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Arrow: "Sacrifice" Review

It's a hot time in the old town tonight.

May 15, 2013

Warning: full episode spoilers follow.

Well, that's one way to do a season finale. If an image is worth a thousand words, I'll just use the following as a stand-in for my review:

That was my reaction to the pivotal final scene of the episode. I've enjoyed this first season quite a bit, but never has it managed to make me feel all the feels like it did tonight. Despite an aggravating lack of post-Undertaking resolution, it was about as strong an episode as I could have hoped for.

"Sacrifice" got off to a slightly slower start than expected, despite the fact that it kicked off with Ollie tied up in Malcolm Merlyn's seedy little dungeon. I enjoyed this showdown as both men saw each other clearly for the first time. But then Malcolm had to go and ruin it by pulling the Bond villain routine - leaving his captive tied up with only a couple of inept guards to make sure he didn't foil the fiendish master plan. That and a few logic holes stood out this week. Another example - why did no one on the Ferris Air flight notice that a missile came within a couple dozen feet of blowing them up, or that said missile turned right around and caused a massive explosion on the nearby island? It's a wonder it took anyone another four years to find Ollie

Speaking of which, this episode was unusually front-loaded with flashback scenes. It proved to be the wise approach, as it really would have derailed the momentum of the Ollie/Malcolm showdown if the focus kept shifting between past and present. These flashbacks offered an action-packed showdown with plenty of explosions, but the real meat of it came later when Ollie and Fyers had their Mexican standoff. Writer/Producer Andrew Kreisberg promised a watershed moment in Ollie's evolution from playboy to master archer, and that certainly arrived as Ollie put Shado's lessons into action and bullseyed his nemesis right in the throat. Aside from the relative lack of Slade in these scenes, the flashbacks proved to be a worthy cap to Ollie's first year on the island.

Any excuse to show off Ollie's abs...

Back in the present, the writers put a big green bow on just about every major character relationship built up over the course of the season. Ollie finally convinced Moira to strike back at Merlyn. Ollie and Diggle ventured into battle as brothers and comrades. Thea and Roy cemented their new bond. Detective Lance implored Laurel not to make the same mistakes with her life that he did. And so on. For the most part, I thought these many pivotal scenes worked well. The only one that didn't quite do it for me was the big Ollie/Laurel romance scene. It came across as fairly corny. But Katie Cassidy fared better in her role as Laurel with the emotional phone call with her father. The theme of sacrifice was evident in just about every avenue of the script this week, making for a very consistent overall package.

It was clear that no expense was spared in putting this finale together. One can picture the producers saving up all the extra cash from the various Microsoft product placements over the past eight months and then blowing it all on pyrotechnics and CG effects. It was a treat to see a wider scope of action and a view of the Glades that was more than a few ramshackle buildings. The CG wasn't really that convincing during the earthquake sequence, but the effects crew deserve points for trying and reaching beyond the usual scope of the show. The final battle between Ollie and Malcolm also proved satisfying. It's always a bit of a crapshoot as to whether the hand-to-hand combat will be filmed well or ruined by jumpy camera cuts and editing. Here, the only problem was again that the similarity of their uniforms made it a bit difficult to distinguish between the two at times. Obviously that won't be a problem moving forward.

Honestly, while I was generally very pleased with this episode, I wasn't prepared to score it higher than the best of Season 1 coming into the final segment. But that last scene between Ollie and Tommy made a world of difference. My biggest worry with this finale was how the writers would handle Tommy. Would he be given a heroic part to play? Would he follow the same path as Harry Osborn and take up his dead father's mantle? I was pleased to see that they went with the first option in having him sacrifice his own life to save Laurel's. Was it necessary to actually kill Tommy? Probably not, and part of me will always wonder what they could have done with the character in future seasons. But on the other hand, both Stephen Amell and Colin Donnell delivered excellent performances in what is probably my favorite single scene of the entire season. It was heart-wrenching to see Ollie sobbing over his dead friend and wishing it had been him instead. Refreshingly, this episode offered a superhero conflict where the hero's victory was incomplete and hollow. Malcolm totally Watchmen'd Ollie.

And that's where Arrow left us for the season. Yes, it's frustrating that we didn't get to see the immediate aftermath of the battle. We don't know how much damage was done to the Glades. We don't know if Felicity faces further legal trouble or if Detective Lance still has a job. We don't know what will become of Moira. In terms of the flashbacks, we didn't catch any further glimpse of Fyers' benefactor. There's a lot we didn't see. But really, is there a more emotionally resonant way they could have wrapped up this finale than the death of Tommy Merlyn? Probably not. And this lack of resolution just leaves that much more fodder for Season 2.

Jesse is a writer for various IGN channels. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter, or Kicksplode on MyIGN.

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Sacrifice on TV Episodes
 
9.5
  • +Very epic and bombastic compared to most episodes.
  • +Satisfying emotional resolution on numerous fronts.
  • +The final Ollie and Tommy scene was a season highlight.
  • Too much questionable superhero logic.
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