20 essential Arrow episodes you need to watch
"Pilot" (Season 1, Episode 1)
Begin with the one that started it all. Sure, the pilot — which was written by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, and Jake Coburn — is a bit rough around the edges and maybe tries a bit too hard for a Nolan-vibe, but it’s still entertaining and a good introduction to the series. By the end of it, Oliver (Stephen Amell) has killed enough people to let you know that this isn't going to be like other superhero shows you've seen. Plus, it introduces one of the show’s most iconic visuals: the salmon ladder.
"Muse of Fire"/"Vendetta" (Season 1, Episodes 7 and 8)
The first season’s two Huntress-focused episodes are what helped me fall in love with the show. Not only was Jessica De Gouw perfectly cast as the vengeful crossbow-wielding vigilante, but this is where the show went full superhero and revealed it wasn’t going to be stingy when it came to the DC Comics mythology. (There’s a reason why fans have been asking when the Huntress would return since her last appearance in season 2.)
"The Odyssey" (Season 1, Episode 14)
These days Arrow is very much about the ensemble, but it took a while for the series to get to that point. In fact, that journey toward any sense of a team began with this episode, which saw quirky tech-genius Felicity (the scene-stealing Emily Bett Rickards) not only find out Oliver’s secret after his mother shot him, but also agree to help him with his mission. The other great thing about “The Odyssey” is that it’s a flashback-heavy hour that also shows the moment when Oliver started training with Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) to become the vigilante he is in the present.
"Sacrifice" (Season 1, Episode 23)
Boasting a shocking and upsetting death, a few great speeches, a thrilling fight between the Hood and Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), and the destruction of an entire neighborhood, the season 1 finale was a triumphant end to the season and set the tone for future finales.
"League of Assassins" (Season 2, Episode 5)
Arrow started to open itself up even more to the DC Comics mythos in season 2 with the introduction of both Caity Lotz as Black Canary and the storied League of Assassins.
"The Scientist"/"Three Ghosts" (Season 2, Episodes 8 and 9)
A.k.a. “The ones where Grant Gustin made his charming as hell debut as Barry Allen.” Arrow’s legacy will be the entire universe of shows that it spawned. That world started with these two episodes, both of which also kicked the second season up an entire notch.
"The Promise" (Season 2, Episode 15)
The tension between the past and present is particularly strong in "The Odyssey." As flashbacks reveal the destruction of Slade and Oliver's friendship, the present day storyline follows Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson) as she gives a tour to the man who has sworn to destroy everything Oliver loves. Written by Jake Coburn and Ben Sokolowski, this is one of the show's most suspenseful hours.
"Unthinkable" (Season 2, Episode 23)
The season 2 finale contains so many great moments — from Team Arrow and the League fighting Slade's Mirakuru soldiers, to that Oliver and Felicity's moment at Queen Manor — but the one that will forever stand out to me is how seamlessly the episode moves between the past and present during Oliver and Slade's final confrontation. That entire fight remains one of the show's best setpieces.
"The Climb" (Season 3, Episode 9)
"Left Behind"/"Midnight City"/"Uprising" (Season 3, Episodes 10, 11, and 12)
Welcome to the Team Arrow trilogy. Arrow essentially took Oliver Queen off the board for three episodes following his fight with Ra's al Ghul, and allowed the supporting characters — Diggle (David Ramsey), Laurel/the new Black Canary (Katie Cassidy Rodgers), Roy (Colton Haynes), and Felicity — to take center stage as they stepped up to defend the city in the Arrow's absence. The results are pretty amazing, too, because all of the actors reveal they are more than up to the task of carrying the series.
"Public Enemy" (Season 3, Episode 18)
"Public Enemy" is probably my favorite Arrow episode. There's an inescapable sense of doom throughout the entire thing as Oliver and his merry band of masked friends try to evade a citywide manhunt, and that feeling only increases once a grieving Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) discovers Oliver's identity. The episode seamlessly juggles great action beats (that chase scene!) with strong emotional ones (pretty much everything involving Quentin, especially his devastating conversation with Oliver in the back of the police van). When "Public Enemy" first aired, it felt like this episode was a major turning point for the show. While that didn't prove to be the case (Oliver's secret wouldn't officially come out until season 6), taken on its own, this remains one of the show's boldest and most emotional installments.
"Beacon of Hope" (Season 4, Episode 17)
Team Arrow vs. a swarm of bees. Who said Arrow doesn't know how to have fun?
"Invasion!" (Season 5, Episode 8)
"Kapiushon" (Season 5, Episode 17)
"Kapiushon" is a good example of one of the best things about Arrow: watching Amell's growth as an actor. Here, he delivers one of his best performances on the series as Oliver is forced to revisit one of his most horrific memories while being tortured by season 5 big bad Adrian Chase. Penned by Brian Ford Sullivan and Emilio Ortega Aldrich, this risky episode is devastatingly brutal but worth it.
"Lian Yu" (Season 5, Episode 23)
From the returns of Slade, Nyssa, and Malcolm, to the trio of epic fights and great performances, Arrow's action-movie like fifth season finale served as the perfect conclusion to an excellent season and put a satisfying period at the end of Oliver and company's 10-year long journey. It had the weight of a series finale.
"Brothers in Arms" (Season 6, Episode 17)
Amell and Ramsey channel six seasons worth of history into one epic argument and fight, and it's quite a thing to behold.