A Season 1 finale needs to deliver on a lot of levels. We need to see the season’s over-arching threat thwarted, we need to see how each character relates to the endgame, and we need to have enough left over to leave us chomping at the bit for Season 2. And after a season that was often more shaky than solid, Arrow‘s finale, “Sacrifice“, went out on a strong note. Possibly the strongest of the season.
Last week’s episode left Oliver (Stephen Amell) in the custody of Malcolm (John Barrowman), after learning The Hood and his son’s best friend are the same guy. With Ollie in chains, Malcolm moves forward with his plan to decimate The Glades with the seismic device from Unidac Industries. But not before belittling Oliver with how easily he’s been beaten, again. Having made a name for himself as the courageous and cheeky Captain Jack, watching Barrowman gleefully ooze with arrogance about his crusade to save the city from the corruption of The Glades is a treat. I’m already campaigning for him to get more villainous roles in the future. And while he’s the most charming of villains, he’s still incredibly cold and calculating, and no more so than when manipulating his son, Tommy (Colin Donnell).
Though before Malcolm can discuss his true motivations with his son, Moira (Susanna Thompson) steals his thunder and blows the cover off “the undertaking” in the episode’s biggest surprise. After being confronted by Ollie about her connection with “the undertaking” Moira makes one of the bravest decisions of any character, yet. She comes clean, I mean, totally clean. In an unexpected press conference she admits to her involvement in the conspiracy to destroy The Glades, she outs Malcolm as the instigator, and gives those in The Glades enough warning to get out before the device can be activated. I was genuinely surprised by the move, but I applaud it. Moira’s a character I struggled to like since I feared they were setting us up with the typical trope of her murdering her husband for greedy and ambitious reasons, but as her story has unfolded we learn she’s far more complicated than that. And, as ever, her sole motivation is protecting her family. (Oh! And can we take a moment to appreciate Moira’s middle/maiden name being Dearden! Yet another nod to the second Speedy, Mia Dearden. A character I’m still holding out hope we’ll see realized in some way on Arrow.)
Moira’s televised confession accelerates events to an even faster pace than we were already going. Malcolm must initiate his plan more quickly, but first he’s got some explaining to do as Tommy, and everyone else, knows what he’s up to. In order to convince Tommy he’s doing all this for the betterment of Starling City, he plays the recording of his wife and Tommy’s mother’s final moments in what is easily the cruelest act we’ve seen from him. Especially when – guess what! – it doesn’t work! If anything it only pushes Tommy further from his father in another of this episode’s surprising twists. I believe we’d all been thinking Tommy’s trajectory was one of him either teaming up or avenging his father, but again, Arrow takes things in a whole other direction.
As everything begins coming to a head, Malcolm activates the seismic device, which Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) and Detective Lance (Paul Blackthorne) – now suspended from the force after admitting he trusts the vigilante – team up to find the device and hopefully render it null. Ollie and Diggle (David Ramsey) head out to catch Malcolm, who’s lying in wait prepared to thwart The Hood one final time. It’s an epic showdown to say the least, and doesn’t disappoint on any level. Except, maybe, in that Malcolm is eventually killed. I mean, yes, we knew Ollie would be victorious in the end but that doesn’t mean I won’t mourn the loss of the such a spectacular villain.
But their defeat of Malcolm comes at great cost. Right before he dies, Malcolm admits to there being not one, but two devices, after Lance has already successfully disabled the first. Consider this another surprising twist, though it won’t be the last. Helpless to do anything, Oliver and Dig watch as half of The Glades begins to crumble into disarray and chaos erupts in the city. Caught right in the middle are Thea (Willa Holland), Roy (Colton Haynes), and Laurel (Katie Cassidy), who’s CNRI offices are located in The Glades – a rather important detail I didn’t remember, did you? Thea ran off to find Roy after her mother’s confession, and the two share a brief reunion before Roy makes the choice to stay in The Glades helping others trying to flee its destruction. Again, his arc is so obvious it hurts, but at least he’s become proactive and is no longer creepily stalking the vigilante.
Oh! And there’s looting. Can’t have a catastrophe without looting.
Or sacrifice, as the episode’s title not-so-subtly reminds us. As buildings crash and streets are torn up, the CNRI offices begin collapsing with Laurel trapped inside, and while Ollie races to her rescue he doesn’t arrive in time. Tommy does, and though he saves Laurel, he’s not as lucky and gets trapped by debris. When Ollie arrives on the scene he finds Tommy with a steel rod impaled through his chest. Yes, for its final twist, Arrow kills Tommy in Oliver’s arms. And for a character who suffered from uneven development, he goes out the hero. Asking right before he dies if The Hood killed his father, Ollie lies, trying to give Tommy some hope in his last moments.
Whew! “Sacrifice” really was one hell of a finale, fulfilling all those demands I listed above. Next season we can look forward to a city rebuilding from disaster, the repercussions of Moira’s confession, and the grief that will linger over everyone following Tommy’s death. All in all, I’m leaving Arrow more excited for Season 2 than I ever was throughout Season 1.
Arrow returns to the CW, Wednesdays at 8pm, this fall.