We’re finally here, the ending of Arrow‘s first season. It hasn’t been as wild a ride as later seasons get, but then again this season does end with a rich asshole destroying the poor part of town, thinking he’s in the right. That’s some pretty big supervillainy with a dab of social commentary. This wrap up is going to be a bit on the longer side, so strap in. And if you’re emotional, grab some tissues because not everyone is making it out of this alive.
Recap time! Oliver Queen was stranded on the island of Lian Yu for 5 years where he learned the skills needed to become a vigilante known as “the Hood.” While there, he teamed up with ASIS agent Slade “Deathstroke” Wilson, ex-Chinese general Yao Fei Gulong, and Yao Fei’s daughter Shado against a mercenary named Edward Fyers who took over the island and was planning something deadly. Back home in Starling City, Oliver’s mission is to cleanse the city of the corrupt by taking down names on “the List” given to him by his father before his death. Along the way Oliver has added two members to “Team Arrow:” bodyguard John Diggle and hacker Felicity Smoak. Ollie’s identity is also known by his best friend, Tommy Merlyn, who is stuck in a love triangle between Oliver and lawyer Laurel Lance. Laurel’s father, detective Quentin Lance, is the head of the police taskforce to take down the vigilante but has begrudgingly accepted some help from the Hood from time to time. Back at home, Oliver’s sister Thea Queen is dating bad boy Roy Harper, and his mother Moira Queen is mourning the disappearance of her second husband, Walter Steele. But Moira was involved in Walter’s disappearance since he was looking too deeply into the sinister plans orchestrated by Malcolm Merlyn, Tommy’s father and secretly a masked villain known as “the Dark Archer.” What’s Malcolm’s master plan? Time to find out!
First up is episode 21, “The Undertaking,” finally revealing what the titular Undertaking is about. It’s been six months since Walter went missing and a lot of people believe he’s dead. The Hood attacks an accountant from the List and takes his laptop, giving it to Felicity. She finds records that money was transferred on the day of Walter’s disappearance, suggesting that a kidnapper who runs an underground casino might have been behind it. Playboy Oliver Queen can’t go in so Felicity does, intentionally getting caught counting cards so she’d have a tense meeting with the boss. The Hood bursts in to save her and is told that Walter was apparently shot and killed. Oliver tells his family the news, which freaks Moira out. She corners Malcolm and accuses him of lying to her, but he reveals that Walter actually is alive. Too bad for them, the Hood hears all of it. Now knowing that his best friend’s dad is the mastermind behind whatever the Undertaking is, the vigilante rescues Walter. Meanwhile, Felicity tried to get Dig to return to Team Arrow after the falling out he and Oliver had last episode, but he won’t without an apology from Ollie. He gets just that at the end of the episode, so that worked out easily. Elsewhere, Laurel confronts Tommy about why he broke up with her so suddenly and he says he believes Ollie’s in love with her. She asks Oliver about it, and he admits it. What an awkward love triangle.
Instead of flashing back to the island, “The Undertaking” showed right before The Queen’s Gambit sank, leading to the death of Robert Queen and the stranding of Oliver. Turns out “the List” was people Malcom and his allies were putting pressure on to improve the city. But since that wasn’t fast enough, Malcolm proposed a plan to use an earthquake machine called the Markov Device to destroy the Glades, wiping the poor part of the city from the map. All this was because his wife was murdered during a robbery in the area, so now he blamed the folk living there. Robert believed this was going too far and went to his friend Frank Chen (first seen in episode 15 and killed by the Dark Archer/Malcolm in episode 18) for help to stop it. Frank instead worked with Malcolm to set a bomb on The Queen’s Gambit with plans to blame the sinking on a storm. Meanwhile, Oliver’s reason for being on the boat is an escape after his girlfriend Laurel suggested they move in together. So he ran off with her sister, Sara. Dick move!
Next is “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” named after a Bruce Springsteen album. I’m not always going to notice references like that in the future. The Dark Archer kills the scientists who built the Markov device, including Brian Markov (more on him later). Realizing they need information now, Oliver goes to his mother– as himself, not as the Hood like he did in episodes 13 & 14–but the two get kidnapped by… the Hood? Oh, hi Dig. Nice to see you wear the costume again. Moira confesses, informing them about the earthquake device. Needing more info, Oliver, Felicity, and Dig enact a heist where Felicity gets into to Merlyn Global Group’s mainframe. As Diggle goes to the Markov device’s location, the Hood corners Malcolm, surprised to find that the man can fight. But uh oh! The device is gone, and Malcolm defeats the Hood, becoming the fifth person (who didn’t immediately die) to discover Oliver’s secret.* Meanwhile, Roy wants to find the Hood so the vigilante can train him, but his obsession leads to Thea breaking up with him. Over with Laurel, she’s conflicted about this love triangle after getting mixed signals from Oliver: first he says she should be with Tommy, but later–when Ollie thinks he might give up the hood after beating Malcolm–that she should be with him. The two hook up, not realizing Tommy can see them through a window. And back at home, Walter gives Moira divorce papers, having known she was involved in his disappearance apparently the whole time.
Then it’s the season finale, “Sacrifice.” Malcolm has captured Oliver and gloats that there’s nothing he can do to stop the Undertaking. But like a Bond villain, once Malcolm’s back is turned, Oliver escapes really easily (with some help from Diggle). Felicity gets detained by detective Lance–turns out she wasn’t very stealthy breaking into Merlyn’s database–but the interrogation is interrupted by the Hood calling Quentin to warn him that the Undertaking is happening tonight. The detective lets Felicity go and informs his fellow cops, but revealing he’s been working with the criminal vigilante gets him a suspension. That’s when Moira delivers a press conference where she admits to her involvement, warns that the Glades are in danger, and declares that Malcolm is behind all of it. He doesn’t take this well, and neither does Tommy finding out that his dad is basically a supervillain. So there’s mass chaos all over. Thea rushes to Roy (who lives in the Glades), rekindling their romance. While this is going on, Team Arrow realizes that the abandoned subway system (whose design is the logo on the book with the List) is the perfect delivery device for an earthquake machine. Oliver is right that the Markov device would be right under where Malcolm’s wife died, and Quentin and Felicity deactivate it with seconds to spare! While that happens, the Hood and Diggle fight Malcolm, and the villain is seemingly killed! Too bad he had a second device, and a chunk of the Glades is destroyed despite their best efforts. Laurel gets trapped at her work and Tommy rescues her, but the instability then traps him inside. Oliver rushes over thinking Laurel is in trouble, but finds a dying Tommy instead. The season ends with a shot of the destruction of Starling City.
Back 5 years ago on Lian Yu, Oliver, Slade, and Shado were taken to Fyers’ base, where Oliver discovered that Alan Durand (back from episode 15) worked for Fyers. Good thing you didn’t help him, Ollie! Turned out Fyers was hired by someone–we’ll find out who in season 3–to blow up a Ferris Air flight in order to shut down all air travel from China, crippling the country’s economy. Under coercion, Yao Fei recorded a video where he took responsibility, but then Fyers immediately killed him. Rip, dude. The surviving trio broke out of their bindings, managed to save the plane just in time, and killed most of Fyers’ men (as well as Alan, who was largely useless). Fyers survived and took Shado hostage, but he never anticipated Oliver’s new archery skill, giving the young man his non-accidental kill. Yay! It’s your first real murder, Ollie!
There are a bunch of little references, and then two big ones that’ll get their own paragraph. Walter was being kept in Blüdhaven, and I mentioned that city’s connection to Nightwing back in episode 4. 5 years ago, Laurel proposed getting a place with Oliver by pointing out that their mutual friends Ray and Jean just moved in together. This is a reference to Ray Palmer, AKA the Atom, and Jean Loring, his wife (later ex-wife). They had a… complicated relationship, but none of that matters since the Ray Palmer and the Jean Loring who appear in the Arrowverse have seemingly no connection to this unseen couple. Ted Kord is also mentioned, but he’ll never actually be seen in any of these shows (as of time of writing). In the comics he’s a Justice Leaguer who goes by Blue Beetle who also served as the inspiration for Night Owl in Watchmen (I’ll explain that when I talk about that movie). And Ferris Air’s CEO in the comics is Carol Ferris, longtime girlfriend of Green Lantern Hal Jordan.
One big reference is the Markov Device, which Malcolm used to devastate the Glades. It’s named after its creator, Brian Markov, who in the comics goes by Brion Markov and is a superhero called Geo-Force; he has earthquake powers, so that tracks. He first appeared in The Brave and the Bold #200 (1983) and was a member of the Outsiders, a team organized by Batman to go places where the Justice League couldn’t. The scientist in the show has no powers, but we’ll deal with a different adaptation of the character if/when we get to Black Lighting season 3. That makes sense, since Jefferson and Anissa Pierce in the comics were both associated with the Outsiders at different times. But Geo-Force tends to be overshadowed by his half-sister, Tara Markov, AKA Terra, the traitor to the Teen Titans. I’m telling you, everything comes back to the 80’s run of New Teen Titans!
The other big comic nod is the partial destruction of Starling City. Once upon a time, Green Arrow and a few other heroes got tired of the typical routine of reacting to villains, deciding to become proactive in hunting bad guys down. Justice League: Cry for Justice (2009 – 2010) was not a well regarded series, in part because that’s when Roy Harper got his arm ripped off (as I mentioned when talking about episodes 15-17). Well, part of the villain Prometheus’ plan was to destroy various cities if he was captured, informing the assembled heroes in one of those, “I did it five minutes ago,” speeches. Star City wasn’t totally leveled, but the destruction and tragedy–Roy’s daughter, Lian, died during the destruction–was enough to drive Green Arrow to kill Prometheus. The rest of the Justice League weren’t fans of that and it became a whole thing.
And so the first season ends. Farewell, Tommy Merlyn; I barely liked thee. Harsh, but I just don’t think he added much to the series. Sure, he was Oliver’s best friend, but you have Thea and Laurel who have deeper connections and were more interesting characters (in part probably because The Grand Plan involved them eventually becoming heroes). He mainly was there to be part of the love triangle of the first season, which I will say is better than the love triangle in season 2. His role from here on out is to haunt the people who outlived him, but he gets mentioned less and less as the series progresses.
Spoiler alert, but Malcolm’s not dead. Oh no, that would be too easy. He’s going to become a recurring pain in everyone’s asses for several more seasons, and even a different show! He never goes the Vegeta route of “was a villain but now is a grumpy–but loyal–ally,” but rather takes the Mystique path of “he’s going to betray you time and time again, and it’s really your fault for giving him every opportunity to do so.” The rich man who screams that the true villains of Starling City are the poor is certainly a look, so yeah, season 1 big bad fits for him. Head of an assassin’s guild? Sure, why not. Cross-time nemesis? Now that’s just pushing things. Get ready for me to be more and more annoyed with him whenever he pops up and inevitably stabs Team Arrow and friends in the back.
So with that, season 1 is done! I’m a big fan of over the top costumed heroics so I tend to enjoy the later seasons more, but this was a solid start. At least solid enough that DC Comics reinvented the comic version of Green Arrow to better match his television counterpart–which I have never been a fan of–and solid enough that it spawned a bunch of spin-off shows. This is the most successful shared universe DC has after the very mixed reviews of Batman Vee Superman Colon Dawn of Justice and Zack Snyder’s Justice League, so that’s something to be proud of. I’m not going to jump immediately to season 2, but expect that at some point with many, many more Arrowverse posts to come!
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