Thursday, May 23, 2013


Episode 23: Sacrifice
The Season Finale
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.

Spoilers Ahoy!

The first season of Arrow culminates in the undertaking meant to destroy the Glades. It's been an event that the season has been slowly building up to since the beginning of the season. Our protagonists try their best to stop it from happening. The premiere picks up where the last one leaves off. Malcolm discovers that Oliver is actually the Hood right after beating him in a fight. For reasons that aren't entirely clear, he basically holds Oliver in captivity. I think this is because Malcolm promised Moira to keep her family safe or because Oliver was his son's best friend. That Oliver manages to escape isn't very surprising even if how he did was pretty exciting. The way that he basically caused the pole he was being suspended on to collapse was pretty creative as well as his use of the chains as a weapon. It was a nice action-packed way to begin an episode that never really relents. The momentum of the episode begins strong and continues until the very last frame. Trying to stop the undertaking is pretty exciting and it does have some legitimate twists I didn't see coming. Twists that are going to lead to a very interesting season two as the status quo has definably been changed by the events of this episode. This isn't to suggest that the undertaking plot has been perfect. It might have been in the background for most of the season but Oliver was rarely even aware of it. He's the protagonist and having be far removed from this threat made it seem more vague than concrete. The undertaking managed to actually fulfill the expectations that thousands would die but it was far too removed from most of the season to actually be satisfying. The second season of Arrow is going to have a new big bad and threat but it should find ways to have it be more relevant throughout the season rather than at key points. The other problem is with the season's Big Bad. Don't get me wrong: Malcolm was a great antagonist and he had enough humanity in him at the end to make him tragic. His credibility as a direct threat to our characters was always suspect as he only dons his black archer getup in a few episodes. It helps that he defeats Oliver in every fight they get in but that's undermined considering how passive he was. The first season was all about setting up the characters and developing the groundwork for their relationships so hopefully the second season can tell a much more cohesive and compact narrative. Overall-the first season finale was pretty epic but not as satisfying as it could have been.

There were four twists that definably caught me off-guard. The first happens after Oliver talks to Moira. He basically makes her realize that participating in the undertaking makes her a bad person. She decides to betray Malcolm by holding a public press conference where she admits that the Glades is about to be destroyed and her involvement over the plan. She gets arrested. This implies that she's going to spend at least part of the second season in jail. She's certainly flushed the Queen name down the drain and it's not going to be a surprise if the stocks for Queen Consolidated fall. There are many possible places where the writers can take this but it depends on how serious they are about shaking the family dynamic part of the show. Moira's pronouncement does give enough time for some people to flee the Glades but it largely falls into chaos as people take her warning as an excuse to loot. Thea goes to the Glades in order to rescue her boyfriend only he's not interested in leaving because he wants to help people. He wants to be a hero just like the vigilante. The episode basically ends with him going to save people from a burning bus and Thea leaving the Glades by herself. I guess technically either of their lives could be in danger because we don't know what happens to them but it's likely they both are fine. We know that Colton Haynes (who portrays Roy) is going to be a series regular and it's doubtful his one connection to Oliver (Thea) is going to go away. The finale does continue his journey towards becoming a hero and continues to imply how this is going to cause tension in his relationship with Thea. Although considering how she wanted to go into a part of the city she knew was going to be in danger because she loved him despite having broken up with him, the two should be able to remain strong.

The second twist is basically having Quentin be suspended for his job when he decides that saving the Glades is more important than bringing the Hood to justice. It's actually pretty surprising that the police don't seem to agree with him but it does indicate Quentin is starting to change his mind about the Hood. He's the character who has been a constant thorn in Oliver's side since he's the only who one has been actively pursuing the vigilante. He's managed to get pretty close at times that has allowed him to stay a semi-credible threat even if it was obvious he would never actually succeed. An example is actually in this episode when he's able to arrest Felicity. If he could get her to talk then he could theoretically catch Oliver. Only he sets her free when he learns that the Glades could be destroyed by an artificial earthquake. The premise of the show depends on Oliver being able to don the Hood so there was now way the police could permanently catch him. Quentin's suspension from the police force and his dependence on Felicity to disarm one of the devices might promise that he's actually going to be joining the Hood's group of heroes. Of course, the show could decide to backtrack by having the police force take Quentin back and his love of the letter of the law taking precedence over his admittance that the Hood saves lives. Even if he does go back to being the most recurring antagonist on this show, he's certainly going to have a more complicated view of the Hood. Who knows? He might be brought back to the police force and he'll become an ally on the police force for Oliver. There's a lot of places the writers can now take Quentin due to the events of this episode.

The third twist was the most surprising. Quentin has managed to disable the device and Oliver has defeated Malcolm in their final fight. The day is saved. That is until Malcolm utters that he's learned one thing from being a businessman: redundancy. There wasn't one earthquake device under the Glades but two. It's too late to stop the other one which means that half of the Glades basically gets destroyed. It's one thing to have a threat be the destruction of one part of a city. It makes sense within a superhero narrative when the characters are able to beat back this threat and save the day. It's shocking when their efforts amount to nothing because they hadn't dealt with the entire threat. Actually going through with the undertaking on a CW budget? Bold-and that it actually managed to be look as well as it did was pretty good. Stopping the undertaking and killing Malcolm would have made for a pretty good finale but it wouldn't have been epic. Having it actually take place, even after you think it's over? That's what made it epic. In making us think it's over, it became a pretty big twist. Overall-it created a huge chain of events where a large part of the city is destroyed, lives are put in danger, and that ends the episode. There is no real cliff-hanger as it ends moments after the earthquake machine has done it's job. We get to see signs of the damage in a pretty great shot before the credits roll in. There might not be a direct cliff-hanger but there's no question that the fallout from this event is going to be huge. How will the city deal with this? What's going to happen? The consequences are left for the season premiere. If Arrow proved anything it's that it's willing to take risky story choices.

The final twist is a character's death. This is the “sacrifice” that the episode title refers to. It could apply to Moira's decision to reveal the undertaking to the public or to Quentin staking his reputation as a cop on the line to stop the destruction of the Glades. It could even apply to Malcolm's belief that sacrificing the Glades is necessary in order to save it. It applies to all of those but I think it applies the most to Tommy's sacrifice. He basically learns that his dad is a psychotic killer who plans on leveling the Glades. He doesn't believe it at first because it's just ridiculous. It isn't until Moira's announcement and his father's own confession that he finally accepts that his dad is a villain. When his father is able to resist arrest, Tommy tries to bring him down. Tommy fails because his dad is effective at dealing with untrained threats. It isn't until the undertaking happens that Tommy becomes useful. He rushes in to save Laurel when her building is destroyed by the undertaking. He's able to get her out but he gets trapped under the building. It's too late so save him as he gives up his life for Laurel. It's a heroic gesture that sadly ends a character who had a lot of promise for the second season. Dealing with his dad's actions could have been compelling and his role in the love triangle was just starting to get interesting. It's possible that killing Tommy off might have been a mistake but I could see why they did it. I doubt this decision was made lightly but there's no way the show could have had an event that killed thousands without killing someone we know off. It would have been too unrealistic and the whole event wouldn't have been as personal. Thousands of deaths is a tragedy but it really hits home if it's someone you know. The writers probably went with Tommy because, while he had a lot of promise for a second season arc, he was the least necessary. Laurel is Oliver's love interest and his family is essential to his personal life.

Sacrifice was a pretty epic finale that had me on the edge of my seat and I definably can't wait for a second season of Arrow. I do hope that it's better able to develop the narrative throughout the season so that it's more of a present danger than an abstract, vague one.

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