“I returned home with only one goal… to save my city“
Season 8 of Arrow is its last. Shortened to ten episodes, the writers of the show that gave birth to the “Arrowverse” draw all of the storylines to a conclusion by highlighting the theme of redemption.
As has been argued repeatedly, Arrow explores the theme of failure in each season. A second dominant theme is family and the failure of parents and the consequences of their shortcomings. Oliver experiences this as both a playboy and as a father. Yet in this final season, the writers not only set up the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” story arc, but also make Oliver’s quest a success.
Each character finds redemption. Roy Harper (aka “Arsenal”) is brought back into the fold and rejoins the Arrow team. Roy is still struggling with his blood lust and through the season, learns he needs the team. His redemption culminates in his engagement to Thea. The two had been in an off-again-on-again relationship since the second season.
Likewise, Earth-2 Laurel‘s arc of redemption concludes. After killing off the Laurel Black Canary (a serious mistake in my opinion), the writings brought her back as a villain in the Earth-2 doppelganger. Over the course of several seasons, her character transforms from villain to hero. The climax comes at the end when Oliver, as Specter, chose to save her and not the Earth-1 Laurel. When she confronts Quinten, he explains, “Because, sweetheart, there is nothing about you that needed to be fixed.”
The future is also redeemed. In logic I don’t understand, Oliver’s children from the future return to help him in Crisis. They tell him and his team that Star City in the future was a terrible place to live overrun by corrupt politicians and criminals. By the end of the series, the future has been changed by the team’s actions.
Families are redeemed as well. Diggle meets his future adoptive child – a child he has yet to adopt. Though rocky initially, the two grow close. Likewise, both Mia and William (Oliver’s children) finally get to meet their father and reconcile some of their childhood hurts. Even Laurel gets to share her heart with Quinton in the strange “Groundhog Day” themed episode.
All of this redemptive work comes as a result of Oliver’s fight for the city and his death at the end of crisis. Oliver actually dies twice. As the above quote (taken from virtually every episode including the last) demonstrates, Oliver could not save the city simply as a Queen – he had to become something else. The tag line references his fight as the Green Arrow. Yet by the end of the series, we discover that this transition must happen again. No trick arrow could stop the Crisis, yet by being transformed as the Specter, Oliver’s sacrifice has lasting results.
At the heart of this final season is redemption by means of sacrifice. Oliver saves his city by dying for it. Every character find redemption because of Oliver’s death. Those familiar with Christianity will recognize the story arc. Redemption comes by means of Christ’s death.
Yet this is where the series fails in the end. Christianity does not teach that sacrifice alone saves. There must be resurrection. Even though the final scene of Oliver and Felicity spending eternity together touches on this theme, it lacks the depth of Christian theology. Christ was risen from the dead, not as a ghost, but in the flesh. There is now a man who conquered death who sits at the right hand of the Throne as our Mediator. That is what saves cities because that is what saves souls.