Over the course of eight seasons and 170 episodes, The CW's Arrow gave fans a unique and engaging take on one of DC Comics' most dynamic characters: Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow. The series, which debuted in 2012, brought Oliver's story into living rooms each week and also spawned its own universe of connected shows -- the Arrowverse -- before taking its final bow in January after Oliver saved the multiverse in "Crisis on Infinite Earths".
Now that Arrow is over and now that, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, we've all been staying home and watching a lot of television, we've decided to take a look back at each season of Arrow and choose the "best" episode to create kind of an ultimate list of the best episodes of the series. As with any "best" or "worst" list, these choices are subjective, but our choices aren't entirely random. Instead, the episodes we've selected came as a product of a simple question: "what do you think the best episodes of Arrow are?" The answers ended up being a sampling across all eight seasons, offering a pretty wide-ranging look at the popular series. The only real parameter was that the episodes had to be actual episodes of Arrow, not crossover episodes that happened to feature Oliver Queen, but are actually counted in the episode count for other Arrowverse shows -- the first hour of "Crisis on Infinite Earths" for example would not count.
We also allowed for one "honorable mention" bringing the total count technically up to nine, but we think you'll understand why we chose that episode when you get that far on the list.
Want to see what we chose? Read on for our eight "best" episodes of Arrow and be sure to let us know your thoughts and choices in the comments below.
Season 1, Episode 23 "Sacrifice"
In a sense, the first season finale of Arrow truly set the tone for the series going forward, but the thing that continues to resonate from this episode all these years later is the heartbreaking death of Tommy Merlin (Collin Donnell). During the season, fans were left to wonder how Tommy would factor in Oliver's (Stephen Amell) story long term and that answer was a huge surprise. Oliver's distraught sobs over his dead best friend truly cemented the gravity of Oliver's vigilante life and also set the stage for Tommy to "return" several times over the course of Arrow, usually as some manifestation of Oliver's conscience.
Season 2, Episode 15 "The Promise"
The nearly all-flashback, island-centric episode is a real series gem as it gave fans real insight into exactly why Slade Wilson/Deathstroke (Manu Bennett) and Oliver ended up as enemies rather than brothers-in-arms. It's an episode that really made Slade one of the series' best villains while also offered a lot of really great moments for Bennett and Amell as actors -- as well as Sara Lance actor Caity Lotz.
Season 3, Episode 21 "Al Sah-him"
The episode in which Oliver "breaks bad" as it were by going full League of Assassins is another real stand-out of the series. For some fans, the episode veered a little too much into Batman territory, but that aside, getting to see sort of a "Dark Oliver" come to life while also establishing just how evil Ra's al Ghul really is. There's a lot going on in "Al Sah-Him," but it comes together beautifully making for a truly memorable episode.
Season 4, Episode 18 "Eleven-Fifty-Nine"
Love or hate the entire Damian Darhk and H.I.V.E. plot in Season 4, "Eleven-Fifty-Nine" is one that stands out due to the heart-wrenching death of Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy). Much like Tommy's death in the Season 1 finale set a distinct tone going forward, Laurel's death would continue to have major ramifications over the course of the series from that moment forward. Cassidy's performance was also a real stand-out and while some of us are still upset that this is how Earth-1 Laurel went out, we can't help but appreciate the episode just the same.
Season 5, Episode 23 "Lian Yu"
The Season 5 finale, "Lian Yu" brought an end to Adrian Chase/Prometheus' (Josh Segarra) campaign of terror and revenge against Oliver in a truly explosive and shocking way. The episode had it all: Oliver recruiting Slade Wilson, a return to the island, and a devastating cliffhanger that left the fate of most of the series' characters a huge question mark...at least until the series returned for Season 6.
Season 6, Episode 21 "Docket No. 11-19-41-73"
Oliver's trial offered a lot of interesting twists and turns, including the shocking return of Tommy Merlyn who testifies that he, not Oliver,is the Green Arrow. Of course, it's not really Tommy. It's Christopher Chance, the Human Target, a clever plot twist that is only one of the wild moments the episode has to offer. One of those twists? Human Target doesn't just impersonate Tommy in the episode. He also impersonates the judge, letting Oliver outsmart Ricardo Diaz (Kirk Acevedo).
Season 7, Episode 18, "Lost Canary"
"Lost Canary" saw the women of Arrow take center stage. As the season's flash-forwards had already teased the concept of the Canaries in 2040, seeing what largely functioned as a proto-version of that group as Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), Dinah Drake (Juliana Harkavy),and Sara Lance come together to confront Earth-2 Laurel/Black Siren as to who she really wants to be: a good guy or a bad guy. The episode is beautifully put together and beautifully acted and functioned as a major turning point for Earth-2's Laurel, something that would really come into play for the remainder of the series.
Season 8, Episode 1: "Starling City"
With "Crisis on Infinite Earths" looming, Mar Novu/The Monitor (LaMonica Garrett) sends Oliver to Earth-2 to retrieve a rare element and, in doing so, relives a version of his own return from Lian Yu so many years before. It's a different reality to be sure so the life he finds there isn't exactly the life he knew, but he gets to interact with loved ones who, on Earth-1, have long been dead -- including his mother Moira (Susanna Thompson) and Tommy. The episode was a beautiful way to begin the final season of the series, work towards "Crisis", and offer a nod back at the series' debut. In a season of stand-out episodes, "Starling City" is truly outstanding.
Honorable Mention: Season 8, Episode 8 "Green Arrow & The Canaries"
This episode gets a nod as it isn't just an episode of Arrow. It also is the backdoor pilot for the potential spin-off series Green Arrow and the Canaries. While the fate of that series remains up in the air, the episode offered a look at post-"Crisis" Star City in the future as Mia Queen (Katherine McNamara) finds herself choosing to pick up her late father's mantle to be a the new Green Arrow. The episode ended on a couple of major cliffhangers, leaving fans wanting more of Mia's story.
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