Episode Title: "Sacrifice"
Story by: Greg Berlanti
Teleplay by: Marc Guggenheim & Andrew Kreisberg
Director: David Barrett
Now that “Arrow” Season 1 is over, I feel comfortable telling the non-comic book fans out there that Green Arrow’s biggest adversary was always Meryln, a villainous archer.
On this series, the expectation was that Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell) was being set up to be the Lex Luthor of “Arrow.” The best friend who is destined to become the greatest enemy of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell).
Around midseason, “Arrow” managed a nice surprise when it was revealed that Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) was the Dark Archer; which meant that we didn’t have to wait years for Tommy to go on the villainous path and become more like the comic book Merlyn. His dad was already filling that role.
Before we go on, you should know that there are full spoilers ahead for “Sacrifice,” so if you haven’t seen the “Arrow” season finale then you should probably skip this review or else Roy will stare slack jawed at the TV for another five minutes or so. Or I might have to sing a few verses of O Danny Boy…
The closing moments of this episode pulled off the biggest surprise in the show’s history: Tommy dies after saving Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) and declaring his love for her while Oliver is helpless to save his friend.
On one level, this was a mistake because Donnell was one of the best performers on “Arrow” when he wasn’t saddled with the clumsily written story where Tommy broke things off with Laurel and he became even more jealous of Oliver. But on the other hand, this saves Tommy from becoming the Harry Osborn of “Arrow” and following in his dad’s dark footsteps. That was the obvious way to go and for once, “Arrow” didn’t take the easiest path.
Actually, “Sacrifice” took that one step further because Malcolm Merlyn won. He wanted to devastate the Glades with an Earthquake and he did it despite the best efforts of Team Arrow. The buildup to the confrontation between Oliver and his allies was terrific and it added a lot of tension to the episode. Oliver’s escape from Malcolm was also impressive.
So much of “Arrow” has revolved around Oliver’s partnership with John Diggle (David Ramsey) that it was immensely satisfying to see Diggle insist upon going into the final battle with Oliver as they took on Malcolm directly. And then Diggle barely played a role at all as Malcolm took him out of the fight very early on. It was the correct choice for Oliver to defeat Malcolm on his own, but after making such a big deal out of Diggle’s presence it seemed like a waste for him to go down so easily.
At the same time, Oliver had directed his longtime nemesis, Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) to work with Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) as they attempted to disarm the earthquake causing Markov device. Blackthorne has been saddled with a pretty thankless task this season, as the writing for Detective Lance has made him seem like a one note character. But it was hard not to get chills when Arrow told Lance that his city needed him.
Of course, Lance nearly ruins everything by constantly telling his fellow officers that he’s working with the man he’s supposed to be pursuing. And Lance’s suspension means nothing… NOTHING! Because when Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson) is giving her press conference to confess her sins, Detective Lance is still in the police station! And he’s still there when Oliver calls him again!
Even so, Detective Lance got his best scenes of the season when he called his daughter to say goodbye. To pull another Spider-Man analogy on you, I thought he was going to go Captain Stacy on us for a moment.
I truly hate the more CW elements of “Arrow,” including Oliver’s mother and his sister, Thea (Willa Holland). Most of the time, it seems like they’re on a completely different show than the rest of the characters. Case in point, as Moira is being led away by police after her press conference confession, she tells Thea that she loves her and Thea replies that she loves Roy! Moira’s momentary confusion at that was amusing. But again, it cuts away from the drama to go back to the horribly written romance between Thea and future Speedy, Roy Harper (Colton Haynes).
Haynes wasn’t a very good actor on “Teen Wolf” and he’s no better on “Arrow,” despite his promotion to series regular next season. So, we’re stuck with him, but I’d have been perfectly happy if Moira and/or Thea had met their ends in this episode.
On a side note, Tommy’s death is totally Laurel’s fault. Both her father and Oliver told her not to be in the Glades that night, but she went anyway. Tommy was the first to arrive and pull her out of the rubble. But when she runs out of the building, she doesn’t even wait to see if Tommy is behind her! Watch out, Oliver! That’s behavior she’s probably going to exhibit again in the future.
Back on the island, we had a fairly disappointing conclusion to the season long flashback story as Oliver gets to save the day by stopping the villainous plan to cripple China’s economy… or something. The one redeeming moment of that was that we see Oliver pick up the bow of Yao-Fei (Byron Mann) and use it to kill Edward Fyers (Sebastian Dunn) to save Shado (Celina Jade). I think that’s the first time that Island Oliver has ever deliberately killed someone, so it was a key step in his evolution. Oliver also gave up his chance to leave the island for Shado, although it’s suspicious that Celina Jade hasn’t been promoted to series regular yet.
It should also be said that the twist ending of Malcolm’s backup device was very Watchmen. But unlike Watchmen, “Arrow” has an opportunity to explore a world where the hero failed and the villain won. And I wouldn’t be surprised if either Malcolm or Tommy somehow return to “Arrow” in the future. The Dark Archer is Arrow’s best villain and there’s no good reason to leave Malcolm off the board if Tommy is gone for good.