Arrow "Year's End" Review: A Tale of Two Hoodies

By Nick Campbell

Dec 13, 2012

Arrow S01E09: "Year's End"

Ah, Christmastime in Starling City. The snow was falling. The lights were twinkling. And bombs were going off in clearly addressed warehouses.

In "Year's End," Last week's vague discussion of vengeance and justice continued to meander down a path of the oblique and the tangential, although the conversation changed partners. The new villain in town is the Dark Archer and he has taken to finishing what Oliver cannot: killing the rich white dudes. This makes for an interesting discussion since Oliver is prone to just handing the actual people on the list over to The Law while peons whose contributions to failing the Starling City are infinitesimally smaller are okay to spear.

It makes the gray area in which Oliver operates more black and white: Hunt them down and eliminate them instead of hunting them down and hoping they'll get what they deserve, regardless of the fact that they have the means to manipulate a system. Seemingly, the Dark Archer's dedication is more fervent than Oliver's, since he sees list entries' total removal from this mortal coil as the only way to set things right... as opposed to the Hood, who will only go so far as to send them off to rehabilitation. At the very least, it's an argument that can be made.

Obviously, Malcolm Merlyn hasn't shown any interest in being the good guy, and knocking off criminals for the sake of justice probably isn't in his game plan. That's why I think the more interesting thing about this episode is not so much that the Dark Archer is way better and stronger than Oliver, nor that Merlyn's taking care of business in a way that Oliver refuses to, but that the source of the list is now in question.

All this time, Oliver has believed the list came from the pen of Robert Queen. A few arrows to the back and leg and some clunky dialogue were enough for him to turn on its source, going from honoring the list's creator to adopting a steely determination to bring him down. I don't question how quickly he made the decision because getting clobbered like Arrow did would make anyone this side of Gandhi willing to exact some revenge. But now the switch is flipped, the list is secondary to its creator, and we can drift away from knocking people off it in pursuit of a bigger bad, the ultimate failure of Starling City.

While I'm willing to allow that the turn on the list is smart, how we got there was not. Maybe it's my strong belief that a vigilante hero, no matter how lacking in superpowers, has no business casually walking into a situation, particularly an abandoned warehouse situation, but I feel like the trap on Wharf was the pinnacle of clunkiness for the episode. He got there and basically just opened the door and strolled in like he was meeting a buddy for coffee. No stealth, no making sure there wasn't a beaker of explosives waiting for him. He was just all, "I'm here. Come and get me!" There was an arrow planted under a spotlight in the middle of the room and we were waiting for the signal to reach Oliver's brain that it was a trap. And when someone did go get him, the Dark Archer intended to blow him up—so Oliver escaped by creating a smaller explosion in front while the bigger explosion followed him.

This set off nothing but a series of clumsy plotting. Hostages to get our guy's attention? You almost blew him up. Consider his focus shifted. Also, is that all any archer wants? To see who's better? "Let's see what you look like without it?" If the Dark Archer is going to be Oliver's nemesis, he's got to get better lines than that.

And Oliver's reminders that he spent five years on an island were just as tiresome this week. The flashbacks did, however, mirror the sentiment of the list, that the person Oliver assumes to be good could just as well be the bad guy. Nothing is exactly as it seems, especially for a man whose perspective on life has been gradually eroded by injustice and the evaporation of his shelter. His worldview has shifted twice, first in adjusting to the island without family or modern conveniences and now to the realization that battling his father's foes isn't exactly as he thought it would be. It's hard to tell who's naughty or nice.

Segue to the Christmas party! Oliver's personal and family drama took a backseat as Thea continued to be ornery and then sweet, Laurel continued to be awkward but able to fill out a dress, and Moira continued to be shady (she's now in cahoots with the Dark Archer). I couldn't hold with Oliver's need for a Christmas party especially since he didn't even know it was that time of year. There may be a universe where a city in America is not Christmas Crazy, but it doesn't appear that Starling City is one of them. I would also assume that five years of not observing Christmas because he was stuck on a desert island—plus all that vengeance and justice on his mind—would dull the need to celebrate, but whatever, call up the posse. Let's have a party.

Other than Walter getting closer to the truth (and, subsequently, getting himself kidnapped) and Laurel figuring out that Oliver is holding her back (?), nothing really progressed in "Year's End." There weren't enough scenes for emotional development. There weren't even really any moments to remind us of our connection to the characters, let alone for them to interact. And when is Oliver going to eat more ice cream with Diggle, dang it?!

While we got some interesting plot points, it was a disappointing outing overall. The Christmas party was not only a trivial part of the episode, it stole time from scenes that could've been improved with the Dark Archer sequences, and the proceedings were hampered by uninspired conversation and incremental (at best) narrative progression. I was happy to see Deathstroke, and Yao Fei getting spirited away is an interesting development, but there wasn't enough to really sustain.

For an end-of-the-year episode, this was no Christmas meal.


– Did Thea just admit to be the best at a sucking contest?

– "How about Green Arrow?" "Lame." Yeah, you say that now, Oliver. But wait until YOU think of it!

– "The guy is a— the guy is a legitimate archer." If you're going to be a guy who goes around killing people with a bow and arrow, you really need to be a legitimate archer. Otherwise, you just look like a jackass.

– "We rob banks and smoke crack together."

– Felicity, I think you're adorable and awesome. But how dumb do you think Oliver is that you have to explain Sagittarius?

– So, we're all in agreement that Merlyn's plan for Starling City is a weather machine, right?

– Noel should be back next episode (which doesn't air until January!) with his academic terminology and Green Arrow insight. He is the legitimate archer to my thrower of suction-cup darts.

  • Comments (104)
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  • NeeUyank Jan 13, 2013

    I have just completed the entire set of episodes and though I think the characters are too black and white and some of the dialogues are just way too cheesy, still Arrow can definitely keep a fast pace and interesting storyline.. going through some of the reviews and comments, it seems like I could be the only one not hating Thea:) Laurel is more boring:)

    I just might have missed sth, so what the hell happened to the step-dad?

  • katpup Dec 21, 2012

    I think it has been cleared up, if not outright stated, that he does not kill the 'peons' most of the time. He injures them.

  • Serrano0 Dec 20, 2012

    I do NOT agree with the review; actually I don't agree with most of the last episode reviews for this show. In my opinion Nick Campbell (yeah I'm talking to you), you don't know how to enjoy this show, you entered in a spiral of "Oliver is actually killing people" and "this is not good ENOUGH FOR ME" that you are unable to write about the most important things on the episode. For example, in this episode the las conversation between Moira and Malcolm Merlyn was full of new interesting information!!! So, if you don't like this show (in fact, it looks like you HATE it guts) I recommend you to stop reviewing it and to let another person to do it instead: some of us are tired of your pessimistic boooooring reviews.

  • noelrk Staff Jan 02, 2013

    Amusingly, Nick's only reviewed a single episode of the series so far: This one.

    So, really, your beef with the "pessimistic boooooring reviews" is with me, the person who normally writes about Arrow. Hope you'll swing back around later this month to complain at the correct person.

  • Serrano0 Jan 04, 2013

    I guess my opinion reached the right person after all. That's a relief :D
    Please don't take it so seriously, it's just an opinion.

  • noelrk Staff Jan 04, 2013

    I suppose I could say the same about my "pessimistic boooooring reviews": They're just an opinion. ;)

  • LytaAlexander1 Dec 20, 2012

    I don't agree with most of the review, namely the Dark Archer seemed pretty badass to me, this part of the episode was really exciting. Oliver walked into that room because he underestimated his enemy, and he's a little arrogant and over-confident. That's an aspect of his personality the show has already emphasized on, and Digg is checking him on it very often.
    The rest of the episode though showed signs that they might steer the show towards the direction of teenage soap/ overall cheesiness, which would be a fatal mistake on their part. Lame, manufactured dialogue, two-dimensional characters, Laurel basically being there to show off her body (she's stunning, don't get me wrong) and not getting any script to show for. They need well-written, realistic dialogue very badly. And they need to use Digg more, he's awesome!! I'll keep watching and fingers crossed for the show not to turn into another Smallville.

  • Dre5d Dec 17, 2012

    so who is deathstroke now that it is proven barroman isnt him. Is Dark Archer from the comics? Do you think he will ever use the green arrow instead of the hood

  • aza1294 Dec 17, 2012

    I believe they mentioned that Deathstroke was one of the prisoners of the island who now worked for the owner of the island, so I'm assuming he won't be a major person in this series :(. Yes 'Dark Archer' is from the comics, he is known as Merlyn and he is GA's arch nemesis. Yeah so I was able to call who this Dark Archer was from the get go. I'd assume once the Law accepts him (if that ever happens) that he would choose a proper moniker and that would be Green Arrow.

  • bluemystique Dec 16, 2012

    It was solid enough for an episode. I mean yeah, I essentially agree with everything you said. Pretty much.
    -Diggle is Awesome. Therefore Diggle should be used a hell of a lot more. When will they get this?
    -Felicity is also awesome. I'd love to see her get utilized more. Plus, I'd like for them to make her come off as competent as we clearly know she is. Oliver comes in and says vague things that just so happen to line up a bit with the stuff Walter has her doing and she doesn't even appear as though she's connecting dots? I don't believe it. Either they're missing out on a chance to make her appear competent, because I'm confident that she is, or they're doing this on purpose. I mean I don't see how she's not questioning things or something. I mean Oliver's reasonings for asking her to do things are the most flimsy things I've ever heard. Please tell me she's better than this because I like her. Maybe I'm just too eager for that inevitable time when she, oliver, and diggle are doing awesome shizz in the batcave.
    -Oh Thea. She goes from being concerned to not giving a crap in the blink of an eye. The one time I expected her and her mom to go all out and have a huge Christmas thing because Ollie is back, they didn't and he had to do it himself even though it didn't seem like he actually needed or wanted to since he forgot about Christmas or something. What? I get why Thea and them stopped with Christmas. Made sense...the other stuff, not so much. But okay.
    -Laurel was a snooze. Her detective father continues to one should be so bitter. No one. Tommy is charming with Laurel. Basically...the same thing I keep saying every week applies this week. I also didn't get how Ollie could just walk all into a place w/o checking it out, but okay. I was kinda pleased to see the flashbacks again. I'm looking forward to when it returns because I want to see how this show is going to evolve. It's on the cusp of being seriously good but it always falls just a little short. The Colton Hayes news has me thinking maybe we're getting somewhere. I don't know.

  • Acrobit Dec 15, 2012

    This episode was much better than the last, which put it up at a solid 'ehh.' I watched Elementary and Scandal first, and it was a good call. Overall, Oliver hasn't been that stupid, but he's done stupid things like walking into unknown dangers without a decent plan before, it's just that they'd never written in the bombs or the asskickings before. For some reason, they decided to make him especially cocky beforehand so we and Nelson from the Simpsons could get in a good 'haa haa~' while Barrowman kicked the mascara outta him.

    I love Barrowman (from Torchwood. It's good enough to check out), and while I look forward to some kickass fights with him and his stunt double, the ridiculousness of this evil billionaire daddy walking around and shooting people with arrows to draw out Oliver just makes me remember..."Oh yeah, CW." And was this supposed to be a big midseason reveal? We already knew he was evil, all it really showed us was that he was a little more badass.

    I still like Diggle. I can't really blame him for becoming that little kid that runs up to the Sheriff every time the Black Hats show up to rob the bank.

    Oliver and Thea together are still pretty annoying, and pretty much devolved into "Ur not my dad! Hug at the end of the episode, kk?" It's been 9 episodes. Either make some progress or drop the subject, already.

    I saw someone say that they had Felicity explain what a Sagittarius was not to Oliver, but to us, the clueless CW audience, and they're right, but they failed at it. It's one thing to explain something we, as a whole, are too stupid to understand, but it has to be played off properly in the story, otherwise, they might as well turn to the camera and say "Sagittarius: The 9th sign of the Zodiac. Also known as the Archer. Get it?"

    All they had to do was:

    Felicity: "Y'know, Sagittarius? The Archer--"

    Oliver: "I *know* what Sagittarius is, thx."

    Felicity: "Okay, sorry! You know everyone thinks you're the male Lindsey Lohan, right?"

    Oliver: "....."

    I mean, at least in Felicity's defense, most people think he's stupid, *and* he can't even use Bing, amirite?

    On a side note, I never really care who reviews what, but if Price were here, I'd like to think he'd have a screenshot of Felicity's tablet with Bing on it, and only the caption 'LOL' on it. I dunno what else they intended to be funny, but that was the only part in the episode that made me laugh. Is it just me, or did they make Felicity look ridiculous this episode because she's so much more popular than Laurel? Heh, Bing...they still get me with that one...

  • bluemystique Dec 16, 2012

    "I love Barrowman (from Torchwood. It's good enough to check out), and while I look forward to some kickass fights with him and his stunt double, the ridiculousness of this evil billionaire daddy walking around and shooting people with arrows to draw out Oliver just makes me remember..."Oh yeah, CW." And was this supposed to be a big midseason reveal? We already knew he was evil, all it really showed us was that he was a little more badass"

    Exactly. Completely agree with that. Like it wasn't really a reveal to me. It was just..."oh, okay. Whatever" but I was also like, I'm supposed to not say anything about how silly it is that this freaking billionaire can fence and kill people effortlessly, and be a professional archer? Then I'm supposed to also let that sink in with the fact that he pretty much raised a pansy. Why is tommy so pathetic in relation to his father? I don't know. I was just watching and accepting while trying not to ask questions which is what I'm wont to do when I watch CW shows.

    "I still like Diggle. I can't really blame him for becoming that little kid that runs up to the Sheriff every time the Black Hats show up to rob the bank."

    LOL! totally made me chuckle. It's true sort of.

    I actually thought the product placement was so much more smooth then it has been on other shows. Plus, I like Felicity but yeah, I already said that it's a tough go when they're trying to convince us of how competent and bright she is all the while having her appear oblivious to what's so damn obvious. But even when they're making her appear that way it won't change the fact that she's infinitely more interesting than Laurel is with half the screen time.

  • DanielAshe1 Jan 11, 2013

    Yeah, having a billionaire all go out solo and attack people is so silly, I mean the comics never... oh wait.... Batman, Green Arrow, Tony Stark, etc. Is it only good billionaires that are allowed to get their hands dirty?

  • Acrobit Jan 18, 2013

    Actually...yeah. The bad billionaires use goons, contraptions, constructs, and more goons, and once the hero overcomes all of that, *then* the billionaire villain reveals all of his ninja superpowers. Luthor, Kingpin, Palpatine, they usually don't go searching for an ass to kick, they search for lives to ruin and money to steal.

  • Acrobit Dec 17, 2012

    Yeah, and the whole Merlyn and Tommy thing is essentially what happens with the Green Goblin (Norman Osborn) and his son, Harry from Spider-Man, and Lionel and Lex from Superman. What's more ridiculous here is that Merlyn's *so* evil that he's willing to kill anyone that might inconvenience him, but he's sat around for 20+ years and watched his son become a spoiled, pampered playboy. It's just...oh yeah; CW.

    As for Felicity, yeah, let's bring Laurel up a bit instead of dragging Felicity down. Walking around and being perfect just isn't enough; Laurel juuust might have try to keep the audience interested.

  • LiseLotteDive Dec 14, 2012

    I LOVE the pull ups in that metal ladder thingy. I wonder how many he can do in one go?

  • DavidJackson8 Dec 14, 2012

    I enjoyed some of the action and plot-advancements in this episode, even though some of them were done fairly clumsily.

    My biggest problem with this one may have been dialogue. It's happened in some previous episodes too, but in this one I didn't believe most of the things these characters said to each other. It felt so... script-y. It's like the kind of scripts I'd expect some aspiring-to-be-a-writer-13-year-old to write, not actual professional writers who've written plenty of television scripts before. For example, I absolutely hated Quentin's superior officer -- he may have been on screen for a total of about 15 seconds, and I hated it. I don't think I've ever hated a TV character that didn't have at least a minute of action.

    Also, if they're going to make Thea so annoying and bitchy, at least show a little more coverage of her in her bra. This is the CW -- some skin is allowed, right?

  • ElisaDiaz Dec 14, 2012

    I find that Barrowman as the dark archer makes a great villain - he looks great in the suit, love his "evil" smile and the fact that they made the character be a better archer than Oliver. I agree that the definition of right and wrong is still sooo difuse in this show... that is probably its weakest point. That ,and Laurel's character. Luckily we have Felicity to defend the female "species" in this show!

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