Arrow is easily one of the coolest shows on TV. Its use of the DC Universe, its deep character arcs and excellent action sequences make it something to remember. Season two is absolutely killing it, and it just keeps getting better. With the show taking a break this week it felt appropriate to look back at the first season of Arrow and reminisce. We didn’t get to review it at the time, so I decided to recount my five favorite episodes from the first season. Let the debate begin.
We all have to start somewhere don’t we? Many series don’t even make it past the pilot (see: modern day Wonder Woman…twice) so a lot was riding on WB/DC in the making of the Arrow pilot. To many, Green Arrow wasn’t a known DC character. At best (to the non-comic reading crowd) you’d know him from Justice League Unlimited or Batman: Brave and the Bold. Revered as the “eighth man of the Justice League” it was going to be a tough fight to get him into the public light.
Thankfully, the pilot knocked it out of the ballpark. Introducing Ollie, Laurel, Tommy Merlyn, and a bunch of new characters, the pilot not only showed off part of the origin of Green Arrow, but expanded it in new and exciting ways. Through the pilot we also got to see the dark tone that the series would take. From the killing of guards, to the way Ollie conducted himself to both friends and family, we knew right then how Arrow was going to be. A season and a half in, the pilot still stands out as a key episode for the series.
One of the interesting hooks of Arrow was the flashbacks scenes. It showed off Ollie’s time on the island and showed how he went from billionaire not-a-care-in-the-world kid to the arrow-wielding killing machine known as “The Hood”. Many people considered the flashback scenes to be the best part of Season one. For the fans that believed that, Odyssey was their holy grail.
In the present day, Ollie got shot by his mother (obviously she didn’t know who he was) and he turned to Felicity and Diggle to save him from the wounds. As he laid on the table more-or-less dying, we were treated to one of the longest flashback scenes ever.
Ollie and Slade had a plan to get off the island, but doing it would require taking an airfield, which Slade couldn’t do alone. It’s here we see the beginning of Ollie’s training, Slade’s epicness as a soldier, the better parts of Ollie’s personality – including his loyalty to his friends and love for Laurel – and his willingness to risk everything to save Yao Fei. From start to finish this episode was top notch and made both parts of the series even stronger as Felicity joined the team and, on the island, Slade began to trust Ollie.
Oh, and did I mention Slade vs. Wintergreen?
3. Dead to Rights
This was one of my personal favorites by far. Dead to Rights had everything going for it as multiple plans began working against each other and lead to an explosive conclusion.
Moira hires China White and the Triad to kill Malcolm Merlyn. Ollie hears about the Triad plot and tries desperately to find out who’s the target and to stop it. Meanwhile, China White brings Deadshot into the picture to ensure the hit is successful.
This was fan service on many levels as we saw the “rebirth” of Deadshot after his “death” in Lone Gunman and saw him return true to form. We also got a very compelling story featuring both of the Merlyns as Tommy and his father, Malcolm, shared numerous father-son moments and we got to hear more about the man called the Dark Archer.
The ending featured numerous great action sequences, from Ollie taking down the Triads, to Malcolm (still as himself) killing two Triads right in front of Tommy and doing it very calmly and of course the rematch between China White and Arrow.
But the kicker was no doubt the last few minutes which showed Malcolm getting shot (via curare bullets) by Deadshot. Ollie revealing himself to Tommy in order gain his trust and save Malcolm. Then the finale where Malcolm revealed he received training from Nanda Parbat, a very important place in the DCU, and a thread of story that has only increased in Season two.
This episode did everything right and truly set the tone for the rest of the season.
2. Year’s End
Though it’s only had two technically, Arrow really does excel with its mid-season finale episodes. Yet of the two, Years End stands out as the one that made you want the season to return that much quicker.
A mysterious person is killing people on “the list”, and they’re doing it with arrows. Dubbed the Dark Archer, Ollie is driven to finding this person, even asking Lance and Felicity for help in doing so. His trail only ends in pain as the Dark Archer seems to always be one step ahead.
The other created storyline was Ollie’s attempt to truly be, well, a good son and brother by resurrecting the annual Christmas party. This was a nice touch for Ollie’s character as he was shown to be a recluse in the first eight episodes. Yet the party was not as planned as Thea was mighty prickly at having to be there, Walter was growing ever mistrusting of Moira, who in turn wasn’t happy that Walter wouldn’t give up the hunt for Robert’s killer, and Ollie struggled to keep it all together.
Much like Dead to Rights, the ending showed us many things. The showdown between The Hood and the Dark Archer was fantastically done, and it showed that though Ollie is skilled, there is always someone better. The two twists to come were fantastic. Malcolm revealing himself as the Dark Archer was great as it was the true reveal for a newly created character to take the helm of an old one and showed how Arrow truly isn’t afraid to shake up the established norm. Also, the kidnapping of Walter and the acknowledging of Moira helping orchestrate it was a shocker. And it showed just how deep she was in The Undertaking.
Year’s End truly set the tone for the second half of the season and the fallout from the episode was felt throughout the rest of the season.
There honestly could be no other episode here. Sacrifice blasted all expectations we may have had and delivered shock after shock after shock right up until the very end.
The Undertaking was about to happen, everything was on the line. Loyalties, friendships, and will were all put to the test as Sacrifice went on. From the very beginning you could just feel the heaviness and the darkness that was looming all around. All players in this game had great moments; Tommy, Quentin, Laurel, Thea, Roy, Moira, Malcolm, Felicity, Diggle, and of course Ollie. Each was give their scenes to shine and many of them used it to their fullest. Personal favorites include Tommy’s true feelings for Laurel shining through, the anger and madness of Malcolm Merlyn, and the heartbreaking scene at the end featuring Ollie.
It wasn’t just the present day stuff that was compelling though, the island story wrapped up its first season in epic fashion as well. By the end we saw the beginning of the shift from Ollie to Arrow.
Yet the ending was what set Arrow’s season finale apart. The brutal fight with Malcolm Merlyn, the reveal of a second earthquake machine, the destruction of half The Glades and of course the death of Tommy. This singular death rocked many Arrow fans, myself included, as a true friend was killed, and as I look back on the first season I can’t help but realize how much Tommy Merlyn brought to the show.
In conclusion: All in all, Arrow had a very successful first season. As fans watch Season two and proclaim how superior it is to the first season I urge caution. No doubt Season two is fantastic, but none of that would’ve been possible if the first season didn’t succeed.
So, do you agree with my list? Oh you don’t? Then tell me your list and why, let’s talk all things Arrow…
Stay tuned for a best of season 2 list coming soon…