by Ryan Rigley
Just in time for the holiday season, last night's episode of "Arrow" saw Oliver and his family celebrating Christmas for the first time in five years. However, as you can imagine, Christmas time in Starling City doesn't come without it's fair share of homicide. "Year's End" also introduces a key antagonist into the "Arrow" universe: a rival archer with skills comparable to that of our beloved hooded vigilante.
We open on a frantic Adam Hunt, one of the men that Oliver has already crossed off of his dead father's list, as he's shot dead in his apartment by a masked copycat archer with black arrows. Meanwhile, back at the Arrowcave, Oliver trains with Diggle eventually coming to the realization that it's almost Christmas. Being stranded on an island for the past five years, Oliver hasn't had the luxury of holiday festivities. Until now.
Returning to flashback form, Oliver reminisces about being trapped in a cave on the island for an unspecified amount of time. Suddenly, the mysterious bearded Asian man (Yao-Fei) returns with the man who tortured Oliver in a flashback a few episodes back. Tossing him to the ground, the Asian man informs Oliver that the man has an airplane and that they can get off of the island. But first, Oliver must kill him.
At the Queen residence, Oliver comes home to find that Walter and Moira are hosting a dinner party occupied by Starling City's most illustrious men and women; including the police commissioner and Malcom Merlyn, a.k.a. the evil Well Dressed Man. Confronting Oliver about the hooded vigilante, Malcolm takes to calling him the Green Arrow. Oliver, however, despises this new nickname.
After discussing Christmas (or the lack thereof) with Thea, Oliver calls a family meeting and announces that he will be throwing the first Queen Christmas party since his apparent death. In return, Walter calls Oliver a good man subsequently causing Oliver to have another flashback to the island. This time, we learn that the island used to be a penitentiary operated by the Chinese military and that the only two surviving inmates are Yao-Fei and Deathstroke.
Malcolm pays Moira a visit, informing her that Walter knows too much. Moira insists that she'll take care of it, even though she loves Walter and would never hurt him on purpose. Later, another one of Oliver's previous targets is shot dead in the street by the copycat archer. Refusing to believe or acknowledge that the vigilante is responsible, Detective Lance is taken off of the case.
Using an untraceable number and cellphone, Oliver calls Lance asking for his help obtaining evidence in order to figure out the identity of the copycat. Lance finally gives in, telling him the location of the latest crime scene. Oliver then takes one of the copycat's custom black arrows to Ms. Felicity Smoke over at Queen Consolidated, who helps him figure out exactly where it was made. Suiting up, Oliver goes to check out the location only to be trapped in an exploding warehouse.
Narrowly escaping, Oliver greets his family and friends as the host of the Queen Christmas party. Tommy and Laurel show up together, forcing the three of them to awkwardly make small talk with one another. Soon, Oliver is interrupted by Diggle who calls to inform him that the copycat has taken hostages. Feeling responsible, Oliver suits up once again and sets out to stop the copycat once and for all.
Breaking through the glass ceiling, Oliver is quick to untie all three of the hostages and guides them to freedom before coming face to face with the copycat. The two archers proceed to have an epic showdown, with Oliver almost dying at the hands of the unknown assailant. However, he manages to escape by jumping out of a nearby window and calling Diggle before blacking out.
Oliver wakes to find that he is surrounded by Diggle and his family, whom Diggle has told that Oliver was in a motorcycle accident. On the other side of town, the copycat archer is revealed to be none other than Malcolm Merlyn. Fed up with Walter's budding curiosity, Malcolm has him sedated and kidnapped much to the dismay of his wife Moira. Staring out of the hospital window, Oliver vows to find the copycat archer and stop him no matter what the cost.
Let me just say that as a fan of the comic books, I'm very glad that Merlyn has finally debuted on the show. The Well Dressed Man has been a recurring antagonist since the beginning of this season, but it wasn't until last night's episode that the full scope of his depravity was made apparent.
In the comics, Merlyn is a highly-skilled archer turned assassin that actually inspired Oliver to take up archery in the first place. Obviously, "Arrow" switches things up a great deal with Merlyn's character but I, for one, think that these changes have really paid off. We're finally starting to piece together how evil Malcolm Merlyn truly is, and my suspicion is that we haven't even seen the half of it.