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Arrow 1.23 "Sacrifice" REVIEW

TV REVIEW - Rubble trouble

Episode 1.23
Writers: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim & Andrew Kreisberg
Director: David Barrett

THE ONE WHERE: With Oliver his captive, Malcolm’s scheme to devastate the Glades approaches fruition. Moira, meanwhile, has a confession to make to the city’s media…

THE VERDICT: Arrow rallies for a brawny, impressive season finale. It starts strongly - alternating Oliver’s enshacklement with his father’s final instruction to “Survive!” – and keeps the jeopardy level high, refusing to let the tension disperse. Major city-quaking threat aside, it’s an episode built on escalating personal conflict: Malcolm baiting Oliver on the nature of sacrifice, Lance’s desperate plea to his superior, Oliver confronting Tommy with the truth about his father, Oliver imploring his mother to stop the Undertaking… There’s an entire city at stake but it's enmeshed with the fates of characters we’ve genuinely come to care about. “A soldier never lets a brother go into battle alone,” says Dig, and it’s a line that packs real resonance, 23 episodes in.

Director David Barrett began his career as a stunt co-ordinator and he brings some of that energy and muscularity to bear here. The battle for the island is a fast-cut, hand-held adrenalin rush, and there’s a distinct whiff of widescreen Bond heroics as Oliver struggles to deflect the missile. Elsewhere there’s a commendable stab at upping the show’s sense of scale for a grand climax, bringing us crowd scenes in an expanded Glades as Starling tips towards panicked meltdown. The unexpected revelation of Malcolm’s back-up device allows for a nicely explosive pay-off – and the sense that even Oliver can fail at the bigger picture, a valuable lesson for any neophyte hero.

“Did you kill him?” asks Tommy. “No,” says Oliver, revealing that he spared Malcolm. “Thank you,” says Tommy, and it’s a moment that feels as if it’s finally closing Oliver’s moral arc this season, moving him from cold-blooded vigilante to something just a little closer to the noble superhero ideal. Not entirely convinced that Tommy’s dead, of course, but I hope he is – it’s an authentically dramatic moment that doesn’t deserve to be compromised. Let Oliver have this scar.

From a stumbling start last October, Arrow has won its own identity, building from a low-cal weekly fix of Nolan-indebted superheroics to something just a little richer, a little more involving. Let's see the second season run with that and give us something truly outstanding.

And maybe a boxing-glove arrow. Go on. Just one.

TRIVIA: There are the ghosts of big screen superheroes in this episode – the Glades set repurposes a cityscape originally constructed for Zack Snyder’s Watchmen .

DID YOU SPOT: Papp Street is a salute to Golden Age comic book artist George Papp, co-creator of Green Arrow along with Mort Weisinger. He’s best known as one of the definitive artists on the Superboy strip. Puckett Station, meanwhile, is a call-out to writer Kelley Puckett, co-creator of Connor Hawke, Oliver’s son and crimefighting heir in DC continuity.

DID YOU SPOT? 2: Unidac Industries is a nod to Stephen J Cannell’s ‘80s crime drama Wiseguy . The show references a company of that name throughout its first two seasons.

Oliver: “Where’s the transmitter?”
Malcolm: “Somewhere I can easily get to it.”
Dig: “I doubt it. You’ll be too dead.”

Read all our Arrow reviews.

Arrow airs in the UK on Sky1

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Nick Setchfield
Nick Setchfield

Nick Setchfield is the Editor-at-Large for SFX Magazine, writing features, reviews, interviews, and more for the monthly issues. However, he is also a freelance journalist and author with Titan Books. His original novels are called The War in the Dark, and The Spider Dance. He's also written a book on James Bond called Mission Statements.