As compared with other shows, the finale episode is very important for Arrow because it tends to make or break the entire season. The finale for the third and fourth season were not good by any measure simply because they were utter failures when it came to sticking to the landing. In contrast, season five fared much better as it ended the show on a pretty high note. As far as the sixth season is concerned, the show has remained uneven throughout due to which the final episode was all the more important. A strong finish was needed and for the most part, they did manage to deliver one.
The reason why ‘Life Sentence’ comes off as a rather different beast than others is because the stakes in this finale were quite low as compared to some of the others we have seen so far. The unlikely alliance that formed between Agent Watson’s FBI team and Team Arrow in the opening sequence essentially cut Diaz’s plan off at the knees. This meant that the safety of Star City was assured. Since there was no all-powerful villain threatening the people and no risk of doomsday attack, the episode focused more on hunting down Diaz and for balancing the need of bringing him down for saving Laurel.
Luckily, the smaller scope didn’t do any damage to the episode as a whole. In most respects, Diaz has turned out to be a rather non-traditional villain so it made complete sense that the usual tropes were not followed in the finale. Nonetheless, there was a desperate and sad touch given to Diaz’s role for this week as he came off as a cornered and feral animal who lashed out at all the enemies surrounding him. Needless to say, it was quite entertaining to watch Kirk Acevedo play the deranged and frazzled version of the character.
However, perhaps the most surprising element of the episode was the open-ended way they chose to resolve the conflict with Diaz. This is the first time that a villain on the show has managed to escape justice in the season finale and lived to threaten the city once more. On the other hand, there was a little bit of an anticlimactic quality to the way the final battle between Diaz and Ollie played out. On this front, viewers didn’t get the closure they were probably looking for and the actual fight also didn’t make much of an impression on a visceral level.
The fight scene was muddled due to the darkly clad characters as well as dim lighting because these factors made it immensely difficult for viewers to distinguish one character from the other. Apart from that, there is a lot to be said about the show allowing these rivalries between heroes and villains to develop over the course of several seasons. The same was said for Legends of Tomorrow when they tried to get so much mileage out of Damien Darhk. The same principle is applied here, but the good thing is that Diaz will evolve a bit now as they are bringing the Longbow Hunters into the fold.
But, it was quite frustrating to have their name dropped and not brought up again. Yes, it is definitely fun when the finale is used by a season for setting the stage for the oncoming conflict, but it seemed rather odd for Diaz to brag about his new group and not bring them during his fight with Team Arrow. Regardless, the unceremonious and quick fall of Diaz makes more sense if you realize that the crux of the episode was actually Oliver’s ‘farewell tour’. It would have been better for the episode to devise a way to disguise the twist like not using the name ‘Life Sentence’ for the episode.
But, despite that, the character-driven scenes did have a lot of impact. An uneven yet effective character arc came to a close this season with the heart-to-hear chats between Ollie and his teammates. He has been searching for a way to be a good hero, leader and father and it seemed like a good solution to throw himself under the bus for Team Arrow and William. The acting and writing for these scenes was quite strong, which was immensely helpful. The scene between Ollie and Diggle played off quite well, given their long history and the falling-out they had a few months back.
Another notable moment was the tearful goodbye to Quentin, whose farewell was handled quite gracefully. Oliver admitted that he saw him as a father and that was enough to seal the deal. Anatoly didn’t get much play in the episode and that was a bit disappointing. In recent weeks, the character shifted dramatically with Ollie appealing to his better side and getting him to turn himself in after helping Team Arrow. Laurel also didn’t get much play, even though it seems that she has finally made up her mind about who she wants to be.
The character went back-and-forth this season between betrayal and redemption, but Laurel’s meeting with her ‘sister’ finally helped her make a choice. The awkward interaction between the two justified the guest role of Caity Lotz and it seems that Laurel has decided to give up being a villain for good after being quite perplexing through the entire season. In a nutshell, the episode did exactly what was expected of it; it set up an intriguing premise for the oncoming season of the show.
While the series was a bit slow and dragging for most of the year, it was able to gain the right momentum in the last few episodes. There are some interesting story developments that the show may probably explore in the next season as they have hinted at it like Ollie’s identity being revealed and Diggle taking up the mantle. We are hoping that the finale marks a permanent shift in the direction of the series and the show doesn’t repeat some of the early mistakes it made early in the sixth season.