Written by Jacob Chimilar (@sweetlows)
Just like Flash before it, Arrow too gets its holiday episode, and it's a much more grim affair as per usual. We start with Oliver's volunteer group working on cleaning up the Star City Bay, lots of helpers and young kids gathered together to work towards a good cause. That is unfortunately cut short thanks to a small drone sized helicopter with machine guns spraying the beach with bullets. Everyone heads for cover while Felicity uses her tablet and Diggle his gun to try and take down the drone that is terrorizing the beach. Felicity manages to get it to fall from the sky and land in the bay but not before it was able to injure a number of the volunteers.
Back at the lair Oliver tries to devise some kind of a plan and public response to the attack, clearly a work of Darhk given that he is the one who specifically told Queen not to clean up the bay. Oliver along with the rest of Team Arrow agree that now is the time to reveal Darhk and bring him into the light for all to see. During his public response he tells the reporters that Darhk is behind everything, the ghosts, HIVE and holds up a picture to the cameras, broadcasting Darhk's face to all of Star City. Darhk of course is watching as well and is none too pleased by this result, as evidence by seemingly breaking the TV with his mind. Yikes...
Oliver believe that now is the time to lay low and not do anything out in the open while they wait for Darhk to do something. Felicity on the other hand feels that their Holiday party needs to still happen and show that exactly why they outed Darhk in the first place, to prove they aren't afraid of him. It may also have something to do with the fact that her mom found Oliver's very poorly hidden ring cluing Felicity in on Oliver's plan to pop the question. Hoping to prompt that of course the party goes on as planned and it's an interesting evening to say the least. Felicity's mom and Captain Lance get all touchy feely. Felicity tries to coax Oliver into saying I do when she runs into Curtis and his boyfriend. They get to chatting and the topic of soufle comes about and reminds Felicity of the night they were having that nice dinner and Oliver was acting strangely and she, being the genius she is, put two and two together and realized that he had planned to ask her months earlier. She pulls Oliver aside and begins to ask him about it when Darhkness decends upon the party. Armed with his ghosts Damien seizes Diggle, Felicity and Thea while force pushing Oliver through a glass window knocking him out briefly unable to help.
Oliver gets everyone to leave and suits up to try and get some answers on Damien's location from the ghosts. No one is talking, and Oliver is running out of options. This is where the ever watchful Malcolm comes in. He, with the help of the league of shadows has access to Darhk's personal number and Oliver uses it to call himself into Darhk as part of an exchange. Him for his friends. Darhk accepts his surrender and takes him to his bunker where he has set up a gas chamber. A sort of testing ground for a much larger poison he hopes to release into the city. As it turns out, the allege in Star City Bay binds well with the poison gas and allows it to remain odorless making it the ultimate weapon to take out a lot of people without them realizing what's happening. Scary stuff to be sure. Dahrk gives Oliver a few moments to talk with Felicity before they make the switch and Felicity tells Oliver that despite all they have been through, and the chaos they have endured, she would marry him in a heartbeat, so when the time is right she will say yes. It's a touching moment given the circumstances.
Darhk, twisting his words does not in fact let the gang go, and instead puts them all in his gas chamber to die. Thankfully back up arrives shortly there after with Malcolm dressed as Green Arrow and Laurel come by to save the day. Using her screech, she breaks the glass to the chamber and Malcolm tries to fight Darhk on his own but is caught in a kind of force choke by Damien. Oliver manages to tackle him to the ground and Malcolm shoots a ton of explosive arrows around his body. They run for the exit and Darhk, persumably gets blown up in the explosion, but as Felicity points out, unless there is a body, he isn't dead. It's a brutal fight and genuinely intense stakes but the team makes it out to fight another day.
Finally we see Oliver's final public response to the terror from the beach attack. He along with Felicity by his side light a tree as a symbol of hope for the city and it's there that Oliver proposes to Felicity and she of course says yes. cute moment but one that feels more like a publicity stunt than genuine to me but you can't win if you don't play the game I suppose. They then immediately hop in a limo and drive away from the beach, which felt a bit awkward seeing as they didn't really say goodbye. As they are driving it is intercut with Darhk with his family putting together their own Christmas tree to the tune of little drummer boy. the limo is stopped by the ghosts and they open fire on Oliver and Felicity. The driver is shot dead and Oliver takes the wheel and drives through the Ghosts out of harms way, taking them out as he goes along. When he is in the clear, we see Oliver drag Felicity out of the car and she has clearly been shot. And that's where it ends! Now there is a whole month of waiting. Well played Arrow!
As for the flashbacks, Oliver goes diving into a shipwreck to retrieve detailed maps of the island with some helpful scuba lessons with the worker he is protecting. When he comes back from the ship however he finds the island's military men waiting for him. And that about sums it up for this week. I feel like they dialed back the flash back story so much that they are basically non existent this season. I mostly just find them a distracting time waster at this point. If I were Arrow's writers I would just have two or so dedicated flashback only episodes since they are more of a problem then a mystery worth solving, especially given how great the current time's story is.
Overall this was a great mid season ender for Arrow. I'll be honest, doing these reviews has been tough for me, life and work problems aside, there is a lot to cover every week and most times, with Arrow especially there isn't a ton of stand out work that drives me to want to talk about it, but the past few weeks have been great. This week was not as clever or festive as Flash but certainly a good piece of story telling with a good cliffhanger to leave us on and get us coming back for more.