Considering that last week’s episode of Arrow ended with a small town getting nuked, the stakes were startling high considering the mission this week was very personal. While Oliver and Diggle go under the dome to fine Thea, Felicity and her father hack while her mother hovers and provokes some airing of the Smoak family dirty laundry. On the surface, dedicating time in this penultimate episode to the flighty Donna Smoak and her issues, especially as everyone else in the room is focused on stopping Judgement Day, was bizarre, but damn if this episode of Arrow didn’t deliver a thrilling hour of TV regardless.
Picking up almost to the minute from “Monument Point”, Oliver and Diggle confront Darhk as he powers up from all the death, and fail. Meanwhile, Anarchy gets away while Thea attends the recently decease Alex. It would have been nice if Arrow had sprung for the actual actor because that was pretty obviously a body double, but Alex always felt like a place-filler anyway, so it hardly even mattered. Long story short, Malcolm decides he only needs one loose cannon on this deck, and drugs Thea so that she will be a little more compliant.
Oliver and Diggle break into the dome after Felicity locates it under the Glades. They find Thea, but she’s be drugged to the Darhk side of the Force, which makes the Green Arrow and Spartan have to fight their way through the fake suburban sprawl to escape the Ghosts. Veteran superhero show director Glen Winter did a helluva job shooting and cutting that sequence, it was a thrilling and frantic chase that made you really feel the pressure on the dynamic duo as they just tried to get out of the way. Shooting it must have been torture for that Vancouver neighborhood posing as the dome though, but it was totally worth it seeing it on screen.
More than rescuing Thea, the Green Arrow’s adventures in the dome opened up another kettle of fish and that is that some of the people there weren’t drugged into compliance at all. I don’t think it was ever explained how the people in the dome were chosen aside from being precious H.I.V.E. underlings and their families, but some of them evidently were looking for hope for a better tomorrow. Darhk apparently provides that with the prospect of living underground for centuries surrounded by armed guards and a fake environment with the only escape being to the irradiated Earth.
Among the machinations of Darhk and the struggle to take him down after the death of the Black Canary a thread’s been gotten lost, and that’s the crumbling status of Star City. At the beginning of the season, it seemed like there was nothing that could be done to stop the slow death of the town, and then Oliver ran for mayor and things started looking up. As one of the people that Arrow and Spartan accidentally take hostage points out, the recent history of Star City has been one in which people promise hope and then fail to deliver. Perhaps it’s then easy to buy the sliver of hope in the nearly pure nihilism to destroy the world as it is to build a better one, at least if it feels like someone’s going to carry through on their promises. Maybe that also explains Trump voters.
As the wild card in this episode Anarchy provided a common enemy for Team Arrow and Malcolm to work against. Capturing Ruvé Adams and her daughter, Anarchy demands that either Darhk surrender himself or one, both, and possibly everyone in the dome would die. Darhk’s daughter, and presumably many members of the dome community are saved, but the team’s fight against Anarchy inadvertently destroys the underground colony and kills Adams. Anarchy too makes a getaway, which is good because he’s definitely grown on me as a recurring irritant. When he responds to Adams’ threat about her husband killing him, Anarchy’s response, “Did I leave you with the impression that I was a rational guy?” was beautifully delivered.
Rationality was at a premium this week, as the efforts to shut down the Rubicon turned into a partial rake out of the Smoak family issues. Apparently, it was’t Noah that left Donna and Felicity, but it was Donna that ordered Noah to go thinking that he was going to suck Felicity into his world of computer crimes. Probably a pretty shrewd assessment of the situation, but the back and forth between Donna and Noah provided some decent levity in an episode that kind of needed some, and that’s hard for me to say given how generally annoying I find Donna. Still, if the point next week is for Darhk to do a Henry Allen on Donna in order to make Felicity do what he wants, then I’ve got to say that they’ve overestimated her value.
At the same time though, the hacking scenes managed to capture the same sense of energy as the action scenes, albeit in a different way. Brother Eye, Felicity’s college boyfriend introduced in the odious Felicity flashback from season three, is employed by Darhk to get access to the Rubicon, and he goes full on Christopher Plummer from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The coup de grâce though was when the scene went from mere reference to direct homage when Brother Eye says “to be or not to be” right before Felicity made his computer blow-up. Episode writers Brian Ford Sullivan and Oscar Balderrama are obviously Trekkies, and their dedication to the gag, even in the midst of the prospect of fiery nuclear death, was appreciated.
Aside from how Oliver will ultimately defeat Darhk, there are a couple of interesting quandaries to consider going into next week’s finale. How exactly will Green Arrow give the people hope? Is it possible for Team Arrow to stem the tide of depression of Star City, especially since the Glades just got sucked into the Earth? What fate awaits Malcolm Merlyn? Does he serve any purpose at this point beyond making his daughter’s life miserable? And with Mayor Adams dead – which is four dead mayors now in as many years – who can come forward to lead the city? Was Oliver’s comment to Lance that the people needed someone they trust a hint at things to come? There’s a lot to cram into next week’s finale, and given the overall good quality of the episodes in the second half of season four, I hope Arrow sticks the landing.