As part of Complex Pop Culture's best-of-2013 coverage, staffers and contributing writers will pen short pieces on their favorite TV episodes of the year. The week-long series kicks off with staff writer Tara Aquino.

I don’t watch a lot of TV—my attention is best held in a dark movie theater where I'm obligated to put my phone awaybut I watch Arrow. Usually, when I tell people that, I get this: “It’s the abs, right? The guy on the poster with the abs?” No. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate a chiseled physique—it’s just that anything that can be confused for a Chippendale’s show usually signals sex appeal over substance. But in an effort to join a conversation, one that I already missed out on with Breaking Bad, I decided to give Arrow a shot.

I finished the first season in a week.

There's no better episode than last week’s mid-season finale, “Three Ghosts,” to explain why it’s become my crack. A little backstory on the series: Arrow follows the origin of DC Comics’ Green Arrow (played by Stephen Amell). By day, he’s Oliver Queen, a Bruce Wayne-meets-Leo DiCaprio figure who spent five years stranded on an island after a surviving shipwreck that claimed everyone including his father. By night, he’s the Hood, an expert archer vigilante seeking to avenge his dad’s death and snuff snitches trying to get money.

How the hell did he go from a pretty pansy to Superman? Queen didn't hock coconuts and live like Cast Away. The island happened to be a Chinese prison that was taken over by a militia plotting to start a war. Naturally. There, he made real human friends named Shado (Celina Jade) and Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett), secret agents who trained him in combat. 

Fast forward to now. Queen’s built his own secret lair, created his own team—consisting of sidekick John Diggle (David Ramsey), IT girl Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), and his bitch boy, Roy Harper (Colton Haynes)—and is in the middle of a fight against a growing army of superhuman soldiers known as the Blood Cult. Until now, he’s managed to avoid one minor thing: his PTSD. Dude did inadvertently cause the death of his island lady Shado, his island bruddah Wilson, and his childhood BFF, Tommy (Colin Donnell).

Hence, the title “Three Ghosts.” After a near-death experience, which he survived thanks to a CSI Seth Cohen-type Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), Queen begins hallucinating their return. While the first two taunt him, Tommy hams it up with Queen— something to the effect of, “It’s not your fault. Fight back! Rah rah!” It works, and the Hood is ready to beat the shit out of some Starling City pseudo-Banes.

While past episodes of the series are your standard, entertaining superhero fare, this one gets clever. It’s Arrow's holiday episode, and this is its version of A Christmas Carol. Queen relinquishes the demons of his past to kick ass in the present and prep himself, new mask and all, to take down the ultimate evil (in the form of a resurrected superhuman Wilson pissed at Queen for reasons TBD) waiting in his future.

 

 

And speaking of the future…

Not only did "Three Ghosts" feature Roy Harper's injection with the super serum, which hints at his future gig as Red Arrow, the episode also closed with a telling scene with Barry Allen. A misfired particle accelerator and a bolt of lightning later? Say hello to The Flash. A superhero likely getting his own CW spin-off next fall.

I don't watch a lot of TV, so I don't usually piss my pants in anticipation of a show's next episode. But trust, Arrow's January 15 return couldn't come any sooner. 

Written by Tara Aquino (@t_akino

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