Arrow Season IV – Season Finale “Schism” – A Review

Posted: 05/26/2016 in Uncategorized

arrow-schism-darhk

Well….wow…..if Flash Season II scored a perfect 10 for its landing, then Arrow seriously stumbled. “Schism” was a huge misstep. When one of the highlight moments is actually from the Lian Yu Baron Reiter (Jimmy Akingbola) arc, things have truly fallen apart. So much potential squandered. Neal McDonough’s Damien Darhk was menacing and dangerous enough. The writing team didn’t change and yet…things went so horribly wrong.

I honestly don’t know where to start and that is very rare for me, especially when one considers how strong an advocate for this show I have been. Even when story-lines got shaky in season III with the cursed “Al-Sahim” arc, I did not lose faith and despite fans constant bemoaning the missed opportunity and detraction from the incandescent “Climb” episode, the series still was infinitely watchable. Have I abandoned the show? Of course not. There are plenty fair weather fans out there to do that in my place. I am, however, deeply disappointed. DC once more continues its edict of the ultimately unhappy hero and turns yet another solidly established character into a lonely monk. I was leaning toward eunuch but that role seems sadly to fall to the Flash with the one notable exception the show-runners so readily took from him. Still cranky about that one, but I must move on…this is Arrow after all.

We open with Darhk threatening to “bring hell” to Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) Donna(Charlotte Ross) and Curtis (Echo Kellum). He exercises his will and tosses everyone around like dolls. He starts to siphon Donna’s life force to push Felicity to release the Rubicon codes and really there is no way anybody can stop him from doing anything at this point. This is the heart of the problem. Powered by the souls of ten thousand people, he is essentially a god. The Green Arrow/Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Spartan/Diggs (David Ramsey) intervention nearly gets GA killed. Only the arrival of Speedy/Thea (Willa Holland) holding DD’s daughter in hand and threatening to end her proves effective.  He still dumps a pile of H.I.V.E. soldiers to do a great bit of damage. Curtis is injured, seemingly badly but thanks to the ever-impatient inter-webs, we have zero fear of his fate as we know he is upgraded to full cast member for season V. No worry, no gravitas, no dramatic strength to said scene.

I full acknowledge that the show will probably never re-attain the standard of Seasons 1 & II. They hav tried big street battle sequences in both Season III and now IV, but it just isn’t the same. There is no more League of Assassins incursion. There is no more Deathstroke or Deathstroke army. There is just one unbeatable guy using magic. The magic aspect has proven to be a gamble in and of itself and not a successful one. Arrow has striven to remain pure and grounded in reality with the notable and justifiable exceptions of cross-overs with the Flash, where powers and wild sci fi story lines are the norm. By bringing in a super powered magical foe, the show-runners made the choice to open the field. Now this could have been something…”magical”. The introduction of John Constantine (Matt Ryan) on the show worked and had boundless potential. The same thing occurred with the use of Vixen/Mari McCabe (Megalyn Echikunwoke) which also proved effective both as a plot device tying in to the DC/CW web series and as a cool team up with back door pilot launch potential.

Esrin Fortuna (Gabrielle Wright) was introduced and her role could have been expanded to an actual active participant rather than relegated to a one off instructor who abandoned Ollie for being “too dark”. In my mind, an end sequence battlefield show down with Esri, Constantine and Vixen dealing with the mystical aspects while GA and team dealt with a H.I.V.E. onslaught would have been big screen level. This is not the path they chose. It began with a discussion of how all the team had lost hope, including their leader. The voice of optimism of course is Curtis, whose presence always improves a scene. His telling Oliver than only people who are insane live in Star City; citing that he and his husband nearly left the year before after the various acts of terror that pervaded the city. He then speaks of Green Arrow’s heroic acts and of Oliver’s own attempts to inspire and give hope. This leads to a scene meant to have deep epiphanic, emotional resonance. Instead, we get Oliver Queen standing on a car and telling the now rioting, panicked citizenry about to face nuclear Armageddon that they can all survive this latest onslaught if they pull together? Strangely enough, this might have worked on the Flash where such heart-felt, semi-corny, utterances are common…and effective. This, however, is Arrow. The darkness so frequently proffered as both a consequence and necessity causes such a speech to ring as forced.

Felicity and Curtis working in tandem to diffuse the nukes worked well; with the two bantering and her shaking off an emotional confession on his part with the able demonstration that they are a technological force to be reckoned with. A later scene features her attempting to reach her ex “Cooper Seldon” (Nolan Funk) to prevent his ongoing hacking and enabling of 15, 000 warheads from destroying the planet.  The fate Darhk reserved for him did show the depth of his power and viciousness, namely pushing a bullet in his spine slowly until he completed the task. In either case, the outcome was predictable.

This episode had energy to it, but none of the urgency the previous finales, including the Ra’s/GA showdown last season with a toxin being released simultaneously throughout the city. There was almost a palpable defeatism in the show’s atmosphere. As expected, the team pulls together. Team Arrow takes on the seemingly boundless resources of the H.I.V.E. army while GA has a one on one with Damien Darhk. The street battle that occurs heavily featured DD throwing Ollie around in punishing, violent fashion. Honestly, this one was unwinnable. The turning point and key factor…. is hope??? The very citizens challenged earlier by Oliver now stand up and defiantly tell Darkh to get out of their city. GA’s eyes light up signifying an empowerment of light in opposition to DD’s darkness. This could have worked. Even the follow up where magic is essentially taken out of the equation and the two fight hand to hand just did not measure up. Darhk advising he is formerly a member of the League is ably proven while the two fight in the street while the crowd cheers GA on initially then backing him while taking on DD’s army. The end result could have been accomplished much earlier on and GA’s early pondering if said action might have prevented Laurel’s/Black Canary’s (Katie Cassidy) death rings a little hollow. The end sequence opens things up for next season but fragments the team and leaves one hoping that Flash’s attempted re-set might flow over to this show.

“Schism” was not outstanding and not worth your time. Seeing Baron Reiter blow a plane out of the air in Lian Yu was a  highlight and that in and of itself makes me sad. Here’s hoping Season V  puts things to rights.

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