Thursday, May 16, 2013

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 23 - Sacrifice

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


The hoods are off and both Malcolm Merlyn and Oliver Queen know one another for who they are.  Not that it matters with Oliver chained up in one of Merlyn's buildings and  The Markov Device armed and ready to level The Glades.  Every member of Team Arrow as well as The Queen Family will be tested within the next 24 hours as truths are laid bare and masks thrown aside when Starling City faces its' darkest hour.

On the island, Oliver has a knife in his hand and mere seconds to stop a disaster that could wreck the world economy.  When push comes to shove, will the spoiled playboy transform into a killer? 


Green Arrow: Year One (the island sequences), Green Arrow: Quiver (Diggle's remark about not making fun of Ollie's preparedness), Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters (the idea of Ollie choosing to be a killer in order to save a life), Green Arrow: City Walls (rioting in Green Arrow's city after a billionaire causes a disaster), Justice League: Cry For Justice (super-villain destroys a good portion of Green Arrow's city) the Black Canary mini-series by Tony Bedard (Ollie's speech about how Laurel saw the best in him mirrors a similar speech Dinah Lance makes about when she first noticed the man Oliver Queen really was) and the repeated theme of sacrifice, particularly parents giving up for their children. 


It's night when Detective Lance picks Felicity up at Queen Consolidated. yet when he takes her into the interview room for questioning sunlight is clearly streaming through the windows.

Why is Detective Lance still at the police station during Moira Queen's press-conference if he's been suspended?  Even if the police got word that his tip on Malcolm Merlyn was on the up-and-up before then, that still doesn't change that he'd been working with The Hood.

How exactly does Shado know how to reprogram a missile targeting system?  She's a lawyer by trade and while it makes sense for her soldier father to teach her how to fight, it seems unlikely that his lessons to her would include the technical programming of military hardware.

While there's a rainstorm where Quentin Lance is driving into The Glades seeking an underground entrance. it isn't raining in Roy's neighborhood or on the rooftop at where Ollie and Merlyn are fighting.

Granting that a motorcycle gives him more mobility, Ollie seems to have a ridiculously easy time getting to the CNRI office considering the chaotic state of the roads following the quake.


Again, I can't single out just one performance this time.  Everyone in the cast does an excellent job in their roles and it's a shame that we'll be seeing some of these actors for the last time.  Probably.  (Hey, it IS a comic book show and Deadshot's already come back after a supposed death already!)  I will pick out one scene for each core character.

Oliver - Stephen Amell has done a masterful job of playing the many faces of Ollie all season and this episode showcases that talent.  But the moment in which Ollie makes the decision to kill Eddie Fyers to save Shado and sacrifice an offer of escape perfectly captures a similar moment in the classic Green Arrow story The Longbow Hunters, right down to the look in his eyes before and after the deed is done.

Laurel - Surprisingly absent for most of the episode, Katie Cassidy spends what scant screen time she has reacting to other actors during their big speeches.  Still, her reactions as she listens to her father speak to her over the phone for what may well be the last time are truly heartbreaking.

Tommy - Colin Donnell has a lot of fine moments throughout the episode, from his drunken confrontation of Ollie at Verdant to the final death scene where he proves he is not his father's son.  And yet, I think his strongest moment comes when Tommy - having heard his father confess to all the evil things he's been accused of and finding him to be utter remorseless - pulls a gun on his own father.  Even before one word is spoken, Donnell make's Tommy's resolve clear

Moira - Moira Queen was ready to sacrifice thousands of innocent lives to protect her family from Malcolm Merlyn, never thinking that her children would be horrified to discover the price others paid for them to live.  Moira then sacrifices her own freedom and safety in order to expose Malcolm's plan to the world.  The ultimate irony is that her actions may have had the opposite result of her goal, as Thea angrily storms off to find Roy, placing her right in the heart of Ground Zero.  The look of pain on Moira's face in that moment - as she realizes all she did for good or ill was for nothing and there's nothing she can do to save her daughter as the police take her away - is Susanna Thompson's finest moment all season. 

Thea - Like Katie Cassidy as Laurel, Willia Holland as Thea seemed woefully underutilized during the second half of Arrow's first season.  That didn't stop her from putting a lot of power into what few scenes she did have.  Ironically, her best moment in this episode is her understateded rescue of Roy Harper.

Roy - For the past few episodes, Roy Harper has been seeking The Hood as a means toward redemption for his criminal past .  Yet this quest has been driven just as much by Roy's hero worship as any desire to be a hero.  This episode finally gives Roy both the revelation that he already has the ability to help others and the opportunity to do so.  Colton Haynes nails the character of Roy Harper from the comics with his speech about how he has to help people independent of The Hood.  It's a nice way of giving Roy the drive to succeed apart from Ollie that was such a big part of the comic character while still staying true to the reality of the show. 

John - John Diggle is well familiar with the themes of sacrifice which dominate this episode.  A soldier sacrifices much to be part of an elite that is further expected to sacrifice their lives if needed - brothers in arms.  Without saying as much in words (he's not that sort of man), John Diggle reaffirms his commitment to Oliver and the mission he walked out on several episodes earlier. Why did he come back?  Because you don't walk out on your brother and in many ways Oliver Queen has become a proxy for the brother John Diggle lost to a sniper's bullet.  David Ramsey conveys all this and more as John offers Oliver his hand and informs him that he won't be facing Malcolm Merlyn alone a third time.

Felicity - My antipathy for Felicity Smoak is well-known at this point, yet her growth in the past few episodes has warmed me to the character I've largely dismissed as  plot device in glasses.  While I still wish there was more to the character and that we knew more about her than "good with computers" and "crushing on Oliver", this episode does show her steel.  There's no reason that Felicity can't do what she does from the relative safety of her office at Queen's Consolidate but her decision to work from under Ollie's club in The Glades is symbolic of her finally embracing her own role as part of Team Arrow.  Since discovering Ollie's secret, she's insisted she was only in the mission to help save Walter Steele... and yet she still hung around once that mission was accomplished.  Why?  Because as she told Quentin Lance, she'd come to see The Hood not as a dangerous killer but as a hero.  Emily Bett Rickards carries all these moments off with style but her greatest moment comes when the steel breaks and Felicity spends 10 seconds trying to compose herself while calling Oliver as she watches the destruction of the city unfold on the monitor.  The expression on her face tells us far more than millions of dollars in CGI and explosions could about just how badly the city is fairing.

Quentin - One of the core ideals at the heart of the Green Arrow mythos is that sometimes the law fails in its' basic intent and that in those times outlaws are needed to assure the common good.  One of the more brilliant conceits of the series was making Laurel's own father - a cop in the comics  - one of the series' primary antagonist while still allowing Paul Blackthorne to play the character sympathetically.  As the series progressed, Blackthorne played Quentin Lance as a man disillusioned in his family, his work and life in general.  All that comes to a head in a speech, where Quentin asks what the point of the law is if it isn't used to save lives.  At first I thought this speech seemed completely out of place here until I realized the speech is not Quentin trying to justify dealing with The Hood to his boss.  It's Quentin reminding himself why he became a cop in the first place.

Malcolm - John Barrowman dances over the line between melodramatic and over-the-top for much of the episode.  And how can you blame him when the episode opens with his character delivering a James Bond villain speech to the captive hero?  And yet, even when he does go over-the-top, Barrowman sells it.  When he shouts "They deserve to die!" regarding the people of The Glades, you believe he believes it.


Kudos to the writing team, who make the entire episode fast-paced and still manage some honest surprises with every character feeling honestly imperiled along with the whole of The Glades.  Amazingly, they give every character a full arc and a moment of development, with the theme of sacrifice coming up repeatedly.  This episode captured the spirit of a good superhero comic while avoiding the cheesier elements.  True, there's a few points that don't make much sense logically but make perfect sense thematically.  For instance,

On a related note, I'm relieved that we've avoided the cliche of the villainous father dying and his son - already wronged by the hero on a more personal level - taking up his mantle.  It would have been all too easy to turn Tommy Merlyn into The Dark Archer II, seeking revenge for both his father's death and Ollie's stealing away the woman he loved.  This would have been predictable and resulted in much snark from fanboy and casual viewer alike about "Oh, they ripped this off of the Spider-Man movies".  So kudos once again to the writing team for doing the unexpected.

The choreography of the final fight between Oliver and Merlyn is perfect.


For those who care to nit-pick these things, Det. Lance's phone call to Laurel and the time spent deactivating the bomb after do take up less than two minutes of time.  A much better question is just how Det. Lance gets such clear phone reception in an abandoned subway station underground.

Dialogue Triumphs

(As Ollie is woken up with a bucket of cold water, awakening hung up in chains and bleeding...)
Malcolm: I hope I didn't hurt you.

Malcolm: You can't beat me, Oliver.  Yes, you're younger.  And you're faster.  Yet you always seem to come up short against me.  Want to know why?  Because you don't know, in your heart, what you're fighting for.  What you're willing to sacrifice.  And I do!

(After shooting the henchman who had a gun pulled on a weaponless Oliver)
John: I take back every joke I made about you sticking a tracking device in your boot!

Quentin: Not exactly a hardened criminal, are you? 
Felicity: No, I'm not any kind of criminal.
Quentin: Then what do you call computer hacking?
Felicity: A hobby.
(Quentin gives her a disapproving look)
Felicity:... that I do not engage in!

Felicity: You know, I used to think The Vigilante was a criminal too but... you know, whoever he is, he's willing to sacrifice an awful lot to help the people of this city.  That makes him a hero, doesn't it?

Quentin: I swore to uphold The Law cause The Law is steady, The Law is unchanging, The Law needed to be protected..  But what are laws... rules... if they don't protect people?  Now listen, I know I'm throwing away my career by telling you this but I'm willing to sacrifice catching this guy if it means saving people's lives!

Oliver: Those five years didn't change me.  They just... they just ripped away...all the things I wasn't and revealed the person I always was, which was the person... That's who you always saw.  And I don't know how you saw it.  But you did.  Nobody in my life is who I thought they were.... except you.

(Regarding Ollie surviving a third fight with Merlyn and it being unlikely)
John: Ok.  Well, how about this time you bring along something you didn't have the last time you two fought.  Me.
Ollie: I can't let you..
John: And I can't let you do this by yourself, man. Oliver, you are not alone.  Not since you brought me into this...
(glances to Felicity)
John: ... US into this.  Besides, Army Regulations.  A soldier never lets a brother go into battle alone.
(John offers his hand.  Ollie shakes it.)

(To Ollie, regarding Fyers' destroyed camp)
Slade: I should've figured you couldn't save the day without making a mess.

(While holding Shado hostage, while Ollie has an arrow tracked on him)
Fyers: Tell me, Mr. Queen.  Are you prepared to sacrifice your freedom for her?
(Ollie puts an arrow through Fyers' throat)
Ollie: Guess so.

(After Thea saves him from a mugger with a gun)
Roy: Where did you learn how to do that?
Thea: I guess I have wicked aim!

(After Roy stops his car, spying a group of people trapped in a bus where the door was jammed shut by a crashed car)
Thea: Roy, stop!  The Device is about to go off any second!
Roy: I can't leave any of them behind!
Thea: Look, I know you think you have something to prove. But you're not The Vigilante!
Roy: Look, I can't do this unless I know you're safe.
Thea: Then you'd better haul ass out of here too.
(The two kiss before Thea heads back to her car, leaving Roy behind)

The entirety of Tommy Merlyn's death scene.  The dialogue alone doesn't do the performances of Stephen Amell and Colin Donnell justice, so I shan't transcribe it here.

Dialogue Diasasters

Ollie: Where is the transmitter?!
Malcolm: Somewhere I can easily get to it.
John: I doubt it.  You'll be too dead.

The oh-so-subtle "don't text and drive" message, as Roy and Thea escape The Glades.  Made all the more painful by Willa Holland's real public service announcement later on during the commercial break  I know there's a tradition of painfully inserted messages in Green Arrow stories but was this really necessary?


We once again see the scene in Pilot where Robert Queen sacrifices his life to save his son's.  Oliver keeps a tracking device in his boot.  Quentin refers to Felicity's work computer showing signs that she hacked Blackhawk Security (11), researched arrows sent to the Sagittarius company (9), and analyzing a water sample that lead to a Vertigo lab (12).  Shado knows how to reprogram a missile targeting system.  Reference is made to Salvation and when Team Arrow first realized the symbol on The List was a map of the old Starling City subway system.  Oliver has a second bow - the same bow he used to kill Eddie Fyers.  Ollie shoots an exploding arrow at Merlyn, expecting him to catch it - a frequent tactic Ollie uses against enemies with super-speed in the comics. 

The Fridge Factor

A bit of a mixed bag for Laurel, who is sidelined for much of the episode and both Ollie and her father tell her to stay out of The Glades.  She ignores their warnings and goes into work anyway, which results in her being imperiled so Tommy can get his moment of heroism before his death.

The rest of the female cast fares better, with Felicity showing some steel both in standing up to Detective Lance, Moira standing up against Malcolm and Thea proving surprisingly capable of throwing a beer bottle at close-range to save her boyfriend.  Shame Thea didn't decide to stay behind in The Glades to help Roy with saving people, even if he insisted he needed to know she was safe in order to do it.  Better if she had said "Well, you can do a better job keeping me safe if I'm here with you."

Also, while somebody had to be the hostage for Ollie's final showdown with Eddie Fyers, it still rankles me a little bit that Shado - bad-ass ninja lawyer - was that somebody.  It could have just as easily been the wounded and limping Slade Wilson. 

The Bottom Line

The perfect capstone to the pyramid of Arrow's first season.  An effective action-movie in an hour, with some amazing performances and visuals.  There's a lot of plot threads that are still active to carry the show into Season Two.  It's going to be a long summer waiting... 

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