There is no doubt: Arrow has been the best comics-based series on TV this year.
Even with all of the love we have for The Walking Dead's bold midseason finale, it's hard to top the week-in, week-out way that Arrow has put it all out there--and the fact that they've undeniably stepped up their game considerably from last year. Parts of the show that haven't been working have been successfully retooled or downplayed, while the fan-favorite stuff--and particularly the DC Universe stuff--has taken on a new importance to the series' overall narrative.
The series is a triumph of craft and love and great writing over preconceptions and budgets and pretty much everyone's expectations.
What were some of the biggest, coolest moments of the season? Well, we picked the ones that surprised or delighted us the most and put them together below...!
The season premiere ended on a heck of a cliffhanger: how the heck was Oliver going to get out of the situation he was in, surrounded by a S.W.A.T. team and trapped inside a building without much of anywhere to run?
And the next episode picked up right there--with a rescue by Black Canary. It was the first time since the shipwreck that Sara Lance and Oliver Queen had been face to face (although Ollie didn't know it yet) and she managed to bail him out in spectacular fashion, using (of all things) a device that mimicked Canary's "sonic scream" power from the comics.
The fact that they managed to make her entry into the series such a cool moment is particularly impressive given the fact that both Black Canary's first appearance, and the fact that Sara Lance was going to be Black Canary, were spoiled by producers at San Diego Comic Con International this summer.
Even with the League of Assassins being thrown into the mix this season, there was some doubt as to whether Ra's al Ghul would actually get a name-drop, let alone appear, given how recently he was used in the Dark Knight Trilogy and the sticky situation that Smallville always found itself in when trying to use Batman-related characters.
So when he was name-dropped almost immediately this season (in the third episode, "Broken Dolls"), fans were understandably jubilant, and series star Stephen Amell took to Twitter to confirm, yes:
You just heard the name you thought you heard. #Arrow
— Stephen Amell (@amellywood) October 24, 2013
Whether or not Ra's will actually appear onscreen this year or not is still an open question, but what's certain is that he's been a factor all along. How much of one? Well, we've had a few League of Assassins villains come along, and more promised for the second half of the season--and he's played a role in the stories of not only Oliver and Sara, but also Malcolm Merlyn (more on that below).
Merlyn's return would have been a huge moment regardless of when or how it happened; in the comics, he's Ollie's archenemy, and on Arrow, he blames Ollie for the death of his son--who was, of course, Oliver's best friend and the man who inspired him to become a true hero.
But they heaped surprise (I'm back!) on top of surprise (I rigged Moira's trial!) on top of surprise (Thea is my daughter!), and left everyone wondering whether even an epic, two-part midseason finale starring Barry Allen could stand up to it.
That would be Moira Queen's gamble, in "The Scientist," where she sicced Ra's al Ghul and the League of Assassins on Malcolm Merlyn.
This has the potential to shape the rest of the season, and also to really turn into a headache for Oliver and company as the year wears on. Will Malcolm or Sara be the one most in the crosshairs when Nyssa Raatko shows up in "Heir to the Demon?" And will we see one of DC's most vamous and notorious villains onscreen soon?
Everyone half-expected it not to happen here, since he has his own pilot coming up in 2014.
And those who did expect it to happen, didn't think it would be exactly the same as in the comics. The show had built up the whole particle accelerator thing to such an extent that when Barry didn't make it to the grand opening, it seemed for sure as though they were going to forego.
Instead, we got a great, cool moment that Entertainment Weekly recently praised as giving even non-comics-readers goosebumps.