Arrow "Honor Thy Father" Review: The Second-Episode Blues

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Oct 18, 2012

Arrow S01E02: "Honor Thy Father"

Second episodes are tough. Pilots, while no cakewalk, have a clear goal: Convince a network to buy, and then convince an audience to come back for Episode 2. Second episodes have to keep the audience that returned, but they also tend to work at bringing in anyone who didn’t see Episode 1, and that makes them sometimes function like a second pilot.

“Honor Thy Father” ended up very firmly in that "second pilot" camp. There was a lot of expository dialogue to explain things that were previously discussed or learned in the pilot, and lots of characters declared things as explicitly as possible. It made the episode seem clunky and more than a little overstuffed, especially in the first half, which was a whirl of “I was on an island!” “You told me to stay away from you!” “You were dead, I had no one, I turned to drugs and partying!” et cetera.

But with that said, it was the second episode, so we sort of need to move on and hope the show doesn’t do this every week. Some shows can pull it off with a surprising amount of ease (The Vampire Diaries is really good about organically working in internal recapping), and hopefully Arrow will transition into that next week.

Luckily, in between all the expository stuff, there were some genuinely good moments to be had. I think the best bit, apart from Laurel and Oliver eating ice cream (and I’ll get to that), was Diggle and Oliver in the car after Oliver shut down the notion of Diggle taking a position in Queen Consolidated. Speaking from apparent experience, Diggle said, "Back home, they're trying to 'get you'...," and there was this brief moment of bonding between the two, a degree of understanding that both have gone through unpleasant things (to say the least) and that the people who haven't gone through them just don’t, and can’t, comprehend the state those unpleasant things have left them in.

And that was sort of the crux of the episode, the notion that it’s hard to understand other people’s pain. Everyone’s having problems with moving on and working through their grief. Oliver and Thea can’t completely reconnect because Oliver’s just trying to prevent her from making his mistakes (while still putting on the public persona of making those mistakes); Oliver and Laurel have gone from anger to walking on eggshells; and even Quentin and Laurel are on different pages, especially Quentin, who is petrified of losing another daughter.

That’s why moments like Oliver with Diggle, or Oliver enjoying ice cream with Laurel, work for me. There’s a thematic consistency to them as Oliver attempts to come to grips with his life and works to reconnect with others. Yes, this idea was served up quite obviously at the end of the episode as Oliver addressed his father’s gravestone, but I was okay with them spelling it out since, unlike the voiceovers (which remain horrible), it felt motivated by the character and the episode’s plot.

But by now you may be tired of hearing me talk about things like feelings and characters. What about all the costume stuff? Well, it was pretty good from an action standpoint. Both big fights, Diggle with China White and then Oliver with China White, were generally well-shot and exciting. I preferred Diggle versus China White, if only because it showed that Diggle isn’t completely incompetent at the whole bodyguard thing.

I don’t have much to say yet about Kelly Hu as China White. She had like eight lines, so there’s no real sense of character at this point. To be fair, China White’s not the most developed character in the comics. She’s only appeared in Andy Diggle’s Green Arrow: Year One series, and there she was the head of a major crime organization, she specialized in drugs, and she was on the island Oliver washed up on. There, she was running an opium farm and a heroin factory (as you would expect, given her name), and Oliver, as part of his assumption of the hero mantle, shut it down and freed the slaves who work for her.

On Arrow, China White seems to be an enforcer for the Chinese Triad, but so far we don't have a lot of information. Hu’s slated for a few more episodes, so I suspect that we’ll learn more about China White beyond the fact that she’s a really good at hand-to-hand combat and likes little curved knives.

Flashback-wise, which is perhaps the most pressing issue for many folks based on the comments on last week's review, Arrow is still piecemealing out that narrative, so settle in. Oliver acquired the notebook from his father’s corpse, but it was blank except for some sort of symbol. And then someone shot him through the chest with an arrow. Maybe that person put the names in the notebook. And taught Oliver Russian. And those mad computer skills.

The symbol, of course, was seen with whomever Moira was meeting with and assuring that Oliver is still totally clueless about whatever’s going on in Starling City. I’m okay with Moira’s conspiracy being at the tail end of each episode for now, since the show’s still establishing itself (and it’s a very comic book-y thing to do). I’m sure it’ll become more prominent as we go forward.

All in all, "Honor Thy Father" was not a great second episode, but it had some good stuff sprinkled throughout. What did you all think?


– Oliver’s “You failed this city” spiel isn’t exactly working. I get the impulse behind the speech (it gives him an avenging tone, and it makes him an extension of the city, which is cool), but I don’t think it’s “there” yet.

Arrow may have a tough time balancing Public Asshole Oliver and Working to Reconnect with His Sister and Ex-girlfriend Oliver. At some point it’s just going to seem a touch odd, and it won’t be Amell’s fault, since I think he’s hitting each version. There’s a dissonance the writers will need to work through; there needs to be some sort of consistency to connect them.

– Laurel was representing a woman named Emily Nocenti. Currently writing the Green Arrow comic book is Ann Nocenti (she’s also writing the Catwoman series). I suppose these little name references could get old, but I rather like them. I hope they save O’Neil (in honor of Dennis O’Neil) for someone really cool.

– Speaking of Laurel, the legal aid office is called CNRI? Like canary. Cute.

– This episode’s moment in pointless pedantry: The painted-on mask seemed haphazardly applied. I don’t care.

– What I do sort of care about is that I thought the show had taken care of Oliver rescinding the death certificate off-screen during the pilot, given all the easy access to resources he had, but nope. It wasn't a very well-organized chain of events, and apart from the desire to recap the pilot, doing the legalities could’ve been handled in a couple of lines during this week's episode as opposed to taking up the whole first chunk of it.

What'd you think of Episode 2?

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  • Genesistt Oct 21, 2012

    I liked the second episode. I thought it further helped establish the characters. I don't know the comics, so all this is new territory for me. Blank slate here. I need these characters to be established. I need their motivations laid out for me. I think this show wouldn't work without the flashbacks. We need the insight of what happened on that island over a span of 5 years to understand what made Oliver the man he is now. Especially (and I can't state this enough) for those of us who don't know the comics!!! I'm still unsure about Laurel. I love the onscreen chemistry between Oliver and Diggle. I get the sister's anger and how she's trying to express to Oliver that it wasn't a picnic for the people left behind either. Important to know. I love Detective Lance. I think Paul Blackthorne is excellent. His sense of right and wrong is so very black and white in this world of grey. But Laurel's attitude seems slightly out of place. Like she's angry at the wrong people or something. Don't know. Can't quite put my finger on it. Personally I can't wait for the next episode. I want to learn more.

  • brag0031 Oct 21, 2012

    I like the flashbacks and character driven scenes Oliver had with Thea, Lauren, and Diggle. The action scenes were fairly good. The main drug smuggling/murder plot I thought seemed overly cliched. I liked the Quentin/Lauren scene at the end that brings up the question of is The Arrow a hero or a vigilante taking the law into his own hands, but for that question to really hold any weight, the villians shouldn't be so over the top bad.

  • yutg25 Oct 22, 2012

    agreed THis show is balancing the line between 90s bad guys in tights/spandex and an dark edgy look I worried that if they fall too much on one over the top bad guys well this show might not last long.

  • fandomgirl Oct 21, 2012

    I liked this episode pretty well. It had great action scenes (I especially liked the final confrontation between China White and Arrow in the wharf). And I realy liked the developing relationships that we're already seeing progress with (Oliver with Laurel and Oliver with Thea). Overall, I think this is a strong show. The only problem I see with the future is Stephen Arnell's acting. He plays the vigilante well, but he can come off monotone a lot. I'm not sure if this is on purpose (to be that disconnected castaway type) or not...

  • prowly Oct 21, 2012

    I was a bit shocked by the revelation that the mom was at least aware of, and possibly had a hand in, the sabotage of the Queen's Gambit. Unless Oliver joined the trip at the last minute, then she was apparently okay with having her son killed off, no matter how relieved she seems to be by his miraculous return. It seems a bit too obvious, so I'm expecting some sort of twist later that will eliminate her as a major villain.

    I also suspect that Laurel and Thea will get clued in on Oliver's secret in the near future. Right now, Oliver's pulling a movie Bruce Wayne in order to throw suspicion off himself, but Bruce Wayne had an Alfred and a Lucius (and briefly, a Rachel), so I imagine those two will get brought into the fold. Not really sure how they'll handle Merlyn though... I mean, can he even be GA's archenemy if he hasn't practiced with a bow and arrow by now? Or will they maybe reveal that he has been into archery all of his life or something?

  • GirishStewart Oct 21, 2012

    This episode was also good! I also think the voice-overs and Oliver trying to speak in a deep voice, like the 'you failed this city' scene are kinda irritating, but its alright. The show is doing so many things right. Especially love the action sequences and the scenes where Oliver interacts with Thea and Diggle. They need to make his reasons to meet with Laurel a little bit more believable though.

  • bluemystique Oct 21, 2012

    I shall thank Acrobit for the reminder that I watch Arrow.

    I thought it was pretty solid. I like the show so far. It has a few kinks to work out but it's pretty solid for a new show, and for a show on the CW so it's working for me. I agree with the general consensus that the voiceovers are positively dreadful. Some shows can pull off voiceovers, In Plain Sight was one of the, Grey's Anatomy seems to make it work, Veronica Mars pulled it off. In this case the voiceovers just aren't working for me. Also, if ANYONE is engaging in a drinking game with this show I pity you. If you're taking a shot every time you hear the word "Island" things are going to suck for you in the morning. Or every single time someone mentions "five years"'ll be in the hospital, and If you're taking a shot everytime "this city", "my city", "our city", "the city", or just plain ole "city" is used then I personally will draw little green arrows on your grave because your arse will more than likely be dead. They must either find a Thesaurus or chill on the unnecessary intensity and reminders. We've figured out that he was on an island for five years and that the city has gone to hell...don't underestimate the intelligence of the audience.

    -I like Ollie and Diggle. It's a fun little relationship and most of it is unspoken. Diggle knows that Ollie is full of it, hiding crazy stuff, and dealing with his own interpretation of PTSD. Ollie knows that Diggle is probably the only one right now who sees right through him. Neither of them say anything directly but rather make subtle implications and cryptic, sardonic remarks. It works for me.

    - Ollie and everyone else. Things can get complicated. I like that he's trying to keep his sis from being like him. I think it's difficult when he's trying to pretend to be who he used to be. He's making progress with Laurel but he kind of should be keeping his distance because she's going to get whiplash dealing with his back and forth behavior. He and his friend are...hmm. I can't figure it quite out yet. The friction between him and the Detective is necessary but doesn't keep me from rolling my eyes. I sometimes have issues with indidivuals who can't separte personal feelings from the job, emotions from logic, or giving due when due is deserved.But most of all...maybe it's the Social Science geek in me, but it's annoying me that his friends and family are all expecting him to be just all fine and dandy after he spent five years presumably barely managing to survive on a remote island. As far as they know he isn't nearly the badass that he is this whole suck it up, get over it, and jump back into everything under the Sun and let's pretend this never happened mentality that ALL of them have is so frustrating to watch. Dude sleeps in front of an open window instead of in his bed and almost choked his mother out on the first night he was back. Instead of trying to throw him into the business about suggesting he get therapy. They at least managed to eventually squeeze in that he's not really talking to anyone or opening up, but the way in which they're acknowledging that is so unrealistic and ridiculous to me. There's a transition period that everyone around him seems to be ignoring. Sure for the show's purposes he's pretty much okay and he's a vigilante and all badass now...but if he was just some average joe who had gone through such an ordeal he'd seriously lack the support network. They kinda suck. At least Diggle seems in tune with him on some level,and Laurel (now...because she certainly wasn't before) seems to acknowledge that he might require some adjusting. Overall I'm liking the series though. I like action and this has action. I'm pleased. the voiceovers have to go...some of the vengeance talk when he's taking out a person is a little bit ridonkulous. I totally want to take up archery lessons though.

  • Acrobit Oct 24, 2012

    In, right between 'pretty late' and 'way too late'..

    (First, welcome aboard. I was beginning to think I wouldn't see you until TW Season 3.)

    What I like about Ollie and Diggle (besides the perfect sitcom name) is that they're only CW'd in that Supernatural way. Whatever they understand about each other, they get that they don't need to talk it out every damn time. Diggle's not some male Afghanistan-vet version of Ollie's sister, where he asks Ollie to lean on his manly shoulder and cry all his troubles out. It's pretty much...

    Diggle: "Sup. Your peeps. Bug, amirite?"

    Ollie: "Yes."

    Diggle: "Yes."

    Call me a 23-year-old relic, but that's damn-near a speech in the language of Man. There's room for them to disappoint me on this, but they've been good so far.

    You pretty much covered the rest. It was a cheeseball PLL moment to have him walk up to that press conference...thing, fake-drunk, to show everyone he's not going to run his family's multimillion (billion?) dollar company two weeks after coming back from...The Island. Whole lotta 'duh' with all that, but you gotta weigh the good with the bad, or there'll never be anything to watch. And they don't review Boss, so..

  • JoshAtis Oct 20, 2012

    do you need to be familiar with the comics to watch this show?

  • noelrk Oct 20, 2012

    Nope! I'll mention comics during the reviews, but unless it's really pressing, it'll likely be limited to quick contextualization or a compare/contrast (like above with China White).

    (If the show gets you interested in reading comics, check out Andy Diggle's Green Arrow: Year One and Mike Grell's The Longbow Hunter. The series is drawing on those two series, and both are available in trade paperback or as digital comics.)

  • ty3211 Oct 20, 2012

    No. Watch the Pilot and you're good to go.

  • lryer Oct 20, 2012

    A note on apparently blank notebooks:

    In present time the writing in the notebook is oddly pale and translucent - as if invisible ink has been restored.

    I keep being bothered by the Laurel Lance think, but it is DC and it's an LL name...

  • TypeB Oct 20, 2012

    What lawyer would act like a spurned girlfriend in front of a client? Haha.

    But overall, I still like the show.

  • stanking Oct 20, 2012

    The voiceovers are truly horrific, but they got me thinking: what would it be like to overhear a conversation between Oliver and Person of Interest's Reese? Could you even tell the difference between the two?

  • noelrk Oct 20, 2012

    Only Gene Hackman's character from The Conversation would be able to tell them apart.

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