UK TV review: Arrow Season 8
Endings and beginnings8
Matthew Turner | On 03, May 2020
Warning: This contains spoilers for Arrow Season 8.
After eight years, Arrow has finally come to an end. Considering the show began life as a slightly po-faced version of DC superhero Green Arrow, it leaves behind a phenomenal TV legacy in the shape of an entire DC TV universe, rightly named the Arrowverse in honour of its originator. With that in mind, the eighth and final season has a number of missions to accomplish in the course of its 10 episodes (shortened from the usual 22) – it has to wrap up all its storylines and see each of its characters off in style, while also laying the groundwork for the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover and setting up the potential spin-off show, Green Arrow and the Canaries. To that end, it largely succeeds, even if it occasionally favours fan service over things like logic and common sense.
Having established in the previous season that Oliver would die in the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, the majority of the episodes are spent revisiting various characters – ranging from old favourites like Thea to popular characters like Anatoly and Nyssa and blasts from the past Tatsu and the old Lian Yu gang – while nominally completing a series of missions intended to aid Team Arrow in the crossover. Needless to say, there’s no Big Bad this season, because Oliver already has enough on his hands with his imminent death.
Meanwhile, Season 8 continues with the flash-forwards (repositioned from the flashbacks that were a key feature of the first five runs) to 2040, where Oliver and Felicity’s grown-up daughter Mia (Katherine McNamara), Oliver’s grown-up son William (Ben Lewis) and Diggle’s adopted son Connor (Joseph David-Jones) are battling an army lead by the new Deathstroke, who turns out to be Diggle’s grown-up son, J.J. (Charlie Barnett). Part of that is set-up for the intended spin-off show Green Arrow and the Canaries (where Mia will take over as Green Arrow), so it makes sense that those plot strands don’t get wrapped up here. Instead, the show makes the inspired decision to bring Mia, William and Connor to 2020 (via teleportation, although technically it’s time-travel) for a handful of episodes, thereby allowing Mia to take part in Crisis alongside her father, and also enabling a handful of emotional encounters and creating a mini time-paradox, in that it’s arguably Diggle’s knowledge that Connor is his adopted son that persuades him to adopt baby Connor later in the season.
The pre-Crisis highpoint of the season comes in Episode 6, entitled Reset, which, as the title implies, is basically a Groundhog Day episode, wherein Oliver and Laurel keep reliving the same day over and over again until Oliver comes to terms with the fact that he can’t save everybody, or something. It’s a good example of Arrow at its best – a little bit serious, a little bit goofy, liberally sprinkled with action and emotion – even if it’s slightly more playful than the average episode.
It’s doubtful that anyone with an interest in the Arrowverse would watch Arrow’s contribution to the Crisis crossover without also watching the other four parts – spread across The Flash (Sky One), Supergirl (Sky One), Batwoman (E4) and Legends of Tomorrow (Sky One) – but suffice it to say that Arrow’s segment of it (Part 4) both lives up to the Crisis hype and delivers on the expected emotional moments. Oliver does indeed make his prophesied big sacrifice and he does it in the most Oliver way imaginable. (“You have failed this universe!”) In fact, the crossover is so desperate to give Oliver the appropriate send-off that he’s killed off twice.
The various showrunners were keen to stress the seismic effect the Crisis crossover would have on the Arrowverse and, to be fair, they weren’t wrong. The short version is that each of the alternate Earths – including Supergirl’s Earth and Black Lightning’s Earth – are now folded into Earth Prime. That, in turn, means each show gets to make various tweaks to their new reality (e.g. Lex Luthor is now the head of the DEO on Supergirl) and in the season finale of Arrow, we find out what those tweaks are.
The finale episode itself (aptly titled Fadeout) is a big-time tribute episode, giving Oliver a public funeral (where he’s acknowledged as, essentially, the saviour of the universe and, in a nice meta touch, ”the first of our heroes”) and a private funeral, where everyone gets to say goodbye and even people like Anatoly and the al-Ghul sisters show up to pay their respects. The actual plot of the episode is fairly flimsy: William gets kidnapped again, Mia rescues him and wrestles with whether or not to kill the kidnapper, which ties in with the flashbacks to Season 1, which have Diggle persuading Oliver that he doesn’t need to kill those that don’t deserve it. This turns out to be an effective way of showing just how much Oliver grew over the course of the show’s eight years, going from a loner who killed out of revenge and anger to someone altogether more thoughtful and considerate, who was loved and respected as the leader of a team.
Generally speaking, the show gives each character an appropriate send-off, regardless of whether or not they’re contracted to appear in Green Arrow and the Canaries. John Ramsey’s Diggle gets the best send-off of all – not only is the episode rightly centred around him (and his genuinely moving eulogy), but it ends with the suggestion that – spoiler alert – he effectively becomes Green Lantern.
However, in seeking to pay tribute to its entire run, Arrow arguably goes a bit too far. It’s strongly implied that Oliver has somehow been able to shape the new reality (at least as far as Star City is concerned), so the likes of Moira Queen, Tommy Merlyn, Quentin Lance (hurrah!) and Emiko Queen are all revealed to be still alive. That’s all well and good and it allows for an emotional arc for Laurel, who has to process the fact that Oliver chose to give her a chance to live and redeem herself on Earth Prime rather than just bringing back Original Laurel (this one is from Earth-2 and was originally evil – keep up at the back there). However, saying that Oliver was only allowed to save those whose deaths didn’t have an impact on the timeline – unlike, say, his dad – suggests that he was unaffected by the deaths of Moira, Tommy and Quentin, which seems a bit of a stretch, to say the least.
Still, it’s hard to complain too much about blatant fan service – the episode even squeezes in some parkour for Roy and Diggle acing the salmon ladder – when it gets so much else right, plus it’s a pleasure to see the likes of Colin Donnell and Susanna Thompson reprising their roles one last time. Ultimately, there’s something in the final season for everyone, whether it’s a kick-ass action beat, a note of character comedy or a weepy moment. The only thing that’s missing is Mia inheriting and trying out Oliver’s stash of trick arrows. Maybe they’re saving that for Green Arrow and the Canaries.
Arrow Season 8 is available on Sky One until 15th May 2020. Season 6 and 7 are also available. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it live and on-demand legally on NOW, for £9.99 a month, with no contract and a 7-day free trial. For the latest Sky TV packages and prices, click the button below.