This post contains spoilers for Arrow.
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For years Arrow struggled with packing an emotional punch without killing anyone. Your character needed to leave the show? Death. Oliver needed something to grow from? Death. Emotional tie-in needed? Death. Bodycount wasn’t even necessarily the problem. Heroes die every day! The issue was that the show couldn’t find another way to convey difficult or strong emotions without murdering one of its characters. “You Have Saved This City” breaks the cycle of violence, just as Oliver and Emiko do.
Team Arrow heads into the finale with the world against them. Both the SCPD and the public believe that they’re behind the attacks, but they do manage to pull an ally or two out of the ether. Mr. Terrific and Black Canary both return to Star City to join the fray, and Ben Turner wanders out of the crowd in an attempt to get them to listen to Oliver and the team. The people choose not to, a couple of them wind up with acid on their faces. It’s all pretty messy.
Arrow’s season finale has a decent amount of action but, in remaining true to the promised theme of breaking the cycle, the fighting isn’t really what the episode’s about. Team Arrow does go in to stop the Ninth Circle (and is even eventually joined by SCPD after they’ve realized they messed up), and Oliver does confront Emiko, but all of the punches are thrown by the time we’re halfway through.
Team Arrow stops the drug from being dispersed, and beats the Ninth Circle back into the shadows, but not before they kill Emiko. Her arc peters out as feebly as it began, but we do see her redemption before her final breath. Meanwhile, the children of Team Arrow destroy ARCHER and blow up The Wall in the future. Felicity struggles to let go while Dinah and Rene remind her that the kids don’t need their protection anymore. They’re the heroes now.
“You Have Saved This City” is all about legacy, and not just that of Team Arrow: The Next Generation. Through all the missteps, CW’s DCTV as it exists today because of Arrow (you too, Smallville). Legends of Tomorrow’s absurdities, the familial bonds of The Flash, the hope of Supergirl and the gritty streets of Gotham all came to be because of this (often broken) little show. It’s sad that it’ll be ending right as it’s really figured out what it wants to be, but ain’t that just the way of the world?
Arrow discovering its identity happened in tandem with Oliver Queen discovering his. When The Monitor comes for Oliver, a tearful Felicity asks why it always has to be him. In years past, we’ve watched a self destructive Green Arrow offer up his life to anyone that would take it. That Oliver always offered up his life because he wasn’t sure how to live. This one did because he knew that he had.
Before the Crisis tie in, we’re given several heartfelt goodbyes between the team. We see the Arrow Cave go dark around a tearful Oliver after his team disperses to continue to protect the city. The very city that Oliver feels he can leave because he knows that it is safe. Before they depart, Dig tells the other two members of OTA that “The spirit of this place will live long, long after we’re gone. They’ll continue your legacy. A cycle of heroes.” He’s not wrong. Neither in the context of the plot, or in the overall Arrowverse that has come to dominate the CW Network’s fall lineup. Dig then leaves his brother and sister at their new safe house in what is presumably the last time we’ll see the Original Team Arrow together again.
And then there’s Felicity Megan Smoak, lover of mint chip and babbler of words. The glue that held Team Arrow together throughout the show’s tenure and, for several grueling seasons, the heart of the thing. Emily Bett Rickards announced her departure from Arrow several weeks ago. We knew going in that this would be her last episode, but not how it would play out. Turns out the answer to that question is “in the most heartfelt way possible.”
In the present, we get to watch Oliver and Felicity live out what appears to be about a year of domestic bliss in their safe house. In the future, she supports her children in one last mission to save Star City. She promised her husband that she would protect their kids for as long as they needed her and, in seeing them take down the evil Galaxy One mostly on their own, she fulfilled that promise. It’s not always easy loving Oliver Queen, or the broken Star City. And it’s certainly no cakewalk taking care of two children who resent you (even if they do eventually come around). Felicity sacrificed it all in her past, present, and future. Her arc closes with a reward for that sacrifice.
With their kids safe, Felicity calls The Monitor to take her to her husband. We don’t know where or when that may be, but somehow that doesn’t much matter for the time being. There’s still a lot for Arrow to accomplish in its final ten episodes. Since we know the SCPD joined the vigilantes before the season’s close, we’re not quite sure how Star City 2019 became the Star City of 2040. Ben Turner will die at some point, leaving Connor to Lyla and Dig, Rene will betray his friends, and the city will fall to The Glades. A wall will be built, and a Crisis will occur.
There’s always going to be strife in the Green Arrow’s broken little town but, for now, they have saved this city.