ARROW: A Primer Before the Season 1 Finale

DC August 2013 solicitations
Credit: DC Comics

Wednesday marks the finale of the first season of the DC Comics inspired hour long action drama Arrow. Starring Stephan Arnell as Oliver Queen, Arrow reimagines the classic DC Comics character Green Arrow for television.

Twenty-two episodes of world building has built up to the finale, but if you are new to the show you don't have to wait until repeats or the start of season two to jump on board, we've gone ahead and picked out ten key details about the series that you need to know before watching the earth shaking climax.

No Tights, No Flights

Arrow in Action
Arrow in Action
Credit: CW

The famous, nigh-infamous, mantra that drove the development of Arrow's spiritual antecedent Smallville has an unspoken parallel in the new series. Call it ‘no goatee, no Green.’ Now while the clean shaven Oliver Queen does wear the color green, use green makeup as a mask and shoots green arrows, he is not called “Green Arrow” either by himself or by others. In fact when that name is suggested to be used to refer to the recently arrived vigilante who is shooting people with green arrows, it is with a laugh by the detectives charged with his arrest.

Instead, Oliver’s nocturnal anti-heroic guise is referred to in several different ways including The Starling City Vigilante, The Hooded Vigilante or just The Hood, a name that Oliver has recently used to refer to himself.

It should also be noted that this is not a PG rated hero. Unlike earnest farm boy Clark Kent, this hero in the making follows the darkest interpretations of his comic book identity. The Hood, at least at first, had no compulsion against using deadly force in pursuit of justice, and has only recently begun to soften that stance after encountering deadly copycats and the repercussions of his own lethal actions. This slight turn towards maybe almost not killing every bad guy he crosses still won’t win him any medals from the police, who credit him with at least 26 murders.

The Black Canary?

Laurel Lance in ARROW
Laurel Lance in ARROW
Credit: CW

The tumultuous relationship between Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance was renewed in Arrow, but this time it began long before ether engaged in superheroics as Green Arrow and Black Canary. Here Dinah Lance is Dinah Laurel Lance, named for her mother just like in the comics but going by Laurel. She is the daughter of a police officer, portrayed by Paul Blackthorne as series regular Detective Quentin Lance.

Not an extra-legal crimefighter just yet, Laurel Lance is a lawyer in a legal aid clinic. She is, thanks to her father, adept at basic detective work, hand to hand combat and firearms. Though she is yet to be able to shatter steel with the sound of her voice, an indecent where she wore fishnet stockings on Halloween is still used to tease her and her typically staid demeanor.

Oliver and Laurel have recently recommitted to each other as Oliver feels the end of his mission approaching, though the events of the finale might change everything.

Merlyns' Darkness

Merlyn the Dark Archer on ARROW
Merlyn the Dark Archer on ARROW
Credit: CW

When Oliver’s childhood friend was introduced to the audience as Tommy Merlyn, those viewers familiar with the Green Arrow legendarium shook their heads in sad realization. Not because the poor lad was saddled with a bizarre last name, but instead that name is closely associated with Green Arrow’s primary villain and archer rival, Merlyn.

The fear that best friends would become deadly enemies was lessened somewhat with the reveal that Tommy’s father, the heartless Malcolm Merlyn (portrayed by genre legend-in-the-making John Barrowman) was not only this season’s ‘Big Bad,’ but is also his own attack dog, The Dark Archer, an archer and combatant who has bested Oliver on two separate occasions.

However, the friendship between Oliver and Tommy was perhaps permanently strained after Oliver was forced to reveal himself as The Hood and the collapse of the Oliver/Laurel/Tommy love triangle that literally left Tommy out in the cold. It’s likely that the villainous Merlyn name could be passed down from father to son if Oliver is able to stop the elder Merlyn’s master plan.

A Tale of Two Speedys

Thea "Speedy" Queen
Thea "Speedy" Queen
Credit: CW

Though Oliver typically prefers to handing things ‘in the field’ on his own, a pair of characters seem primed to take the role of the comic book Green Arrow’s original sidekick, Speedy.

The first of which is Oliver’s own little sister, Thea Dearden Queen. Nicknamed “Speedy” in her childhood after the way she’d run after her older brother Oliver everywhere she went, Thea’s middle name is also the last name of the second heroic comic book Speedy, Mia Dearden. Also, like the original comic book Speedy, Thea is/was a recovering drug addict having picked up the habit on the rich/bored party girl circuit.

Late in the first season however, a new character, Roy Harper Jr. was introduced. A typical kid from the wrong side of the tracks, Roy shares the name of the original Speedy (and in Smallville fashion is typically seen wearing that character’s colors of red and yellow casually). After an unusual meet-cute where the parkour adept Roy snatches then gives back Thea’s purse, Roy is saved from certain death by The Hood. Roy then quests to meet the hero again, hoping to learn from him how to better protect himself and to make amends for some mysterious event in his past.

Recently the new couple has decided to search for The Hood, a hunt that is coming dangerously close to fruition.

The Undertaking

The Undertaking
The Undertaking
Credit: CW

After their ship went down (revealed to be at the bequest of Malcolm Merlyn), Oliver’s father bequeathed his son a list of names in a small book, and made Oliver promise him that he’d do whatever he could to correct his father’s mistakes. As Oliver returned to Starling City and began picking off the people on the list (revealed to be mostly a collection of underworld figures and corrupt corporate types), a picture of a larger plot emerged.

Called “The Undertaking,” it began as a gathering of a handful of wealthy figures in Starling City, including the elder Queen and Merlyn, who had all experienced some personal tragedy related to a crime ridden neighborhood in the city known as The Glades. Their noble efforts at revitalization eventually became corrupted as Malcolm Merlyn sought to destroy the entire area out of revenge and greed using an artificial natural disaster as cover.

The development of this ‘earthquake device’ took years and at long last it’s ready to be deployed just in time for Oliver to realize that this is what his father sacrificed his life to try and stop. The question is now can Oliver and his allies stop the device and take down Malcolm Merlyn in time?

He's Not A Sidekick

John Diggle on ARROW
John Diggle on ARROW
Credit: CW

No man is an island, especially Oliver once he is rescued from that island. Rather than have the show's grim hero talk to himself all the time, the bodyguard hired by Oliver's mother to protect him, ex-Special Forces solider John Diggle, joined Oliver on his mission in part to help his city and in part to get a little payback of his own.

John's brother Andy (yes, Andy “Green Arrow: Year One” Diggle) was murdered while on his own body-guarding assignment by an assassin named Floyd Lawton, AKA Deadshot, leaving behind a wife and son. John sees in Oliver a chance to get revenge, and even though their separate missions have driven Oliver and Diggle apart, they are committed to working together at least to save the city from Malcolm Merlyn's plot.

A capable fighter in his own right, Oliver trusted Diggle to go and destroy the earthquake device in its hiding place, but the heroes were deceived and now Diggle is stuck in the potential epicenter of the disaster.

”Who is Felicity Smoak?”

Felicity Smoak
Felicity Smoak
Credit: CW

Really, who is Felicity Smoak? A bona fide breakout character in the first season of Arrow, Felicity Smoak (originally a supporting character from the DC Comic Firestorm) was an awkward but talented employee of Queen Consolidated who though a combination of intelligence, loyalty and ability to see though the kind of BS excuses that have been snowing civilian characters in comic books for 70 years, became a key part of Oliver's small team.

Fulfilling the modern storytelling necessity for there to be a 'computer hacker' character in these kinds of shows, Felicity's charming awkwardness and apparent unawareness of her sheer beauty has broken the mold, endeared her to the show's audience and earned her a full time role in season two.

While her information gathering talents are Oracle-like, just as Merlyn's psychical skills have bested Oliver, the villain’s own technical team was too much for Felicity to overcome without exposing herself not only to Merlyn, but to the police. To wit Detective Lance asks what might be the first question that leads him to The Hood, ”Who is Felicity Smoak?”

Welcome to Star(ling) City

Starline City in ARROW
Starline City in ARROW
Credit: CW

While you won't find Starling City in any DC Comics encyclopedia, as it takes the place of slightly less realistic sounding Star City, the home of the comic book Green Arrow. You will though find a lot, A LOT of people, places and things in this city to remind you that you are in a comic book inspired world.

For instance you can visit the Winick Building (at the corner of O'Neil and Adams), eat lunch at the Big Belly Burger, visit your defense lawyer at the firm of Wolfman and Perez before you face the wrath of DA Kate Spencer and get sent to Iron Heights Prison, though you could always hire private military contractors The Blackhawk Squadron to break you out.

Continuing the theme, you could then flee the city and hide out in other cities mentioned in Arrow like Bludhaven, Central City or even to the other side of the world in the Middle Eastern nation of Bialya.

Bring On The Bad Guys

Deadshot in ARROW
Deadshot in ARROW
Credit: CW

While Malcolm Merlyn is the “Big Bad,” the world of Arrow is filled with new interpretations of rogues from all over the DC Universe. The assassin Deadshot 'earned' his trademark eyepiece in battle with Oliver Queen, though this version isn't the cynical hit man that comics fans would recognize, but a strung out psycho who tattoos the names of his victims on his body and guarantees kills by dipping his bullets in poison. Heroin smuggling is the least of this show's version of China White's crimes, as she has risen to the top of the Triads in Starling City. On Arrow, Count Vertigo isn't royalty, he's a homicidal drug dealer who calls himself The Count and until Oliver stopped him sold a dangerous drug of his own creation called Vertigo.

This universe's Huntress is still mobster's daughter Helena Bertinelli, but she's after the head of her own father who killed her fiancé over her efforts to turn state's evidence against him and who now uses the training ex-boyfriend Oliver Queen gave her to go on a rampage.

The most sinister villain is closest to home, as the final episode before the finale reveals to Oliver that his own mother has been involved in The Undertaking almost from the beginning, up to and including her complicity in her own second husband's kidnapping and various attempted murders during the season, all in name of keeping her family safe from Malcolm Merlyn.

This isn't The Island from LOST. Really.

Throughout the season viewers flashback with Oliver to the first year he spent as a castaway on an island off the coast of China called Lian Yu, translated as Purgatory. After almost starving to death, the shipwrecked young billionaire heir is rescued by the mysterious Yao Fei. As the season goes on Oliver crosses paths with mercenary commander Edward Fyers, Australian Special Forces soldiers Bill Wintergreen and Slade Wilson and Yao Fei's daughter Shado.

Oliver learned quickly how to survive on the island and had many narrow, educational escapes as he avoided Fyers and his troops while trying to escape back home. Eventually Oliver, Slade and Shado committed themselves to saving Yao Fei (an exiled General of the Chinese Army) from Fyers and to stop the latter's plot to shoot down passenger jets in order to tank the Chinese economy for a stock shorting scam. Though it takes place a little over four years in the past, Oliver has only a couple of minutes to use the lessons he's learned stop Fyers' attack and save Slade and Shado.

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