WHAT PLOT, STORYLINE, OR ASPECT OF THE SERIES DO YOU CONNECT WITH THE MOST THIS SEASON?
CRAIG: I think the part I’m connecting the most with is the growing Arrow team. I found myself more invested once Diggle was let in on things and even more now that Felicity is involved. They’re becoming a familiar “team” that I can enjoy and grab onto, and like any team on TV, people will find and have their favorites.
ANDY: It’s tough for me because I’m connected with so many plots of this show but I think it’s a tie for me between Team Arrow and Team Island. Both those aspects are fascinating to me because it shows Oliver on two completely different places with different team mates but essentially, the common thing they share is Oliver’s growth and the team members’ growth as well.
MATT: I’d have to say that I agree with the team aspect being the biggest for me. Not necessarily that Oliver needed a team but that it allowed him to express and grow as a hero, which made for a better narrative. That transition from solitary machine and his gawd-awful voiceover narration to cohesive unit was a terrific arc and handled well, for the most part. One of my fave moments of the season was in “Sacrifice” where Diggle tells Oliver that there is no way he’s facing Malcolm alone; he and Felicity both stand by his side without faltering.
ANDY: I freaking love that scene when they face him together.
CRAIG: One thing I like is that it’s also not unprecedented in Green Arrow mythology. In the comics, he’s had allies. The current ones, he has a group including Naomi. Before “The New 52,” there was Dinah, Connor Hawke, Mia Dearden & co. Even back in the day, the Green Arrow/Green Lantern/Black Canary trio may count for something. He even counted Eddie Fyers as an ally in the comics at one point.
MATT: That’s true. With his more human nature, GA was always teaming up with someone, so the team aspect definitely works.
STEPHANIE: The team is easy to connect to, being a surrogate family with sometimes familiar quirks and spats.
CRAIG: I will say the underlying threat of the Undertaking, and Malcolm, especially near the end of Season 1, was pretty damn connect-able though.
DEREK: Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the Undertaking. The unfolding mystery was impeccably well-plotted and satisfying by the end. I’m still impressed with how such a simple structure and storyline felt so fresh.
ANDY: I really enjoyed The Undertaking and Malcolm as the show’s first main plot, good versus evil thing. I’m with Derek that this felt so fresh when it was using such a simple structure – which isn’t a bad thing – for the story.
MATT: I was both thoroughly impressed and yet underwhelmed by the Undertaking. Not for the outcome in “Sacrifice” but by the plan. It made total sense and it was in line with the realistic nature of the show, while being a bit fantastic. Yet, for all the organization, it seemed like there should’ve been some other element to it. That said, there was a lovely build-up to everything that took over the last 6-7 episodes that really played well into the final outcome. I liked what they attempted with the finale trilogy of “The Undertaking,” “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” and “Sacrifice,” though I still felt “Darkness” was more flat than the set-up allowed for it to be. There was a good progression and it paid off for emotional finales as much as plot ones.
STEPHANIE: I feel like I connected with Tommy questioning Oliver’s methods because it was a very logical way to make the audience do the same. Yes, I root for Oliver to be the hero and win his battles, but it’s slightly concerning that it occasionally involved murder.
ANDY: I wish we could have had more Tommy-Oliver scenes about that subject, though.
CRAIG: That inspires me to interject and say that that character also improved so much once he became in on Oliver’s secret. It sucked what ultimately happened to Tommy, but it sure made for good television.
DEREK: Oh, it definitely did. I think I said before that Tommy’s story is my favorite character arc of the season. I think in retrospect, I liked how much Oliver evolved throughout the season, which, duh, your main character is supposed to change. But in this case it was kind of a gamble, because we got an Oliver that was so unlikable at the beginning of the show specifically so we could see him open up his heart and become a hero more than a vigilante. But the genius in this is that the show wasn’t putting “warm” Oliver on a pedestal — he arguably made more mistakes and stupid decisions once he started opening up. It’s just a matter of what’s more worth it in the end — family or your mission — and what it led to in the finale was well-worth the frustration.
ANDY: I like how you say that. I think that will be something really complex for him to deal with throughout the whole series, which I hope they do. I hope I’m not coming of as cruel or anything that I want to see Oliver struggle before he becomes this 100% strong hero.
DEREK: I think that’s necessary for any character’s journey.
STEPHANIE: Could it be added that Oliver became more aware of his mistakes and the stakes involved and maybe that caused him to act differently, more “stupidly” than before, almost as if he was trying too hard?
DEREK: I’d agree with that assessment, that he was trying too hard. He was still looking at everything tactically, even when it came to relationships. One thing I think was part of the lesson he had to learn in “Sacrifice” was that there’s a difference between using your family and friends to help fuel your mission and actually fighting for them.
STEPHANIE: You would think an approach to treating relationships as tactical items would be something that happened to Diggle because of his past in the military, so it’s interesting that it’s Oliver with this problem. In a reversal of roles, maybe Diggle will be the one to break him of that. One of my biggest regrets for the series is that we barely saw Oliver struggle at the beginning when he was just starting out as the Hood. That was something I really wanted to see that wasn’t delivered. It was kind of too easy for him having a partner so soon.
ANDY: I think it got reversed. He started struggling more as the Hood a few months after he had started. In a way, that is fresh to me.
DEREK: I do think it was an interesting reversal that he was so much more successful at the beginning. He was a well-oiled machine, but he was virtually soulless. That’s exactly what made the early episodes less interesting, but it’s what made the end of the season, where he’s crying over his friend like a child — the exact opposite of what he was — so fulfilling. To me, anyway.
ANDY: I felt the same way, and that is not something we get to see very often in the superhero media so I appreciate that way. The thing I respect with Arrow is that they don’t treat Oliver as a one-man army in the end; this is a character that needs allies no matter how many years he has trained or not. I like that aspect of him seeking a partner in Diggle from the beginning.
STEPHANIE: It did get more complicated to carry out his plan with Diggle looking over his shoulder, but easier in the sense that he didn’t have to carry secrets with as many people. He had someone to vent to, bounce ideas off of, to have his back.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST SURPRISE FOR YOU STORYWISE?
DEREK: Tommy learning the secret when he did. I audibly yelled, “WHAT?! WHAT?! WHAT?!” And then transcribed that into a tweet, of course.
CRAIG: Ha! That WAS a huge surprise.
ANDY: Third that.
STEPHANIE: I concur with Tommy learning the secret. Another surprise for me was The Undertaking. It was obvious early on that Malcolm had a scheme going, but the grandness of it took me by surprise. It’s a high ambition to want to level a town.
CRAIG: The Deathstroke-wasn’t-Slade Wilson thing surprised me a bit, too. “The Odyssey” was so solid.
DEREK: Yeah, I was impressed with the Deathstroke bait and switch. It could have come off as a cop-out, but it played out quite well.
CRAIG: I think I was actually surprised, too, when they killed Tommy. I had totally different scenarios running in my head, and then I’m watching the finale and thought “oh man, Quentin is a goner,” and then they pull that ending. From a story perspective, I think it’s a great idea, because it inverts the possible Osborn trope, but I didn’t really expect them to go there.
ANDY: I was ready to see one Merlyn go, but then they killed both off and I was shocked as heck. I didn’t see Tommy’s death coming at all.
MATT: I speculated on Tommy’s death throughout the season, and yet when it happened, I was still surprised.
CRAIG: “SAME!” – GOB
ANDY: I wanted to bring up something that my sister said that was a pretty good point: While it was sad to see Tommy die, what would you have preferred? To see him continuing going down the dark path — which did go in a faster pace than I expected — or see him die as a hero? My sister is a Team Tommy fan and preferred the death part.
STEPHANIE: I was only semi-shocked with Tommy’s death and wish I had been more taken off guard because it was a huge moment. With all the teases that someone was dying in the finale, I found it suspicious that there were multiple interviews posted with Colin Donnell leading up to it.
ANDY: Agreed. I was trying to deny it though in my head, thinking, “They are just messing with us or something.”
DEREK: I hadn’t even noticed the frequency of interviews. That’s an interesting thought.
CRAIG: I actually didn’t notice an abundance of Colin interviews, so that didn’t tip me off in any way.
MATT: I wasn’t aware of that, either. Interesting. For me, I was still of the opinion that Tommy would die and that would be motivation to seal Malcolm’s fate as Oliver’s archnemesis. Of course, once they revealed Oliver’s identity to Malcolm as well, then it got all sticky.
DEREK: I don’t think it was so much that Tommy died as Tommy and Malcolm died.
CRAIG: I don’t think Malcolm is dead. All this talk of contingencies and Nanda Parbat….
MATT: I don’t think so, either.
ANDY: I think he is dead. I would be shocked if he is alive. Not against it completely, but it will feel cheap to me.
CRAIG: Plus, I think Barrowman said in an interview somewhere that he’s not done with Arrow. Granted, he could appear in flashbacks, but I think [Malcolm]’s got a back-up plan, somehow, somewhere.
MATT: Yeah, they’ll definitely bring Barrowman and Donnell back for flashback stuff. But I really think Malcolm didn’t pass away.
DEREK: I wouldn’t mind a return from him. It wouldn’t feel much like a cop-out, because it could lead to some powerful stuff, if done well.
CRAIG: Or, maybe Malcolm Merlyn has a suave identical twin brother? Kidding. I’m pretty sure if he’s around, Nanda Parbat has something to do with it. Selfishly, I also want to see him return so we can see his reaction to what happened with Tommy, which was really his fault.
ANDY: OK, can we go back to that scene when he is on the roof, dying? Let’s say that he survives but think about who is still up there on the roof with a gun.
STEPHANIE: I didn’t get the impression Malcolm was dead, either. I remember Tommy asking Oliver if he killed his father, and Oliver said “No.” Now, I wouldn’t put it past Oliver to lie for his friend’s comfort on his death bed, but I also think Oliver wanted to repair his friendship with Tommy badly enough that killing Malcolm would have been a step in the opposite direction.
ANDY: Oliver lied.
MATT: I think he lied to his friend to give him peace in the end. I also think Oliver believes Malcolm is dead.
DEREK: I was in the camp that Oliver purposely lied to Tommy and believed he did kill Malcolm.
CRAIG: Maybe he was telling the truth, and his survival happened in Offscreenville? There was a lot that happened over there in the finale, after all. Like, why was Joanna back at CNRI?
ANDY: I have to say that seeing 3-4 interviews with Guggenheim, saying that Oliver did lie to Tommy, does count for something.
DEREK: Why was Joanna at CNRI?!
CRAIG: Why was Laurel even at CNRI? Right after Oliver told her not to go. I don’t even remember Joanna even having any lines when she was back.
ANDY: She had a few.
DEREK: She yelled for Laurel. I guess they needed someone to do that who’d actually interacted with her before.
CRAIG: Maybe in Offscreenville, there was a birthday party or something Joanna returned for.
ANDY: So, you guys really think that Diggle wouldn’t shoot Malcolm if he suddenly stood up and was like “Sup”.
MATT: The comic suggests that Ollie had Felicity call in someone to go help Dig on the roof because he was too weakened on his own. Malcolm could’ve waited for Diggle to be gone or perhaps Diggle just couldn’t do anything if Malcolm got up and got away.
ANDY: I have to defend myself a bit, because I have been called a hypocrite regarding my strong passion for Barrowman. While I still think/hope he is dead, he is a powerful actor and I wouldn’t mind seeing him back. It would feel so weak that when the show comes back, and does its 4-5 month time thing, he would have suddenly survived just like that.
MATT: Bodies go missing all the time in these kinds of stories…
ANDY: I also think it’s a pretty big twist that we lost both Merlyns. Who knows, maybe Arthur [King] is who we will get later in the series as the real Merlyn, connected with Nanda Parbat. If they bring [Malcolm] back, they will have to do it in a really convincing way that doesn’t include the sudden introduction of a Lazarus pit (a.k.a., a supernatural aspect).
CRAIG: I remember some people feeding the “Thea’s going” theory with a tweet from Willa Holland, which implied it was her last time seeing a certain view from Vancouver. While I thought/think losing Thea would have sent Roy right to Team Arrow; in retrospect, I’m so glad that didn’t end up being the case.
STEPHANIE: Another surprise for me was The Undertaking. It was obvious early on that Malcolm had a scheme going, but the grandness of it took me by surprise. It’s a high ambition to want to level a town.
CRAIG: Yes! The scope of The Undertaking was very surprising. I liked that we had a villain plot or a threat that actually was threatening without being ridiculous, though. Watching the finale, you could feel the danger.
DEREK: The finale overall did a solid job of using every character’s potential death as a red herring. It’s something you expect a finale to do, but “Sacrifice” was very competent in how it executed things. They didn’t just throw every character in a dangerous situation for the sake of it; every dangerous situation came from where the characters needed to be, anyway. Moira’s press speech; Thea with Roy; even Quentin with the bomb. Err, not bomb, I guess. Device.
WHICH PLOT, STORYLINE, OR ASPECT DIDN’T WORK FOR YOU AT ALL?
CRAIG: Anything with Oliver/Laurel romance, at this point, isn’t working for me, but it can be saved with time, I think.
MATT: I’m not sure what saves that yet.
ANDY: The Sara being possibly alive storyline.
CRAIG: I think the notion of Sarah being alive is an interesting one; I just didn’t like that it picked up and then went nowhere in the Dinah Lance arc.
MATT: The Dinah/Sara Lance story arc was a big non-starter for me.
DEREK: Agreed wholeheartedly.
STEPHANIE: The only problem I had with the Sara maybe being alive storyline was that it went nowhere, like Craig said. There was all this hope in the beginning that was just crushed and that was the end of it.
ANDY: I knew that, in the end, Sara was never going to be revealed having survived and it didn’t work for me. Dinah’s reasoning that she had found a girl that had the same cap as Sara was just silly.
CRAIG: Eddie Fyers and his lack of mustache didn’t work for me at all! I kid. Sort of.
ANDY: Great actor, though.
CRAIG: I liked the actor playing Fyers. But I guess I have a mental image of what Fyers is like, and that is so not him. Then again, Manu Bennett is totally different than the Slade Wilson in my mind, yet he came out to be awesome.
STEPHANIE: I’m going to pick a potentially controversial one here and say the whole deal with Yao Fei. I could never follow what was happening with him. He was helping Oliver; he was a criminal not to be trusted; he was a prisoner of Fyers; he was not a prisoner. His story simply never impressed me.
Matt: Spot on, Steph.
ANDY: Yeah I agree on that too, it didn’t go anywhere.
MATT: Yao Fei turned out to be a MacGuffin.
CRAIG: Season 6, it will come up again. Just watch.
DEREK: I think the island storyline as a whole didn’t do as well as it should have, considering it was such a big part of the season. It wasn’t bad, in the end. And it yielded some good things, like “The Odyssey” and that we’ve been introduced to Shado and Slade. But as its own arc, it’s pretty convoluted for no good reason.
MATT: I’m certain there will be whole new angles with Nanda Parbat and the mysterious woman Fyers was working for with Yao Fei. I also thought the conclusion to this season’s part of that story was a bit anti-climactic, even with that huge damn explosion. Stopping the missile from hitting the plane felt too easy.
DEREK: I keep forgetting we had an island flashback in the finale.
MATT: Like I mentioned in my review, it felt like they pulled a punch there. I’m not sure they necessarily needed to take the plane down, but it seemed too pat of a resolution to that whole plot.
STEPHANIE: The island story got progressively better with the missile threat, and that was partially a saving quality, but not completely redeeming. Yeah, island Ollie taping a few keys to stop the missile was not plausible.
MATT: What I did like about the island conclusion was the changes you could see in Oliver between Yao Fei’s death and taking out Fyers.
CRAIG: That actually brings up another prediction I was completely wrong on: I thought as a cliffhanger we’d see either Shado and/or Slade in present day. I still think we might as Season 2 begins.
ANDY: Yeah, that is possible. Perhaps in the mid-season finale or something.
MATT: I don’t know about seeing them in the present that soon. We’ve still got four-years-worth of island stories to get through. Not sure how deflating or not it might be to see either of them in the present.
ANDY: Yeah, that is something that I have always thought of when I struggle with the idea of “should Slade and/or Shado pop up in Starling City”? Because I want to see them working together for a very long time.
STEPHANIE: Seeing Slade in the present could be fun to watch Oliver explain who he is to everyone. The concern I have with Shado is that she could easily turn into a present love interest for Oliver and he’s had several already.
DEREK: I could see a fun episode down the line where the “old team” and “new team” come to blows about each side’s methods. It’ll be like this weird spin on a typical superhero team-up episode.
ANDY: Can’t we just have episodes when it’s not about relationships?
STEPHANIE: I agree. I know Oliver is an established playboy, but I’d also like to like him as a female viewer. (laughs)
MATT: I fully expect to see both Slade and Shado in the present at some point. Just not sure that Season 2 is quite the time to do it.
ANDY: The middle of season 3 would perhaps be the right time to introduce one of them in Starling City.
MATT: Personally, I don’t have a problem with relationships being included in hero material because I think it’s a big part of the human experience. I just have a problem when relationships are handled badly in hero material, which happens far too often.
ANDY: No Matt, it’s not. (Joking, I’m just bitter). If they can do it as good as they have done the relationships between Roy/Thea and Walter/Moira, I’m more OK with it.
DEREK: I like relationshippy stuff. It doesn’t have to be all the time or with every character, but it’s worth having in the story.
MATT: Well, if they give justifiable reasons for Oliver to be interested in and dating someone and a slow natural progression, that will work. To do it simply because you want drama and that person is only there for a 4 or 5 episode arc, that doesn’t do anyone any favors.
STEPHANIE: I don’t have a problem with the relationships being interspersed in there, it’s just when they become overly dramatic and/or make the characters catty that drives me nuts, which thankfully hasn’t happened yet on Arrow. A stable relationship for Oliver would be nice.
ANDY: If we could just skip the insane shipper names that some people come up with. (Yes, this comes from the guy who loved to do shipper names before but at least mine made sense!)
MATT: Yeah, wow. Lauriver? Lauliver? Ugh.
ANDY: Just so everyone know, their name is Lolliver. Not that I care or anything.
DEREK: I’m still a Quiggle supporter.
ANDY: Who is Quiggle?! Quentin and Diggle or Queen and Diggle?
MATT: Quiver. That just writes itself, doesn’t it?
ANDY: I don’t get it, Quiver?
CRAIG: Quentin/Oliver. So much sexual tension there.
ANDY: Seriously, people are using the worst names ever. “Theroy” really? It’s Toy, for heaven’s sake! (OK, I may still care a bit about the shipper names, but I don’t care that much about the actual ships as much.)
STEPHANIE: Why did Tommy and Diggle never have a bromance?!
DEREK: Pretty much anyone with Diggle is bound to sound hilarious.
MATT: I supposed if I cared about the ships as much with this series, I might have more use for the names.
MATT: As it stands, even with their chemistry, I don’t see anything romantic between Oliver and Felicity, as much as she would like that to happen. And Oliver and Laurel still have to earn their thing, in my opinion.
ANDY: Thank you! Look, I love Felicity and Oliver but can’t we just have them being friends?
STEPHANIE: I’d prefer Oliver and Felicity to stay platonic. Felicity appears more in awe of him than wanting a romantic pursuit.
DEREK: I like that Felicity’s infatuation is mostly played for laughs. It’s a lot of fun, doesn’t carry any melodrama, but it doesn’t feel degrading to either character. I mean, who wouldn’t be crushing on Oliver in that situation?
MATT: Yes. That I agree with.
ANDY: Second that.
CRAIG: I could see it (Olicity romance). But if she ever did become Oliver’s love interest, then Laurel’s role on the series would really be marginalized.
DEREK: In any case, I think Arrow has done pretty well so far, even with some slip-ups (like Oliver apparently having residual feelings about Helena out of nowhere.) The Ollie/Tommy/Laurel love triangle never bothered me too much. They haven’t been overplaying anything as a big epic romance tied to destiny or whatever.
CRAIG: I find it hard to believe that two guys would fight over Laurel.
MATT: Sadly, I’m with you on that. If they’d do more with her character to give us a reason for it, maybe.
STEPHANIE: I don’t see the chemistry now between Oliver and Laurel. She’s too wishy-washy.
MATT: Nothing against Katie Cassidy, but Laurel would bore the hell out of me, especially if there was that much drama.
ANDY: Can we just move along and agree that we are all hoping that Laurel will be improved incredibly well next season?
MATT: The one thing I didn’t like about the Oliver/Laurel/Tommy situation was not the staid idea of two guys fighting over a love interest, but this rather disturbing concept that the two boys felt like they could pass her around between them. It was a fairly shocking subtextual aspect to the triangle that I don’t think was consciously deliberate but sure poked its head up at points.
DEREK: There were definitely some misogynistic implications with how the triangle played out. I think Oliver and Tommy pointed out to each other at a couple points — I can’t remember when, but I remember pointing it out with in a review — that they were both being pretty big jerks in the situation. I don’t want to say the show has treated women badly, per se, and it seemed more like an unintended implication of how the back-and-forth was plotted. But it certainly felt really weird when they argued about her like an object. And it was worse that she kind of went with it either way.
MATT: Yeah, that confrontation Oliver and Tommy had at the mansion in “Home Invasion” after Oliver took out Mr. Blank was just odd and kind of creepy. It made Oliver appear like he couldn’t accept that Laurel would have feelings for Tommy and that the only thing stopping a relationship between them was that his alternate life got in the way. And then Tommy basically conceded the “fact” with little care over what were her actual feelings. It was all dysfunctional frat boy.
DEREK: I could maybe see her being tossed around by Oliver and Tommy influence her growth into a superhero, in that she gets tired of being used and tossed around. You could include how her father treats her in that, too. A bigger variation of that could go on over the next season and drive her to break out of her shell. Though, that might be too much of a “Strong Independent Woman Who Don’t Need No Man” cliche to work. (That’s what Smallville tried to do with Lana Lang, and we all know how that turned out.)
ANDY: Guys, check out my “Leave Helena and Laurel Alone” video tomorrow night.
MATT: The way I look at it is we want to care about Helena Bertinelli and Dinah Laurel Lance, two big characters in the DCU, and what we’re getting isn’t doing them justice.
ANDY: The only thing I hated about Tommy this season was when he broke up with Laurel the way he did.
MATT: Justified reasons or not, Tommy had a pretty ugly way of dealing with getting both Oliver and Laurel out of his life.
ANDY: Did it seem out of character for Tommy to do that, after how much he had changed since “Muse of Fire?”
STEPHANIE: Tommy and Oliver acted like they were letting Laurel choose who she was going to be with because she still had feelings for Oliver, but they did it in such a manner that made Laurel, to use Matt’s words, a “frat boy” trophy.
ANDY: I think that for the people that want to see Oliver and Laurel together, those characters need to work on each other to get to that point. I wouldn’t mind seeing them getting together at last by the end of season 2 or 3, something like that. I feel that relationship needs to be earned. You get what I mean or am I jibber-jabbing?
MATT: Yes, both need growth.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE EPISODE OF THE SEASON? AND WHY?
ANDY: Oh lord, that question is so hard.
DEREK: On the GATV Awards, I voted “Sacrifice”. I usually have a one-shot midseason episode favorite when it comes to TV shows, because I like to be different, but the finale was simply one of the best finales I’ve seen in a long while. I do think “Dead to Rights” is great as whole, even disregarding the Tommy reveal. And “The Odyssey” is a super-effective twist on the structure, which is something that always tickles my fancy in TV.
ANDY: I voted “Sacrifice,” as well, because it was fantastic for being its first season finale and a great episode. “The Odyssey” is definitely my favorite island episode, if I can do that.
STEPHANIE: “The Odyssey,” for a few reasons. The island storyline was finally compelling and that was when Felicity was let into Oliver’s world. It was something different in the middle of the season. When thinking back on all the episodes, I have the most vivid memory of watching “The Odyssey,” so it made the biggest impression.
ANDY: Also, let’s not forget the greatness that was Manu Bennett’s Slade Wilson. So many great scenes with him and Oliver.
STEPHANIE: I liked “Sacrifice” a moderate amount, but — I can’t believe I’m saying this — it had too many fight scenes. It looked cool, but I didn’t find myself glued to the television until the final 15 or so minutes.
ANDY: The minute an Arrow [episode] has “too many fight scenes,” something is messed up.
STEPHANIE: I know, right? They’re always so well-choreographed and impressive. For whatever reason, in the finale they broke my attention. Maybe it was the pacing of the episode. I can’t really explain it.
CRAIG: I think I’d pick “The Undertaking.” I loved the flashbacks and the reveals. I thought it was all in all a very well-written episode, too, with some good balances, content-wise.
DEREK: “The Undertaking” would be on my top 5. I like Jamey Sheridan a lot, too.
ANDY: I’m still curious over what they did to make Thea/Willa Holland look so young in the scenes that got deleted.
CRAIG: I also felt that was an episode where the fans were truly being rewarded for sticking with the show all along, and the action sequences were really fantastic.
STEPHANIE: That episode and “Darkness on the Edge of Town” were great lead-ups to the finale.
MATT: “Dead to Rights” gets my vote for tops still. For as great an episode as “Sacrifice” is or “The Odyssey” is, DTR had even greater emotional stakes and really drove home the capabilities and possibilities of the series.
WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE EPISODE OF THE FIRST SEASON? AND WHY?
CRAIG: “The Huntress Returns.” The Huntress character and arc are something I’m pretty critical of, and by the time she returned, I kind of felt like “her again?” I would have preferred instead to have gotten a story around that time showing more about how Tommy is dealing with Oliver’s secret. I’m sure overall there’s an episode that worked less, but that’s my pick and I’m sticking to it.
ANDY: I think to me, despite that I enjoyed the interpretation of Firefly, “Burned” was my least favorite episode of the first season. It was a good episode because of its emotional beat when it came to Oliver. It was good as a mid-season premiere but wasn’t as strong some of the other episodes.
DEREK: I don’t know, maybe my memories are skewed, but I’d be hard pressed to rank any episodes from the second half of the show below those from the first half. It might change on rewatch when I know where it all was going, but for now, “Honor Thy Father” still sticks out as the worst of the season for me. It pretty much rehashed the pilot but without as much flash. Though, it did have that pretty creepy scene where Oliver buries his father.
MATT: “Year’s End” aside, all of the episodes from the early part of the season fall toward the bottom of my list. The only two outside of those that fall in with them, for me, were “Trust But Verify” and “Vertigo.” “Honor They Father” comes as my least favorite, as well. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the episode. It just doesn’t offer a whole lot in comparison to others nor significantly advances the story.
STEPHANIE: My least favorite episode would be “Betrayal.” It’s not a “bad” episode, but aside from Oliver overhearing Moira’s conversation with Malcolm, the episode was pretty forgettable. David Anders’ villain didn’t make an impression and was just another average, easily defeated “bad guy of the week.” It came halfway through the season and seemed to be following the early episode formula.
ANDY: Although, it did have Manu Bennett’s Slade Wilson for the first time and that, for me, kinda outshined David Anders.
STEPHANIE: That’s true; his introduction was important. But I think there are better episodes for Slade that “Betrayal” doesn’t particularly shine for him.
MATT: I felt like there was a solid base for Vanch, but then they undercooked everything about him built on top of that. Part of it, I’m sure, was the idea of really creating the first original higher-level villain for the show. They just didn’t add a couple of meaty things for Anders to bite into to really make the role sing. As it is, though, Vanch only worked because of Anders. He made the guy watchable if the writing didn’t make him particularly memorable.
BEST AND WORST MOMENTS OF THE SEASON FOR YOU?
MATT: Best for me, hands down, was Oliver and Tommy’s discussion outside Malcolm’s hospital room in “Dead to Rights.” Amell & Donnell nailed the hell out of that, and it was a true highlight of acting, writing, and plot. Might have to think a bit more on worst, but the dinner scene in “Vendetta” ranks up there.
DEREK: Just going with the first ones that come to my head. Best: Tommy’s line in the finale, “After your jihad, maybe we can grab some steaks.” It’s just so darkly funny. There are a lot of great, well-acted scenes, and the show handles drama really well, but … man, I just love that line so much. Worst would be the first utterance of “You have failed this city!” I’m sorry; it just never worked for me. I liked how the show spun it later on, but played straight … ugh.
CRAIG: Off the top of my head, one of the Best Moments for the season had to be when Oliver had to reveal his identity to Tommy in order to save his father. So much was going on in that one scene, and as we discussed earlier, it was a huge surprise. Worst moments, at least as the show has evolved, might be those forced Oliver/Laurel romantic scenes that I’m still not feeling. It’s like hey, Oliver, you’ve got stuff to do, make out later. Worse when he tells her to stay out of the Glades and what’s the next thing she does? Goes to CNRI. Sigh.
ANDY: My Best and Worst moment is actually one and the same: Tommy’s death. It was unexpected and something that I was hoping would not happen. I cried so much that night. One of Donnell’s and Amell’s most emotional performances ever. My heart hurts every time I see Oliver cry and say, “Open your eyes Tommy!”
MATT: Donnell could make some lines zing. I still wish Tommy had gotten more to do throughout the season. For the record, “You have failed this city” has never really worked for me. I hope it’s retired with the list conceit. It’s too jokey, too deliberate in a way that takes you out of a scene. Supposed to instill fear or dread and I’d nearly crack up every time with it if I weren’t used to hearing it.
ANDY: While I do think the list will eventually get a smaller role as the series progresses, I think “You have failed this city” will most likely not go away. I have to agree with you. I mostly see that line as a joke because it’s not really that scary. However, once he starts shooting his arrows, he is a lot scarier.
MATT: I don’t know. If Oliver is becoming a hero rather than a vigilante, I think it will go away.
DEREK: In its defense, it yields plenty of puns. “Oliver Queen, you have nailed this city!”
MATT: The defense that proves the point.
CRAIG: “You have failed this city!” is pretty awful, and it’s cheesy as all hell, which is exactly why I kind of love it. It’s ridiculous, it probably will be retired, but come on, you can’t say it doesn’t make you grin. And, in moments like “Moira Queen, you have failed this city,” there’s at least some kind of pay off.
STEPHANIE: The worst moment was when Malcolm was revealed as the Dark Archer. The idea of Malcolm as the Dark Archer is cool, but the moment itself was too overdramatic. He deliberately rips off his hood and then just stood there to catch his breath? I would have liked to see his identity revealed more accidentally, I guess. The best moment, I’m going to have to agree with Matt. Watching Tommy struggle with accepting Oliver’s secret was better than the moment in which he learned it, especially seeing Tommy’s pain when Oliver said he never intended to tell Tommy.
ANDY: It was just so heartbreaking to see Tommy’s face when Oliver told that he never intended to tell him.
MATT: Yeah, wow, that moment was just heartbreaking and really sold the idea of hidden identities with heroes and their effects on others in their personal lives about as poignantly as I’ve ever seen in the genre.
ANDY: It makes you curious to see how it will be for characters like Thea, Moira, Laurel and so on when they learn his secret.
MATT: The fact he’s killed ~30 people just in that time back from the island likely won’t sit well.
CRAIG: I also think as a whole, sometimes the flashback/island stuff can get a little bit confusing. It makes me think I need to just sit down and watch the island stuff in chronological order. There are some great moments on the island, especially when Slade and Shado are involved, but I admit a lot of that hasn’t stuck with me like it probably should.
HOW WELL DID ‘SACRIFICE’ WORK AS A FINALE?
STEPHANIE: “Sacrifice” worked nicely as a finale. It delivered the big events on the island and in Starling City that early episodes built up to, which is always appreciated. There were a few lingering questions to make me want to tune in next season. What’s going to happen with Moira? Or those people in the Glades? How will everyone, especially Oliver, react to Tommy’s death? I especially liked that the Glades started to crumble because if Oliver had stopped anything before it happened it would have made the threat appear less real and significant — like when they catch the bad guy just in time — it’s a little cliche, but this episode wasn’t.
ANDY: I’m going to quote what Derek or Matt said — not sure which one of you it was — that I felt when I had seen the finale that night: they really made it look like anyone of them could have died, which was something that they had promised in interviews. I didn’t think that it was really going to be that way 100%, but it was. That is something that is very rare, at least for me as a viewer, in season finales. “Sacrifice” worked from top to bottom; it wrapped up the first chapter on the island with the end of Fyers and his terrorizing group while also making Oliver take another step into becoming the man that he is today. It’s one of my favorite season finales of any television show, for sure. They really blew my mind with everything that they did with the characters in Starling City with the death — at least from what we saw — of Malcolm Merlyn, the end of the main antagonist this season. Everyone’s world was shaken up in the finale: Laurel lost CNRI, Oliver lost Tommy, Thea lost her mother — at least of terms of having her around anymore — Moira lost her freedom but did the right thing by stepping out in the media and confessing. It worked perfect as a first season finale, and I know it will only get bigger.
DEREK: I don’t have anything worth adding, really. It was one of the better finales I’ve seen in quite a while, maybe the best this season. I was highly satisfied.
CRAIG: As for how “Sacrifice” works as a finale: A million times yes. Although I think the finale could have used some more time as it was pretty clear there were scenes on the cutting room floor, it was a well-crafted capper to a well-planned season. I can’t say enough good things about how the Arrow team has let the show evolve into something truly great. It’s elevated itself far beyond “hey, yeah, that show is okay” to the point where you’re like “whoa, did that just happen?” A lot of the character developments that happened in “Sacrifice” wouldn’t have had meaning even halfway back into the season. But in the process of crafting Season 1, they made us care about the characters, their danger and their situations, and it was a great reward. The anticipation for Season 2 is a perfect sign that it did indeed work out. People want more. A crappy finale? No one would care.
ANDY: Out of all the deleted scenes on the DVD/Blu-Ray, I’m most looking forward to see what was cut from the finale.
MATT: The thing for me, and I covered it in my review, was that there was bit of a head fake that nearly deflated the whole thing for me. The island finale was kind of anti-climactic and then they had Quentin manage to stop the device. For a brief moment, I felt cheated. Then, “redundancy.” They went through with it, which summed up the conviction and the gumption they had with so many things throughout the season. And they also changed things dramatically with that one event. It really is hard to guess what’s next. We all have expectations of certain characters, but as a story what’s it like going forward? Great finales do that.
And, last question…
HOW DO YOU FEEL THE SHOW IMPROVED FROM THE WINTER HIATUS? OR DID IT IMPROVE FOR YOU?
DEREK: A lighter tone, resulting in more range from Amell and increased likability for Oliver as a character. Successful integration of supporting characters into the major story arc. Much, much better use of Colin Donnell. Effective use of wackier comic book-y elements without losing the already established style. More engaging island flashbacks. More Felicity. And Manu Bennett. Was there anything that didn’t improve is a better question.
ANDY: Well…there is Laurel…
DEREK: There’s always Laurel…
ANDY: I have to agree with Derek on the increased brighter tone that the show got when it got back from the hiatus. I think once we got to “Betrayal” and “The Odyssey” where we saw Oliver confront Moira, Slade Wilson being introduced, Felicity finding out and becoming a member of the team, the show made another great step in its improvement. I think the majority of the characters improved, such as fleshing out Tommy more, Thea going to a much better place by working at CNRI, and meeting Roy, who is in my opinion one of the show’s well-adapted characters from the comics. Almost everyone eventually became part of the main storyline of the season, which I think was a great step by the writers. The show increased its layers while still keeping its tone that they established in the very first episodes. Some things were sadly not improved during the second run, but that is what a first season is all about; to learn what works and doesn’t work so they can look at ways of improving it.
STEPHANIE: The biggest improvement since the winter hiatus has been a more serialized show. I find it slightly difficult to tell the first set of episodes apart because they were so similar in what they were doing, which is understandable early in a show’s run to attract new viewers without making them feel lost. Since January, there have been storylines running multiple episodes that we could follow and invest in from week to week – Moira vs Malcolm, McKenna being a recurring character, Vertigo being a problem. It became more organized and flowed better once Oliver was no longer working on his own. Also, the island story got progressively better with Slade’s introduction and those scenes found a purpose outside of showing how Oliver was introduced to a bow. There were “real-world” stakes, not just a story of survival on a dangerous island.
CRAIG: I feel the show has improved so much since we first did the roundtable thing over the winter hiatus. It could be that the show was always planning to build toward certain improvement, but whatever they did, they got it right. One of the biggest issues I had early on was that the show was just so dark. Our lead character, Oliver, rarely cracked smiles. Bringing Felicity in to Team Arrow definitely lightened up the mood, and gave the show some fun zingers at the same time. Likewise, the island stories improved with the introductions of Slade and Shado. Even though Slade is a rough guy, his witty lines toward spoiled rich kid Oliver were always a lot of fun. Characters like Thea also were improved with better purpose. It wasn’t always “wah wah, you abandoned me, let me go do drugs” anymore. She grew as a character — I know Willa’s acting had a bit to do with it too, because she’s great — and the introduction of Roy also gave the show an instant fan favorite AND someone for “Speedy” to bounce off of.
ANDY: I didn’t expect Slade to be that way. I know I have said it several times, but I’m just so surprised being able to say that “Slade Wilson is both funny and dangerous” because that’s never how I saw him. At least, not in the versions that I have been in touch with.
CRAIG: I don’t know if this is the place to say it, but how perfect was Colton Haynes’ casting, anyway? He looks just like the Roy from Young Justice, but I also love that he brings that Teen Wolf audience in. Whatever it was, too, I feel like the producers saw what was working, since they quickly signed Colton, Manu Bennett, and Emily Bett Rickards as series regulars for Season 2. All three of them added a lot to the proceedings.
ANDY: Colton Haynes was one of the best castings the show did.
DEREK: I had no idea who Colton Haynes was before, and admit I gave in to the prejudice and figured he’d be one of the more stiff CW model types. I was surprised at how endearing he was, though. He brings a lot of energy, even in the face of some lackluster dialogue, like”Yeah, that’s what happens when you get stabbed.”
CRAIG: Lastly, I feel the show improved in that they gave us time to know the characters and “earn” that care. I’ll be honest: If anyone but Oliver or Diggle died in “Year’s End,” I probably wouldn’t have cared or have been affected as much as I was with, say, Tommy in “Sacrifice.” The combination of good writing, direction, and acting made them earn that care.
MATT: For me, I think the biggest thing they got right, after working to find the tone of the show in the first nine episodes, was that they began to focus on character as much as they were plot. We’ve mentioned so many times just how feverishly paced and fairly tightly plotted is the series. While they didn’t necessarily neglect character during that opening run, they began to crack them open and let them experience far more emotion, connection, and interaction than earlier in the season. Instead of just feeling things necessitated by the circumstances, you began to see characters that were intimate affected by their environment and the others in their lives. I think that raised the stakes tremendously and, like you’re saying, Craig, now we the audience are suddenly more invested in them. I was looking for moments like in “Dead to Rights” and “Sacrifice,” authentic moments that reveal the raw insides of the show, to latch onto during that first run. To finally get them let embrace the show rather than just enjoy it.