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Recap | Arrow: ‘Sacrifice’


If the title of Arrow’s season finale, “Sacrifice,” wasn’t enough of an indication that at least one of the central characters would die before the end of the episode, the word was repeated throughout (seven times, by my count). The only question was who.

There were plenty of candidates, naturally, although we knew it couldn’t be Oliver Queen, as the drama is renewed for next season, or Felicity Smoak or Roy Harper, because actors Emily Bett Rickards and Colton Haynes were promoted to series regulars. However, virtually everyone else was a prime candidate — and to the credit of the writers, most of the characters appeared to be in genuine jeopardy at some point. In the end, the one who made the ultimate sacrifice came as a surprise.

“Sacrifice” is the antidote to everything that’s ailed Arrow for most of the season: glacial pacing, murky character motivations, clunky romantic subplots, staggering leaps of logic. The episode is so fast-paced, so laser-focused on its goals, that the characters – never mind the viewers – never have a chance to catch their breaths (or pause to pick at loose threads). Sure, there are grand soliloquies, moments of romance ripped straight out of a daytime soap and, oh, yeah, that goofy earthquake machine that threatens to kill thousands, but somehow it all works. Gloriously. Heck, for the first time in 23 episodes, the Oliver-Laurel relationship comes across as believable, something I never would’ve thought possible. If “Sacrifice” had pulled off only that much, it might have qualified as the season’s crowning achievement, but there was so much more to this episode.

Despite the efforts of producers to strip Arrow of its more outlandish comic-book elements, the series is, indeed, a superhero story. As such, instead of simply killing an unconscious Oliver while he has the chance, Malcolm Merlyn chains him in a warehouse, and attempts to make him understand why he plans to kill the thousands of residents of the Glades. Naturally, Oliver escapes (with some assistance from John Diggle), leading Malcolm to escalate the timeline for the Undertaking, which spurs all of the players, from Moira Queen to Roy Harper to Quentin Lance, into action.

arrow-sacrifice2They’re all given moments to shine, too: Questioned by Detective Lance about her hacking activities, and her connection to the vigilante, Felicity reveals the depth of her devotion not merely to Oliver (the at least one-time object of her schoolgirl-like crush) but to the Hood’s mission (which she has been at odds with in the past). And when she’s ordered by Oliver to leave the secret lair, which is in the Markov Device’s path of destruction, she remains, even though she’s clearly terrified. Tipped off by the Hood, and perhaps inspired by Felicity’s talk of heroism and sacrifice, Quentin Lance comes to the realization that he didn’t become a police officer to enforce the law but rather to protect the people of Starling City. When his lieutenant learns that he’s been receiving help from the vigilante rather than capturing him, Lance is suspended from the force.

And then there’s Tommy, poor Tommy. During a drunken argument about Laurel, he’s told by Ollie about Malcolm’s scheme to destroy the Glades. “You’ve always known the man he is,” Oliver tells his former best friend. “I wish you had died on that island,” Tommy spits in reply before paying a visit to his father to commiserate over what a jerk Oliver is. Instead of dinner and more alcohol, Tommy is served a bitter dose of reality as Malcolm confirms that it’s all true. It’s an emotionally devastating moment, as Tommy is forced to listen to a recording of his mother’s dying words as she bled out on a sidewalk in the Glades – “They deserve to die!” Malcolm yells. “The way she did!” – but there’s more heartbreak to come.

Moira Queen has her role to play as well: Following a confrontation with Oliver in which she asserts she’s powerless to stop the Undertaking, Moira calls a press conference in her home to expose the plot, her role in it and the identity of the Undertaking’s architect, and to warn the residents of the Glades to flee. Just as Detective Lance is willing to forfeit his career, Moira sacrifices her freedom (she’s arrested following her announcement) and her reputation for the good of the city and, yes, her family. Thea barely has time to process her mother’s words before she charges in to save Roy, who reveals himself as the hero he’s longed to be, putting himself in danger to protect the people of his neighborhood. (An aside: Thea’s admonition of Roy to not text and drive was clumsily inserted into the action, and made even only more obtrusive by the actual public service announcement featuring actress Willa Holland.)

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From there, it’s a race to stop the Undertaking, as Diggle and Ollie confront Malcolm Merlyn while Quentin Lance heads into the abandoned subway tunnels to diffuse the Markov Device (with technical assistance from Felicity). Once again, the fight scenes are flawlessly choreographed and just as brutal as you would expect from a life-or-death brawl. In the end, Team Arrow seemingly wins, with Ollie taking down Malcolm and Quentin and Felicity disarming the device, only for them to discover there’s a second one, Merlyn’s “failsafe.” It’s a wonderful twist as Oliver & Co. watch victory slip from their grasps, with sections of the Glades sinking into the earth – including the area where Laurel’s office is located.

Enter, and exit, Tommy Merlyn, who’s the first to reach Laurel, freeing her from the debris, only to be caught within the building as it collapses around him. As much as I hate to see the death of the most interesting figures on the series, and the departure gifted actor Colin Donnell, it’s a fitting end to the character’s arc. Despite his gasped assertion that “I am my father,” Tommy demonstrated that he could escape his long shadow. Confounding expectations (largely because of the name he shares with a DC Comics villain), he wasn’t lured to the Dark Side by his father, even when driven back to Malcolm’s side by conflicts with Oliver and Laurel.

And while he removed himself as a perceived obstacle to Laurel’s ultimate happiness, in the end, when she needed a hero, it was Tommy who saved her.

Odds and Ends

  • Events on the island also kick into high gear (finally!), as Ollie, Slade and Shado free themselves, save the airliner and destroy Fyers’ operation. What’s more, Oliver shows a glimmer of who he’ll become as he sinks an arrow into Fyer’s throat.
  • Moria introduces herself at the press conference as Moira Dearden Queen, a nod to DC Comics’ second Speedy, Mia Dearden.
  • Is it odd that the season finales of Arrow and Supernatural were both titled “Sacrifice”?


  • dekko

    As sad as it was to see Tommy go, I was beginning to worry that this would all become a retread of the Clark/Lex relationship in “Smallville.” So, it was suprising that they chose to bring it to a conclusion rather than drag it out.

    And of course Malcom has to now live with the fact that he killed his own son (assuming he’ll see it that way…)

  • Paul Moses

    A well done episode and an astonishing season finale. The only part that clunked was Roy remaining in the Glades because it was unclear what he was going to do: save people on the bus? Sending Thea *back* to the Queen mansion, alone, after she came to the Glades was likewise pointless. Other than that nothing wrong with the episode. Bring on Season Two!

  • Starman

    And assuming he lived. Ollie MAY have been lying about killing Malcolm. Even if he just stabbed him, there’s no guarantee he’ll survive bleeding out. I don’t think Diggle would be in much of a hurry to call an ambulance, even if the city’s emergencies services weren’t already tasked to the breaking point.

  • joe35

    The actor who plays Malcolm was announced awhile back as being upped to a series regular for the second season, so he’s definitely still alive.

  • joe35

    I was really sad to see Tommy die. I was expecting it to be Diggle. A shame it couldn’t have been Roy Harper, because I hate the actor playing him. In any event, it was a great season finale. “Arrow” was my favorite new show this season, and despite the annoying and obtrusive flashbacks that I wish they’d get rid of, it’s been a fun and terrific show.

  • edge007

    Yeah, there’s something about that kid who plays Roy that bugs me, too. A bit too A&F model-looking I think.

  • DQ

    Thea’s middle name is also Dearden (as revealed in the episode where she had her court case); presumably Dearden is Moira’s maiden name, and Thea was named for it. But it’s Thea “Speedy” Dearden Queen who is obviously supposed to be Mia’s expy.

  • Tophman

    I’d put money on Merlyn surviving and disappearing for a while. He’d make a great recurring villain (blaming Ollie & his mom for taking his revenge & his son from him. Besides, in the condition Diggle was in, I doubt he could’ve stopped the Black Hood from escaping.

    I do agree that the Roy-Thea scene was a pointlessness exercise. Roy already showed his heroic side so the bus thing was just redundant.

    Although I hated to see Tommy go, it was past time they culled the huge cast. Moira’s potentially off the roster as she does her time in the clink. Diggle could be placed on the sidelines as he recovers from his injury (to make room for Roy – though I’d take Diggle over Roy’s presence). Q. Lance joining Team Hood?

    Guess time will tell and I for one will be waiting with baited breath for season two.

  • Fawwaz M Yusuf

    Is he really? I looked up google to find confirmation of this but saw nothing. Only that roy and felicity were being promoted to regulars. Besides, even if they were bringing him back-which I hope-they would probably try to keep it under wraps so it’s a surprise and such.

  • the Dagman

    I made a compilation of all the scenes taking place on the island from this season. It made for a nice movie running for an hour and 45 minutes.

  • Chaz

    I had some minor qualms with the episode, for instance the fleeing glades people who carried signs (did they watch the news, make a sign and then run for their lives? Or did they have end of the world signs ready-made and decide to take them with them on their mad dash for their lives?) Other than that and the mini PSA during the driving I thought the episode was spectacular and their were some moments that were literally jaw dropping. the production value for this episode was spectacular.

  • Exgoalie

    As Kevin Melrose pointed out in his recap of ARROW’s finale :
    As such, instead of simply killing an unconscious Oliver while he has
    the chance, Malcolm Merlyn chains him in a warehouse, and attempts to
    him understand why he plans to kill the thousands of residents of the
    Glades….might I add that did Merlyn really have to strip Oliver of his
    hoodie just to hang him in chains???? What was the point of doing
    that…other than to fulfil the required “at least one shirtless scene
    for the star”??? And, I’d also like to add that, while the producers
    claim to “ground this show in reality”, what vigilante like Arrow would
    wear such an obstructing piece of clothing as a hood???? I mean,
    fighting like he does and using a bow, I would assume he needs to have
    his sight unimpaired as much as possible. Peripheral vision would be
    something extremely important in the situations he gets into?? Just

  • Starman

    Really? The interview I saw with Marc Guggenheim on Huffington Post said that both Tommy and Malcolm are really and sincerely dead, though they might make appearances in flashbacks in the future.

  • Starman

    Actually those people were looters, using the signs to cleverly blend in with the crowd. XD

  • pmattauch

    No mention that the bomb Detective Lance disarmed was near Papp St? That’s a reference to original Green Arrow artist George Papp.