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Arrow – Season 1 Episode 9 – Midseason Finale – Recap and Review – Year’s End

“Year’s End,” the midseason finale of Arrow aired tonight. It was Christmas time in Starling City, and things were awful as usual. Actually, things kind of got worse. Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) took his first tumble tonight, as he struggled with juggling family, candy canes, exes, impersonators, and lame-o teenage boys. Even the “Hood Guy” can spread himself too thin, apparently. Still, a tiny stumble served to light a fire in the vigilante that will carry into the concluding half of the show’s debut season. The moral of the first half; grownups are terrible, and you can never work out too much.

The episode opened with Adam Hunt, who was one of Arrow’s first targets as a vigilante, meeting his untimely demise at the hands of a scarier, darker, phony-Arrow. He probably deserved it, but an imposter only spelled trouble for our titular hero. Imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery when someone is trying to shoot you with a big scary arrow.

The first time we crossed paths with Ollie this episode he was, you guessed it, sparring with Diggle (David Ramsey) in his warehouse of wonders. They need to create some sort of Arrow-themed workout class for fancy chain gyms. Since splitting up with Helena after a whopping one-episode relationship, Oliver had been diving into his work and crossing names off of his father’s list left and right. He’d been working so hard that he nearly forgot about Christmas! In actuality, living on Muppet Treasure Island for five years kind of purged the concept of holidays in general from his mind. As he explained, his father used to go all-out for Christmas, even going as far as putting up a tree in every room of the house. Okay, that’s a little excessive, but the Queen’s would have a Christmas forest in place of a Christmas tree. Diggle advised Oliver to lighten up and spend some time with his family for the holidays.

Island flashback! It’d been a while since we’d had a cave flashback. I’m assuming it had something to do with the fact that Oliver had been sealed in that dank cave awaiting death by starvation and dehydration for a while. That’s not so fun to watch. Yao-Fei (Byron Mann) finally showed up to relieve Oliver of his slow and painful death but more importantly, to relieve his seemingly interminable boredom. I know what you’re thinking. Yes, the man has a real name. Guess who Yao-Fei brought to the party? He brought the guy who had Oliver tied up and tortured for information. You know, that hoot Deathstroke’s buddy. After getting in one good punch, Oliver’s friend informed him that the same man could get Oliver off of the island via his plane.

At the mansion, Oliver bumped into Thea and questioned why no decorations had been put up. Well, their mother refuses to eat sugar, so candy canes are forbidden! Of course, Ollie wouldn’t buy that. The two were then forced to attend a dinner party, so the questioning would have to wait. Mega rich people seem pretty awful. The group started ragging on Arrow, to Ollie’s amusement, and Oliver suggested giving him a real name. Finally! “Hood Guy” went on for half a season. Tommy’s super evil dad made a suggestion.

Merlyn: “How about Green Arrow?”

Oliver: “Lame.”

Get it, everybody? At that point, Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) called Walter (Colin Salmon) with some new information. As it turned out, a Queen employee was named on the list they found. She’d also realized that many of the listed people were targeted by the vigilante, prompting Walter to question his employee later. The man insisted, however, that he was no white-collar criminal.

Detective Lance (Paul Blackthorne) figured out that the killer was an Arrow copycat right on the spot. Different arrows, plus the fact that Oliver had already targeted Adam Hunt and succeeded, tipped him off. Meanwhile, Oliver realized by the man’s work that he was a legitimate archer. Needing an arrow of his to track the faker down, Oliver decided to enlist Laurel’s father for help. He sent Detective Lance an iphone and used a blocked number in conjunction with voice distortion to attempt to get him on board. It was all very Scream, only in that movie the killers use cheap prepaid phones, and Oliver sent a smart phone. Oh, rich kids! Lance was hesitant to release police evidence to the vigilante, though, even after being reassured that Arrow was not the killer.

Later on at the diner, Thea (Willa Holland) and Oliver shared some fries surrounded by a barrage of tinsel and peppermint. This was when Oliver truly caught the Christmas spirit, guys! The fact that his family stopped celebrating Christmas once he went missing was devastating. It was like the plot of some ABC Family original holiday movie. Then Thea’s new potential beau popped in unexpected. He was pretty doofy and ticked Oliver off by criticizing the food and making a crack about the island. He seemed harmless, though. Oliver was a little overprotective. This was all enough for Oliver to call a family meeting and revive the tradition of the Queen Christmas Spectacular. Oliver himself agreed to host the party this year in an attempt to bring cheer to his family.

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Another arrow through the chest of another former target of Oliver sent the Detective into a bit of a tizzy. After his commanding officer suggested they just peg the murders on the “Hood Guy,” Lance knew he had no choice but to join forces with Arrow. Well, just because it’s Christmas, okay?! He tipped Oliver off to the location of a new evidential arrow so that he and Diggle could start tracking the real killer. Pinning the murders on Arrow would leave a serial killer on the street. Was the imposter looking to frame Oliver? What an awful commanding officer Detective Lance has!

After realizing the imposter’s arrow was custom work, Oliver had no choice but to run to Felicity. I love how Felicity enjoys cracking mysteries and requires no compensation. Oliver’s cover-up story that he was buying a set of special custom arrows for his friend’s birthday was ridiculous, but Felicity decoded all he needed to know within, seriously, half a minute. He better buy her a nice Hanukkah present after she discovered who, what, and where using the custom arrow’s patent. In other news, Felicity thinks the recent archery trend is ridiculous. Now, so do I.

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Laurel (Katie Cassidy) and her father were spending the holidays together, as if the holidays take place over one night, when news broke of how the vigilante was now considered super dangerous. I guess after Lance had been laid off the case, the commanding officer went ahead with his plan to incriminate Arrow regardless. In the midst of their shock, Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell) showed up without warning to spend a few moments with Laurel. Apparently, Laurel had been making up excuses to avoid Tommy during the holidays. Tommy insisted that Laurel attend Oliver’s party as his plus one and left her with a small gift. Wow, Laurel went from “love of Ollie’s life” to “plus one” over the course of just a few episodes. After Tommy left, Detective Lance was quick to hilariously criticize Tommy for being a spoiled lack-wit, only to realize that Tommy’s gift was a framed picture of Lance and his two daughters. Just like that, Merlyn worked his wizardry over Detective Lance.

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Meanwhile, Arrow was ready to take down his new rival. Arriving at the address Felicity had pinpointed, Arrow found himself trapped in a room with a makeshift bomb. After a close brush with a massive explosion, Arrow made like Rudolph and flew over to his own Christmas party at lightning speed. Things were off to a strange start, as Thea’s goof of a boyfriend arrived to rub Oliver the wrong way, and God forbid Oliver suggest taking a family picture together. It seemed like no one was in the mood to party, even after Oliver had worked hard to keep the tradition alive.

Tommy’s dad had warned Moira (Susanna Thompson) that Walter had continued prying into their dirty business, leaving Moira on edge. Knowing she had to confront Walter regarding his snooping, she pulled him aside out of desperation. Walter refused to budge on avenging his best friend’s murder, prompting Moira to admit that she is caught in between her family and the villains. Still, she seemed uninterested in quitting the deceit.

Tommy and Laurel arrived just in time to make things incredibly awkward. Still, Oliver’s humor managed to lighten the mood. Afterwards, Laurel pulled him aside to admit that she’d been holding back from Tommy because of her connection to Oliver. Oliver’s “death” made her feelings all wonky for five years. Now, “the last person she expected to make her feel again,” has. Oliver assumed she meant Tommy, but I kind of figured the last person she’d imagine could do that would have been her “dead” ex-boyfriend, no?

Lastly, Oliver caught Thea and her dude upstairs slutting it up. After immediately ejecting the guy from his party, he reprimanded Thea for bailing. Thea flipped the tables on Ollie, though, admitting that she never wanted to celebrate Christmas. She felt it was a farce covering up how their family had been permanently damaged by their losses.

By the end of the party, news had broken that the bizzaro version of Arrow had taken hostages in an attempt to call Oliver out. Threatening to kill innocent people forced the true Arrow into action. Diggle wanted to let the cops handle things, but Oliver knew they were nowhere near competent. Just like Santa, Oliver entered the bomb-laced building via the rooftop, and quickly released the hostages. That was so easy, right? Then, the evil archer appeared to see “who was better.” A great fight scene took place. Things seemed even at first, but the dark arrow managed to trump Ollie in the end. Oliver took two arrows in the back before falling in failure. The man let it slip that he worked for the man who wrote “the list” and that Oliver was getting in the way of things. He probably assumed Oliver wouldn’t have escaped by the skin of his teeth, though.

Diggle made up some absurd story about how Oliver was riding his bike in the middle of the night only to get hit by a truck. Well, at least he rescued him and got him to a hospital. Queen’s family apologized for being buzzkills at his Christmas party. Even Thea stuck her foot in her mouth, gifting her big bro with a candy cane. Guess what she just realized? It’s normal to grow and change over the course of five years, island shipwreck or otherwise! Instead of fighting over the past, they made a deal to accept each other in the present. *hug*

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But who was the dark archer? The last portion of the island flashback scenes involved Oliver trekking through the jungle with his previous captor and Yao-Fei. The man informed Oliver that the island was once a prison camp, and that his men were sent there to eliminate the incredibly dangerous criminals imprisoned there. Yao-Fei and Deathstroke were the only two to escape. As it turns out, Deathstroke seemed to have teamed up with the man and his men, as he was the one to torture Oliver for information on Yao-Fei. In fact, the entire current situation had been a set-up, as Deathstroke appeared out of the blue and helped them take down Oliver’s mentor as Oliver ran for the hills.

I was sure one of those people would be the Arrow mimicker, but as it turns out, it was Tommy’s father! After kidnapping Walter, he alerted Moira that the plans for their group were still in the works. Apparently, they’re looking to exterminate the city of everyone who isn’t mega rich and super evil. Even Moira had to cry a little.

After moping around the hospital and feeling like a failure for a few hours, Oliver peeled himself out of bed and gazed out the window, promising to take down his new archer rival what’s-his-face and his ultimate nemesis, whoever that bozo turns out to be. The midseason finale came to an end as we panned out of Oliver’s hospital room window and into an incredibly CGI looking version of a dark city.

By the way, are you all excited that Teen Wolf veteran Colton Haynes is joining the show as druggie Roy Harper? My question is, now that they’ve established that new character Thea is Speedy, how will they work Roy in? Speedy becomes Arrow’s eventual sidekick. I sort of assumed that Thea would evolve into that, especially because Willa Holland has hinted at big plans for her character. However, Roy is the first Speedy within the DC series.

How did you like the midseason finale? Are you happy with how the series has evolved? What are you looking forward to most when the show returns?

 

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