Arrow, Season 1, Episode 9 ‘Year’s End’
Directed by John Dahl
Story by Greg Berlanti & Marc Guggenheim
Teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg & Marc Guggenheim
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm ET on The CW
After two strong episodes, Arrow finished 2012 on a bit of a low note with ‘Year’s End’, an episode that revels too much in being mysterious as it sets up its plot tent poles for the second half of the season. There are some interesting reveals, but the occasional moments where there feels like some real momentum with the story – or at the very least, interesting set-up for the second half – get lost in the broader dramas that represent the weakest links of the show.
Of course, any conversation about Arrow‘s weak spots begin with Thea and Tommy, two characters who haven’t budged since the pilot. In Tommy’s case, its only a matter of time before him and Laurel are through, and Tommy either embraces or rebels against the evil his father, who is revealed in this episode to be the murderous Dark Archer. One thing the show’s really lacked so far is an enemy for Arrow who doesn’t wear a suit and cower in his presence – and although Malcolm’s reveal goes a way to deal with this, it doesn’t have the same emotional impact on the characters because Malcolm and Oliver are only tangentially connected, by proxy of Oliver’s father. Besides, Malcolm isn’t much more than a Bane clone at this point, and if Tommy would just get dark and interesting, it would kick the tension up a notch. Right now, wimpy relationshipy Tommy isn’t cutting it, his scenes consistently among the most groan worthy, both over his trope-infested dialogue and invisible character arc.
But his problems are all on a plot level, and can be fixed in an episode’s time – Thea’s character is a little more troublesome. She’s mainly been the voice of the past, reminding Oliver at every turn how shitty things were when she wasn’t around, sentiments repeated over and over throughout ‘Year’s End’ with her various tantrums. There are times when it feels like Willa Holland is drawing too much on the tone of The O.C. and Gossip Girl in her scenes with Oliver, which lack any nuance filled with her unwavering flippancy and constant eye-rolling. And it makes material that’s slightly goofy in the first place – Oliver trying to recapture Christmas for some unknown reason – feel even more soapy when the writers don’t give her anything to do but bitch. Unfortunately, I don’t think introducing a boyfriend Oliver immediately dislikes is the solution to the problem – adding superficial layers to their deeper issues with each other is only going to draw things out farther, with diminishing returns.
Despite my complaints with ‘Year’s End’ as a whole, there are moments of promise; the abduction of Walter should get the wheels turning on unraveling the complex woman that is Moira, and we can see some action out of her, instead of empty threats that get pre-empted by every man around her. This is a time for her to start exercising her character, especially now that she has the impending threat of Malcolm’s apocalyptic plan weighing on her mind. The last five minutes of the episode establish the endgame for the season: in six months, some serious shit is going down – and while I’m a little worried about how they handle some of the inevitable convolution of plots to follow, I’m hoping Arrow doesn’t get too focused on external events, and bring us more strong character studies, like we saw in ‘Muse of Fire’ and ‘Vendetta’.
– the flashbacks reveal that the island was a prison, and the only two people left alive were Deathstroke and Yong Fei. Like anything else that happens on that island, I really could care less. I’m just waiting to hear the Smoke Monster in the background randomly in one episode.
– Arrow continues to do fighting scenes well – the confrontation between Dark Archer and Arrow was quick and brutal.
– the police commissioner is about as one-dimensional and conventionally thick-headed as they come. Corrupt? Word is still out.
– Felicity’s Micro$oft-powered search for the warehouse where the arrow came from was laughable. Oh, I need to get some secret information? Let’s use Bing!!!
– the wordless moment between Quentin and Laurel after she opens Tommy’s gift is beautiful, a rare example of the show showing and not telling.
– the last three episodes have shown Diggles training with Oliver… when will he get his costume?
– Oliver thinks the Green Arrow name is lame.