Well damn, did I call that wrong or what! After predicting the death of Malcolm Merlyn and Tommy taking up the Dark Arrow mantle in revenge, the writers pulled out something totally unexpected in the Arrow season finale that provided some finality to certain plots while setting up next season.
Oliver begins the episode as Malcolm’s captive after being soundly defeated by him last week. With Diggle’s help Oliver escapes in a classic comic book example of the villain mistakenly gloating but leaving the hero alive. Oliver returns home to confront his mother about Merlyn’s plan to destroy The Glades with a device that can create an earthquake and he also reveals that his father Robert shot himself in order to save Oliver.
In the face of this shock and her own guilt over Merlyn’s plan, Moira Queen calls a press conference to reveal the plan to the world while also confessing her part in the plot. While she is taken into custody, the authorities rush to evacuate The Glades and Thea heads into the middle of the disaster area to find Roy Harper.
While Felicity and Detective Lance work to locate and disarm the device, Oliver and Diggle head towards a showdown with Merlyn as Oliver admits that he cannot defeat Merlyn single-handedly. In flashbacks to the island, Oliver, Slade Wilson, and Shado have to stop Fyers before he can use his missiles to take out a commercial aircraft.
What I loved most about the finale was that instead of the two-dimensional, “hero rising to the occasion” to defeat his arch foe, Oliver instead realizes that Merlyn is just the better man at this point. Merlyn even taunts Oliver by telling him that he doesn’t have a cause that he believes in as strongly. This is quite an important point for a superhero show. This tells us that our hero is flawed and is human and does need help. This more than any other scene in the season galvanizes Oliver, Diggle, and Felicity in their cause. Of course, in the end Oliver essentially did take down Merlyn on his own with a risky move that took his enemy by surprise but also threatened Oliver’s own safety.
Another great scene this week was with Detective Lance who had to admit to his superiors that he has been working with The Hood even though it might cost him his job. For the first time, Lance fully embraces the fact that The Hood is a true hero and not just a vigilante. And I have to admit that Thea…wasn’t annoying for the first time in a long time. Her scenes with Roy were emotional and you see his progression towards hero status.
I would have liked to have seen the Island plotline wrapped up completely but it looks like this will carry over for at least a short time into season two. In the end, I think the writers got it right by not killing Malcolm Merlyn, and setting him up as a continuing arch villain. As usual, there were some things that came off too simplistic. Diggle may have located down Oliver through a tracking device in his boot but how did Diggle get through a stronghold of armed guards with such ease? Ok, I’ll overlook this one in light of a finale that featured some of the strongest performances of the season.