Entertainment Magazine

Review #3879: Arrow 1.9: “Year’s End”

Posted on the 13 December 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: John Keegan

Written by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg
Directed by John Dahl

Ever since the beginning of the season, there has been a sense that John Barrowman’s character was waiting for the right moment to strike. Even as relatively grounded as “Arrow” can be, given the emphasis on human relationships, Barrowman manages to exude the characteristics of a melodramatic villain without going completely over the top. Instead of being silly, it comes across as supreme confidence.

Review #3879: Arrow 1.9: “Year’s End”

Once the connection was made with the name Merlyn, it was clear that Tommy or his father would end up as Oliver’s nemesis. That was the only real question in this episode, and it wasn’t much of one at that. Tommy has shown little to no interest or skill with traditional weapons, while his father has been shown fencing, among other things. It’s no stretch to conclude, fairly early, that the elder Merlyn is the one defaming Green Arrow. (And the fact that Merlyn effectively names Oliver’s vigilante persona is the crowning touch.)

For form’s sake, the writers play coy with the reveal. There’s only one point at which it feels a bit ill-justified. Once Oliver knocks Merlyn out, he doesn’t try to find out who is behind the mask. Granted, he’s a bit distracted by the two arrows sticking out of his back, but why wouldn’t he want to know? That’s stock and trade for such stories, however, so even though it’s an obvious plot hole, it’s the kind that is hardly unexpected.

The important thing is that the writers, after showing Oliver as superior in his strategic and athletic prowess, have delivered an opponent that he can’t dispatch quickly. Oliver struggles just to get out of the situation alive, and unlike Clark on “Smallville”, he doesn’t simply bounce back in the denouement. He’s physically injured, and the effects will be keeping him off his feet for a while. Timing this episode for the mid-season break was a stroke of genius in that regard; the character needs time to heal, so it feels appropriate to the context of the story.

Oliver’s realization that his father wasn’t the one (or only one) to put together that list of names is another important turning point. There’s something bigger than he imagined at work, and we can see him drawing the wrong conclusions based on the limited information he has. It’s a smart way to advance the story; the audience gets to see the big picture forming, but at a slightly different pace than Oliver.

Answers are also forthcoming regarding the island and its original purpose. Assuming that the truth was being told, it was essentially a place for China to dump their worst criminals, where they could send mercenaries to wipe out the threat they posed. Two “inmates” survived, however: Yao Fei (Oliver’s apparent mentor) and Deathstroke. It makes sense out of what we have seen of the island thus far, but one big question remains: why is Yao Fei training Oliver? The easy answer would be that Yao Fei can’t beat Deathstroke alone, so Oliver represents an opportunity, but I suspect there is more to it.

Walter’s investigation forces Merlyn to take action, and now Moira is facing the prospect of having Walter held hostage until Merlyn can implement his lethal master plan. The logical assumption would be that Moira will eventually learn about Oliver’s crusade, at least in part, and become the source of useful exposition. The six-month timeframe fits neatly into the remainder of the season, and it gives Oliver a reason to gather allies in the meantime. Huntress is out there as a wild card, but I would expect others to arrive soon, not mention the potential for Laurel and even Thea to get into the mix.

Writing: 2/2
Acting: 2/2
Direction: 2/2
Style: 2/4

Final Score: 8/10

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