Arrow Episode 1.23 Review
I thought I would be angrier when I wrote this. I’ve made no secret of how much I love Tommy throughout the season, so I thought when he died at the end of the season finale, I would be overcome with rage and grief, that this review would be peppered with obscenities and rambling diatribes on the new level of suck this show has discovered. Instead, all I could think to write is this:
Thank you for letting him be the hero.
Last week, I wrote about what it means to make a sacrifice, to be a hero. Tonight, we saw so many people making sacrifices and emerging as heroes. Of course, none of those were Oliver Queen (side note: I’m not going to be talking much about him but … seriously? The bump and ditch? Doesn’t Laurel at least deserve a morning after phone call?). Moira gave her freedom in hopes of saving the city. Thea risked her life to save Roy. Detective Lance sacrificed his job and risked his own life to save the people he was sworn to protect. And, one put his life on the line so his brother wouldn’t have to go into the battle zone alone.
Tonight’s review is going to focus on the night’s biggest hero, though, who of course is Tommy.
We saw so many colors for him tonight. The drunk schlub trying to take a swing at the best friend who took his girl. The naïve son opening his eyes to the monster his father has become. The lover willing to give his life to save the person he loves, even though she doesn’t love him. And, finally, the friend who gives the most selfless gift to a selfish man … forgiveness.
I’ll admit, in those opening scenes, I was glad Tommy called out Oliver on encouraging him to make things right with Laurel, only to turn around and hook up with her. I didn’t like that he was doing it while drunk and figured this was just more of the same … loser Tommy and hero Oliver. The symbolism of Tommy on the floor while Oliver looked down on him was not lost on me.
Moving into the scene where Malcolm admitted what he was up to, I felt this was a turning point for Tommy. We were either going to see him join Team Evil or Team Bad Excuse For A Hero. For a second, as he listened to his mother’s final moments on Malcolm’s voice mail, I didn’t think I would blame him if he did join Team Evil. But, when the police came for Malcolm, Tommy tried to stop him. He failed, of course, because Tommy’s not the kind to be able to pull the trigger on his own father. Malcolm got away
Then, came the big finish. Even though he knew he wasn’t the one Laurel wanted, as the Glades crumbled thanks to his father, he risked life and limb to save Laurel’s life. Unfortunately, he was unable to escape the subsequent blast and died…on the ground with Oliver looking down upon him. Oliver told him that it should be him dying, not Tommy and, while I agree, I’m glad this happened.
As four seasons of being an unwavering Damon Salvatore fan from The Vampire Diaries, I have spent more than my fair share on the losing side of The Triangle. Year after year, I’ve watched as the “good” guy gets the girl (and am fully expecting it to happen again tomorrow night), while the “bad” guy gets a few crumbs here and there before sneezing wrong and getting an epic smackdown for not sneezing like the Holy One does. And, I was totally prepared for Tommy to pick up the mantle for Arrow.
I’ve been saying for weeks I expected Malcolm to die and for the character assassination of Tommy to continue. But, I’m thankful that isn’t the case. Am I devastated by Tommy’s death? Absolutely. But, if he absolutely had to go out, I’m glad he did it like this. He went out a hero. He did more in five minutes than Oliver has done in twenty-plus episodes. Bonus? He didn’t need any crappy flashbacks to a boring island to get him there. Tommy was always good.
I know readers are probably expecting more from this review than a love letter to Tommy. And, I know so much happened that deserves commentary. But, I cannot help thinking Tommy’s sacrifice sums up the argument I’ve been making all along. One doesn’t need a book of names or a hood or mad archery skills to be a hero. One only needs heart and the willingness to sacrifice everything he is for someone else – or a city of someone else’s. That was Tommy Merlyn.
I’m not going to expect Oliver to grow from this. I’m surprised Laurel even cared. But, killing Tommy in a strange way was almost liberating. By taking away the one thing I truly cared about, I’m able to go into season two with less investment than I would have had Tommy lived. Sure, I’m still Team Malcolm, because Barrowman is a charismatic actor and I want to see him sink his teeth into the realization avenging his wife cost him his son. For now, I’m trying to see the silver lining in the heavy, gray cloud hanging over Starling City tonight.
In closing, I again thank the writers for not being Julie Plec, for allowing the guy to not get the girl but not be a total loser, either. That said, I’m fully expecting the next midseason finale to close on the image of Malcolm standing over the cryogenically frozen corpse of his son as Tommy Popsicle’s eyes pop open. Don’t make that face…y’all know that’s probably coming.