Arrow closes the chapter on one of TV’s most significant superheroes of all time…
It’s not an exaggeration that Arrow has made a significant impact on the superhero TV genre. While there have been many successful superhero films even before the billion-dollar behemoth that is the Marvel Cinematic universe (most of them from the DC catalogue), superhero TV shows – outside of the animated heights of the 90s like Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men – have been less successful. There were valiant efforts (The Incredible Hulk, the 60s Batman and Wonder Woman), but largely any attempts to create a long-standing superhero TV show have been limited by budget, ambition and a shyness from its comic-book origins. In the years before Arrow, there were sporadic attempts to bring superheroes to the small screen. Smallville was Superman without Clark Kent in the cape and tights. Birds of Prey was a low budget version of what was on the comic page. Heroes was an attempt as superheroes without all the splendour and action we’ve come to expect from the modern superhero genre.
But Arrow changed that. Sure, its early days (and arguably a lot of its stories) have been heavily influenced by the success of The Dark Knight trilogy. But it wasn’t afraid to bring the heroes and villains of the Green Arrow and Batman comics to life. From Black Canary to Deathstroke, Atom to Prometheus, Arrow showed a commitment to bringing these characters to life. It’s success – remember just how good season two was? – also spawned the entire Arrowverse to life. While The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow mighty be flashier in their stories and characters, they both found their origins in Arrow. Without the Arrowverse, Supergirl may have been another of those one-season superhero wonders after its cancellation by CBS. Arrow‘s story was very much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Iron Man; a second-tier character that spearheaded a superhero revolution. And sure the budgets might not have a hope in competing with the big-screen shenanigans of The Avengers movies, but the annual Arrowverse crossovers have been a lot of fun, particularly this season’s massively epic Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Which leads us to Arrow‘s final episode. Despite Oliver Queen’s death in Crisis Part Four, his legacy remains and Fadeout is all about reflecting on that legacy. While last week’s episode served as a pilot for future Star City spin-off Green Arrow and the Canaries, the finale heads back to the present for one final celebration of its many heroes as Oliver Queen is laid to rest in the new Earth he created.
And it does feel like a celebration, both in the host of returning heroes and some surprising changes to the timeline in this new Earth Prime. For starters, Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson), Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne), Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell) and Emiko Queen (Sea Shimooka) are all alive. In one of the episode’s flashbacks / alternative takes on scenes from seasons one and two, Oliver stops Slade Wilson from killing his mother. Tommy, we learn, was married to Laurel, who’s death remains absolute with the presence of Earth 2 Laurel in this timeline. There’s a lovely scene between Laurel and Quentin where she weighs in on her role in preventing his daughter from returning from the dead and he helps her find peace.
In fact, the biggest success of Fadeout is not the documentary-style of ‘The Emerald Archer’ or the somewhat random action side-plot to rescue a kidnapped William, but the connections between these characters one last time. For Thea and Roy, there is finally some happiness as she accepts his proposal and he moves past the off-screen trauma that was alluded to in season seven. One of my favourite heroes of season five – Joe Drincol’s Rory Regan / Ragman gets a cool action moment and a shared connection with Oliver’s spiritual successor with Rene (Rick Gonzalez continuing to deliver more mature role). Sara picking up Mia following the events of last week, allows her connection with Dinah to grow further, ahead of of the spin-off and a great moment where she connects with her mother.
It goes without saying that having Felicity back for the finale was an absolute must and she has been the one thing missing from the final run of episodes. Her sense of pride at Mia the hero or her long-standing friendship with John offer plenty of emotional weighting to the finale and Emily Bett Rickards certainly remains, alongside David Ramsey, one the break-out and most-loved members of the Arrow family.
With Curtis, Sara and Lyla also back one last time, FadeOut was a swansong, not just for Oliver, but the whole team, past and present. The funeral itself, was a place for find reunions and strange connections. From the overt hostility of Nyssa and Talia Al’Ghul, to Tommy meeting Earth 2 Laurel, Emiko connecting with half sister Thea and Moira and even Anatoly back to toast his fallen comrade, this was a lovely scene to watch. With Barry and Kara over from The Flash and Supergirl, this was as much a celebration of Oliver’s legacy – and the wider Arrowverse – and a memorial for the fallen super hero.
William’s kidnapping didn’t make a lot of sense and was really there just to see out heroes in action one last time; Arrow of course, is known for its action and epic fight sequences – as glimpsed in the gloriously OTT killing spree that Oliver went on in the flashback to season one. But it was there to show just how solid a foundation it had made to the DC superhero universe; whole The Flash and Supergirl will continue to carry the torch, the finale also hinted at more adventures to come – was the really a Green Lantern tease for John Diggle in the episode’s closing moments? I really hope so.
Fadeout then, caps off a momentous eight years of Arrow, showing us just how Oliver Queen had come and celebrating the Arrowverse he established. It’s great to see that this universe will continue with at least two further spin-offs in active development. But for all its darkness and grit and action, the finale was about those character moments, none more so than Felicity’s bittersweet reunion with Oliver in the Afterlife. Fadeout delivered a satisfying finale, closing the chapter on one of the most significant TV superhero shows of all time.
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