Thursday, December 13, 2012

Arrow Reviews: Season 1, Episode 9 - Year's End

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here.


Christmas time is fast approaching and Oliver - who hasn't celebrated much of anything in the past five years - is eager to throw a good old-fashioned Christmas party like his dad used to have.  But his mother and sister have fallen out of the habit of celebrating Christmas.  And with Moira Queen running scared as to what Walter Steele's investigation into her business dealings might reveal and Thea fed up with Ollie's judging her personal life, neither is exactly filled with holiday cheer.

At the same time Ollie tries to make amends with his family, a mysterious Dark Archer begins targeting those people on The List Ollie was able to convince to repent their crimes and return the money they were stealing.  The Police Commissioner is anxious is anxious to brand these killings as The Hood gone mad but Detective Quentin Lance is sure it's the work of a copycat.  Is the Dark Archer a more violent vigilante than Ollie?  Or is someone working to cover the tracks of whatever organization Robert Queen was a part of?  Either way, a confrontation between Ollie and a dark doppelganger is on the horizon.


Green Arrow: Year One
(the island sequences), various Green Arrow comics where Oliver would test his skills against Merlyn or another assassins who favored bows.


 After weeks of being The Voice of Reason in Ollie's life, Diggle seems to have been revealed as a perpetual Devil's Advocate who has gotten lucky so far.  Don't believe me?  Then why does he ask Ollie if he's sure the Christmas party is a good idea when he was the one who suggested Ollie take some time off from the heroics to spend time with his family and friends in the first place?   Later, why does Diggle bother Ollie at his Christmas party with the news of The Dark Archer taking hostages only to try only to talk him out of getting involved? 


Honestly, the entire cast does well.  But the best performances in this episode belong to the supporting cast.

Paul Blackthorne doesn't get much screen-time, but he nails what little material he has to work with as Quentin Lance.  He's clearly not happy about the prospect of working with The Hood but has also come to realize the corruption of the city is influencing his department in ways he can't deal with within the rules.  That conflict - and his annoyance with everything he knows being wrong - is further enhanced yet subtly expressed in the later scenes where Tommy Merlyn pops in to visit Laurel and he proves to be far more decent than the rich twit image Lance has of the Queen and Merlyn families.

Colin Salmon and Susanna Thompson also steal their limited scenes as Walter and Moira.  They've both had a lot of magical little moments as the series has progressed but I must confess I don't think we've seen them spend as much time together with no one else in earshot as we do in this episode.  For the first time, the characters talk honestly and while not much is said or resolved, there is no doubt to the love of the two characters feel for each other or their desire to face whatever comes next together.

John Barrowman.  What can I say that isn't a massive spoiler?  Not much, since the big reveal of the episode is telegraphed early on thanks to some unnecessary close-ups.  But that is the fault of the direction - not the actor.  Barrowman does play the role of the elder Merlyn with an appropriate aura of menace that might be surprising to those who only know the actor from Doctor Who.


The sequence in which Ollie, as The Hood, walks into a trap and just barely escapes an explosion is well-directed and wonderfully suspenseful. 

I love the dramatic irony of having Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas playing in the background throughout all the dramatic scenes at the Christmas party.  "From now on our troubles will be far away"?  Don't you believe it!  Between Moira and Walter leveling with one-another and Oliver being noble and biting back his feelings for Laurel as she confesses she's still hung up on him, there's trouble a-plenty at hand.

The fight sequence between Ollie and The Dark Archer is amazing and well photographed.


Quinten Lance says he'll leave the arrow used by the Dark Archer that Ollie asks for in a heating vent at the corner of  O'Neil & Adams.  This is clearly a reference to Dennis O'Neil (the writer who reimagined Green Arrow as a modern-day Robin Hood in the early 1970s) and Neal Adams (the artist who designed Green Arrow's most famous Robin Hood-style costume). 

Neal Adams was also the artist who co-created Merlyn - the black clad archer who would become Green Arrow's frequent adversary.  Merlyn first appeared in Justice League #94 in 1971.  Merlyn has appeared in a lot of comics working as a hired killer - both as a freelance and as part of the infamous League of Assassins.  It's unclear at present if the group Merlyn is working for in Arrow is The League of Assassins or if The LoS is being employed by something greater. 


The ink used to write "The List" is "sub-sonic ultraviolet invisible ink" according to Felicity Smoak, though how something visual can be sub-sonic is not explained.

Ollie notes the Dark Archer's arrows are custom jobs using arrowheads with "Teflon-coated titanium blades, serrated to split the bone" and the shaft is made of a "specialized polymer, stronger than your typical carbon fiber".

Ollie makes use of an explosive arrow to escape the trapped warehouse. 

Ollie's costume is apparently treated to be fireproof.

Ollie uses a zip-line arrow to gain entry to the factory where The Dark Archer took hostages.

Dialogue Triumphs

Ollie: How do you know that Shane guy?
Thea: We rob banks and some crack together.

Tommy: Merry Christmas, sir.  How are you?
Quentin: Proficient with firearms.

The whole scene between Walter and Moira at the party. 

Dark Archer: Thank you for coming.  After the warehouse I knew I had to do something dramatic to get your attention.
Ollie: What do you want with me?
Dark Archer: What any archer wants - to see who is better!

Merlyn: In six months, The Organization's vision of what this city should be will be complete.  
Moira: And you won't feel a thing, will you? Thousands of innocent people will be dead and you'll feel nothing!
Merlyn: That's not true.  I'll feel a sense of accomplishment. 

Ollie: You know, Digg?  When I confront somebody on the list, I tell them that they failed the city.  But tonight it was me who failed.
Diggle: Oliver, five hostages are home tonight with their families, enjoying the holidays.   Because of you.  This guy?  The other archer?  He'll get his.  And you'll give it to him.
Ollie: We might have a bigger problem.  The other archer told me that somebody compiled the list.  I always assumed it was my father.  But what if it wasn't?
Diggle: What do you mean?
Ollie: I think there's someone else out there.  Someone who is more of a danger than the archer.  And I am going to take him down.

Dialogue Disasters

Ollie: (beat) I think the vigilante needs a better codename than 'The Hood' or "The Hood Guy"
Merlyn: I agree.  How about Green Arrow?
Ollie: Lame.

Felicity: Did you know seven of the names on The List are guys the vigilante has had in his crosshairs?  That is if bows had crosshairs.  Which they don't. 


Adam Hunt,  the first person on the list Ollie went after in Pilot, is killed by Merlyn in the opening scene.  Diggle refers to Helena and the events of Vendetta, saying Ollie has been pushing himself harder since then.  Robert Queen used to throw a big Christmas party every year and put a tree in every room in the house.  Thea and Moira Queen stopped celebrating Christmas after Robert and Ollie disappeared.  Ollie and Thea used to race each other eating candy canes.  Thea always won but Ollie says that's because she's cheated.  Crime in Starling City is the lowest it's been in five years since The Hood appeared.  Doug Miller, head of applied sciences at Queen Consolidated, is on The List.  Detective Lance quickly figures out that Adam Hunt's death is the work of someone besides The Hood, noting the arrows are black instead of green and that The Hood killing someone he's already exposed the crimes of breaks his M.O.  Ollie notes that whoever killed Adam Hunt was a good archer, who left a tight grouping and was probably using a compound bow.  Ollie sends Det. Lance an encrypted cel-phone he can use to call him.  Thea has a friend named Shane who Ollie instantly dislikes.  Merlyn confronts Moira Queen about Walter's investigation again.  Moira asks for more time to talk to him but Merlyn wants to bring in "their associate".  The Dark Archer kills Nelson Ravitch, who The Hood confronted earlier in the week about his embezzling.  The Commissioner orders Detective Lance to forget the idea of a second archer killer and not to tell the press about it.  This prompts Detective Lance to give one of the Dark Archer's arrows to The Hood.  Ollie notes the Dark Archer's arrows are custom jobs using arrowheads with "Teflon-coated titanium blades, serrated to split the bone" and the shaft is made of a "specialized polymer, stronger than your typical carbon fiber".  Felicity Smoak further determines that the arrow's content is patented and registered to a company called Sagittarius (Latin for - The Archer).  The Dark Archer says that the man who wrote The List wants Ollie dead.  Ollie uses a short-range walkie-talkie to contact Diggle after getting shot twice in the back by The Dark Archer.  Diggle rescues Ollie, removes the arrows, and checks him into the hospital after faking a motorcycle accident.  Merlyn is revealed as The Dark Archer.  Merlyn has Walter abducted and doesn't deny it when Moira accuses him of killing Robert Queen.  Merlyn notes that "The Organization's" plans for Starling City will be complete in six months time and Walter will be returned to her then.  Whatever the plans are, they'll involve the deaths of thousands of innocents.  Oliver considers that his father was not the compiler of The List and that there must be someone beyond The Dark Archer who is a greater danger. 
In the flashback, Yao Fei captured Eddie Fyers and tells Ollie that he has a way for Ollie to get home.  Fyers tells Ollie that the island was a prison run by the Chinese military, used to contain the criminals considered too dangerous to safely jail on the mainland.  The military shut the program down 8 years later and sent in Fyer's unit to dispose of the prisoners.  They killed all of them except two - Yaoi Fei and Deathstroke.  Yao Fei apparently slaughtered dozens of people at one time.  It turns out Fyer's capture was a trap.  Oliver escapes into the woods as Yao Fei fights Deathstroke and several other soldiers.  The fight ends with Yao Fei captured but Oliver still free.  

Untelevised Adventures
Diggle says Ollie went through three names on The List in one week.  Ollie notes his reputation is such that he can visit people and they'll surrender without a fight. 

The Winick Factor

Again, Ollie's technical savvy is undercut so that we can give Felicity Smoak something to do.  He can analyze an arrow and figure out all the material composition of the arrowheads and shaft but can't do a web search on a manufacturer code?

The Bottom Line

A solid episode that manages to be both an action-filled thriller, a mid-season finale and a Christmas special all in one.  Even though the shocking reveal is patently obvious even to those who aren't familiar with the comics (thanks to some unneeded close-ups), the episode is paced well and the supporting cast all nail their parts.  Ironically, it's the core cast of Ollie, Laurel and Tommy who are left with the least to do this time around.  Despite that, this episode is top notch and a wonderful present heading into the holiday hiatus.  January 16th can't come fast enough.  

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