Arrow: Year's End

Oliver: "Merry Christmas."
Felicity: "I'm Jewish."
Oliver: (pause) "Happy Hanukkah."

So I think I've finally figured out what the show runners are trying to pull off, and it's pretty ambitious. It's telling that the episode title is "Year's End". The obvious interpretation is that it's a Christmas episode and it's literally taking place at the end of the year. Yet I don't really think this was a Christmas episode in the strictest sense. Instead the episode felt like a declaration that the first act is over, the set-up for the season arc is done, and now things are going to get heavy.

It was cool that Quentin immediately picked up on the fact that Adam Hunt's murder was done by a copycat. It was also cool that he gave in and decided to work with Arrow. Oliver even sent Quentin a cell-phone (a la The Matrix) to create a direct contact point, I wonder how long that connection will last? Then when Quentin was thrown off the case by the commissioner of police, it dawned on me what the show-runners might be doing. I think they are creating their own version of Batman: Year One. So far the story isn't quite as dark or as adult, and I can't draw on exact parallels. Still, Dig is obviously a version of Alfred, and Quentin is shaping up to be a young variation on Gordon. Would that make Laurel or Tommy Harvey Dent? Nah it's not that literal a translation. But if I'm right, this is a really exciting direction and I can't wait to see where they go with it.

The Christmas plot was refreshingly simple and had absolutely nothing to do with It's a Wonderful life or A Christmas Carol (both of which I love, but are used entirely too often as stock holiday plots). It brought together the Queen family for the first time since Oliver's return. Oliver's attempts to connect to his family have been almost half-hearted up until this episode, so it was nice that this seemed to be a genuine attempt to bridge the gaps that have formed between the family members. I think his attempt actually worked with Thea finally, who is the only member of the Queen family I actively like.

Dig pointed out to Oliver that his larger goal isn't the only important thing, again. In his failure to stop the Dark Archer, he managed to save five lives. Five people who were going to be able to go home to their families, severely traumatized, yes, but just in time for Christmas. This time though, I think it might have gotten through to him. Although Oliver quickly declared that he was now at war with the Dark Archer and the person pulling his strings, which of course is not entirely accurate. Merlyn (Tommy's father) is the Dark Archer, and the one that compiled all the names on the list Oliver's father gave him. He also has a plan that will lead to thousands of deaths, which is supposed to bring about a specific vision for the city. Although still vague, it does have the requisite evil arch villain master plan vibe.

I'm not so happy about the fact that Moira is so heavily involved in the evil plot. Even if she seems genuinely torn, she's willingly participated in this scheme orchestrated by Merlyn. So it wasn't surprising that Walter was the victim here, in fact they telegraphed that something was going to happen to him early on in the episode. I thought they were going to kill him off, but I was pleasantly surprised that they just kidnapped him, at least until Merlyn's plot to change the city goes off in six months. Oliver better get cracking if he's got any chance of stopping it.

Bits:

Some significant time has passed since Helena left.

Adam Hunt, who was Oliver's first take down as Arrow (from the first episode), returned and was promptly killed by the Dark Archer. It was a nice tie back to the pilot.

Tommy scored some serious points with Laurel and, surprisingly, Quentin by giving her that picture of her family from before Sarah died.

The island was a prison that was purged by the guy that tortured Oliver, and the only prisoners that survived were Oliver's mentor and Deathstroke.

Perhaps it's just me, but the entire time Oliver was asking Felicity for information about the black arrow I kept thinking, "no, don't put her in danger!"

The address that Felicity found literally screamed TRAP!!!!, and it was such a mustache twirling, evil mastermind trap, too. Although, I thought it was kind of awesome that Oliver escaped a bomb by using a bomb arrow.

I liked that final fight felt like a serial killer's version of an archery contest, and damn, was it brutal. Oliver got hit with three arrows, took multiple blows to his mid-section and barely escaped with his life. I liked the moment with Oliver lying outside the warehouse and begging Dig for help. It felt very much like Batman calling on Alfred.

It didn't feel like Laurel was talking about Tommy when she said there was someone that was making her feel again. Of course she wasn't talking about Tommy, but at the same time she was vague enough that it could be taken that way.

Quotes:

Merlyn: "How about Green Arrow?"
Oliver: "Lame."

Felicity: "Don't you knock?"
Oliver: "Felicity, this is the IT department, not the ladies room."

The show is still finding its footing, and needs to work on some of the cheesy dialogue, but I can feel the real plot starting to take shape. Here's to hoping that the writers will continue to build up this story to an epic season finale. See you all next year!

4 out of 4 Black Arrows

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

5 comments:

JK said...

Felicity's Jewish?! I think I'm in love...

I guess the question over the identity of Merlyn the Archer is settled. Still, I have to wonder which side Tommy will come down on once he learns the truth (or at least enough of it that he's forced to make a choice). I wonder if they'll go for a Harry Osborne thing...

Though it hasn't cracked my top five active series, I'm becoming very fond of Arrow. Quite excited to see where things head in the new year.

Assuming the world doesn't implode on the 22nd, of course. ;P

Anonymous said...

This show is steadily improving..So I'm not just watching for John Barrowman anymore..Felicity is adorable and I hope they keep her on. They need a cute tech girl.
I hope Helena returns soon. Strong and intriguing mid-season finale...and not too Christmassy..
Anna

ChrisB said...

I was a bit blah about the whole episode (it seemed to be doing a wanna be Christmas episode), but then the final five minutes made up for it all. Fantastic!

I have been watching this show because I really like Dig and I really like the relationship that has forged between Oliver and him. But now, I find that I will be watching for the story as well.

Great review, J.D.

drnanamom said...

Great review. It made me think of all kinds of possibilities I hadn't thought of before. I'm starting to really enjoy this show and am looking forward to where they head now. I also love John Barrowman as an evil, well-dressed villian :).

Lamounier said...

It is ON. For me, this was the first truly great episode of the series. I had no idea the second Hood would be someone we already knew, and it was a delightful surprise. They were even careful to establish Merlyn could fight a couple of episodes ago. Well done. But was he the one who made the list? It seems pretty dumb to make a list with the names of the people who are part of your secret society. It certainly was dumb of Walter to go directly to that guy and tell him he was in danger. In any case, I’m really curious to find out what the list is about and where the season is headed.