Arrow Review: “Sacrifice” (Season 1, Episode 23)

Paul Blackthorne in Arrow

But there was still a very mild undercurrent of dissatisfaction I had with the finale, which was otherwise as terrifically entertaining an hour of Arrow as the show has produced, despite the easy escapes out of corners backed into last week. “Sacrifice” could present a major turning point for the show. While we’re by no means done with our adventures on the island, season one of Arrow was Oliver’s origin story, exploring how a years in the making personal crusade was slowly questioned, upended, and ultimately failed: Oliver doesn’t stop The Undertaking, he doesn’t rectify the wrongs of his father, or avenge his death, and isn’t even able to save the monster he created out of Tommy Merlyn. Where does Oliver Queen go from here? Where does the rest of the Queen clan, or the rest of Team Arrow go for that matter?

There are plenty of possibilities. The destruction of The Glades could mark a status quo-redefining shift for Starling City, forcing Oliver to refocus his efforts towards keeping the peace in a warzone, instead of cracking down on crooked millionaires (does anyone really care about the list at this point?). Moira has signed either a life sentence in prison, or a death sentence from Malcolm by exposing the Tempest conspiracy, so keeping Susanna Thompson on as a regular presents an interesting challenge. Suspended from the force and more indebted to The Hood than ever, Detective Lance could become even more of a wild card, just as Laurel’s relationship with Oliver could go eleven different ways after Tommy heroically gives his life to save her (and PLEASE, for the love of God, let Tommy be dead. I’d rather not see one of the season’s best character arcs unnecessarily continued).

Really, my trepidation comes from the show’s proven track record of constantly hinting at its true potential, but never fully realizing it. That’s a big enough letdown to suffer between weeks, but between seasons, it could be a killer. This is all wild speculation, and what the show does, or doesn’t turn into five months from now has no bearing on the quality of tonight’s installment, but Arrow’s history provides myriad examples of great setup not receiving adequate payoff. What makes “Sacrifice” so gripping, in spite of some rushed plotting, is that the vast majority of its memorable moments were fully earned. There are (literally) earthshattering consequences at play for all the characters, so the show can get away with big speeches, and a constantly swelling soundtrack, because this is the episode where every relationship, motivation, and choice is of monumental consequence.

Given how certain I was the show would end in neat, predictable fashion, I should be the last person complaining the finale decided to zig, when I was 100% certain it would zag. “Sacrifice” is chockablock with surprising twists on an emotional and plot level, and not just because it’s kinda a sumabitch for making you think just about everyone but Oliver is in mortal danger this week. Maybe I’m just frustrated that even after a full season, I still have some reservations about Arrow. If the show had just committed to either being outright terrible, or consistently entertaining throughout, instead of a fluxing mix of the two, it’d have been a much easier first season to come to terms with. Looking at it as a whole though, the season’s balance has weighed more and more towards the latter of that blend the longer the show has been on. Is it wrong to think season 2 will continue the trend?

Absolutely not, and at the end of the day, the hell with it: even if my worst fears do come true next year, Arrow has done more than enough with its first season to make me excited to find out if it really will come into its own during the second. Turns out, the show’s real will-they-won’t-they was never about Laurel and Oliver, it was something far more meta: will Arrow ever make good on its full potential, or won’t it? We never got a clear answer through this first season, but with a finale this tantalizing, I’m on board to wait five months and find out next season, even if that means maybe getting fooled again.

Finale Grade: B+, Season Grade: B

  • Stray Thoughts

-Favorite Episodes: Damaged, Dodger, The Undertaking

-Least Favorite Episodes: An Innocent Man, Vendetta, Salvation

-DC nod of the week: The airliner Oliver saves is Ferris branded, a reference to Green Lantern

-Anchor around the finale, and the back half of the season as a whole: Thea and Roy. I don’t know if Thea has ever been as obnoxious as the moment when she responds to her mother’s confession with a hissyfit about her boyfriend, who must have been napping for hours between the announcement, and deciding to leave The Glades. Their apocalyptic makeout session stretched goodwill towards the show’s dramatic goofiness into vomit-worthy territory.

-Shouldn’t Oliver’s showdown with Fyres have seen him un-readying the bow as a fakeout, then quickly snapping a shot off like Shado showed him? Not a nitpick, I just think that was an obvious, and established moment the show was building up to.

-After many weeks absent, the most delightful return is from the Trick Arrow, which gives Oliver a momentary advantage in his fight with Malcolm. Here’s to even more insanely specific arrows next season.

-Final note: thanks for any and all who read these reviews, which are the first I’ve ever done for an entire season of a series (“it shows!” said snarkier readers in a chorus). This is not a show I would have given the time of day were I not assigned it for review, but I’m glad I got to watch it evolve into something I’m genuinely anticipating the return of, even if I may not be reviewing it. See you in Season 2, Arr-Heads!