Arrow: 109 “Year’s End” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
“Year’s End”, Arrow’s midseason finale, felt at times like it was trying to be too many different things: the writers attempted to make it not only satisfying story in its own right, but also a Christmas special, and an episode which provides a cliffhanger which will bring viewers back to the show when it returns in the New Year. In my opinion, two of these elements worked, while one fell slightly flat, proving that over-stuffing an episode of an ongoing drama such as Arrow doesn’t really work.
So, the first part of the plot: Adam Hunt, the villain from the first episode of the season, is shot three times in the chest by a hooded archer. Naturally, people immediately assume it is the Hood, but Detective Lance, who has been gunning for the Hood all season, apparently puts his obsession with the vigilante to good use, as he recognises that the manner in which Hunt was killed is not consistent with the Hood’s modus operandi, and he deduces that there is a copycat at work.
Oliver finds out about the mystery archer and gets himself involved, calling Lance (with a voice changer) and offering to help. Lance refuses, until the archer kills another person Oliver had visited off-screen, and Lance’s superior officer pulls him off the case for refusing to accept that the two archers are the same person. He immediately calls Oliver and arranges a drop-off for one of the black arrows.
Oliver picks it up and pays Felicity a visit with an incredibly transparent lie about his ‘buddy Steve’ uses the black arrows and he wants to buy some for him as a Christmas present. Either Felicity is extremely gullible, or else she is completely aware of the fact that the Queen family are, by and large, a less than truthful bunch and is eager to help anyway, because she instantly obliges and uses her tech wizardry to find out where the arrows were manufactured. Purely due to the fact that I like her character, I’m going to assume that the latter option is true, and that Felicity is going to be an integral part of the show’s mythos.
So Oliver goes to the warehouse where the arrows were made, finds nothing but a very large bomb, and only just makes it out of the explosion. Shortly afterwards, Dig informs Oliver that the archer is now taking hostages, and Oliver charges off to the rescue, ziplining into the building he is holding them and rescuing them very easily. However, he is distracted by the appearance of the archer, and they have a genuinely quite impressive fight, with some short-range archery and some brutal close-quarters combat in which Oliver comes out very much on the bottom: by the end of the fight he has two arrows in his back, a possibly-broken arm and some severely bruised, probably cracked ribs from repeated kickings. He only just manages to stab the archer in the leg and roll out of the window into an alley, where he calls Dig: however, he’s not so distracted by the beating that he doesn’t pick up on some clues from the archer about the List, which suggests that it wasn’t, as Oliver believed, compiled by his father, but by someone else entirely.
Meanwhile, the black archer returns to his very own Arrowcave, pulls his hood off and reveals himself to be none other than Malcolm Merlyn, Tommy’s father and none other than John Barrowman. It’s becoming so much of a trend in this show that if someone pulls off their mask to reveal their true identity, I’m going to assume that it’s Malcolm Merlyn regardless of how implausible it may be: in fact, I’m going to put my money on the possibility that Deathstroke turns out to be Malcolm Merlyn. Speaking of whom…
After a couple of weeks off, we are treated to a return to the island. The archer finally returns to the cave he left Oliver in, bearing gifts of water and a hostage: namely Edward Fyers, the British mercenary who had Oliver tortured earlier in the season. The archer informs Oliver that Fyers has a plane which could get him home, and they trudge through the woods while Fyers explains the nature of the island to Oliver: it was a prison set up by the Chinese government, but when it was shut down Fyers and his team were sent in to wipe out the inmates. They killed off all but two: the archer and Deathstroke, who turns up to ambush the group and takes the archer away as Oliver escapes. I’m quite interested to see how this turns out, and whether or not it takes elements from the long-rumoured Green Arrow movie Escape From Super-Max, which involves the Arrow getting locked up in a super-prison and having to escape.
The third part of the episode is the Christmas part, as Oliver discovers that since his disappearance, the rest of the family cancelled Christmas, and he decides to throw a party. He manages to do so very quickly, and it becomes awkward even quicker: Moira is distracted by Malcolm threatening her, Walter is distracted by the knowledge that Moira is holding onto a list of people who are slowly getting taken down by the Hood, and Thea is distracted by boys and general angst. It becomes even more awkward when Tommy turns up with Laurel as his plus one: Laurel is still flip-flopping on the subject of her feelings for Tommy, seemingly going cold on him after their apparent reconciliation last episode.
In the end, however, it turns out that all the Queen family needed to bring them together was Oliver getting severely injured in a ‘motorbike crash’ that doesn’t look at all like a man shot him twice in the back with arrows and then kicked him in the stomach half a dozen times.
The episode closes with Moira meeting Malcolm and discussing his plans for the city, which will apparently result in the deaths of ‘thousands of innocent people’, which Malcolm will only feel ‘a sense of accomplishment’ about, and Oliver in his hospital room vowing to take down the person behind the List. This was actually the most engaged I’ve been with the season thus far: I don’t know whether that’s due to my appreciation for a good cliffhanger or the episode actually ending in an effective way, but either way I’m looking forward to Arrow’s return in 2013.
There was a little too much going on in this episode for me to give it a higher rating, and the Christmas party plot-line didn’t interest me in the slightest. But the action sequences were good, there were some nice reveals and enough of a cliffhanger to entice me back to the show in January.