Episode 9: Year's End
By: Carlos Uribe
Arrow is a show about the Green Arrow, a vigilante who seeks justice. It is based on the DC comic superhero Green Arrow.
When Oliver finds out that his family hasn't celebrated Christmas for the last five years, he decides that he'll host the annual party his father used to host. The point of the party is that it would bring the family together like it used to. This is one of the few times where he seems to actually be concerned with the relationship he has with his sister and mother. He might care and love for them but he largely prioritizes his vigilinatism over rebuilding the bond that they used to share. The huge lie that he is keeping from them has kept him away from him but the holiday spirit is making him want to change that. He's still going to keep his secret from them but he does seem to want them to be a family again. By hosting a party that his father used to throw, it is like sending a message that he's hoping things can return to normal. They can't because Oliver is a different person now along with Thea and Moira. The party doesn't unite them as Oliver was hoping until they think that Oliver got into a motorcycle accident. They're able to come together for the holiday season because that's just the kind of stuff that happens on television. It's a bit schmaltzy and the episode hasn't really developed the family relationships enough yet to really make it work properly. It doesn't help that the only time this family seems to unite is when somebody is hurt which tends to weaken the power everytime the show goes to it. It's nice when the show has moments of Oliver connecting with his family and they need to actually start accepting each other for who they are. How many more times is Thea going to realize that Oliver is a different person? This lack of character growth once again hurts these moments because it just seems like the show is repeating them without having them mean anything.
So why is Oliver hurt? It has to do with the villain of the episode! The episode begins when a man wearing a costume similar to Oliver starts shooting arrows into the chests of people. These aren't random people but rather names that Oliver has crossed off his book. The situation gets so bad that Quentin is willing to give up everything he believes in and helps the Green Arrow by giving him evidence. This is where I have a large problem with how the show handled this situation. What convinces Quentin to help Oliver? The first is that there are two dead bodies and more are likely going to come. The second is that he's been thrown off the case by the police commisionar over a dispute. The two coming together are supposed to make Quentin feel helpless and that's why he gives critical evidence to the Green Arrow. The thing is that one of Quentin's huge character traits is his belief in the system. The show really needed to shake the belief system in order to truly make him betray it. The only way to do this is create more pressure and/or distress for the character. There are many ways to do this but the show simply could have done more. By the way, if Quentin was taken off the case then why is he in charge of the entire hostage situation? That makes no sense and only adds to the feeling that the only reason they added him being taken off the case was a cheap attempt to get the viewers to buy that he would help the Green Arrow. If you're going to be that lazy as to not be consistent with your script then you might as well just introduce a corrupt cop that Oliver bribes to get the arrow. At least this way you don't get logical holes.
This one quibble is practically the only one I have of the main weekly villain plot. This villain manages to draw Oliver into a fight when he takes some hostages. Oliver is able to easily rescue them before getting into an awesome archery contest with this villain. Oliver is seriously injured and the villain manages to escape. Whose the villain? None other than Tommy Merlyn's father! So this villains attempt at getting rid of the Arrow is to personally face him while starting a police hunt on his alter ego. At the same time, he complains about how Moira isn't able to control her husband's investigation into the group he belongs to. So much so that he actually has Walter kidnapped. Don't worry: he'll apparently be released back to Moira in one peace once his plan for Sterling City goes through. A plan that involves the deaths of THOUSANDS of citizens. I'm seriously hoping that's an exagerattion because that's a huge figure.
The episode also returns the flashbacks to the island. Oliver is complaining about the lack of food and it's kind of confusing why he doesn't just hunt it or anything. I thought he was learning to hunt or something? The confusing chronology isn't helping here. Yao Fe brings forth the guy that had captured Oliver in the hopes that he'll be able use the guy's plane to get Oliver home. This doesn't seem like a bright plan since they could easily kill Oliver on the airplane but maybe Yao Fe is just tired of Oliver's constant complaining. This turns out to be a huge trap on Yao Fe but not until we learn more about the island. It turns out it was a literal Chinese prison where they sent their deadliest prisoners. The Chinese military must have realized that actually having a “Death Race” or “Battle Royal” situation was nuts so they sent in the mercenary group to wipe out the prisoners. There were only two prisoners who survived the purging: Yao Fe and the guy currently helping the mercenary group. Oliver is unable to help as he watches Yao Fe get carried away. The flashback sequences were largely good and it's hopefully what finally drives Oliver to be the self-sustaining vigilante he is today.
I might be complaining a lot about Year's Ends flaws but I still found it to be a pretty good episode. Was the ending earned? Not by a long shot. Did Quentin give up his principles too easily? Yes. Did the show really go ridicilous with how many people the plan is going to kill? A thousand times yes. It's just that everything else worked very well. The action scenes were exciting, the family drama was good if repetitive, and it was all very entertaining. I might not be counting the days for when the show comes back but I'm still finding myself curiours to see what's going to happen next.