Writers: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim & Andrew Kreisberg
Director: John Dahl
THE ONE WHERE: Christmas in Starling City, and while Oliver tries to summon some old time seasonal spirit for the Queen clan another archer makes his presence known…
THE VERDICT: As episode premises go, the idea of some malevolent force impersonating the hero is heart-sinkingly hackneyed – and to its credit "Year's End" realises this, throwing away the clichéd possibilities for identity confusion surprisingly early as Lance twigs that they’re dealing with a copycat killer. The sergeant’s suspension from police duty allows him to explore his relationship with the hooded vigilante, edging just a little closer to the Batman/Gordon template of mutual trust earned after initial suspicion. It’ll be interesting to see if the show builds on this development in future episodes, ultimately allowing the two men to become allies. Pity that the intriguing Dark Archer plotline is sidelined by some particularly flabby Christmas party scenes at the Queen mansion, where trite character moments end up letting the air out of the episode. The way that the action reignites with a sudden hostage crisis feels clumsy, though a strikingly vicious duel between the two archers arrives to redeem the climax (Oliver takes the biggest beating of his career here, increasing the show's threat level considerably – is that a nod to the hobbled Bruce Wayne of The Dark Knight Rises when we see him holding a cane at the end?). The revelation of the Dark Archer’s identity still manages to feel like a jolt, though anyone who knows their comic book lore will know exactly who Barrowman is meant to be, of course.
HMM: Some intriguing seeds for future storylines deliver the cliffhanger for this mid-season break-point – what exactly is Merlyn’s long game for the city? If Oliver’s father didn’t compile the list, who did? And is that person the real Big Bad of Arrow?
OH, SHUT UP: Merlyn suggests Green Arrow might be a good name for the vigilante. "Lame," says Oliver. It may be intended as a lightly ironic throwaway line but it feels like a smug putdown of the source material. Don't do it again.
DID YOU SPOT: There’s a reference to “the corner of O’Neil and Adams”, a nod to writer/artist team Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, who redefined the comic book Green Arrow in the late ‘60s.
Commissioner: “The thing that people forget is that Robin Hood was a criminal.”
Dinner Guest: “And stealing from the rich to give to the poor is really the job of the Democrats.”
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Arrow airs in the UK on Sky1