When last we saw Oliver Queen, he was beaten into unconsciousness and un-hooded by Malcolm Merlyn. Malcolm wasted no time in disrobing Oliver, stringing him up in chains and getting him wet. Oliver dreamed of how his father killed himself (and that guy on the raft minding his own business) but Malcolm tells the awakened Oliver that he misses his friend Robert. Oliver: "You'll be seeing him soon." Oliver's referring to Hell, right? Because that's where Robert is, and where Malcolm is going. Malcolm taunts Oliver, accurately pointing out the fact that they've battled twice yet despite his youth and speed, Malcolm always beats him to a quiver. Then Malcolm fully assumes the role of James Bond villain by leaving Oliver alone instead of just killing him. Oliver does the most ridiculously painful looking chain climb imaginable to free himself and then starts snapping Merlyn guard necks, just in time for Diggle to arrive with helpful exposition that Oliver has a tracker in his boot.
Meanwhile, Felicity is trying to enter Queen Consolidated and is picked up by the po-po like the perp that she is. Detective Lance references several episodes from the season of Felicity's hacking skills helping the Hood but a timely phone call from that very Hood informing Lance of the Undertaking to destroy the Glades gets Felicity off the hook. Lance now has bigger fish to fry than grilling this geeky girl. Felicity gives Lance a "The Vigilante must be a hero if he's willing to sacrifice himself to save others" speech straight from The Chloe Sullivan Diaries. Lance now has to beg his superiors for help to stop the Undertaking and naturally, his Lieutenant isn't pleased to hear Lance has been communicating with and tacitly helping the very vigilante he's supposed to be apprehending. Lance gets suspended. He's actually lucky he's in Starling City and not in The Wire's Baltimore. Lieutanant Rawls would have a field day with humiliating Lance.
With no time table of when the Undertaking will happen and not knowing where the Unidac device is, Oliver decides to check in with his ancillary cast, see how they're holding up. First up is Tommy, who's conveniently drunk in Verdant, and tells Oliver he caught him kissing Laurel the night before after Oliver told Tommy to go and fight for Laurel. Only kissing? Because Oliver did a lot more than that with her. Oliver didn't actually say that, but Tommy took a drunken swing at him anyway. Oliver clues Tommy in that his daddy is going to destroy the Glades and Tommy can't believe the cold, distant billionaire who ignored him for a decade would ever do that. Oliver heads on home to Stately Queen Manor to finally have that frank heart to heart with Moira about the Undertaking as she's packing up all her clothes to go... somewhere. Oliver finally tells Moira how Robert really died, that he shot himself (leaving out how Robert also shot that guy in the raft minding his own business.) Oliver pleads with his mother to help him stop the Undertaking right when Malcolm calls her with the new time table for the Undertaking - it's tonight! And wouldn't you know it, Laurel shows up at Stately Queen Manor to have their relationship heart to heart. That Laurel sure does get around. Oliver doesn't tell her anything about himself being the Hood or the Undertaking, just warning her to stay out of the Glades, but the impressive thing about the writing is Oliver telling her that she's the only one of his friends who isn't hiding anything, which is actually true. That's Laurel's great virtue; she's not messed up or living a secret life. Laurel Lance has always been straight up, now tell me, Oliver, are you gonna love me forever? Or am I caught in a hit and run?
Back at Merlyn Global, the Merlyns have the best dramatic scene in the episode. Tommy, who has had an incredibly hard time reconciling all the secrets he keeps learning from all his loved ones, really doesn't take this biggest doozy well: Malcolm reveals everything to his baby boy: Yes, he is going to destroy the Glades. Malcolm plays him the recording of Tommy's mom being murdered and dying on the phone. Malcolm hates everyone in the Glades so much! (He doesn't know Roy Harper, but if he did, he'd hate him, because he's from the Glades!) Malcolm also shows Tommy his secret panic room where he keeps his Dark Archer suit and weaponry, but doesn't explain the awkward details that, no, he's not the Vigilante. He's the Copycat Vigilante. It must be underscored how incredibly awesome John Barrowman is, has been all season, and especially is in this finale. He's an amazing actor and a fantastic villain, never one note, always complex and making you simultaneously feel his anguish for his loss, his hatred for his enemies but his genuine compassion for his loved ones. Tommy and I both nearly pissed our pants when Malcolm lost it: "YES! THEY DESERVE TO DIE! ALL OF THEM! THE WAY SHE DIED!" Pardon me while I change my underpants.
Back at the Arrow Cave, The Hoodies of Justice finally figured out what they already knew from several episodes ago, that the Unidac device is being hidden in the abandoned subway tunnels beneath the Glades (the symbol on the Book of the List, remember? Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle somehow didn't). Then everyone is totally stunned to watch the news from Stately Queen Manor where Moira calls a press conference to confess her complicity in the Undertaking to destroy the Glades - and she points the finger right at Malcolm Merlyn. Thea is stunned to hear all of this; she was totally in the dark. Moira tells her everything she did was to protect her loved ones. Thea: "I love Roy! He's in the Glades!" Before Moira can ask who the hell Roy is, Thea is off to save her boyfriend who dumped her last week. Malcolm, meanwhile, did not enjoy being named as a super villain on television, and Tommy even pulls a gun on him. In one of the speediest displays of police work ever, moments after Moira's press conference, a full SWAT team is busting into Malcolm Merlyn's office. Malcolm wipes them all out and lays the smack down on his son. Poor Tommy. He'll never, ever win a fight.
Team Arrow consolidates their efforts to stop the Undertaking: Diggle and Oliver will team up together to fight Malcolm since Oliver has definitively proven he can't win a straight up one on one fight. Oliver recruits Detective Lance to do the legwork of physically disarming the Unidac device while Felicity runs intel and support from the Arrow Cave. It's a hell of a plan. Best they can muster, really. And thus, the Undertaking (Batman) begins.
With the Glades in chaos from the threat of imminent destruction and the League of Shadows probably nodding with approval, Roy Harper is busy performing do goodery, stopping muggings and nearly getting himself shot to death. Luckily, Thea is there to hurl a bottle with pinpoint accuracy and saves his life. She has "wicked good aim". Foreshadowing. They steal a car to escape the Glades but the call of selfless heroism like his role model the Hood displays is too strong and Roy can't leave the Glades unless he saves every single person in trouble he sees. Thea is flummoxed at her boy toy lummox and Roy actually allows her to kiss him before sending her off.
Laurel ignored both Oliver's warnings and Moira's press conference and went to her law office to gather up files that must be important enough to risk dying in a man-made earthquake for. Hey, her friend Annie Ilonzeh is there for some reason! I thought she left the show. As that's going on, Felicity talks Detective Lance into how to disarm the Unidac device, which comes complete with a digital countdown clock as all such devices in movies and television shows do for some reason. Detective Lance somehow accelerates the countdown and totally panics. He calls Laurel and wishes his daughter a tearful goodbye; even though they're not in the scene together, it's a fine moment between them. Katie Cassidy's best dramatic moments on the show have always been opposite Paul Blackthorne and that's the case here as well. But Felicity is awesome and remotely disarms the bomb. The Glades is saved! Or is it?
Oliver (not wearing his painted mask or any guyliner at all) and Diggle arrive at Merlyn Global to find both Tommy alive and Malcolm waiting for them. They take on Malcolm together Lethal Weapon 4 style and do about as well as Riggs and Murtaugh did against Jet Li. I almost quit watching the show when Diggle is stabbed and the possibility arose Arrow would kill Dig off. But it was just a plot device to take Diggle out of the fight so that Oliver and Malcolm could have their rematch on the rooftop. It's a great fight, which includes Oliver busting out a hurricanara and Malcolm locking him up in a dragon sleeper. An injured Diggle crawls to the roof to watch the last moments of the fight as Oliver finally finds a way to beat Malcolm, by stabbing him in the heart with an arrow. How poetic. A dying Malcolm makes one final taunt about "redundancy". For a moment, I thought he was referring to Diggle not being needed anymore since Roy is "destined" to be Oliver's sidekick and somehow Diggle would be killed but no, Malcolm meant... a second Unidac machine!
Half an Undertaking is better than no Undertaking at all. Oliver and Diggle watch from the roof of Merlyn Global as the second Unidac machine destroys the East Side of the Glades... which is where Laurel's law firm is. As Oliver races there on his Arrow Cycle, Laurel is trapped in her building as it collapses. Laurel needs a hero, and Tommy arrives to save the day, somehow lifting the debris pinning Laurel down but he doesn't drop it and run out of the building after her. As Laurel gets to the safety of the street and into the arms of her father, the CNRI building collapses on top of Tommy. Oliver somehow find a back way in to find Tommy speared through the chest. Oh no, not Tommy! Tommy Merlyn is the sacrifice? (And it's for real. Colin Donnell has left the show.) Oliver tearfully says goodbye to his best friend, who did a far, far better thing than Oliver Queen has ever done. Tommy Merlyn died a hero, before he could live long enough to see himself become the villain. But what will season 2 be without the Merlyns? Losing both Merlyn men is a profound loss for Arrow.
Five years ago on the Island, a lot of action ends the season-long saga of Edward Fyers launching a missile at a Ferris airliner. Oliver manages to free himself from his bonds, frees Slade and Shado, and the three of them mount a big killing fight to stop Fyers' men. Shado and Oliver make their way to the missile launcher where Oliver manages to reprogram the guidance system to the missile just misses the airplane and changes course to destroy Fyers' base in a gigantic explosion. Luckily, Slade wasn't killed, but unfortunately, neither was Fyers, who has Shado hostage. Fyers makes one last attempt to offer Oliver a boat off the Island, but it is at this moment Oliver, fresh from murdering a lot of soldiers, finds his Arrow mojo and shoots an arrow right in Fyers' throat. And thus Oliver Queen has taken his first big step in becoming the Hood we all know and love.
A heroic, bad ass, action-packed, breakneck finale for Arrow, concluding a first season that was braver and bolder than a Green Arrow show on The CW had any expectations of being. Just a tremendous roller coaster ride with quite a few questions going into season 2. Bravo, everyone at Arrow. See you in September.
Finally, a fun DC Comics reference for the sharp-eyed during the Undertaking:
#Arrow blue themselves. Nice shout out to @dccomics' Blue Devil in the finale. @arrowwriters twitter.com/BackoftheHead/…
— John Orquiola (@BackoftheHead) May 16, 2013