Arrow’ lets loose another episode with its ninth outing of the series, mid-season finale “Year's End,” as Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) finds himself confronted by a Dark Archer taking deadly measures to get his attention, while the Queens hold a Christmas party and Moira tries to push Walter off his investigation.

Last week’s ‘Arrow’ episode “Vendetta” saw Oliver’s attempting to channel Helena Bertinelli (Jessica De Gouw)’s grief into a less revenge-fueled style of justice, while Walter continued his investigation of Moira, and Tommy’s financial woes put he, Laurel, Oliver and Helena in an awkward position.  So, what does the ninth episode of ‘Arrow’ bring?  Does it hit the same bulls-eye as the first eight episodes?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Arrow’s mid-season finale, “Year's End!”

Adam Hunt drinks alone in a room, desperately trying to scrounge new illegal opportunities, when he finds himself faced by the vigilante archer once more.  Rather than take his money, this newer, darker archer wordlessly puts three arrows into Hunt’s chest, and walks away.

Elsewhere, Oliver and Diggle train, praising the recent success of “The Hood,” when Oliver realizes that Christmas has rolled around.  Not having celebrated in years, he follows Diggle’s advice to return home, but not before experiencing an island flashback of Yao Fei (Byron Mann)’s return to the caves.  Fei lays Oliver’s earlier interrogator Edward Fyers (Sebastian Dunn) at Oliver’s feet, and teases that he has a plane with which to leave the island.

Back at the Queen mansion, Oliver joins a dinner party of city officials (including Malcolm Merlyn) discussing “The Hood” vigilante.  Oliver cracks that the character needs a better name, to which Malcolm recommends “Green Arrow,” but Oliver Scoffs.  The party is broken by a flurry of interruptions, including Felicity Smoak alerting Walter via phone whom the vigilante might strike next, a police officer alerting the commissioner of the Dark Archer’s murder, and Oliver excusing himself to deal with the situation.

At the crime scene, Quentin Lance immediately suspects a copycat archer given the custom arrows, giving the listening-in Oliver an idea.  The next day he has a phone delivered to Quentin, calling him as Arrow, and suggesting they put aside their differences and work together to trace the Dark Archer’s arrows.  Elsewhere, Walter meets with Felicity’s named target Doug Miller, warning him the Arrow might come for him.

Over lunch, Oliver and Thea discuss the family’s lack of celebrating Christmas, to which Thea reveals the family gave up the tradition following Oliver and his father’s disappearance.  Oliver next suggests to the entire family that he make up for lost time by throwing the annual Queen Christmas party, to which they (short of Thea) reluctantly agree.  One of Walter's comments sends Oliver into another flashback of he and Yao Fei leading a bound Edward Fyers through the jungle.  Fyers explains that the whole island was once a Chinese prison for the worst of the worst, until his group took it over and killed all but two inmates: Fei and Deathstroke.

Malcolm Merlyn confronts Moira about Walter’s investigation into Doug Miller, suggesting she keep her husband in check again.  Across town, another name from the list Nelson Ravage worries that the vigilante is after him, before taking an arrow through the chest by the Dark Archer. Investigating the scene, Quentin refuses to lie about Arrow’s involvement against orders from his superior, getting him thrown off the case.  Later, he reluctantly calls Arrow and agrees to leave the Dark Archer’s arrows for him to analyze.

Oliver finds the Dark Archer’s arrows to be extremely customized, rare, and indicative of a professional.  Under the guise of trying to trace their origin to buy his archery buddy more, Oliver takes the arrow to Felicity, who provides him with an address for a company named Sagitarius, amid her usual banter.

Over at the Lance household, Quentin stews about the commissioner's vigilante press conference, then grimaces further when Tommy Merlyn shows up looking for Laurel.  Sensing that she’s still holding back from their relationship, Tommy invites her to Oliver’s Christmas party and leaves her with a gift that warms even Quentin; a photo of he, Laurel and Sarah all together.  Meanwhile, Oliver enters the abandoned warehouse to find nothing but a black arrow and a bomb, from which he just barely manages to escape.

At the Christmas party, things seem awkward on all sides as Thea’s new beau Shane delivers flowers to Moira, following which Moira chides Walter in private about continuing to investigate Robert’s death.  Admitting her culpability with the shadowy people keeping things under wraps, they agree to table the matter for now.  Meanwhile, Oliver once again gives Laurel his blessing to be with Tommy, before finding Thea half-naked with Shane in her room.  Thea protests that she didn’t want the party, that Oliver is only recreating memories of a time that’s long since passed them both.

Diggle interrupts, showing Oliver a news report on TV of a hostage situation, for which the Dark Archer demands that Arrow give himself over lest innocents be killed.  Oliver believes he can take the villain, remembering his time on the island when Edward Fyers revealed his men to have been following the three of them.  Deathstroke leaps out and attacks Yao Fei, while Oliver runs off, looking back to see his mysterious archer mentor captured.

While the police wait outside, Oliver zip-lines into the hostage warehouse and sets the captives free.  With the hostages out of danger, the Dark Archer attacks, challenging Oliver to see which of them is better.  The pair viciously battle, Oliver taking two arrows to the back and a severe beating, as the Dark Archer explains that he knows all about the list.  Oliver manages to break free just short of being unmasked, and calls Diggle from the alley outside, before passing out from his injuries.

Oliver awakes in the hospital, Diggle having covered for his injuries with a motorcycle accident, as his family expresses relief.  Thea admits to having been too hard on Oliver, and the siblings swap candy canes as a present.  Elsewhere, the Dark Archer returns to his lair, removing his mask to reveal his identity: Malcolm Merlyn!  Shock.

Some time later, Walter leaves the Queen offices, only to be injected in the neck by a stranger and taken hostage.  Meeting with Malcolm, Moira agrees to go along with the kidnapping so long as they don’t hurt Walter. She pleads with Malcolm that she had her own son kidnapped and tortured to prove his lack of involvement with the conspiracy, but Malcolm fires back that things are only beginning.  Soon, the master plan will come to fruition, leaving thousands dead, but with a new vision for Starling city achieved.

Hobbling on a cane in the hospital, Oliver admits his failure to Diggle, expressing concern that the Dark Archer knew of the list, and its true creators.  Believing someone worse than the archer to be the real mastermind, he vows to take him down as well.

"Mid-season finale" might be something of a misnomer, consideriing 'Arrow' will only be off the air until January 16, but "Year's End" marks a fine point to look back at the season.  We weren't at all surprised to find Malcolm Merlyn would be the Dark Archer, nor were we truly shocked by anything from the episode in the way series star David Ramsay (Diggle) had earlier teased, but "Year's End" made for another fine episode regardless.  Amid a few logic gaps here and there and one or two clumsy flashbacks, 'Arrow' continues crafting an exciting and intriguing narrative that just so happens to feature some of our favorite DC characters intelligently re-drawn.  "Year's End" certainly puts a lot on the horizon, which you can bet we'll be eagerly anticipating come January.

What say you?  Did you feel that ‘Arrow’ hit the mark with its first nine episodes?  What did you like about “Year's End?” Join us next time for another all-new ‘Arrow’ episode recap of mid-season premiere “Burned” on The CW!