Going into the 2013 season, The CW took some chances with its scheduling.
And, like fellow freshman Beauty and the Beast, Arrow struggled through some initial bumps in the road.
However, it eventually built solidly episode upon episode, taking a strenuous path toward a grade of A- in this TV Fanatic Report Card, capped by the perfect note achieved in the finale, "Sacrifice." Scroll down for my Arrow Season 1 assessment and then chime in with your own...
Best Character: Oliver Queen. I'm giving the gold star to our main character because he has such huge shoes to fill. He's the savior of Starling City while the entire metropolis wants to take him down as a criminal. Misunderstood is putting it mildly. Stuck for most of Arrow Season 1 portraying himself as the billionaire playboy instead of the man he had grown to be was probably his most difficult task. It became easy to take out the bad guys in his green hoodie because at least he was being true to himself. Slowly showing himself to the rest of the world as the changed man was one of my favorite character explorations of the year.
Worst Feature: Under-usage of well known guest stars. Does anyone remember seeing Kyle Schmid, Currie Graham or anything about The Royal Flush Gang now that the season is over? Seth Gabel as The Count lost out to his own drug, Vertigo. At least James Callis, as The Dodger, brought Felicity out on her first mission (and almost killed her) and David Anders' Cyrus Vanch gave us a glimpse of legal beagle Laurel Lance having a lot more fight in her than what she learned in law school.
Stick with what you know, Arrow. The cast you have is great and you don't need to rely on gimmicky guest stars to gain viewers or gather excitement. Your stories speak for themselves. If you want to introduce a one time villain of the week, let him be a great actor without the pedigree to take away the spotlight from the team that deserves it.
Best Island Character: Whether he was an unknown force to be reckoned with or working with Oliver to save his ass on the island, one thing remained - Slade Wilson was the perfect foil for Oliver in snark baiting. Their chemistry was undeniable and best displayed through their dialog. Upped to season regular next year, it will be exciting to see how Manu Bennett plays into Season 2. Will he be the continuation of Deathstroke since his original partner in crime bit the dust? Whatever happens, please don't let him stop being a smart-ass.
Oliver: I'm trapped on an island and my only friend is named Wilson. So... | permalink
Slade: I do have one idea. If you go into the forest and gather as much bamboo as you can find...
Slade: We can build ourselves a boat, like they did on Gilligan's Island. | permalink
Most Shocking Arrow Reveal: It sure seemed like the hood was off for good a few times when Oliver showed himself to various people, didn't it? His real to Tommy in "Dead to Rights" was pretty damn incredible and drew a line in sand of their friendship, something that Tommy wasn't really able to reconcile himself with until his last breath. But the most shocking was the moment when Malcolm pulled the hood from Oliver's head on "Darkness on the Edge of Town." Only John Barrowman could have pulled off the stunned look that lead us into the season finale.
Fan Favorite Shout Out: I don't even know what this category means, but I'm making it up because I know that if I don't give Felicity Smoak the love of the fans she deserves in this report card, there will be hell to pay! From mousy, intelligent, Oliver-worshiping desk jockey to one of The Hood's most important teammates, she's taken to swinging on lines on Oliver's back and gussying up for the hottest soirees in town with ease. From just wanting to save Walter to wanting to save the world, Felicity has won our hearts.
Biggest Twist: Killing off Tommy Merlyn was a huge risk for a freshman series to take with a popular character. That alone earns props. Viewers never imagined a scenario where he would be killed, and that made the scene shocking and extremely emotional, knocking our little dioramas down and forcing us to re-imagine where the residents of Starling City will be when Arrow returns. It was a deathstroke of brilliance.
Worst Character: I'm sorry, Laurel Lance. If she wasn't so integral to the plot of Arrow, she just might be voted off the island. No, it's not Katie Cassidy's fault. They're writing her like a wooden stick. When they write her well, she performs well. Against Cyrus Vanch, golden. In the scene with Oliver in the hallway when he explained what we all need to know about his love for her, she held up her end of the scene. My best guess is the writers are waiting for Laurel's moment and until they're ready to give it to her, she's going to be on our nerves.
Best Episode: The finale was perfect. While there were many top notch, five-star episodes leading up to the finale, it was so brilliantly played that it will stand as one of the best freshman finales in television history. It will be interesting to see if Emmy nominates finally realize there is a network called The CW and give it a nod for something. It was that good. Writing would be a good start.
Grading Arrow is not easy. I tried to focus on the positive, but with an A- you do have to point out some of the negative qualities. There is some room for improvement, such as with Oliver's island scenes, but overall we're swimming in goodness with Arrow.
YOUR turn, Arrow Fanatics. Grade Season 1 now:
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.