Arrow: 123 Season 1 Finale Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
Well, it’s been a long and crazy road, but we’ve reached the finale of this first season of Arrow, and it’s a corker: it’s got earthquake machines (EARTHQUAKE MACHINES!), tense action sequences, some revelations with big consequences and some genuinely surprising character deaths along the way. So it makes sense to get on with it, but beware of big spoilers!
After the previous week’s beatdown, Oliver has been captured and unmasked by Malcolm and now the rival archers finally know each other’s identities. Malcolm indulges in a typical supervillain gloat-fest about how Oliver will never escape and his earthquake machine (EARTHQUAKE MACHINE!) is unstoppable and so on and so forth. He then makes the typical supervillain mistake and leaves Oliver alone with a bunch of incompetent hench-people.
As soon as Malcolm leaves, Oliver proves that all those insane exercises he did when having an expository conversation weren’t wasted, escapes from his chains and proceeds to knock the stuffing out of all of Malcolm’s anonymous hench-people with a little help from Diggle.
After heading home, Oliver has a procession of awkward conversations with just about everybody in his life: he tells Tommy that his dad is a psychopathic megalomaniacal douche-canoe after Tommy informs Oliver that he saw the tender, emotional boinking between him and Laurel last week; he tells Laurel to stay out of the Glades which she will obviously, inevitably ignore; and he confronts Moira about the Undertaking, prompting her to hold a press conference admitting her role in the planned murder of thousands of people. She also snitches on Malcolm, who gets so angry he Hulks Out and smashes his office up, and Moira is subsequently arrested.
After Tommy sees the press conference, he confronts his dad about Oliver’s assertion that he is a bad guy, expecting him to laugh it off. However, Malcolm reveals his secret identity as the Dark Archer and Tommy understandably doesn’t react well: Malcolm then reveals that he is not a cold, calculating Ra’s al Ghul-style mastermind, but a crazy bastard who screams things like ‘They deserve to die!’.
So the Undertaking kicks off, and Oliver is forced to ask Detective Lance for help: the same Detective Lance who, after admitting to his superior officer that he had been in contact with the Hood multiple times in the past few months, was suspended from the police force. He reluctantly accepts, and works with Felicity to disarm the earthquake machine (EARTHQUAKE MACHINE! It’s still so awesome) hidden in the disused subway tunnels beneath the Glades. He panics when the device is a bit difficult to disarm and calls Laurel to tell her he’s probably not going to make it, and to get out of the Glades: the second time she’s told to do that and ignores the advice. However, Lance eventually manages to disarm the machine and gets his moment of heroism, which still stands even after his wimpy moment earlier.
Elsewhere, Thea races into the Glades to save Roy, and subsequently leaves him behind to save some people trapped in a bus so he can be a big damn hero just like the Hood. However, he does waste valuable seconds to get a little makey-outy with Thea while the people trapped in the bus get closer and closer to death. Because being a hero is good, but smooching the lady-friend is much, much better.
Then the moment finally comes for Oliver’s final showdown with Malcolm: it’s a great fight, with lots of hero-vs-villain swagger and some genuinely brutal-looking blows traded, and it ends on the rooftop of Malcolm’s building. Malcolm gets the upper hand and starts choking the life out of Oliver while growling things like ‘your mother and sister will be joining you in death’: however, Oliver stabs an arrow right through his own chest and into Malcolm’s, finally telling him that they deactivated the EARTHQUAKE MACHINE. However, a second before he dies, he rocks out a killer, if slightly nerdy line: that one thing he learned as a businessman was the value of redundancy. Oliver takes this (correctly) to mean that there is a second device (doubling the awesome of the EARTHQUAKE MACHINE), which goes off and levels the east side of the Glades: which just so happens to be the part of the Glades where Laurel’s office is located.
And because she gets off on being a colossal pain in the arse, Laurel is still at her office when it collapses: she gets trapped under a block, and all seems lost until her saviour appears from the darkness. But it’s not Oliver, it’s Tommy: he lifts the block off her and gets her out of the building moments before the building explodes. Oliver then arrives and heads into the wreckage, only to find Tommy with a big ol’ iron rod through his chest. Before he dies, Tommy asks Oliver whether or not he killed Malcolm, and Oliver decides to save Tommy from the truth, telling him that he didn’t.
I have to congratulate Arrow for truly pulling the wool over my eyes all season: I was under the impression that Tommy was being set up as a Harry Osborn-type figure, so embittered by Oliver killing his father that he ends up becoming an even worse supervillain than Malcolm. So his death was genuinely unexpected and actually rather upsetting, especially considering the industrial-size wringer Tommy has been through over the course of the entire season.
Meanwhile, on the island, some serious nonsense is going down: as Fyers launches the missile at the passenger jet, Oliver manages to free himself and the Troublesome Trio (as nobody is calling them) leaps into action. Slade grabs a machine gun and starts laying down covering fire while Shado and Oliver get to the missile launcher and reprogram it to steer the missile right back at Fyers’ camp, blowing the whole place up and killing the lion’s share of the bad guys.
Later, as Oliver is searching for Shado amongst the wreckage, he finds her being used as a human shield by Fyers. Island-Oliver finally gets his moment of glory as he grabs a bow and slams an arrow right into Fyers’ neck, ending his evil English nonsense once and for all. It’s a great ending to the season’s island flashbacks, even if it doesn’t solve the problem of the three of them still being marooned in the middle of nowhere, but that’s a season two problem, for season two Oliver.
You finally did it, Arrow. You came out fighting with a perfect version of the show that you are: great action, surprising plot twists, characters each getting their heroic moment and, most importantly, a genuine feeling of resolution which ties up this season’s major plot threads while simultaneously leaving things open-ended enough that a second season still feels necessary. All in all, a fantastic curtain call for a season that has, on the whole, been a hell of a lot of fun.
Roll on season two!