‘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. I wish they had kept Barrowman, He was great in Arrow and in Doctor Who.

  2. Well i wish it had warned about major spoilers ! then again i would still read it lol its been a great series and so happy were gonna get a season 2.

  3. I was abit sad to see both Merlyns go in this episode. It just had the Lex luthor to Superman/Kent vibe about it. It worked.
    WHy do I have a feeling Roy will just start being his own version vigilante, helping people when Arrow steps in and decides to train him.

    Im sorry but the “Stop texting its not worth it!” line from Thea was the most corny thing ive seen this season, followed up by the No texting commercial afterwards.

    • beacuse Roy Harper is Red Arrow in the comics….

      • I know Roy is Red Arrow, I was just saying how the show could go about becoming the sidekick he is meant to be

        • Oh gotcha, my bad.

    • You beat me to the texting PSA comment. At least we had an entire episode without a Surface product placement. Just goes to show, it is always awkward when writers are forced to plant outside interests into a story line.

      • I watched the episode on Hulu Plus (where there was no PSA follow-up), so it felt more like a lead-in to a scene that never happened. I was trying to figure out who Roy was texting as it seemed fairly important at the time.

  4. I have a feeling that the merlyns will be back, I wonder if roy will become red arrow, or possibly diggle becoming arsenal

  5. Now that’s how do you do a season finale!

    Whew! So many great moments for each character. Quite a feat.

    The capper is the main threat may have been thwarted but the backup one was not and the town still ended suffering a major blow.

    Well done Arrow show runners, cast, and crew. Well done.

    • Couldnt Agree More!!

  6. Can somebody please tell me what Oliver said after Tommy died. He said ” it should have been me” then he said something else that I just couldn’t understand. What was that?

    • I would like to know this as well since my wife decided that the perfect time to nag to me about something was at one of the pivotal moments in the season.

    • “Open your eyes Tommy… Open your eyes”

      • As stated above. “Open your eyes, Tommy”

        Pretty powerful, I thought.

      • Thank you to all that answered!

      • “Open your eyes Tommy…your contacts are still on.”

    • He was telling him to open his eyes.

    • Well why didn’t you just rewind lol you must have that function right ? but I do admire you for what you have done even after prison to bad I couldn’t do the same for the sake of my son and daughter but given the chance i’d never slip agian.

  7. Has this show not been cancelled yet!??

    • I can’t tell if this snark or a serious question. Either way, clearly you haven’t been watching (it’s renewed for a second season)

    • Surprising right? Usually, most networks cancel and abandon decent shows like Arrow to make room for gems like Honey Boo Boo or Johnny Test.
      (Cartoon Network, I’m looking at you!)

      • Agreed, glad this show is getting a shot.

      • Don’t forget about the epic annoying orange. I can’t believe that crap is on instead of renewing young justice.

      • They renewed this show way early, so there was never any danger of cancellation.

      • since cartoon network canceled the green lantern, young justice and thundercats i no longer waste my time on them.

    • Not sure if you’re serious
      Or beng sarcastic

  8. The season finale was awesome and full of unexpected surprises. It was a great way to end season one of arrow. I’m glad we are getting another season, definitely looking forward for it to return in the fall.

  9. Although I expected Ollie to fail (I commented as much on the review of the last episode) I did not expect it to be like this! After Malcolm Merlyn’s continuous ass-kickery, I was a bit disappointed when Ollie found clues as to where the device was hidden. I was *so* happy that he had a backup plan.

    Also, what’s going to happen to poor Felicity? At first, I was concerned that her Season 2 upgrade to ‘Regular’ was a publicity thing and that she might be in danger, but then I realised that she wasn’t concerned about herself, but was distraught at all the people that she couldn’t help. I don’t think she’ll jump right into Arrowhood next season as her usual chipper self.

    I like how Roy and Thea’s relationship has turned out. It was always going to be the ‘non-complex’ relationship (no love triangle) in the show and Roy kicking ass followed by Thea bottling some armed goon (along with a throwaway line about having ‘good aim’) set up the two potential sidekicks rather nicely. I never really cared for their relationship much before, but the way they were with each other was somewhat adorable.

  10. Honestly didn’t see the second device twist coming. Called the Tommy death last week; kudos to the writers for a great finale.

    I’m in the “Malcolm Merlyn isn’t dead camp” for now. Oliver stabbed himself through in a similar spot and survived, and while it looked like he died, they never cut back (read that Barrowman was still hopeful for being in season 2). The Dark Archer would be an even more formidable opponent now that he will probably be driven to complete insanity for being responsible for his son’s death (though I’m sure he would blame Oliver). In fact, I think the finale leaves a lot of questions, especially since the undertaking was (partially) successful. Already looking forward to season 2.

    • Also Oliver tells Tommy he didn’t kill him so I think Malcolm will be back. Either that or he lied to his dying best friend.

  11. The season was a great ride.

  12. So what happen to Merlyn did he live or die. Who will arrow fight next season deadshot. Also did anyone catch at the press conference that oliver mother middle name is Dearden.Same as Mia Dearden aka Speedy

    • It was brought up when Thea went to court over driving whilst on drugs. I was under the impression that it was Moira’s maiden name rather than her middle name, though there are weirder middle names – Emma Watson has ‘Duerre,’ for example. What I found odd is that… well… Moira Dearden Queen and Thea Dearden Queen… mix Moira and Thea and you do kinda get ‘Mia’

  13. Too bad about tommy but at least since Malcolm isn’t dead he has even more of a reason to truly hate Ollie; even though in the end it was really Malcolm that killed tommy.

    • there is nothing proving Merlyn is not dead or dead. my guess is that he survives some how its wait and see ,Tommy def dead, you cannot get impaled by a bar of nasty re-bar in the chest like that and live .

  14. And this is why I have always preferred Green Arrow over Batman, Green Arrow is flawed and vulnerable, meanwhile Batman never ever ever makes mistakes.

    • He is flawed on the inside. In some cases his means of justice is a massive flaw. He wont kill, so he keeps capturing the same villains. I love green arrow as well but oliver makes mistakes and js flawed in the outside, batman is purely flawed from the inside

    • What are you talking about?? He supposedly makes no mistakes yet he blames himself for what he calls “failures” like Harvey becoming Two-face, Joker’s creation, Jason Todd’s death and now Damian’s death.

    • Yea, I was going to make the same argument as the others. Batman is very flawed, he just doesn’t admit it and is dangerously over focused. I think that’s what I like about a majority of DC’s characters is how human they really are in a lot of ways. The season finale proved that in the heroes failure to stop the undertaking and being seriously wounded at the same time. As well as losing dear friends.

      I think Superman is probably the only real nonflawed character in the DC Universe but then again, that could very well be his flaw.

      • Superman’s flaws:

        1. Having so much power but not enough to save everyone.
        2. Trying to be normal.
        3. Keeping his secret so that those close to him won’t be harmed.
        4. Always trying to do he right thing.

  15. Wow what an awesome way to end a great season. Did not expect tommy to die was expexting malcolm to die and tommy become the dark archer. Cant wait for next season slade is gonna be a regular so it should be good

  16. Great twist with leveling half the city! This has had an excellent first season, subverting most tropes of the superhero CW show genre that Smallville beat into our brains. Merlyn is not dead according to what Ollie told Tommy before he died. Tommy dying i did not suspect as much as I saw Ollie killing Malcolm and Tommy leaving for Namba Parbat to return later on as the new Dark Archer. I also really liked the redundancy line Malcolm had. Cannot wait for season 2! More Slade! More Roy! More AWESOMENESS!!!!

  17. There were some great and unexpected twists, and action wise it was fantastic, but I felt just a little disappointed with the episode.

    So much of the dialogue felt corny and forced. “Heartwarming speeches abound” lol. On top of that, regardless of a urgent city-wide crisis, for some reasons the characters felt there was still enough time to stand around and talk when there’s impending doom around the corner (detective Lance’s unnecessarily long call to his daughter, and Speedy and Roy’s argument and eventual kiss were especially annoying).
    Another thing that was very awkward, was why Malcolm Merlyn felt the need to take Green Arrow’s shirt off at the start of the episode (when we see him hanging by chains in a warehouse)… it’s not that big a deal I guess, but it was so weird.
    What also concerns me a bit is how so many important characters are getting killed off in the show. I know the show’s only been renewed for another season, but they have to at least plant some seeds in case it gets picked up for more seasons down the road. Both Merlyn characters could have had important parts later down the line (especially Tommy).

    I could go on about it even more, but I’ll finish off by saying I was expecting a bit more from the show at this point. At least the story was great. They handled the whole Undertaking thing very well and I can’t wait to see what happens in season 2.

    • I considered the long phone call too but then realised all the other scenes they showed happening either side of the call were happening at the same period of time as the call rather than before and after the call. Something that would have been difficult to show clearly in the show.

  18. It was a good ending to a good season. I hope they up the ante next season by bringing in more fanaticism to the show. But I don’t see happening. I’m glad we get another season ams I enjoyed the first one.

  19. Well executed finale, much better than another superhero movie that shall go unnamed…

  20. Don’t think that Tommy is dead. There was no finality to that scene. Oliver told him to open his eyes and then we cut to the destruction of the glades. His pops may not be dead as well. It’s certainly a great cliffhanger.

  21. For all those saying Tommy isn’t dead, he definitely is (at least for the immediate future). The actor confirmed this in an interview yesterday.

    Meant to mention this in my earlier post, but the producers are having the writers read the Batman comic series “The Cult”. Not sure it means anything, as they stated in the interview that they encourage the writers to read all DC material.

    • Good.

      It would cheapen his death if he were to come back.

    • ,Tommy is definitely dead, you cannot get impaled by a long piece of of nasty construction re-bar in the chest like that and live .

  22. We all know Malcolm isn’t dead. He’s going to pull a Captain Jack

  23. I personally thought this was a good ending to Season 1. It leaves so many opportunities that the producers can use to their advantage by creating new story lines. One thing that I’m curious about is, what happened to The Huntress? How will they add her to the mix in Season 2?

  24. IMO, this is the best show on TV right now. It’s just spectacular.

    Too bad about Tommy, but more so, to bad about Malcolm. Barrowman is a fantastic actor, and will be missed. Why this guy isn’t in more movies I don’t know.

    What an awesome way to end the first season, so many unknowns. I love it!

    Can’t wait for season two & beyond!

    • @Stark couldn’t agree more…at first when I heard about the pilot for Arrow I was skeptic. After seeing the Pilot and so forward I came to enjoy the show more. I hope season 2 can top off season 1… Can’t wait to see Olie train Roy.

  25. Malcom Merlyn didn’t die, remember? Tommy asked if Oliver had killed his father and Oliver said no. Also the wound was to the shoulder. I see it being very likely that Barrowman will be back for season 2. However, Tommy won’t be. If anything he’ll probably in flashbacks or something.

    You can’t forget in the very beginning of the series we see the deathstroke mask on a pike when Oliver is rescued. I bet you Slade somehow becomes evil and tries to kill Oliver as the original Deathstroke (who tortured Oliver) was killed by Slade

    • Malcolm IS dead. Ollie just told Tommy that he wasn’t dead so Tommy could die in peace. Otherwise, Ollie would’ve effectively said, “I stole your girlfriend and murdered your father. Have a nice death!” I’m a bit surprised that people here are as gullible as Tommy…

      • some thought deadshot was dead too but we see that isn’t true. and i think if they really wanted him dead they would give him a better death like an arrow to the head. Not a pussy shoulder pop. As far as im concerned on Arrow they ainy dead till i see em zipped up

        • It didn’t get Malcolm in the shoulder. It got Ollie in the shoulder and Malcolm in the heart, a bit like Die Hard 4.

      • Your suggestion that he is surely dead isn’t reasonable…not on a show like this. I’m SURE they meant to be ambiguous, so they could develope a plotline either way for next season, and depending on Barrowman’s availability.

    • Actually Hew told Tommy he didnt kill Merlyn fur Tommy’s sake of mind. but i ma sure he killed him.

    • Stark you do know roy is the son of the man on the island that traind ollie.an im a big fan of your sock tea lol been there done that !! Im happy that you turned your life around to bad I couldn’t do the same.big fan of yours

  26. Hey guys,

    As a frequenter of this site and a huge fan of the work you guys do, this is the first time I have a complaint.

    The picture you guys have up on the main page for this post is spoilerish. I have not noticed you guys doing this in the past, but when I was looking through your newer articles and saw the post and pic, I was disappointed to know that Olly gets captured, at some point, in the finale by the Dark Archer.

    • He was captured at the end of the previous episode. But i feel you. It can be a bit spoilerish depending on where you are in the season.

    • That was in all the previews for the episode too. If it is in a commercial then it is not a spoiler.

  27. WOW! Love this show. So well done. Already can’t wait for next season!

    • Also meant to say, the last two episodes of this show- best of any show I’ve seen in a long time. I realize it contains all the classic CW drama, but wow really really strong television.

  28. Guess that I’m the only one thought the finale fell a bit rush.

    • *felt

    • no, i felt it was too compressed also, and would have served the story better had it been a 2 hour episode, but for what it was i liked it.

  29. wait. why would we think Barrowman won’t be in season 2? Oliver specifically said he did NOT kill him. If he’s not dead, he will be back.

    • While I agree with what you’re saying, it might also have been a final courtesy to a dying friend. It yielded a pretty tender scene, with Tommy’s last words being a ‘thank you’ for keeping his father alive.