As we have finally reached the Winter Finale of ‘Arrow,’ expectations were high for this week’s episode, and I’m happy to say ‘Arrow’ did a fairly good job delivering a solid episode before the hiatus, even if it was not exactly what fans were expecting.

The episode opened with Oliver and his campaign team working with people (including children) from the local community to clean up the harbor, which is littered with refuse and pollution. The day seems to be going well, with Felicity and Laurel bonding with the kids while Alex congratulations Oliver on the success of his hippie-dippy campaign event, when trouble strikes in the form of a small fully-armed drone. The device opens fire on the crowd, thankfully not killing anyone but injuring many before Felicity is able to remotely hack the device and shut it down. The entire affair was clearly orchestrated by Darhk as payback for Oliver refusing to join his ranks, and Oliver and the rest of the Quiver Crew know they need to respond quickly.

The team comes up with a plan, albeit not one Oliver is entirely confident in, and they decide to out Darhk to the public, showing pictures of him and speaking of his association with the Ghosts and HIVE on live TV, thus ending the villain’s anonymity and hopefully bringing him out. Oliver is worried because it paints a target on everyone he knows, but the team is confident they can protect themselves, even as they prepare for Oliver’s big Holiday Party, which he almost cancels out of concern for everyone’s safety. Thea and Felicity convince him to keep the party going, to show Darhk that they will not live in fear, and to show the city that Oliver will not cower while Darhk is gunning for him.

While the party is being set-up, Felicity’s mother decides to throw in decorations to celebrate Felicity’s Jewish side, and while she is going through the decorations box, she stumbles upon Oliver’s engagement ring, quickly showing it to Felicity (anyone else think it was kind of messed up that she told Felicity? I would think a mom finding that ring would keep it secret so her daughter can be surprised when her boyfriend pops the question). Felicity is just as excited as her mom, and she suspects Oliver might be preparing to ask her to marry him during the holiday party.

Meanwhile, Diggle is still trying to get through to Andy, who has had time to come around, but has not. John even points out to his brother that whatever chemicals Darhk was giving him to keep him under control were out of his system by now, which means Andy’s current stubbornness has nothing to do with Darhk’s influence. Diggle accuses Andy of willingly giving in to Darhk’s cult, but Andy refutes the claim of HIVE being a cult and confirms that he was dealing drugs in the middle east prior to joining Darhk. Even pictures of his wife and abandoned son do nothing to break through Andy’s facade, which is clearly driving Diggle nuts.

Laurel has been working the hotline for Darhk tips (which started once they revealed Darhk’s face to the news) to see if any relevant information comes in, and she receives a tip linking her father to Darhk. She goes to confront Captain Lance and demands to know if he is working for Darhk (am I the only one surprised Laurel did not know this was going on? She’s either completely clueless, or the rest of the team must wait for her to use the bathroom before discussing important items like Thea and the Lazarus Pit, or Lance being a double agent. Also, what happened to people not keeping secrets anymore?) Lance confirms his involvement with the villain but explains to Laurel that Darhk had threatened her life, and then reveals that Oliver found out a little while ago and Lance is now working as a spy for Team Arrow in Darhk’s camp. Laurel is understandably miffed about being used by Darhk to force her father to do his dirty work, and she reminds Captain Lance that she can protect herself, and is capable of deciding if she wants anyone else’s protection.

The Holiday Party begins and looks to be a big success, with most of the team in attendance, as well as a massive security detail comprised of army folk that Diggle and his contacts set up to help keep the party secure. Felicity meets Curtis and his husband, and while discussing means of proposal, she suddenly remembers the night that Thea and Laurel showed up at their house in suburbia, and she realizes that was the night Oliver meant to propose. She goes to explain the situation to her mother and finds her on the dance floor with Captain Lance, the pair clearly an item now, and looking somewhat embarrassed at their secret getting out. Felicity goes to find Oliver, pulling him away from constituents to talk about his almost proposal, with Oliver trying to explain how things changed when they came back to Star City.

The couple’s argument is interrupted by the arrival of Darhk, who has apparently slaughtered all the security detail, and swaggers in, takes a drink and threatens Oliver and everyone present. He ends up using his magic to send Oliver through a glass wall, leaving him unconscious, and taking Diggle, Thea and Felicity as his hostages, all while Lance does nothing, not wanting to blow his cover. Oliver wakes up in a frenzy, desperate to find his friends and family, and after suiting up as the Green Arrow, beats on every Ghost he can find, though none turn up any information on Darhk’s whereabouts. Laurel tries to assure him that they will find everyone, but Oliver is frantic. Merlyn shows up next, knowing they need to find Thea and offers one of the Ghost’s cell-phones to Oliver, allowing him to call Darhk. Oliver meets up with Darhk (after Malcolm has injected him with tracking nano technology), and Darhk agrees to some kind of deal wherein Oliver will get on board for Darhk’s plans and be his puppet mayor if Darhk frees his friends. Darhk takes Oliver to his new Headquarters, where he treats Oliver to a demonstration of his new gas chamber, using gas made from algae growing in Star City bay, and then speaks about how humanity needs a reset every now and then. He allows Oliver to visit Felicity, where the couple continues their talk about his almost engagement, and Felicity informs Oliver that she would have said yes. Darhk then takes Felicity and tosses her into the gas chamber along with Diggle and Thea, and turns on the gas, reminding Oliver that he is, after all, the villain.

Luckily the Black Canary arrives with the Green Arrow (played deftly by Malcolm Merlyn), and the Canary cry is enough to crack the glass of the gas chamber and free the hostages inside. While the Quiver Crew makes their escape, they happen upon more cells with brainwashed Ghosts, and while deciding whether or not to free the men, the doors open, and all the Ghosts come out to attack them. Luckily, Captain Lance has followed his daughter there and joins the fray along with his police reinforcements, fully aware that his cover with Darhk is now fully blown. Meanwhile, Oliver and the Green Merlyn Arrow attack Darhk, and their combined forces sees Darhk wounded on the ground, with an explosive arrow right next to him. The heroes escape just as the building blows, hopefully ending Darhk, though they cannot find his body. Felicity rightfully points out later that without a body, Darhk is most likely still alive, at least according to the rules of a horror movie.

In tonight’s flashback, Oliver and Taiana need more maps to figure out what the Baron is looking for, so Oliver takes her to the wreck of the Amazo to look for more survey maps. She hastily teaches him the basics of diving, and Oliver heads out to the ship. He makes it there safely and finds some maps, but while swimming back, he is spotted by a shark. In a strange twist, we never see his encounter with the shark (I suspect it might have been cut for timing), but he arrives at the beach and shows Taiana his shark bite (explaining another of his scars), and telling her about the shark. In that moment, Conklin arrives with his men, Taiana’s presence proving Oliver is a traitor. Oliver and Taiana are recaptured.

Back in the present, to celebrate the unity of the city and inspire people to continue to fight against Darhk and the Ghosts, Oliver and his campaign team hold a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, and after he lights the tree, Oliver proposes to Felicity. It is a happy moment, and as the couple rides off in the limo, with ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ playing, we know things are about to take a turn. As we see Darhk return to a home and greet a woman and a child who I believe we are supposed to think are his family, Oliver and Felicity’s limo is attacked by Ghosts, who spray bullets into the car, killing the driver as the couple takes cover. Oliver manages to crawl to the driver’s seat and drive them to safety, but when he goes to check on Felicity, he discovers she has been shot.


* Did anyone else notice that Darhk almost did a double take when he looked at Alex while crashing Oliver’s Holiday Party? I’m beginning to suspect that Alex might be an old enemy of Darhk’s, or at the very least might have had dealings with the man before he came to Star City.

* While speaking to Thea early in the episode Merlyn mentions that Thea is dabbling in forces beyond their comprehension, claiming that Darhk’s contact with the Lazarus Pit had nothing to do with why his whammy on Thea took away her bloodlust. I am very intrigued by the mystical ramifications of this.

* Felicity says the night Oliver proposed to her was 3 months ago, and since we know the grave scene from the pilot is 6 months in the future, Felicity is clearly safe for the moment, as the death that occurs won’t happen for another 3 months. I appreciate the writer’s efforts to trick us, but it feels a little gimmicky to me.

Pretty good winter finale, and I appreciate everything that is going on, but I do wish the episode did not feel like the writers trying to make us think someone was definitely going to die, and then going back on that. Of course, I’ll eat crow if the show comes back in late January and Felicity is dead, but I highly doubt they would kill her off when there is still the story of her father to consider, as well as her dealing with Oliver having a kid. See you when ‘Arrow’ returns in January!