‘Arrow’ Season 1 Finale Review

Published 2 years ago by

John Barrowman and Stephen Amell in Arrow Sacrifice Arrow Season 1 Finale Review

With their frequent talk about power and responsibility, obligation, or in this case, making a sacrifice, superhero stories can occasionally come off as being a little too familiar. And there were plenty of those customary tropes, magnified characterizations, and familiar plot devices being thrown around in the Arrow season finale. But for a series that’s put forth a significant effort to distinguish itself as a fresh take on familiar character, ‘Sacrifice’ managed to gleefully convey the superhero elements, while offering up a few genuine surprises as well.

To end the season on something akin to abject failure for the heroes, and what may amount to be the lowest point for each of the show’s extensive cast of characters, was a decision that helped make ‘Sacrifice’ a more memorable season finale than what was expected, and one that bodes well for the storyline when the series returns in the fall.

This was an episode that had a great deal of heavy lifting to do, and it only had the span of a network television hour (about 42 minutes) to do it in. When you stop to consider the effort put forth to not only give each character a brief moment all to themselves, but also to connect each storyline to the overarching theme and an action-packed island flashback sequence, the finale delivered in spades.

What really stands out, though, is – with the possible exception of Slade and Shado – each character wasn’t just inserted into the plot for the sake of some face time before the series signs off for the summer. Instead, the writers were able to find an angle that made each arc feel legitimate, especially in terms of characters and relationships that were otherwise relegated to the sidelines, or in the case of Oliver and Laurel’s relationship, felt forced upon the narrative at an incredibly late stage of the game.

David Ramsey in Arrow Sacrifice Arrow Season 1 Finale Review

For starters, Moira’s confession in regard to her complicity in the Undertaking, and her subsequent arrest, both go a long way in showcasing the Queen family’s penchant for protecting loved ones by obscuring the truth and then coming clean and engaging in some kind of extreme behavior. In a way, Moira’s public declaration of guilt mirrored Robert’s actions on the lifeboat. Robert took the life of another man and then his own so that Oliver would have a better chance at survival. This time, the stakes were the lives of everyone living in the Glades, but the message was still the same: a hero (no matter how flawed) will sacrifice his or her own wellbeing for the greater good.

Moreover, the whole scene sets off the calamity in the Glades and puts Thea on a collision course with Roy Harper.

And as far as Roy goes, the Undertaking finally grants the character a chance to move beyond simply searching for the Hood in some unclear mission to prevent losing someone close to him again. Instead, Roy makes the conscious decision to confront a trio of thugs attacking a helpless man, and to stay and help a bus full of strangers in part because he knows that is what the Hood would do, but also because the show wants to demonstrate Roy has decided what kind of person he wants to be – that person just happens to closely resemble the Starling City Vigilante.

John Barrowman in Arrow Sacrifice Arrow Season 1 Finale Review

But the finale really belongs to the Merlyns – and not just because it looks like neither John Barrowman or Colin Donnell will be returning to the series in season 2 (but if death is as impermanent on this show as it is in the comics, it may be too soon to rule anything out). While Tommy’s final, heroic effort proved to be fatal, it helped to justify the existence of a character that the series never seemed quite sure what to do with. Arrow could have groomed Donnell to take over as the Dark Archer (and perhaps they still will), but choosing instead to have his death punctuate Oliver’s inability to completely prevent the Undertaking feels like a far more poignant and interesting approach in terms of the series’ future and Oliver’s development as a hero.

Which brings us to John Barrowman’s portrayal of Malcolm Merlyn. In many ways, Barrowman’s effort in ‘Sacrifice’ sums up Arrow‘s first season. At times it was pitch perfect; it struck all the right chords and fully engaged the audience. And yet, it also occasionally felt overblown and exaggerated, and when those larger-than-life elements didn’t quite deliver, it was a noticeable drain on the proceedings.

Thankfully, like Barrowman, the series found a way to deliver when it mattered most. In that aspect, Malcolm Merlyn went out on the same high note that the season did. And although it looks like Barrowman won’t be around in the fall, ‘Sacrifice’ offers plenty of reasons to be glad that Arrow will be.


Arrow will return for season 2 sometime in the fall of 2013 on The CW.

TAGS: Arrow
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  1. He doesn’t get much praise, but I really liked where the writers took the Quentin Lance character, in that he was truly willing to risk life and career to save/help the people of Starling City. I also appreciate that they never made him out to be an oaf. I’ll look forward to seeing what’s next for him.

    The flashbacks to the island were also pretty good.

  2. I enjoyed it more than Iron Man 3 ! Great show… Great S1 ending… Wow

  3. I enjoyed it more than Iron Man 3 ! Great show… Great S1 ending… Wow season 2 please

  4. I see more chances of Malcolm coming back and blaming Oliver for Tommy’s death, than Tommy coming back…Tommy’s impalement is hard to overcome, plus his death gives more character development to Oliver and Laurel (and her becoming Black Canary), Malcom on the other hand was wounded, but not mortally and we never saw him die, Diggle basically had the same wounds and he made it out fine.

    • Tommy’s impalement is hard to overcome? Malcolm was impaled in pretty much exactly the same way!

      • No. Tommy was impaled through the middle of his chest by a re-bar while Malcolm was impaled with an arrow through upper right chest corner. Survival of the latter is more likely than survival of the former.

        • Ollie was impaled through the upper-right of his chest. Malcolm wasn’t ‘square’ with him, so took it through the centre of his chest. The Merlyns met the same fate.

  5. i really enjoyed this season. i think they done it really well and i didnt mind all the romance stuff for once. i thought they did it well and they were not forcing it down our throats. the action was great and i really liked it when GA killed because when i saw the first episode and he killed i said this is not going to be like smallville.

    my favorite character was slade, i just really wanna know what happened on the island. those scenes are the best and i cant wait to see it continue.

    i hope they wrap up the island next season. i would be annoyed if this show gets cancelled without the conclusion to the island.

    my second favorite character was felicity, she was funny.

  6. I dislike the roy harper character because although he choose to help people on the bus, it didn’t feel like a act of selfless but rather him wanting to help people because he wants that hero status Oliver has. I’m not too keen on the idea of Roy becoming Arrow’s sidekick either because truthfully he needs a kick up the but for him to realize Thea is right- he’s doesn’t need to prove anything.

  7. Saw this yesterday over here in Blighty.

    Really enjoying the show, some great casting and performances. Not overly familier with the GA character but has promptedme into a bit of research and GA is not quite the Batman clone he appears at first glance (billionaire vigilante).

    The only niggle i have is the huge plot hole regarding Malcolm’s motivation for the Undertaking.

    His little coalition was working to help Starling City but it wasn’t going well. His wife was unfortunately robbed and shot to which he ignored repeated calls from his wife, as it turns out while she ws dying in the street.

    Consumed with guilt and rage he goes on a journey, it’s assumed he bumps into Ra’s Al Ghul, cmes round to the League of Shadows view point of destruction and rebuilding, comes back and decides to wipe out the Glades.

    It kills those who betrayied his wife who was trying to help them, he gets his vengence his grief demands and as he now owns most of the Glades he can guide the rebuilding (not to mention claim on a load of property insurance policies… gotta make a bit of cash else why bother, I mean really…)

    Here’s the plot hole. This all stems from his wife death.

    Dunno about you but if I’m on my ass dying in the street from a gun shot wound, my first call aint to me husband/wife, it’s chuffin 911, get me a bloody ambulance, keep pressure on the wound.

    The way Malcolm over a couple of episodes explains it she could of been lying there for 20-30mins, an hour maybe as people amble by not helping, plenty of time for the paramedics to show up…. still might not of saved her but I find it highly unlikely that she wouldn’t of called them choosing instead to leave a message for her husband.

    You do that after the 911 call.

    [now i fully expect someone to post back that i've missed that she did call 911 and they didn't arrive in time, if that's the case I put my hands up, fair cop, hole closed]

    Oh Malcolm is so still alive…. you never know they may evolve him into Ra’s…. couple of dips in the Lazarus Pit and Robert is your mother’s brother.

    • I’m not sure they’ll introduce any more Batman characters to the show, especially Ra’s and the League Of Assassins, but nice theory.

      When the quake happened, I didn’t expect it and I thought it could be a nice little nod to the Batman: No Man’s Land arc from 99 when an earthquake hit Gotham and the US government declared it wouldn’t help (if you haven’t read it, do so, it’s great).

      I also only got to see it yesterday thanks to us not getting it until monday so it’s still fresh in my mind but I was thinking that the people who never helped Malcolm’s wife in The Glades are the same as people these days that refuse to help people lying on the ground because they’re scared of interfering.

      I imagine she called Malcolm to hear his voice and maybe she wasn’t thinking straight enough to call for an ambulance or assumed someone else would have done so.

      I want to see more of:

      * the island

      * Deadshot

      * Roy Harper’s transformation into Arsenal (since he won’t become Speedy or Red Arrow in this show)

      * Chien Na Wei (or China White as he called her in Year One)

      * the aftermath of the earthquake in The Glades

      Can’t wait until later this year. My only complaint is that the show had maybe 5-6 breaks so it was hard to follow along with the already lengthy season when it kept having several weeks off TV for no reason. I know some people who love the show but stopped watching because of the amount of breaks it had.

    • You…nailed..everything. Great job. Evidence of how good this show is that I overlooked that I admit, and I pride myself on finding pros and cons.

  8. A fantastic ending to a great season! I definitely enjoyed this series, and can’t wait for season 2!

    I agree with you Dazz on what I want to see in S2, but I’m also hoping that Slade dons the Deathstroke mask and that Laurel becomes Black Canary.

    I’m also expecting some new villains, of course.

  9. This is a great show but it’s missing something.oh yeah.me.so now you know whats missing for season 2 and also for the ppl that didn’t catch it ollie’s sister’s bf is the son of the man on the island that taought ollie how to fight !!!

  10. Pretty great capper, to a wishy-washy season. The only scene that really bothered me was Oliver/Laurel’s at the beginning of the ep. It was so contrived and muddled. Other than that though, I really think this is the best we’ve seen from Paul Blackthorne, some great writing for him to work with. But let’s face it, this hour/season/series(?) is owned by John Barrowman. The man is a genius, he really knows how to conduct the material he’s given. His time spent on screen in this installment was like I was watching a huge budget feature, that’s a good thing this time. Poor Tommy, I would’ve loved to have seen where you would have gone in life, but your death serves as a powerful narrative driver for things to come. Malcolm Merlyn, I am sure we’ll be seeing ya.

  11. Am I the only one who really hated Laurel in this episode? I mean, I never liked her but she is the one who should have died.
    Oliver told her not to go to the Glades and then Moira told everybody to leave. Later, her father calls her and tells her that his dying wish is for her to leave and apart from her cold and awful reaction, which could be attributed to her bad acting, she maked the stupid decision to stay.
    Why did she not leave? She was warned several times and caused Tommy’s death

  12. I think that the second season was better that the first! Now I can`t wait for season 3!!!