Arrow Season 2 Premiere Review: Back in Action
Arrow was a surprise hit for The CW last year, drawing in solid ratings for both itself and Supernatural, and its success likely contributed the network's decision to go genre-heavy this season (which certainly had nothing to do with Cult). Indeed the idea to use Arrow to launch a show focused on The Flash is a sign of just how much confidence the network has in its young vigilante—though let's not discount Warner Bros. apparently getting its act together in an effort to better exploit its DC Comics properties (Wonder Woman notwithstanding).
Being a hit has granted Arrow some new privileges, mainly an influx of money for its production budget. As the summer wore on, there was plenty of news about new villains being added to the show, villains that will likely expand its scope in considerable ways. I won't lie and say all of these decisions have me that excited, because not all of them do. Some of that trepidation comes from the fact that Season 1 struggled to build a consistent and integrated world for Oliver to exist in, and I'm not entirely sure that expanding the universe is something it can manage without becoming super wobbly.
Certainly the final few episodes of last season showed what Arrow can do when it devotes itself entirely to its serialization, but as the rest of that season showed, the series experienced some difficulty in properly integrating its serialized stories with its episodic threads. For me, that'll be a key area for Arrow Season 2 to improve; I'm still looking for consistent characterization, including motivated changes in behavior, but I really want to see the show kick up its narrative balance.
It doesn't matter how successful "City of Heroes" was in that particular challenge, however, since its primary concern was rightfully to deal with the various fallouts of the Season 1 finale and to set up the new status quo. And apart from Thea running Verdant—I take it she's done with high school in some way?—I thought the episode was nicely completed both of those tasks.
Of the less consequential changes in the episode, Quentin was demoted from detective to beat cop and Laurel's now at the District Attorney's office. Quentin's demotion doesn't really concern me all that much, though I'll be interested to see how he interacts with costumed Oliver now, given the events of the finale. Laurel's move to the D.A.'s office makes more sense, as it was clear that the show didn't know what to do with C.N.R.I., but at least at the D.A.'s office, it'll make a bit more sense for her to be connected to the criminal activities of Starling City than it was last season, when it felt like the show was bending over backward to work her into peril. Plus, well, it never seemed like C.N.R.I. did a whole lot for the Glades.
Along the same lines as Laurel and her occupational shift, Thea being Verdant's manager also feels like a signal that the show just didn't know how to use Thea with Moira in prison and Oliver heading up the company. While it gives her and Roy something to do, I'm not exactly sure how vital it is, unless the villain of the week is always going to shoot up the club and kidnap Thea, which is a terrible idea. This, of course, gets to the question of how vital Thea is to the Arrow's overall narrative, and the answer to that question remains "Not very."
Which brings us to that gang of dislocated Glades residents posing as Hood variants, but with automatic weapons instead of bows and arrows. Their goals and their plights were an obvious echo of the Savior from Season 1, but they were just different enough that I think the repetition was purposeful on the show's part (as opposed to just laziness in coming up with a threat for the episode). Like the Savior and Helena, the faux-Hoods were doing an extreme version of Oliver's notion of saving Starling City, just without his "restraint" or "honor," as Diggle put it. So their actions, connected with the destruction of the Glades and Tommy's death, finally had Oliver questioning his methods.
If you've been watching along with me since the start of Season 1, I imagine you can guess how happy this made me. Arrow's handling of justice versus vengeance and Oliver as a murderer was always fairly murky and half-baked, so the fact that it's using these situations to motivate Oliver to rethink this methodology and his mission is a good thing. Hopefully it'll eventually push beyond those discussions, and when or if Helena visits Starling City again, everyone will have themselves a decent chat about those differences without it feeling so tortured in its execution.
While I was frustrated with how the show handled talking about these issues during Season 1, I recognize the value in building it as a character arc, and having "City of Heroes" be the turning point for Oliver, and the start of new sense of duty to the city. It's a journey for Oliver, and while that journey has often been hazy for an audience, it's at least resulting in character development.
Changes as a costumed do-gooder weren't the only changes for Oliver, though. He assumed limited control of Queen Consolidated—as for how he did so, I have no idea, but whatever—while Isabel Rochev (Summer Glau) of Stellmoor International was primed to start a hostile takeover. Luckily for everyone, Walter (yay!) swooped in and saved the day, giving Oliver the money he needed to maintain half the controlling interest in the company, with Rochev holding the other half. Tense business meetings will undoubtedly commence. In what is probably a controversial opinion on the internet, I don't really care much for Summer Glau when she has to act as something other than a robot, so I'm grinning and bearing her as Rochev.
For those who aren't familiar with the comics, Rochev is a character who did indeed assume control of Queen Industries, though she favored a mask and big red trenchcoat/dress outfit. I suspect that Arrow will change the character a bit due to her age and Glau's casting, enough that I have a theory about what's likely to happen with Rochev as the season progresses. However, I'm not going to share it here (or in the comments) just yet—it's potentially spoiler-y, especially since it's based on casting news from over the summer, and I know some folks prefer to avoid that sort of thing.
There are still island flashbacks, too! It's been five months since Oliver, Slade, and Shado destroyed Fyers' missile launcher, and there was a boat sending armed guys to look for graves on the island. Not a whole lot of note here beyond the fact that Oliver had some serious rage issues when one of those guys assaulted Shado. And by "serious rage issues," I mean he bashed the guy's face in with a rock. If dealing with those emotions will be the primary concern of the island flashbacks, I will be on board with that. I'll be less on board if Slade and Shado just pretend that it didn't happen.
FROM THE QUIVER
– Did anyone feel sort of lost during the opening, with Oliver back on Lian Yu and Diggle and Felicity tracking him down? I thought the episode handled it well, but it was one of those instances where reading the Arrow digital comic—which showed Oliver giving his partners big bags of money and leaving Starling City after the events of the season finale—helped smooth out potential wrinkles for me.
– Felicity, those just did not seem like the proper shoes for traipsing around the forest of an island located in the North China Sea. Just saying.
– "You're really sweaty."
– I'm going to treat the mention of the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator as a potential Flash origin seed.
– "Just FYI: No one is eating the bagels."
– The new and improved Arrow Cave echoes Fox News' new News Deck with that big honkin' screen.
– "I kept that. I liked watching you do that."
– Oh, hey, we got our first look at Black Canary at the end of the episode! I think Roy may be in love. Also: It's clear that Roy is useless in a fight if he doesn't have something to parkour with.
– On the comic book connection front, there were a few things in this episode that caught my eye. One was the appearance of Bethany Snow, the Channel 52 news anchor. Snow's a reporter in the comics as well, and is currently featured in the Channel 52 back-up feature that appears at the end of any DC title. She had a connection to a villain from the comics prior to the New 52 launch, but I'll leave that for later, should it crop up on the show. The bigger bit of news is that last week the Green Arrow comic introduced Diggle to the DC Universe in issue #24! There will be differences, but the Comic Book Diggle is supposed to remain roughly the same, personality- and backstory-wise, as the TV Diggle we've come to know.
– I'm on vacation this week, but I'll still try to drop in to discuss the episode with you all in the comments. I hated that I missed talking about the finale with everyone, but I moved a couple days after it aired and I was so consumed with packing and unpacking and waiting for the cable and internet installation that I didn't get around to even reading the comments until a week and half later.
Did you miss Arrow? Glad it's back? What'd you think of the Season 2 premiere?
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