Remember how the Grinch attempted to screw Christmas up but ended up making it right in the end? Ollie does the opposite, attempting to make Christmas right for the Queen family, and inadvertently ruining everything for everyone. Now that's the Ollie I know from the comics!
I didn't think you'd do it, Arrow. I didn't think you'd have the guts to have a Christmas special. But doggone it, with "Year's End" you did, and I'm hanging the tinsel out of reach of the cat right now to celebrate. Having a blue Christmas in a sweaty blue shirt is Adam Hunt, one of the billionaire crooks that Ollie took down in the first few episodes. For a second I didn't recognize him. I just thought of him as a walking corpse, since he's doing the equivalent dyeing his hair blonde and having drug-fueled sex with his boyfriend at Camp Crystal Lake. Sure enough, five lines in and he is shot by a mysterious archer using black arrows.
We also get a quick flashback to Ollie still languishing in the cave when the Archer somehow peels back the rock at the entrance and comes in with food and water. Ollie tries to open the container of water but when Eddie Fyers is dumped next to him, with an arrow in his chest but alive, Ollie realizes that what he really thirsts for is . . . revenge! The Archer stops him from killing Fyers by saying that Fyers has a plane that will get Ollie home.
The show sends tidings of comfort and joy to everyone by putting Ollie and Dig in tank tops and having them spar. Dig appears to be getting better, but Ollie still heartlessly thwacks him on the arm before getting misty-eyed about the abundance of Christmas trees at the Queen's annual Christmas party. "The whole mansion smelled like Christmas," he says. Ollie, you're a WASP, and WASP Christmas smells like alcohol-heavy eggnog and viciously repressed tears.
Ollie comes home to find a subdued, undecorated dinner party where rich people make cracks about the Democrat's taxation plans. There. That's more WASPy. Conversation turns to talk of the vigilante. Oliver says he needs a better name than "The Hood," and suddenly there is Barrowman! Run, Ollie! He's eating right in front of you! And his eyes seem to be piercing lasers of pure malevolence! Barrowman smoothly suggests, "The Green Arrow," which Ollie dismisses as "lame."
Walter gets a call from Felicity, and is none too pleased about having to leave his guests to answer the phone. She recaps about the book and its "subsonic ultraviolet ink," and how he should find it important. Walter doesn't seem to be too impressed, and neither am I. It is, after all, not that rare to find ink that goes below the speed of sound. I mean, "subsonic ink"? Seriously? What does that even mean? Fortunately, Felicity does provide information that one of the names on the list is Doug Miller, the head of applied sciences for Queen Consolidated.
Meanwhile, Ollie gets a call from Dig about the copycat archer. Moira is left looking very angry at a denuded table, but if you ask me, she should have learned her lesson about inviting Oliver to dinner parties ever since that first one, when he kind of asked her and Walter about the extent of their sex life. If that's not a hint to send him to Chuck-E-Cheese, Moira, I don't know what is. Dig and Ollie consult on the Hunt murder, and realize that a "legitimate archer" did the shooting. They need one of the arrows found on the scene to track him. Who do they reach out to but Quentin Lance, via a cell phone delivered to him by courier. Ollie tries to entice him, saying, "I can do things that police can't. Go places they won't." Which I didn't realize until my second proofing of this post could be a heavy double entendre. Quentin doesn't seem tempted. Let's hope a corrupt and inefficient system doesn't make him go rogue by the end of this episode!
Walter starts the next day with a scene in which he shows himself to be both impressive and staggeringly stupid. He calls Doug Miller into his office, and, as a "friend," warns him that the Hood may be coming for him. (Looks like that Green Arrow thing didn't stick.) When Miller protests that the Hood only goes after white collar criminals Walter says, agreeably, that he hopes that the vigilante won't expand his repertoire. It's impressive because at no point does Walter say anything unpleasant, and he doesn't even tip his hand when it comes to his tone or his gestures, but he quite clearly is threatening the guy. Unfortunately, the impressiveness is overshadowed by stupidity. Walter, you married Bluebeard! And when you grabbed that key and went straight for the secret room, and she let you off with a warning and a freaking cuddle. There a many things you can do when that happens, and you are choosing to go back into the secret room and make snow-angels in the blood of her past husbands! No, Walter, no. Read your Brothers Grimm and get some sense.
Ollie is bellyaching with Thea at the burger restaurant about the lack of Christmas party. Thea seems not particularly pleased at the idea of reinstating Christmas. She says they didn't have Christmas after Ollie and his dad disappeared, and after that, they got out of the habit. She fails to add, "And we're billionaires. We can have whatever we want, whenever we want it. Celebrating Christmas just means delaying getting what we want in order to honor a dude who says we're no more likely to get into heaven than a camel is to fit through the eye of a needle." She perks up a little, though, when a young guy named Shane walks in and says hi to her. Shane then makes a crack about the food to Ollie. Ollie, as we've seen, has just barely reconciled himself to the fact that his mother is having sex. While not varying his expression or tone by much, he does everything but grab a staff, slam it down in front of Shane, and scream, "You shall not paaaaaaaasssss!"
Instead he goes home and announces that he is going to throw a Christmas party again, and it'll be super fun and just like old times! No one has to do anything except bring the Christmas cheer. He adds, "And, Thea, remember that this celebration is all about a virgin birth. I'm just saying. No need to rush into anything." Walter warmly says that Ollie is a good man.
This makes Ollie flash back to the island, as he and the Archer are marching Eddie Fyers through the underbrush. Eddie says, "You're a good man. . . . I saw it when my man was torturing you," and I laugh so hard I fall off the couch. Smooth, Eddie. Smooth. He then tries to persuade Ollie that the torture was necessary. The island was once a Chinese prison for the most unstoppable inmates. When the government shut it down, Fyers and his team came in to "dispose of" all the people. He killed all but two. One is the Archer. The other was Deathstroke. Nothing about that speech makes Fyers look remotely non-evil, so I'm not surprised that Ollie isn't convinced to let Fyers go.
The Black Arrow kills another lister - this time one who returned his embezzled money after Ollie first threatened him and thus didn't merit an episode. Quentin checks it out and is pressured by his supervisor to not reveal there are now two killers. He refuses to say that the Hood and the Black Arrow are the same guy and he's off the case! He immediately calls Ollie and says he'll leave an arrow from the crime scene inside a heating vent at the intersection of "O'Neil and Adams." This is, I believe, not only a shout out to those two great comics writers, but a reference to an identically named intersection in the short-lived CW series, Birds of Prey. That's right. I know that one. I may vent snark like I'm having it pumped from my system to prevent a fatal overdose, but I dig deep for these recaps, people.
Ollie trots into Felicity's office with the saddest lie ever. His buddy, "Steve," likes these arrows and Ollie would like to buy some for him. Would Felicity trace a shipment? I want her to balk and ask for "Steve's" last name, and have Ollie say, "Uh . . . Steve Glasses. No! Steve Laptop!" Instead, she gives him an address in thirty seconds. That woman needs to be getting the bonus of a lifetime, just for putting up with the frustration of terribly bad lies. Ollie goes to the address and what do you know, it's a trap. A door slams closed and a bomb counts down. Ollie decides the only way to fight explosions is with explosions and, incredibly, he's right. He blows up the door and outruns a fireball to escape.
He's going to wish he stayed in the fireball, because he's just in time for the worst Christmas party ever. First the Queens all get herded together for the world's most uncomfortable Christmas photo. There's Thea sulking visibly and Moira and Walter looking like they're both being held up at gunpoint and blaming each other for it. Only Ollie seems happy, although when Shane shows up with a bouquet for Moira and a smile for Thea, you can see one of Ollie's eyes actually pop out of his head, crawl up Shane's pant leg, and begin shaving him as prep for a surgical castration. The crazy eyes get cranked up higher when Laurel and Tommy show up as a couple and Laurel tells Ollie that at last she's "feeling" again. He leans in to her and for one awful moment I think he's going to eat her face, but it's just the slow, lingering temple-kiss that everyone wants from the cheating ex-boyfriend who is indirectly responsible for their sister's death.
But nothing compares to the tiny nuclear explosion that goes on behind his face when he goes into Thea's room and finds her half dressed with Shane lying on the bed in front of her. "I don't know where you think you are," Ollie says to Shane, "But the men take their clothes off on this show. It's like Top Gun but without the planes. Hit the road." Okay, he may only have said that last part. Shane runs like a rabbit. Thea shouts at Ollie, saying that nothing he can do will make things like they were. Before he gets a chance to respond, Dig comes up to him. The Black Arrow has taken hostages. Ollie's off to rescue them!
Meanwhile, Moira and Walter are out in the corridor and the countdown clock on Walter's character has well and truly started. From the moment he declares that Robert was his oldest friend and asks, "Do you take me for a man who wouldn't avenge his friend's murder," he's as well-done as a steak that's been thrown into a volcano. Moira makes this as clear as she can, telling him, "I can't fight them. I am them," and moving into the flat-out past tense when talking about him, saying, "You were my salvation." Walter, listening to his own eulogy, doesn't pick up on anything strange and they agree to "get through" the party.
Ollie heads out to the hostage crisis, and sets the people free. He then wanders around the warehouse until he finds the Black Arrow. When asked what he wants, the Black Arrow replies, "What every archer wants - to see who's better." I would like to point out that there are competitions designed to do just that, but the Black Arrow decides to try something different, like whipping Ollie's ass like a chef turning egg whites into a meringue. We are talking multiple arrows to the back, multiple kicks to the stomach, and a little supervillain speechifying about the list and how the people who made it want Ollie dead. Ollie gets in a lucky shot, staggers out of the building, takes a fall off a dumpster that looks so painful it's almost funny, and weakly calls Dig for help.
The Black Arrow walks into a darkened room somewhere, whips off his hood and - Barrowmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan! Okay, I mean, his name is Merlyn and he's the main villain, so it wasn't a huge surprise, but it was still cool to have it confirmed. In deference to the melding of the DC comics villain and this actor, I shall call him Barrowmerlyn from now on.
Ollie wakes up in a hospital, where, to put the finishing touches on the blackened remains of Christmas, he and Dig imply that the Christmas party made Ollie so sad that he took off and wiped out on his motorcycle. Walter, who I am stunned to see has made it even this far, says that Christmas is for bringing people together and Ollie finally has brought them together. They then all leave, except for Thea, who gives Ollie a couple of cheap candy canes and challenges him to a candy cane eating contest.
We get one last flashback to the island, where the Archer orders Fyers to call the plane. Fyers, with a smirk, says he doesn't have to call anyone. His men are already here. It was a trap. Ollie, on orders from the Archer, runs, and sees Deathstroke and Fyers knock the Archer out and drag him away.
Walter steps on an elevator and gets a needle to the neck. It almost makes me angry that he dares to look surprised.
Moira and Barrowmerlyn meet. Barrowmerlyn assures her that Walter won't be harmed but that he'll remember nothing. Moira, upset, asks him how he can feel nothing. She says that, "in six months, thousands of people will be dead." He counters that he'll feel that it was an accomplishment, and that she'll get Walter back. What? I have to wait six months for more Walter? Boo.
Back at the hospital Ollie gets a cane - a real one this time - and grimly hobbles out to look at the skyline from his hospital room. He says to Dig that as the Hood he tells the people he threatened that they have failed their city, but tonight he was the one who failed. Dig counters that he saved the hostages, but I have to agree with Ollie. That was a miserable Christmas, right there. Even Shane had a bad time, and he got to see boobs. Ollie then says that he used to think that the list was compiled by his father. Now he knows it was compiled by someone his father was trying to fight . . . and he will take that person down!
But if that person sings "without flunjers, capdablers, and smendlers," I say he should be a good Grinch and build them back up again. And that's it for this half-season! See you in January!