jedi_of_urth: (jaime)
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Arrow 1x23: Sacrifice

So here we are, at the end of the first season of Arrow. I think I will do a full season review after this, so I’m not going to go into my thoughts on the overall here necessarily (no more than usual anyway), but this is a solid finale for the first story of the show. And I might as well say, sometimes even the short titles work, because this one is quite effective.

Let’s start with the end
One of the more interesting things about this episode is how much the heroes manage to fail. They don’t entirely fail, it could have been a lot worse, but they definitely don’t win the day. Even if Malcolm hadn’t had a redundant machine, they barely would have pulled it off because they don’t really know what they’re doing on this scale. Oliver is barely a hero, and definitely not a superhero at this point, but Malcolm is a supervillain; maybe not a supervillain out to destroy or rule the world but a supervillain none the less.

And Team Arrow consists of a billionaire who solves problems by sticking arrows in millionaires’ faces to get them to give up money and occasionally threatening other lowlifes to do the right things (while using those arrows as needed to make his point); an army vet turned bodyguard who hasn’t exactly done a lot of field work vigilante-ing; and a slightly out of practice hacker not used to working under this type of time crunch. With an option to call in a police detective who isn’t really sure if he trusts any of them (the ones he knows). They will get better, and there will be more of them, and unfortunately it kind of took this event to forge them into a team that can fight supervillains.

Literally the last note on my page is “sad” because that’s how I feel at the end. I don’t want Tommy to go any more than Oliver or Laurel do. And the image of the devastation in the heart of the city our heroes have been trying to protect is harsh. You don’t need the s4 flashback of retcon to explain why Oliver runs away in the aftermath.

The fall of the house of Merlyn
Let’s talk about Malcolm’s always excellent parenting techniques (he must not have had any mind-bending drugs on hand this time). Tommy comes in absolutely sure this earthquake machine in an insane idea of Oliver’s and Malcolm ‘No, no, I totally have one.’ Then proceeds to illuminate for Tommy exactly why he’s gone full supervillain, including making his son listen to same recording of his dying mother that broke Malcolm. Then when Tommy turns on him because he’s a supervillain, he knocks his son out and leaves him on the floor while he hides in a closet.

The end of the fight between Oliver and Malcolm has never made a lot of sense to me. Oliver stabs through himself and into Malcolm, where I’m confused both how Oliver didn’t die or why they ever thought Malcolm did. It’s very unclear when Malcolm is supposed to have died in all this, but when Oliver leaves because Laurel is potentially in trouble they act like Malcolm isn’t a threat anymore where he should be less injured than Oliver by my reckoning. Then to compound the problem, after acting like Malcolm is dead, Oliver tells Tommy that he didn’t kill Malcolm. I’m pretty sure that’s meant to be a lie to comfort his dying friend (though why Malcolm not being dead would be what Tommy wanted to hear I never understood) but in no form does it make a whole lot of sense.

I wonder now if there was supposed to be an implication that Malcolm took his own life rather than face justice for what he had done. It would explain why they act like he’s dead, why he comes back so easily next season, and that Oliver is kind of telling the truth that he didn’t exactly kill Malcolm. If that was meant to be there in the episode I don’t see it, but it would have actually worked.

Malcolm “dies” having if not won, at least seen enough of his mission through that he would have felt like he won in his war against a city district. Tommy dies a hero to the only people whose opinion ever mattered to him. The former was always likely to be undone, Malcolm was too good a nemesis to end after one season (he created Oliver and they’re too much alike in their conviction that they have found acceptable ways to honor those they’ve lost). Tommy’s death though...somehow claiming next season that this was a fake-out would have felt really cheap and it couldn’t be undone by any other means for some time; it had to be real, it had to hurt, the sacrifice had to count, plus the series hadn’t bent the rules of reality at that point to explain how such a thing would be possible.

Who knows what when?
I can’t remember when Moira claims she figured out about Oliver being the vigilante, when she eventually admits she did, but I could believe she worked it out from this. If it wasn’t this exactly it was surely a big part of her figuring it out. He makes a big speech about stopping the Undertaking, talks about how he’s been carrying the guilt of Robert’s sacrifice with him all this time, calls her out on her mistakes, and then storms off to...go play vigilante. It wakes Moira up about what she needs to do and I could sure think realizing the truth about Oliver is part of it.

Even if we assume Moira didn’t figure it out here (which I don’t think I picked up on until she says it almost a season down the road), it’s more reasonable to me that she doesn’t know than Laurel. It seems like Laurel should have had some questions when Oliver told her to stay out of the Glades for the night. If I’m going to do the writers’ work for them, I can assume that once Moira cones out with the truth, she assumes Oliver had been similarly warned off by his mother and he’s passed it along. But he is super suspicious in their big scene; and that’s after his disappearing act the night before that she should probably have more concerns about. She just seems so much weaker in that scene that she has in most of her relationship with Tommy; which is one thing if it was intentional to highlight that she and Ollie have relationship patterns that they’re pretty damn likely to fall back into and that’s not a good thing; but I can’t buy that that was intentional. At least not at the time.

There is a bit of an extra ‘ow’ to the way he explains things to Laurel in that scene (I really wasn’t intending to have a love triangle rant this time, but this is about as close as I’ll get). He talks about how the island knocked off parts of him he wasn’t and left the parts he was...and says that’s the person she always saw. Even ignoring the way s5 makes it explicit that he knows he came back a monster that he’s trying to tame under a green hood, the island still made him a killer, a scarred survivor who doesn’t actually like the person he sees in the mirror. It sounded like a stretch at the time, but with the full run of flashbacks it doesn’t work at all.

I’m not sure some of the assumptions Team Arrow makes about the subway map being a clue make a lot of sense; or, if they do, Malcolm has been planning this a hell of a lot longer than anyone else thinks. The book was made ages before he brought the Undertaking to anyone else’s attention; the conspiracy had been active for years adding names to the list as they went, and it already had the subway symbol in it. Now, as something that got the Team thinking in the right direction, no problem with that; but I got the impression they were saying it was a sign of Malcolm’s plans and...while I do think he’s had this plan a lot longer than Robert or anyone else knew, I’m not sure he then puts it out there as a clue.

Lian Yu
I’m of two minds on the island stuff in this ep. On one hand, it doesn’t do a lot and feels mostly like it’s just there to end the plot; on the other, what point it does have is mostly in the last scene with Oliver deliberately killing Fyers, using the bow, and condemning them and us to more time on the island, To borrow a phrase from AOSIAF, this is when he kills the boy in him, makes the call of the best among a series of bad options, and will be living with the consequences the rest of his life. I don’t think he regrets it, even with what happens next season; he couldn’t chose to sacrifice Shado and probably Slade in that moment.

I don’t notice the music often enough to say for sure, but is this the first time we hear the Arrow theme in an island scene? Because it’s used very obviously here, the meaning doesn’t even escape me.

Odds and Ends
My thoughts on this episode didn’t sort as nicely into groups as usual, I also don’t have a rant about the love triangle in spite of it being the last time for this particular triangle.

Except to say that Oliver is totally not sorry for how Tommy found out he hooked up with Laurel. Had the triangle continued it totally would have devolved into a battle in which Laurel is the prize even though without the battle neither of them actually want to treat it that way. Also I hate the s4 retcon, I expect to rant about that a lot in the s2 opener, and maybe all through the season, and then I may not have much left to say when we actually get it.

Diggle’s comment about not making any more jokes about Oliver’s boot-tracker would have been better had it been set up at all.

This is of course the beginning of Quentin and Felicity’s interactions, and I kind of miss them since Quentin found out the truth and they didn’t need the same kind of relationship anymore. Felicity the not-at-all-hardened-criminal (probably last in a police station before or just after Coop “died”) who used to think the vigilante was a criminal (so she says, we don’t really know)...all the things the next few years are going to do to her.

It’s really a shame the “Red Hood” has such a specific comics context, so Roy has to remain “Red Hoodie.” He’s also never really Speedy, but I can call him and Thea working together Team Speedy anyway.

Why is Lance still at the station when Moira is making her big announcement? He was suspended some time ago by that point. But the Quentin and Laurel stuff among this is really good stuff.

I do still want to revisit a few thoughts on the season overall, so I’ll see you for that before moving on to season 2.


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