Editor’s Note: For the first two parts of our look back at Arrow’s first season, click here and here.
As we approach the start of Arrow Season Five, it’s time we looked back to three important episodes from Season One. In this block, Oliver has his first encounter with a villain that will return to plague him every season: Malcolm Merlyn.
The Dark Archer
In ‘Year’s End,’ a mysterious dark archer is murdering targets on Oliver’s list. This is the first truly formidable foe that the Hood has faced this season, setting up Oliver’s subsequent doubt in his own abilities to protect Starling City.
I wasn’t expecting the Dark Archer’s identity to be revealed so quickly. It was a nice revelation that helps set events in motion for the rest of the season. However, we are left with plenty of questions for the remainder of the season. Who actually compiled the list? What exactly is Moira’s role in this mysterious shadow organization? It was nice to see Moira given more to do in this episode, as she is the most intriguing member of the Queen family at this point. The flashbacks return for this episode, and it was nice to get some more information on the island itself with this episode.
I thought it was a great move to set this confrontation against a Christmas backdrop. It was nice to see Ollie’s humanity come out for a moment, as he desperately wants to celebrate the holidays with his family for the first time in five years.
A Burning Sensation
The following episode, ‘The Burning,’ is more about Oliver’s emotional and mental state following his defeat by the Dark Archer. John Barrowman doesn’t make an appearance at all in this episode, and I think that works well, as the tension and mystery is allowed to build for a while longer. This episode is actually a return to the villain of the week, this time as a former firefighter seeking revenge on the team that abandoned him. Fortunately, this encounter leads Oliver to reexamine his own priorities. Isn’t it nice how the threat of the week serves as a reflection of the hero’s own personal crisis of faith? Sounds like an interesting idea for an academic paper.
Arrow has been a refreshing experience for me because of its darkness. Oliver has started out as someone with questionable morality who became lighter as the series progressed. Typically, it’s the reverse with the righteous hero being led towards the darkness at a later point. Oliver’s recent experiences with Helena and now going against the Dark Archer actually marks his journey from hooded vigilante to hero. This is a transformation that takes time and several seasons but we can start to see its beginnings here. Perhaps with enough words of wisdom from Laurel and Diggle, Ollie will find the right direction on his moral compass.
Speaking of Diggle, the following episode, ‘Trust But Verify,’ gives the right-hand man a starring role as he and Oliver clash over Diggle’s former commander, played by Ben Browder. I’ve been a huge fan of Browder since his days on Farscape. Although he doesn’t get nearly as much screen time as I would have liked, it was nice to have a staple of the science-fiction universe put in an appearance on Arrow. His character Ted Gaynor is on his own mission of revenge, taking what he feels he and his fellow veterans rightly deserve. It’s fun to watch Ollie and Diggle have their first confrontation (the first of many in the future). Oliver knows Gaynor is on the list for a reason, while Dig refuses to believe that his former comrade could do anything malicious. These wonderful moral quandaries are what truly make Arrow must see television.
During this episode, we get more insight into the strained Malcolm/Tommy relationship. I’m interested to see which side Tommy will fall on, as I could easily see him follow in his father’s footsteps as another villain at a later time. Maybe, that won’t happen and I’ll be surprised. No matter what, I have a feeling that daddy Malcolm aka the Dark Archer will become a very interesting adversary. We learn that his wife was shot and killed leading to Malcolm’s disappearance from Tommy’s life for several years (training at bad guy college perhaps?). The best villains are always the ones that mirror the hero. If Malcolm’s evil antics are the result of a thirst for personal vengeance, then the rivalry between he and Oliver will be quite interesting to see unfold.