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"I used to think the vigilante was a criminal too but, it seems to me whoever he is, he's willing to sacrifice an awful lot to help the people of this city. Kind of makes him a hero, doesn't it?"
The first season of The CW's Arrow came to an end last night with a "Sacrifice," and probably not from who you would think. Actually, it was exactly who you might think. But it still worked. That's right, not all of the characters made it through the undertaking alive and even those who did, it came at great personal cost. The finale was emotional (well, as emotional as the soap opera-ish superhero series is able to get), action-packed and full of spectacle. As much as television can afford anyway. Most of all, the spectacle filled finale was a fitting way to conclude the DC show that started out more as an homage to (or the green carbon-copy of) Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy before finding its own voice somewhere between gritty realism and comic-book silliness. More 'sidekicks,' banter and its fair share of scenery chewing make Arrow feel more fun than the big screen Batman, even when the circumstances are just as dire or the stakes just as high. Maybe it's a simple as an extra layer of The CW cheese but this superhero series walks the fine comic-book line of the serious and ridiculous quite nicely.
"Amazing. A two year operation undone because a young playboy happened to wash up on the shore."
"Darkness on the Edge of Town" not only continued to set-up Malcolm Merlyn's undertaking but also revealed Eddie Fyres' full plans in the past, culminating in the death of Yao Fei. Before Ollie's first (super-)mentor bit the bullet, however, Yao was able to slip his former student a way out of his restraints. This week's episode opened with a flashback even further into the past, once again showing Oliver and his Dad in the lifeboat, the latter making his final sacrifice to save his son and, he hopes, Starling City. At this point though, Oliver's not even close to home, let alone saving it, as the island trio have their hands full trying to save a commercial airliner and, by extension, stop a potential global conflict. Hm. Ollie-Slade-Shado and Arrow-Dig-Felicity. Anyway, just as Fyers is making the final adjustments on the attack, Ollie cuts himself and his comrades free, starting an all out assault on the mercs. Slade and Shado make short work of most of their enemies, the former in a shoot-out, the latter schooling Ollie on how to reprogram the missile and fighting of bad guys. Re-routed, the bomb blows up the mercenaries' tent and it looks like the threesome have triumphed until Fyers shows his smug face with Shado as a captive. He gives Ollie a choice, remain a castaway or join him for a ticket home. Ollie makes his first kill with a bow and arrow. A superhero is born?
"You can survive this. Make it home. Make it better. Right my wrongs."
Not that the flashbacks need any internal logic to connect them to the main story but the opening scene with Ollie and his dad on the dingy seems to be a memory or dream that is 'happening' while the hero is hanging in chains as captive of Malcolm Merlyn. I think the show used to stress a direct relation between head wounds/sleep and glimpses of the past, but lately they've been cross-cutting between the two whenever it suits the stories. This time, Ollie wakes with a renewed sense of purpose (also reminding us of that fateful day of his father's sacrifice) and, for some reason, missing a shirt. What's up Malcolm? And those green leather pants look ridiculous without the rest of the get-up. Anyway, Arrow is battered and bruised from losing yet another fight against the Black Archer and now they get to have their Bond villain-time together, Malcolm explaining why he's going to such an extreme to 'save' the city. Luckily for Ollie, the evil genius doesn't want to kill his son's best friend (despite the vigilante-threat he poses), so he leaves him alive and only attended by a few guards. Nothing Arrow can't handle. He's been doing those crazy chin-ups for a reason. Besides, even had his escape plan not worked, Dig was there a second later to get his back. An odd choice. Either have him escape or be rescued.
"Somebody in this family needs to put an end to this. Whatever the cost."
Safe back at the Arrow cave, the crime-fighting team turn their attention to stopping the device which means Felicity has to do a little on-site recon. Unfortunately for her, as we saw last week, Detective Lance is wise to her involvement and invites her downtown for a little chat. To settle the matter, not to mention recruit Dick Dad to their team, Ollie makes a call on the Arrow-phone and explains the situation. This leaves Lance with a tough choice and he decides to trust the vigilante, risk his career and tell his superiors about the scheme. And he prompt gets suspended. Do you think the cops would at least check? Nope. Get out of here Lance! Meanwhile, there are also a few non-crime related loose ends that need tying before Ollie can focus on his inevitable round three with his nemesis, namely the whole love triangle thing with him, Tommy and Laurel. Our hero makes the tough choice to go tell his best friend that his dad is crazy but not that he hooked up with their former girlfriend, which is all that Tommy cares about at the moment. Plus, it's not like, 'hey, your dad's a super villain' is an easy pill to swallow. Just ask Harry Osborn. In fact, all this time I thought we were witnessing the younger Merlyn's villain origin story so when he told Ollie he wished him dead, we were right on time.
"Yes! They deserved to die! All of them! The way she died!"
Little did I know that Tommy would be appalled to find out that the allegations are true and stay good after listening to his mom dying! Harsh move, dad. John Barrowman must still be picking the scenery out of his teeth. And I loved it. While the Merlyns are having their revelatory chat, the Queens also get down to brass tax with Ollie once again confronting Moira about the undertaking. Knowing that her son will be in danger anyway, the Queen matriarch decides to call a press conference (what would an episode of Arrow be without a healthy dose of the TV telling us things?) and out all those involved in the conspiracy while Team Arrow continues to track the device. Where did Malcolm put it? The most obvious place? Yep. It's right by the spot his wife was murdered, hiding in the abandoned subway station. I will say this: the undertaking will at least get rid of all the abandoned places in the Glades, there seem to be a lot. Destruction leads to creation. (No, I'm not a super villain). So, Moira is headed to jail, Thea is headed to save Roy (calling might be easiest), Tommy is trying to reason with his father (which doesn't work) and the heroes are preparing for the final countdown.
"You're not the vigilante!"
It's going to be Arrow and Dig teaming up Star Wars: Phantom Menace style against the Black Archer while Felicity talks Detective Lance through defusing the device. Here's where things went a little awry. First, I don't want to see the Detective Lance death call to his daughter if neither of them are going to die. Sure, it did set up the expectation that one, probably dad, would not make it out of the undertaking alive but it still drained all the energy out of the cross-cutting climax. In fact, the whole disarming thread of the closing minutes was kind of a letdown. Seen it all before and done much better. And then Thea going all the way into the Glades to save Roy (wicked aim and better timing) only to leave him there alone to help his neighborhood. Weird. At least we got to see him fight some dudes before sacrificing himself. Do you think he'll be okay? Click to find out. That just leaves the showdown between the (two) good guy(s) and the bad guy. The fight was well choreographed and shot but cutting away to the other action took away from its momentum.
"I am my father..."
I would have preferred to watch it unfold as one sequence, the two on one leading to Dig's injury and then the rooftop climax where Ollie STABS HIMSELF ALL THE WAY THROUGH HIS BODY in order to best his opponent. Oh, and he learns what he was really fighting for as well as the importance of redundancy. Sorry, dummy. There were two devices! It's nice twist that leads to half of the Glades going down including Laurel's work where, for some reason, people are still there saving papers. Obviously, she finds herself stuck in the collapsing structure while saving her co-worker but can Arrow (on his crotch-rocket) make it there in time to save her? How about dad? Nope. It's Tommy that comes to the rescue and ends up sacrificing his life for hers. I still would have thought this was a villain origin story had Oliver not shown up in time to watch his best friend succumb to the, well, impaling. It's a scene that requires some delicacy in both the writing and acting, neither of which are really the show's strong suit. The result is that episode and season ends on a pretty awful and cringe worthy moment, but I'm choosing to overlook the last few minutes and imagine the conversation never happened. Arrow returns for Season 2 next fall on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.