The first holiday-set episode of Arrow was full of Christmas gifts for the fans: We got to see our hero at odds with a copycat vigilante, we learned a ton more about Oliver’s time on the island, the most badass of Starling City’s bad businessmen moved closer to center stage, and for the first time since the series began, we heard the phrase “Green Arrow.”
Christmas stopped at the Queen household when Oliver and his father went missing (and was presumed dead) five years earlier, so Oliver is determined to renew the Yuletide spirit for his mother Moira and his sister Thea. But the bad guys have other plans.
Corrupt businessman Adam Hunt, who was introduced in the pilot episode, met his end at the beginning of the midseason finale. Down on his luck following his run-in with “The Hood,” Hunt was in a seedy motel trying to work out a new scheme over the phone when a guy who looks a lot like Arrow shows up and promptly fills Hunt’s chest with arrows.
But the real Arrow is across town at his hideout training with his partner John Diggle, who marvels at how quickly Oliver has been making his way through the list of businessmen his father gave him. Digg cuts the training short to go Christmas shopping for his nephew, which reminds Oliver about, well, Christmas, which he didn’t celebrate while shipwrecked for five years.
First flashback: Oliver’s island protector, former military man Yao-Fei, has captured Eddie Fyers. It turns out the guy who had Deathstroke torture Oliver has access to an airplane.
Back to this whole Christmas thing: Moira and her husband Walter are having a decoration-free dinner party whose guests include the police commissioner and Malcolm Merlyn, the father of Oliver’s best friend Tommy who secretly has his hand in all the shady business around Starling City.
“The Hood” is a big topic of conversation, as costumed vigilantes tend to be among high-society types. The police commissioner (attending in uniform!) tries to take credit for the drop in crime, but Walter gives props to The Hood. Oliver can’t help but express his disapproval of the vigilante’s codename. The elder Merlyn agrees, suggesting, “How about … Green Arrow?” Oliver frowns: “Lame.”
Walter steps away to take a call from Felicity Smoak, the IT babe who’s helping him investigate the list of names written in invisible ink (more or less) he discovered hidden among his wife’s things. The police commissioner is also abruptly pulled away to deal with the murder of Hunt at the hands of the dastardly vigilante. Oliver is clearly confused, as he knows he didn’t kill him.
At the crime scene, Detective Lance realizes it isn’t the work of The Hood, as the arrows are black, and the vigilante already fleeced Hunt for $40 million a few weeks earlier. Why come back to kill him now? “Something doesn’t add up,” Lance observes. “We’re dealing with a copycat.”
Oliver reaches out via an encrypted iPhone knockoff and creepy voice disguiser to tell the detective The Hood wasn’t responsible for the Hunt killing, and he asks for one of the copycat’s arrows to help track him. “I can do things the police can’t, go places they won’t,” he insists.
Thea and Oliver bond over French fries at the diner, where Oliver meets one of her friends (a guy named Shane) and she explains that it’s tough to celebrate Christmas when your brother and father are missing and presumed dead. So he later offers to throw the Queen Christmas party, much to Moira and Walter’s delight. Thea isn’t nearly as excited.
“You’re a good man,” Walter tells his stepson, queuing up another flashback to the island, where Eddie (bound at the wrists) tells him the same thing. As Yao-Fei leads them through the woods, Eddie says he’s impressed by the way Oliver withstood torture to protect the man, although he points out that Ollie doesn’t know much about his new friend.
It turns out the island functioned as a Chinese penitentiary, housing criminals the military viewed as too dangerous to keep on the mainland. But when the prison was shut down, Eddie’s mercenary unit was dispatched to “dispose” of all the inmates. Just two survived the purge: Yao-Fei, whom Eddie claims is a mass murderer, and Deathstroke.
Back in the present, Malcolm Merlyn confronts Moira about Walter’s snooping . “We are past the point of conversation,” he says. “Your family isn’t staying away from me. Something must be done about it.”
Cut to the copycat taking out another white-collar criminal recently targeted by The Hood. The police commissioner orders Detective Lance to tell the public it was The Hood, but he refuses and is promptly taken off the case. So Lance decides to give The Hood an arrow, and an ultimatum: Find out who the copycat is by Christmas, or the detective will come after him.
Lance’s daughter Laurel doesn’t believe The Hood is responsible for the copycat killings. As they share in their disbelief while watching a news conference blaming the crimes on The Hood, Tommy drops by to bring some holiday cheer. Laurel hasn’t celebrated Christmas since the shipwreck either, as her sister died onboard.
The arrow (and Felicity) lead Oliver to an address that turns out to be a trap, complete with a closing door and an imminent bomb. Thanks to an exploding arrow, Ollie narrowly escapes the copycat’s trap.
Like in most holiday television episodes, the entire gang ends up together, in this case at the Queen mansion for the big Christmas party. Moira and Walter get into an argument about his continued investigation of the death of Oliver’s father and her continued lies, which ends with her promise to reveal everything about the conspiracy after the party.
Oliver’s attempt to have a nice family get-together is foiled first by the awkwardness of Tommy and Laurel’s new relationship, then by walking in on Thea and Shane in his sister’s bedroom (followed by her big fit over the party), and finally by the news that the Dark Archer has taken hostages and will begin killing them unless The Hood shows up. Naturally, Oliver heads off to face him because the Dark Archer can’t be any worse than Deathstroke, right?
Queue flashback as Eddie reveals his capture was just a ruse to draw out Yao-Fei, who leads them into an ambush by Deathstroke and a group of gunmen. With that machete, mask, stoic silence and hulking frame, Deathstroke is like a mercenary Jason Vorhees. After a fight, Yao-Fei is captured while Oliver flees alone.
Speaking of fighting, the inevitable archer-versus-archer confrontation goes down after The Hood rescues the hostages, and it doesn’t disappoint. In the best fight of the show to date, the two exchange a flurry of arrows and try to discover each other’s identity and motivations.
The Dark Archer admits knowledge of the list, and sys the man who put it together wants The Hood dead. The Dark Archer begins to win the fight, with Oliver suffering broken ribs, a concussion, the works. “They call you The Hood,” the copycat growls. “Let’s see what you look like without it!” But before Oliver’s identity can be revealed, he barely escapes and calls Digg to come to his rescue. (Digg tells the Oliver’s family he was in a motorcycle accident.) Seeing her brother lying in a hospital bed, Thea is apologetic about the tension between them.
Next, the Dark Archer’s identity is revealed to the audience: Malcolm Merlyn, who later has Walter drugged and taken away. “You were warned, Moira,” he tells Oliver’s mother. “I told you to get Walter under control and you couldn’t. Steps had to be taken.”
“That’s what you said when you had Robert killed,” she fires back.
“Quite a bit of judgment from a woman who had her son kidnapped and tortured,” he scoffs before giving a cryptic warning: “In six months, the organization’s vision of what this city should be will be complete.”
Moira is mortified, saying, “Thousands of innocent people will be dead and you’ll feel nothing.” Merlyn counters that he would feel something: a sense of accomplishment!
The episode ends with Digg reassuring Oliver that the “other Archer” will get his. But Oliver is convinced there’s someone out there who’s “more of a danger than the archer.” And he vows to take him down.