With the (somewhat) recent announcement of Arrow’s conclusion in the Fall, I thought it might be fun to look back on the show’s legacy. While it has had its highs and its (very low) lows, Arrow has left a strong mark on me. It is the first show I will have ever watched from its conception until its ending, and while I was not always happy with the decisions the writers’ made, I can genuinely say that Arrow has brought me tons of joy over the last seven years.
With that, I hope you will enjoy my list detailing what I think are the best of the best when it comes to the CW’s favourite edgy, brooding man in a green hood.
Season 5, Episode 8
Invasion! was a landmark episode in more than a single way. Firstly, it was the second episode in the Invasion! crossover event that featured Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow teaming up for the very first time against a common foe. Secondly, it also served as the 100th episode of Arrow, and as such, was meant to be a sort of “chronicle” episode of all that encompassed Arrow up until that point. It is important to note that, at the time of this episode, Arrow had just come off of two seasons that were generally received negatively by the fanbase, mostly due to the fact that it began to tread away from the original formula and tone that the show had in its earlier seasons. This episode’s success was mostly due to the fact that it was a “homecoming” for the show, in the way that it retreaded many familiar beats from the earlier seasons. Especially after the show had (shockingly) killed off legacy character Laurel Lance in the previous season, fans were happy to see the Oliver/Laurel romance explored one final time, and were reminded of the potential that this show could have had, should the writers had continued with their original vision for the show.
Season 7, Episode 12
Emerald Archer also deserves an honorable mention for very similar reasons as Invasion! Just like Invasion!, this episode served as a landmark 150th episode for Arrow, and also aimed to serve as a sort of reminder of how far the show had come. Rather than returning to the roots of the show as Invasion! had, Emerald Archer featured a documentary-esque narrative style in order to serve as a sort of “museum” of all things Arrow. It featured a variety of callbacks and cameos (including recently-departed series regulars Paul Blackthorne and Willa Holland), as well as a storyline that did its best to connect the past to the present (and to the future).
Season 7, Episode 13
Star City Slayer
Building off the momentum of the previous episode Emerald Archer, this episode was perhaps the best portrayal of the “one-off” villain that Arrow has done in its entire run. As many Arrow viewers may know, the show is notorious for introducing villains who are only ever seen once, and then are easily forgotten. However, under the new leadership of Beth Schwartz, Arrow tried something very different in its penultimate season. During the first eight episodes of Season 7 (often referred to as the Prison Arc), Oliver was locked up in Slabside Penitentiary after revealing his identity to Star City. During this time, he formed an uneasy alliance with his cellmate Stanley, who at the time, seemed to have very little significance. Little did we know, Stanley was actually Stanley Dover, known in the comics as the Star City Slayer. But rather than use this buildup to create some over-the-top villain bent on destroying Star City over the course of a multi-episode arc, Arrow built this character for one purpose: to have one really good episode. Brendan Fletcher shines in his performance as the obsessively-insane Stanley Dover in an episode that caused permanent damage on the characters in the show, including forcing Oliver’s son William into his grandparents’ custody, and permanently silencing Dinah’s canary cry. Taking the style of a classic hack-and-slash film, Star City Slayer shined as one of Arrow’s strongest standalone episodes to date.
Season 1, Episode 14
The Odyssey was the first time that Arrow did something unconventional with its storytelling. In this episode, Oliver is badly wounded after being shot by his own mother, and during the frantic attempts of Diggle and Felicity to save his life, Oliver dazes in-and-out of memories from his first year on the island. As such, this is the first time that the show featured a flashback-centric episode, and it was one hell of an episode. It featured Oliver and Slade Wilson’s first real mission together, and shed light on many of the mysteries of the flashback storyline. It also served as the first introduction to the character of Shado, who would go on to play a significant role in the flashback storyline for the remainder of the season, as well as the first official induction of Felicity Smoak into Team Arrow.
Season 5, Episode 9
What We Leave Behind
What We Leave Behind serves as a very important episode in Arrow’s history, both because of what happened in the episode, and when this episode occurred in the timeline of the show’s quality. To give some context, Arrow had just struggled with two negatively-received seasons with underwhelming antagonists that failed to challenge Oliver in a way that the audience could become emotionally-invested with. Season 5 had started out somewhat decent, but viewers were still somewhat doubtful of whether or not Prometheus was going to be an interesting villain or not. In this episode, the show proved that it had reclaimed its flare when Prometheus manipulates Oliver into murdering Detective Malone, Felicity’s (at-the-time) boyfriend. In addition, this episode finished with the cliffhanger that Laurel Lance was somehow back from the dead, which at the time, was extremely exciting for fans who were still upset about Arrow’s decision to kill off the character. Of course, we would later find out that this was not the same Laurel we were accustomed to, but either way, the initial shock of the reveal was enough to make most viewers say “Wow!” at this episode’s conclusion.
Season 6, Episode 18
Speaking of Prometheus, his success as an Arrow antagonist is largely what made this next episode such a memorable one. Taking a page out of Batman: Arkham Knight, Arrow decided to have an episode where Oliver, under the influence of a hallucinogen drug, is haunted by his greatest nemesis. This entire episode serves as a psychological look into the mind of Oliver Queen, commentated by Adrian Chase. Just as Invasion! and Emerald Archer were museums of the positive parts of Oliver’s lifetime as the Green Arrow, Fundamentals was a reminder of all of Oliver’s failures throughout the years, including his inability to save his family and friends.
Season 1, Episode 23
Sacrifice is perhaps one of the most defining episodes of Arrow’s seven (soon-to-be-eight) season run. Serving as the finale to the first season, this episode saw Oliver finally face off against the man responsible for his father’s death and his five years trapped on Lian Yu: Malcolm Merlyn. Unlike in later seasons where Oliver disposes of main antagonists like flies, Oliver had to give everything he had in order to take down Merlyn, and the ramifications of this episode have left tremors that have impacted the show even to this day. In the fallout of his inability to stop Merlyn in time, Oliver’s best friend Tommy was killed rescuing Laurel Lance. Tommy’s sacrifice would serve as the motivation for Oliver to begin his journey as a true hero, and the weight of this loss would affect Oliver’s character even now. In fact, the most recent episode of Arrow called Living Proof featured Oliver having a hallucination of Tommy, trying to remind him to stay true to the hero he has become. Even seven years later, Tommy’s death is still affecting our hero in significant ways, and it will forever burden him as his greatest failure as the Green Arrow.
Season 5, Episode 17
The Odyssey was Arrow’s first attempt at a flashback-centric episode, and it did a damn good job. Kapiushon was the perfection of this storytelling style, splicing a compelling and psychological present-day plot with relevant flashbacks that truly highlighted Oliver’s descent into darkness. In his attempt to break Oliver, Adrian Chase takes him hostage and begins to torture him. During this time, the viewers are shown exactly how Oliver descended into darkness and became The Hood, the persona that brutally murdered Chase’s father and ultimately created Prometheus. Chase’s goal during this episode is for Oliver to admit that he is nothing more than a serial killer playing hero, and by the time that Oliver’s journey through Russia is shown to the viewer, Chase has achieved his goal in making our hero (and the viewers) question his intentions as the Green Arrow. This episode broke Oliver in ways that no other antagonist could, and ultimately cemented Adrian Chase as Oliver’s darkest, most psychologically intimidating antagonist to date.
Season 2, Episode 20
Just like with Sacrifice, this episode featured one of the most defining moments of Arrow’s history, and perhaps its most shocking and tragically poetic scene. Seeing Red was mostly about Roy Harper’s Mirakuru-driven rampage around Starling City, and while this episode featured some great character development between Oliver and Roy, the main plot was ultimately somewhat forgettable, which is the reason why this episode did not break the Top 3. However, the final ten minutes of this episode are quite possibly the greatest ten minutes of Arrow’s run. Moira Queen, who has been struggling with whether or not to tell Oliver and Thea about the true fate of Malcolm Merlyn, finally decides to disclose this information to her children during a limousine ride back to Queen Manor. However, just before she can, the limousine is attacked by Slade Wilson, and Oliver wakes up to his mother and sister bound and screaming for his help. Just as Oliver had to choose between Sara and Shado during his time on the island, Slade forces Oliver to make a choice between his sister and his mother. The episode ends with the execution of Moira Queen, in what is Arrow’s single best scene to date.
Season 3, Episode 9
For many, The Climb is considered to be the last amazing episode of Arrow before it began to tread away from its original vision. As such, many consider it to be the true ending to the original Arrow arc. From a purely narrative standpoint, this episode is the buildup of multiple seasons worth of storylines and character development. For nearly a season, the League of Assassins has been hunting Arrow’s original main antagonist, Malcolm Merlyn, for his betrayal of their code of honour when he tried to destroy Starling City in Season 1. In order to protect himself from the Demon’s wrath and draw Oliver into the conflict, Merlyn had been working behind the scenes for the last two seasons in order to get close to Thea, and manipulate her into becoming a target of Ra’s al Ghul. In this episode, we learn that the murder of Sara Lance was done by a drugged Thea Queen, orchestrated by Malcolm Merlyn in order to use her as leverage for Oliver to protect him from the League of Assassins. In order to protect his sister, Oliver challenges Ra’s al Ghul to a duel. Despite everything he has done to protect his city, his friends and his family, Oliver ultimately meets his match when Ra’s stabs him through the chest, and pushes him off the mountain, ending the midseason with the shocking cliffhanger of Oliver’s death. What came after this episode would be the beginning of the downfall of Arrow, but if viewed simply for as it was, The Climb was the culmination of the first two and a half years of Arrow into an explosive and tragic climax.
Season 5, Episode 23
Similarly to The Climb, the finale of Season 5 served as an explosive climax to Arrow’s story up until this date. However, it did so in a much more extravagant way, that was fuelled by character motivations that felt more personal to the cast of characters featured in the episode. In his attempt to take away everything that Oliver holds dear, Adrian Chase kidnaps all of Oliver’s friends and family and imprisons them on Lian Yu. By his side, Chase has Talia al Ghul and Black Siren. In order to face this formidable group of foes, Oliver must ally himself with some of the most deadly people he has met over the course of the show, including the deadly Nyssa al Ghul, and villains Malcolm Merlyn and Slade Wilson. This served as the culmination, climax and conclusion to a variety of storylines, including the Oliver/Slade relationship, the League of Assassins storyline, the Malcolm/Thea relationship, and the flashback storyline. Just like with The Climb, this episode held nothing back, and ended with Chase killing himself in order to set off a series of bombs that (seemingly) killed all of Oliver’s friends, family members and allies. Unfortunately, this episode also shared another similarity with The Climb, which was that the follow-up did not pay-off as much as the setup. But either way, this was a truly unbelievable way for Arrow to conclude arguably one of its best seasons to date.
Season 2, Episode 9
And finally, at the very height of its run, comes the Season 2 episode Three Ghosts. Three Ghosts served as the midseason finale for Season 2, and featured heavily compelling storylines in both the present day and the flashbacks. In the present day, the conflict with Brother Blood began to hit a boiling point, with Oliver getting closer to his latest enemy than ever before, but not before Blood could deal the serious blow of injecting Roy Harper with the Mirakuru serum, a plot point that would affect Roy’s character for the remainder of his time on the show. Oliver was also visited by three ghosts, those of Tommy, Shado, and Slade Wilson, who were there to remind Oliver of his failures ever since he stepped foot on Lian Yu. Spliced with this story was perhaps the most important moment of the flashbacks: the moment where Oliver had to choose between Sara and Shado. This choice would serve as the basis for the most emotionally compelling conflict in the series: the one between Oliver Queen and Slade Wilson. And the show made the impact of this choice very clear when it finished with a final shot of Brother Blood answering to his true master, and the true antagonist of the season, Oliver’s former mentor, ally and friend: Slade Wilson.
I hope that you enjoyed this article. For more comic-related content, check out some of our other articles.