WARNING: MASSIVE spoilers ahead for Arrow Episode 23 "Schism." Do not proceed unless you have seen the episode!
After Team Arrow rescued the residents of Tevat Noah in the previous episode "Lost In The Flood," Oliver and company finally came face to face with Damien Darhk this week for a season finale showdown of epic proportions.
While some of our questions have still been left unanswered, "Schism" was a satisfying conclusion to Season 4 for the most part, bringing resolution to a number of ongoing themes threaded throughout Arrow's entire run, alongside hints regarding the future direction of the show in Season 5.
Inevitably, the writers had to cram a lot of information into the episode's short running time, so we're here to help, breaking down five important things you might have missed in "Schism", the Season 4 finale of Arrow.
1. Is Russia An Island?
"For five years, I was stranded on an island with only one goal —"
Despite Ollie's regular reminders that life on the island was tough, flashbacks from the past few seasons have revealed time and time again that the former playboy actually saw a lot more of the world than he originally let on, a theme that looks set to continue in Season 5.
This week's flashbacks brought an end to Ollie's brief return to the island with the mercy killing of a power-mad Taina consumed by the dark magic of the idol. Amanda Waller arrives soon after the deed is done, offering Oliver further work with A.R.G.U.S., but he declines in order to keep a promise he made to Taiana before her death.
That's right guys — Oliver is heading to Russia in the Season 5 flashbacks, presumably to inform Taiana's family of their daughter's death and to drink vodka.
2. So Everyone's Cool With Malcolm Again?
One minute, he's the Dark Archer — an admittedly handsome thorn in the side of Team Arrow — next he's a loving father to Thea, who he then betrays at regular intervals. Let's not forget his tenure as Ra's al Ghul, head of the League of Assassins.
In last week's episode, Merlyn brainwashed Thea to fight Oliver. Yet this week, he helped Team Arrow once again in their quest to take Darhk down once and for all. Sure, a nuclear apocalypse is as good an excuse as any to bring families together, but when will the team stop trusting Merlyn with their lives?
Just give him a key to the Arrow Cave already and be done with it.
3. Revenge For Laurel
Laurel Lance's death was undoubtedly the most shocking moment of Season 4, dividing fans while ripping the team's emotional core apart. However, despite Stephen Amell's confirmation that the Black Canary would not be resurrected, a photo of star Katie Cassidy on the Arrow set briefly generated some hope that the beloved character could return in some capacity.
Now that the finale has been aired, we know for a fact that Laurel doesn't return to Team Arrow, but the writers still did an excellent job of exploring the emotional fallout of her death, including a sneaky tribute at the moment of Darhk's final downfall.
Rather than shoot Darhk from a distance, Oliver took down his deadly adversary with an arrow shafted directly into the stomach, echoing the way Laurel was murdered just a few episodes earlier, in a poignant moment of poetic justice for Ollie's fallen comrade.
The one theme that has ran consistently throughout the show is Oliver's ongoing struggle with his dark morality. Being stranded for five years on an island — and Hong Kong, among other places — changed Oliver, turning him into a merciless killer, so the last four seasons have subsequently dealt with his gradual move towards the light.
For most of Season 4, Oliver seemed to have bettered himself. The Green Arrow showed mercy to his opponents and Ollie allowed his loved ones in closer than ever before, to the point where he could effectively use light magic to repel Darhk's evil. However, by killing Darhk in the finale, it seemed that perhaps this character development had been thrown by the wayside.
Fortunately, this moral contradiction was not only addressed, but was even resolved at the end of the episode during a conversation with Felicity, where she helped Oliver realize that he will never be entirely "good," that the Green Arrow must strike a balance between light and dark in order to save the day and stay true to himself.
5. The People's Champ
More than ever before, "Schism" portrayed Oliver as the man he's always wanted to be — a true hero of Star City. While his impromptu speech on top of the car was clumsily handled, the impact it had was invaluable, building towards both the final battle and Oliver's new role as Mayor of the City.
It was extremely gratifying for longtime fans of the show to finally see Oliver accepted in both his role as hero and civil servant, working ever closer towards the version of Green Arrow we know and love from the comics.
Let's just hope Oliver has time to continue being the Green Arrow. Between his new appointment to office and the disbandment of the team, Ollie certainly has his work cut out for him. At least he still has Felicity though, tapping the hell out of those keys while throwing in the occasional quip.
Lines That Hit The Mark: Best Quotes From This Week's Episode
“Dying instantaneously in nuclear fire: rather painless. And then there’s having your life force slowly sucked out of you…like this.”
“I know you don’t live here anymore, but those were nice windows.”
“Living in Star City takes a certain kind of tenacity. It’s not exactly sane to live here, a fact that Paul reminds me of constantly.”
“Nice speech, Oliver. Made me long for a voting booth.”
“What does a guy have to do to end the world in peace…”
“Mr. Seldon, you weak-willed dust mite.”
“You killed a friend of mine. You killed tens of thousands of innocent people. With Slade Wilson, I had a choice. This time, I don’t.”