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"Arrow' Season 1 Finale Review: 'Sacrifice'

Christopher Monigle Christopher Monigle
May 16th, 2013 9:33am EDT

Arrow Season 1 Finale

Arrow's first season modeled the structure of a summer popcorn comic book movie. The mid-season finale showed Oliver's personal crisis. Oliver alienated those around him a few weeks ago before inevitably winning them back. Summer popcorn comic book movies end with the salvation of a city or planet Earth. The hero always endures personal loss. Always. Arrow's season finale is the explosive final act in a movie. The bad guy seems unstoppable. The evil plan is in place. People across the city freak out, turn on one another. The ugliness inside the villain comes out in all those he wishes to destroy. Oliver's triumphant moment over Malcolm, wherein he kills him and listens as Felicity relays the good news about Det. Lance deactivating the earthquake device, is momentary when Malcolm reveals he planted a second one. The second one is deadly. Buildings go down, and a character meets his ending.

Tommy's death is somewhat surprising to me since I thought he'd succeed his father as a villain. I tended to compare Spiderman and Arrow involuntarily; well, at least, I saw parallels between Peter/Harry and Oliver/Tommy. Tommy suffered from a lack of direction in the early episodes. Like Oliver, he suffered the tragedy of losing a parent. The surviving parents of both children changed. Moira sacrificed her morality to protect her children. Malcolm also sacrificed his morality to avenge his wife's needless death in The Glades. Had anyone stopped to help her, she wouldn't have bled to death on the sidewalk in The Glades--a part of the city she chose to work in to help save through free medicine. The love of a woman helped both men. Tommy changed his ways as he realized Laurel believed he could. Oliver stayed out of the way until Tommy's fatal flaw reared its ugly head.

"Sacrifice" had a bit of the Shakespearean element to it. The early part of the season reminded me of Hamlet. One early episode used The Tempest, which was Shakespeare's final play that centered around an exiled duke who realizes the error of his ways on a magical island. The tragic elements of Shakespeare's plays were borrowed by the Arrow writers tonight. A.C. Bradley wrote thoughtfully about Shakespeare's tragedies over a century ago. Mr. Bradley identified the most tragical elements of Shakespeare's famous tragedies and its characters. Tragedy stems from the character which then creates catastrophe. Tommy's hate for Oliver blinded him to Oliver's warning about his father. Malcolm's hate for The Glades created catastrophe. The sins of Robert Queen forever changed Oliver and re-defined his life. Malcolm tells Oliver he'll lose because he doesn't know what he's been fighting for, and he won't know what's worth sacrificing in his fight.

Oliver knows what Malcolm meant: giving up his life to save the lives of others. Since the day Robert shot himself in the head Oliver probably thought he'd die fulfilling his father's wish to right his wrongs and save Starling City. The final flashback to the island shows Oliver making a choice to kill the bad guy, to save Shado. Oliver's showdown with Fyres is a moment of bravery for him, a transitional moment in his personal arc. Tommy's death represents a different transition for Oliver. Oliver cries, repeating over and over that it should've been him dying. Tommy makes amends for his bad behavior in the past. He's redeemed in saving Laurel's life. Oliver tells his oldest friend a lie in his final moments. Tommy thanks Oliver for not killing his father, mumbling that he's just misunderstood. The season ends with the city burning, fires burning throughout The Glades, and more change for Oliver Queen.

The season finale is incredibly dramatic. There are false cliff hangers and real cliff hangers. Oliver's self-doubt about his ability to beat The Dark Archer makes sense. The Dark Archer beat him twice, but he's Oliver Queen. The dude survived five years alone. In his first year alone he stopped a terrorist attack. The flashbacks were consistently strong. The additions of Slade and Shado were wonderful. I thought the flashbacks would tie into Malcolm's plan in some way. I'd bet they will. Malcolm's fighting skills were advanced. I have a nagging feeling that the stories were connected. Now that both have been defeated, the flashbacks should transition to other areas of intriguing story such as Slade's transformation, the whole Russian mafia deal, and whatever happens to Shado. Celina Jade is my favorite addition of the season, narrowly beating Emily Betts-Rickards. Many shows struggle to integrate flashbacks into the ongoing narrative. Flashbacks can be distracting, slow, or even unnecessary. Guggenheim, Kreisberg and Berlanti integrated the flashbacks into the DNA of the show from day 1 and showed the present could not be understood without the past. I quite liked the flashbacks. Usually, when stories in the present faltered, the flashbacks wouldn't, and vice-versa. It was a nice balance--that balance helped Arrow remain consistently solid throughout the season.

Det. Lance finally stopped chasing The Hood after The Hood tipped him off to Malcolm's plan. Moira validated his claim to the department about the planned attack (indeed, Moira turned herself in for 'failing the city'). I liked how Det. Lance's story finished. He was a drunk for the first half until he accepted that his daughter's death wasn't on him, and then he stopped thinking of The Hood as the city's major villain. Oliver told him he needed to save his city, which mattered to a man who thought he couldn't save anyone. A vigilante took out the men he should've gotten. A playboy took his daughter from him to a doomed boat trip. Before Det. Lance saves the city he's prepared to die for the city. Det. Lance and Laurel have their Armageddon moment just before Det. Lance momentarily saves the day, which is right before Malcolm reveals that he planted a second device. I'm looking forward to a happier and more cooperative Det. Lance next season.

I'm most attached to Oliver's small circle of Diggle and Felicity. Oliver was open throughout the episode. He told Laurel all he held in his heart. With Diggle and Felicity, he simply told them he loved them and that he couldn't accomplish what he has without them. I felt moved watching Felicity try to shrink herself as the building shook along with Diggle and Oliver's quiet concern for their girl. Family was a dominant theme this season, but Oliver's makeshift families, both now and in the past, are the best for him.

I'm very glad that Arrow's a legitimate hit for The CW. Arrow's similar to other genre shows I adore. Thus, Arrow is my favorite new show of the 2012-2013. I had high hopes for it last season. Its gritty yet it doesn't forget its adapted from a comic. The creative struck a terrific balance in season 1. Arrow has the best fight scenes on network television. Stephen Amell emerged as a solid lead, sort of like a young David Boreanaz when Boreanaz figured out the Angel character. Simply, Arrow's awesome.

Other Thoughts:

-Cliffhanger for Thea and Roy: Roy remained The Glades to help folk. Thea drove off. None were accounted for at the end. Expect both characters to survive.

-So, will McKenna return next season? Probably not. I liked McKenna.

-The Deadshot story will carry into season 2. Every character but Diggle had their small triumphant and/or redemptive moments this season. Diggle asked out his dead brother's widow. He did help Oliver fight Malcolm. I was glad Oliver finished Malcolm alone, though.

-Marc Guggenheim & Andrew Kreisberg wrote the teleplay. Greg Berlanti got the story credit. David Barrett directed it. Impressive directing in this episode. I should mention the director of photography, too. And the stunt cooridinator. I give a standing applause to the entire cast and crew for a fun, entertaining, moving, and action-packed season.

-That's a wrap for the season 1 reviews. I'll return in the fall for season 2. Thanks for reading.

Photo Credits: The CW