have mentioned that it’s “in development.” I’m neither thankful nor disappointed in this. I don’t plan to watch it even if it somehow appears on the schedule in the future.

I would watch a series featuring the Jim Corrigan version of The Spectre, however. I was a huge fan back when Jim Aparo was doing the artwork on this character.

SpectreAparo

The final episode of the final season is Arrow‘s version of the Lost finale. No nondenominational church where all the characters from the series congregate in the afterlife this time, but something similar. We get a greatest-hits version of the television series. Oliver not only died to save the Multiverse, but he somehow managed to rewrite history in the process to make things better. Characters who were deceased get to return to the show one last time, characters such as Moira, Tommy Merlyn, even Adrian Chase. Thea Queen and Roy Harper are reunited. Quentin Lance is returned from the dead for good. Oliver gets a statue in his honor. There’s a teary funeral scene in which everyone gathers around an empty grave. Barry Allen and Kara Danvers are there, along with everyone else, and Diggle gets to say a few words.

There’s a bit of an epilogue after John and Lyla move to Metropolis and Diggle witnesses a meteor crashing to the ground. At first, I thought Diggle was going to find his Earth’s version of Kal-El and become Superman’s foster dad. He does find something small, green and glowing, but the viewer doesn’t get to see it. The suggestion is that this is a Green Lantern Corps power ring. I would be good with a series about Diggle as the Green Lantern. I’ve read nothing that suggests this is happening, however.

Another epilogue involves the Monitor taking Felicity to some sort of afterlife, where she’s reunited with Oliver. So, another nod to Lost, maybe.

I am glad that the series was able to reach some sort of ending to its overarching story. In doing so, it also highlights how complicated and, at times, confusing the plot became. In the end, this wasn’t the same show that I began watching, and I wasn’t the biggest fan of what it became. I did, however, like most of the cast, and I’m certain I’ll see them again in other future series.

Firewater’s I-Have-to-Be-Someone-Else-I-Have-to-Be-Something-Else Report Card: C+

C-plus

It’s been a long, strange trip, and I’m glad it’s over. But, it wasn’t a total waste of time.

One thought on “Arrow: Seasons 7 & 8 — a review

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