Arrow Season 1 Review “Year’s End”

Well done Arrow! That was one heck of a mid-season finale! From the first few moments of “Year’s End” it was clear that this was going to be an intense thrill ride as Ollie faced one of the most cold and merciless villains we’ve seen on the series yet.

While Ollie’s hooded vigilante persona offered the targets on his hitlist an opportunity to change, the Dark Archer stood in the shadows and assassinated his targets without a moment of hesitation. The Dark Archer was ominous, unfeeling, and he physically appeared to tower over the average man, making him seem like some kind of supernatural monster. This was the first villain we’ve seen in Ollie’s modern world that was able to give him a serious run for his money – the first villain that made Ollie look slow.

Granted, perhaps Ollie had grown a little too confident since he had returned from the island, but the Dark Archer knew exactly how to play the psychological games that would get Ollie right where he wanted him. Ollie took every piece of bait that the Dark Archer set out from him and was lucky enough to barely escape with his life (thank goodness for Dig being just a phone call away.)

I had no doubt that Malcolm Merlyn was behind the Dark Archer, but it wasn’t until I saw John Barrowman’s piercing blue eyes peeking out from under that mask that I realized he actually was the Dark Archer. Ollie’s encounter with the Dark Archer led him to theorize that there was someone in Starling City who was more dangerous than the Dark Archer. He’s sort of right – he just hasn’t realized that the man who is more dangerous than the Dark Archer also happens to be the Dark Archer. A man with all the physical abilities of the Dark Archer, with the power, connections, and wealth to transform Starling City to a world of his own design.

This encounter was a sort of rude awakening for Ollie, and I could see the start of the character changes I had hoped would come for Ollie’s hooded alter ego. The discovery that his father was not the sole author of the list distorts Ollie’s miopic vision of what he was supposed to be doing to honor his father’s dying wish. He’s finally beginning to realize that there is a much bigger set of problems facing Starling City that he’s got to address even if they aren’t limited to his father’s list.

After a couple episodes without them, we finally got back to Ollie’s flashbacks of his time on the island. We started to really see why the island was so dangerous beyond the standard survivor man skill set. After being captured by Yao Fei, Edward Fyers told Ollie the real story behind the island. The island had been used as a prison for China’s most dangerous criminals, people too dangerous for simple stone walls and iron bars. Fyers and his men had been sent in to “exterminate” these dangerous criminals and succeeded in taking out everyone except for two – Yao Fei, and the man who tortured Ollie, better known as Deathstroke.

I’m not sure if Yao Fei has an actual plan for Ollie, or if he’s just handling him like one might handle a wounded animal that needs to be treated and rehabilitated for release into the wild. Ollie doesn’t know exactly why he trusts Fei, but perhaps being on the island has forced him to trust his instincts more than he might have in the past. Fei protects Ollie from Fyers’ attacks and he seems impressed by Ollie’s character and ability to survive on the island despite himself, but Fei is not exactly taking Ollie under his wing just yet.

With Fei being ambushed by Fyers’ men at the end of this set of flashbacks, we’re sort of led to believe that this might be the moment when Ollie starts taking things seriously. Ollie doesn’t have an incredible physical skill set yet, so I’m very curious to find out how we get from the version of Ollie that ran away from the scene of the ambush to the version that is capable of surviving Fyers’ manhunt on the island.

In the present day, Walter was clued into the connection between the hooded vigilante and the names in the book thanks to the investigative skills of Felicity Smoak. I was convinced that Thea’s new boyfriend, Shane, was some kind of spy and that the bouquet of flowers he brought either contained some kind of poison gas or at least a listening device to find out what Moira would tell Walter. Nothing became of Shane and the bouquet of flowers, but Walter did get close enough to the truth to make himself one of Malcolm’s targets. As he was leaving his office, Walter was drugged and taken hostage to use as leverage against Moira until Malcolm’s transformation of Starling City would begin six months later.

Most of the things that I had been grumbling about after the last few episodes of Arrow did not plague “Year’s End.” The action, the character development, and the plot twists were all well paced in this episode and there was just enough soapy melodrama to sustain all the love triangles and family angst without distracting too much from the exciting superhero crime fighting. All the new information we got from this episode only made me desperate to find out more about what Malcolm’s plan is and to see how Ollie will counter it. It’s exactly how one should feel after a good mid-season finale, and I eagerly await Arrow’s return in January.