The TDF Top 10: Arrow

We head back to the Arrowverse in our next TDF Top 10 as Baz Greenland selects the 10 greatest episodes of the show that started it all.

In our next TDF Top 10, we start a look back at the greatest episodes of each Arrowverse series, starting with the show that kickstarted it all – Arrow

Modern superhero television owes Arrow a huge debt. It kickstarted the Arrowverse, giving us The Flash, Supergirl (from season two), Batwoman and Legends of Tomorrow and showed the world that comic-adaptations on TV could be just as successful as the big screen. Arguably Arrow – and the spin-offs that followed – have done a better job at creating a DC superhero universe than the recent offerings by the DCEU. The latest TV season saw the most ambitious corssover yet in Crisis on Infinite Earths, which brought to an end the show that started it all.

There’s a strong argument that the most consistent run was season two, which brought the island-based flashbacks and the present day to a head as Oliver Queen went up against his nemesis Slade Wilson, AKA Deathstroke. Some of the very best episodes come from that run. But after a slightly rocky third and fourth season, which saw Arrow struggle to find its footing against more light-hearted shows The Flash and Supergirl, the return to its darker, grittier roots in season five was the best move the show made and there was plenty to enjoy across the rest of the eight season run.

Picking the top 10 episodes across those eight seasons is a challenge – partly due to the arc driven nature of the show. Here then, is my top 10; the big episodes that made the most impact to me. Here is The TDF Top 10: Arrow


10. Starling City (8.01)



The final season of Arrow was one big greatest hits tour that took Oliver away from his life in Star City to serve his debt to The Monitor and help prepare for the mighty Crisis on Infinite Earths. And season eight certainly opens with a bang, with Oliver transported to Earth 2, where he experiences a very different world to the one he grew up in.

Susannah Thompson and John Barrowman both return as a very much alive Moira Queen and Malcolm Merlyn, living a very ‘happy life’ without Oliver Queen. Playing as an alternate version of season one, Oliver’s quest to hunt down the Black Archer while dealing with the ghosts of his past provides plenty of humour and great drama, culminating in the shocking closing moments as Earth 2 is wiped from existence. If the stakes weren’t high before, they were after this episode.


9. The Odyssey (1.14)



Odyssey was the first episode to devote almost its entirely plot to the on-going flashbacks and what a momentous episode it was. Armed mercenaries attack the island, making fort a dramatic battle and betrayal as Oliver is forced to fight his mentor Fei as Shado’s life hangs in the balance. The bond between Oliver and Slade is also stronger than ever, making the eventual breakdown in season two all the more tragic.

The episode is framed by some equally momentous events in the present. Oliver lies dying in the present, having been shot by his own mother after attacking her. We start to dig into Diggle’s past as he and Felicity help save Oliver; it’s this episode that really seals the close bond between the three characters that will carry through to the very end.


8. Unthinkable (2.23)



The end of season two brings to a head a number of key plots running  through the show since the pilot episode, most notably the connection between Oliver and Slade that explodes into frenzied violence in Starling City as Deathstroke and his Mirakuru-enhanced super soldiers wreak havoc, all while showing the violent fallout of their relationship as the island-based flashbacks come to a dramatic close.

It is an ambitious finale that sees Oliver aided by Arsenal, Diggle, Lyla, Amanda Waller, Nyssa Al’Ghul and even Deadshot in an epic team-up long before the Arrowverse crossovers began. There are plenty of twists and turns, from Thea joining Malcolm Merlyn to Felicity turning the tide against Slade and injecting him with the Mirakuru cure. A satisfying season ender that arguably leaves Arrow in its strongest position across the eight season run.


7: Sacrifice (1.23)



While Sacrifice might not have had as many crowd-pleasing moments as other finales like Unthinkable, Lian Yu or Fade Out, it stands out as delivering one of the most shocking twists in the show’s history that turned everything we were expecting on its head.

The final battle against original villain Malcolm Merlyn made for a brilliant, thrilling showdown to the show’s first year. But his defeat – while inevitable – leads the way to the destruction of the Glades and the death of Tommy Merlyn. It’s so unexpected because Oliver, as the hero of the story, was supposed to stop it. It’s a finale that shows Arrow doesn’t always play as conventionally as you might think.


6. Seeing Red (2.20)



Seeing Red is a major turning point in the conflict between Oliver and Slade Wilson and part of the culmination of Arrow‘s biggest story arc, charting the friendship between the two on Lian Yu and the subsequent fallout. This episode sees Deathstroke gain his revenge on Oliver in the worst possible way; by killing his mother Moira Queen.

Serving as much as a swansong for Moira as it is for Deathstroke raising his game, the flashbacks track Oliver’s life before Lian Yu, showing his mother’s desperate attempts to protect her son as she pays off his pregnant girlfriend. It also sets up the debut of William in season four, that will have huge ramifications for Oliver Queen for the rest of the show. But mostly, Seeing Red is the point at which Arrow dares to kill off one of the biggest character’s in Oliver’s life and cement Deathstroke as one of the show’s greatest villains.


5: The Slabside Redemption (7.07)



The end of season six shook the dynamic of the show, with Oliver Queen outed to the public as the Green Arrow and going to prison for his vigilante ‘crimes’. The first half of season seven saw Oliver behind bars, culminating in this brutal, dramatic episode that saw him fight to stay alive in Slabside in the midst of a prison riot with Ricardo Diaz coming after him to finish him off once and for all.

Arrow has always had some terrific fight choreography, by The Slabside Redemption takes things to another level with one giant prison fight set piece. Almost forty minutes of violence culminate in Oliver and Diaz’s final battle, with plenty of shocking twists along the way like the motivations of surprise serial killer Stanley. This is a tense, action-packed affair from beginning to end.


4. Invasion! Part 2 (5.08)



There’s arguably a place for all the Arrow crossover episodes on the list, but what makes Invasion Part 2 a pivotal episode is in how it handled the show’s legacy. Not only is it the mid point in the biggest Arrowverse crossover to date, it also serves as Arrow‘s 100th episode.

With Oliver and his allies trapped in suspended animation by the alien Dominators, Invasion Part 2 sees Oliver experience an alternate life where he was never on the Queen’s Gambit. It’s that classic ‘what if’ alternate life storyline done so well because it raises the emotional stakes and becomes so appealing – so much so that it is hard to see how Oliver could escape the mind scape the Dominators have placed him in, Laurel Lance is alive and about to marry Oliver, while there is a heart-breaking reunion for Oliver and Thea with their mother Moira. It’s a fitting exploration of the sacrifice Oliver (and Thea) have experienced and the lives lost in their long battle to save Star City…


3. The Climb (3.09)



Mid-season episodes are always opportunities to deliver some jaw-dropping  cliff-hangers and turn the current season on its head. For Arrow, none were bigger than the season three mid-season cliff-hanger, which saw Oliver Queen face Ra’s al’Ghul in battle. And die.

Killing off the lead character mid-season is a pretty ballsy move and comes after a tense 48 hours, which sees Starling City under threat of extinction unless Sara’s killer is found. It brings the past and present together as Maseo is ordered to lead the attack on the city and sees Oliver confess his love for Felicity before heading off to his death. While the rest of season three didn’t quite live up to the highs of The Climb, it did show there was plenty of greatness to come after the success of season two.


2. The Promise (2.15)



It’s no surprise that another season two entry makes the list. It is the best season of Arrow by a mile, with the emotional stakes of the on-island flashbacks and present crashing together as Oliver Queen is pitted against his former friend Slade Wilson. His surprise arrival in Star City, offers plenty of drama and violence, but where The Promise excels is in how the flashbacks show the cataclysmic end to their friendship on Lian Yu.

Oliver, Slade and Sara’s assault on the freighter and the death of villain Ivo at Slade’s hands is some of the best action sequences the show ever delivered, bringing to a head the flashback storyline that has been a part of the show since the pilot in thrilling, satisfactory style. Slade learning about how Shado died and vowing vengeance on Oliver is tragic, setting the stage for the present day bloodshed to follow.


1. Lian Yu (5.23)



Season five of Arrow is a real return to form, thanks in no part to Josh Segarra’s Adrian Chase / Prometheus that challenges Oliver to his core. The evil archer outwits Oliver at every step, culminating in the shocking finale Lian Yu, which sees the show come full circle as the flashbacks tie into the pilot episode and almost every recurring character trapped on the island as Chase’s final plan is unleashed.

Whether it’s Dinah versus Laurel, Nyssa versus Talia or the death of Malcolm Merlyn, there are plenty of thrilling moments; Oliver recruiting Slade Wilson as an ally is real emotional highlight as is the dramatic showdown on the boat as Chase kills himself and triggers his final masterstroke, blowing up most of the island with almost every character we know still on it. It’s one hell of an ending – not just the best season finale in the show’s history, but the most dramatic episodes in the show’s eight year history.


As always, there are plenty of episodes that almost made the cut; half of season two, the crossover episodes, Adrian’s mental torture of Oliver in Kapiushon and Oliver submitting to Ra’s Al Ghul is season three’s The Fallen. What are your favourite episodes of Arrow and do you agree with the list above? Let us know in the comments below…



Updated: Jul 20, 2020

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