I don’t envy anyone who casually dropped in on Arrow‘s final episode to see where The Hood’s journey ended up; hell, if I even tried to piece together the logic of the many moving, time-traveling, resurrected pieces of the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Arrowverse, I would lose myself down a path of plot holes and logical fallacies, of which no series, no matter how heartfelt and ambitious, could recover.
More memorably, perhaps, is how Arrow expanded what the Green Arrow could be, turning one of the cheekier Justice League members into a paragon of personal growth, transforming a playboy-cum-murderous archer into a leader, a father, and a hero across its considerable run.
So it’s a good thing not to think about “Fadeout” too hard; the more one squints to examine the details, the more fragile the entire post-Crisis New Reality conceit becomes. And smartly, Arrow‘s final episode doesn’t try to explain itself too often; it is perfectly content to ride on the coattails of season eight’s extended nostalgia trip, a cascade of humble cameos and beautiful post-scripts that doesn’t even feature Oliver Queen (at least, as we know him now) until the absolute last moment.
And it’s pretty goddamn great at being that, never offering opportunity to nitpick moments like Wild Dog knowing he’d be elected mayor months before it happened, or the fact Arrow just had to fucking kidnap William one more time (though thankfully, he kept his mouth shut for once). For an episode steeped in eight years of history and the most convoluted timeline in television history, “Fadeout” keeps things rather simple, pairing characters off in a series of farewells that almost feel episodic in their own right, in how they build off each other until Oliver’s funeral scene, where it more than pays a little homage to Avengers: Endgame‘s own iconic hero send-off moment.
It speaks to the construct of this final season, and just how effective it is as a straight shot of nostalgia to the pleasure centers: all ten episodes of this season have been a carousel of familiar faces and moments in Oliver’s past – that is, until Crisis Part 4 and “Green Arrow and the Canaries,” the two hours tasked with rebooting the entire Arrowverse. But these familiar faces, from Adrian Chase to Quentin Lance, aren’t cheap nostalgia tactics; for the most part, they are rather effective reflections on Arrow‘s lengthy 170-hour journey, giving scope to the journeys of its central characters, alongside the story of Oliver being laid to rest.
As the Arrow Squad contends with the loss of their leader, and the resurrected find their places in the new world, Arrow‘s final hour leans into its history, while still taking time to look towards its future (most specifically, with Mia Queen and John Diggle, the newly minted Green Lantern). It does so by simply putting old faces in a room together, letting them reflect on the many idioms of nobility, sacrifice, and family Arrow haphazardly explored during its eight-year run. It is awkwardly heartfelt in the best way possible: we were never getting through an hour of Arrow without some goofy plotting and cliched dialogue, after all, and at least “Fadeout” utilizes it to emotionally resonant results, like when Nyssa introduces Sara to her sister as “my beloved,” or Roy Harper fumbles through another love-declaring speech to Thea Queen.
But to pick apart “Fadeout” is to miss the larger picture of Arrow, and what it did so well: where Arrow faltered in its episodic construction, it made up for in technical and narrative ambitions, which only grew larger and larger with each season (in particular, “Fadeout” pays homage to the series’ fantastic stunt work with an absolutely killer, surprisingly unassuming final fight scene, played out in a flashback sequence). “Fadeout” pays homage to all that, pushing almost all of its major faces (except for Jefferson Pierce and The Flash‘s supporting cast, surprisingly) together for a final scene together at Oliver’s funeral.
I can’t speak enough about how much I love the final ten minutes of “Fadeout”; maybe it is because it is the closest it feels to Legends of Tomorrow (again, it is basically Tony Stark’s funeral filtered through the Arrowverse), but more likely it is because of John Diggle, the unequivocal MVP of “Fadeout”. With Felicity kept in the background – save for when she is trying to contend with the infant and adult images of Mia she’s seeing – Diggle is really the central character of the hour, a man faced with the loss of his best friend, who gave him the gift of bringing his family back together before heading off to meet his destiny. Diggle, at peace with the end of his journey, gives “Fadeout” an anchor – in a way, allowing Dig to fill the role he’s served so well through the series, with the added emotional weight of a definitive farewell.
It also helps an episode of vignettes finishes on a tantalizing group of final images, which both work as definitive ends to characters and their stories on Arrow, but leaves the door open in interesting ways for those still existing in the Arrowverse. The Diggles are heading to Metropolis (again, with Diggle becoming the GREEN FUCKING LANTERN), Mia heads back to the future, and Dinah Drake rides off into the darkness, looking for other cities to save (and bringing back the much-missed Arrow-cycle, something forgotten in the late-era episodes of the series); in the end, Arrow never forgot its comic book roots, and the power of the illuminating tease.
And then there’s the final scene, where 2040 Felicity shuffles off the mortal coil, reunited with Oliver by a pre-Crisis The Monitor (… I think? I’m so confused) in Moira Queen’s old office. It’s a quiet moment, touching in its subltety and lack of performative declaring statements. Felicity, knowing her daughter’s become a hero (and her adopted son is… well, I guess maybe she doesn’t know about all that), heads off into the afterlife to be with the man she loved, and spent an entire decade protecting from himself.
A convenient ending? Of course it is – but Arrow wasn’t going to deny itself a full victory lap – and given the legacy it leaves behind, it deserves every cent of it. Never a perfect series, Arrow welcomed each imperfection like Oliver welcomed a fist to the kidney: willing to take the punch to make its point, constantly challenging itself by constantly pushing its characters in new directions, all in the name of characters trying to find their best selves. It expanded what action on broadcast television could be, with a reliance on stellar stunt work so many superhero series would benefit from employing (compare say, the final fight in Black Panther with anything in season two of Arrow, and you’ll see exactly what I mean).
More memorably, perhaps, is how it expanded what the Green Arrow could be, turning one of the cheekier Justice League members into a paragon of personal growth, transforming a playboy-cum-murderous archer into a leader, a father, and a hero across its considerable run. Arrow was never close to being perfect; then again, neither are we, “Fadeout” argues, a beautiful reminder that the search for our best selves is never easy or complete – but with a little love and a lot of fight (and sometimes, sick archery skills and the world’s best hacker as a wife), we can all find a way to a better, happier self.
Thanks for everything, Arrow. #SalmonLadderForever