Arrow Season 2 Premiere Review: Back in Action

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Oct 10, 2013

Arrow S02E01: "City of Heroes"

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.


– 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?

  • Comments (244)
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  • RyanMillar Oct 21, 2013

    Give up on this show now. All this there is another way crap. Is this show now for 12 year olds be better on in the morning next to pier rangers at this rate

  • bkyle2429 Jan 03, 2015

    this show is far from crap and 12 years should not be watching!!!

  • tobsh Oct 17, 2013

    This was pretty good. I'm surprised since I found the first season to be mediocre.
    Also, after not watching the show for a few months I realized just how many better-than-life looking actors they have on their cast. This is too much guys. Which one of them isn't plastered on some teenager's (adult's?) wall? Then again, there's rarely an ugly comic book character.

  • RadiioGirl Oct 15, 2013

    Am I the only one who saw the stunt double of Roy in the club scene?

  • ChetanMannur Oct 27, 2013

    lol great catch indeed!! ;)

  • RyanMillar Oct 21, 2013

    Was poor stint double. Why could he not have done his own stunt was hardly big action

  • ashtray4241 Oct 16, 2013

    You made me look :) .... Great catch....

  • ElisaDiaz Oct 13, 2013

    These reviews are excellent, have a lot of insightful comments that relate to the comics and that I am very happy to read about.


    I have no clue about these comics. So I don't know who Black Canary is, sorry about that. There is only a tiny reference about it like it is not surprising to anyone, in the final notes of the review. I have to assume is that lady that showed up at the end, in the middle of Roy's fight. I have to guess that it is a known character in the Arrow comics that I should have known about before watching this episode. No worries, I'm an old internet girl, I know I can look up anything I want and get answers. This is not a complaint. Just a point of view of a reader, in case it helps value the general knowledge of the visitors population. And in case you didn't have a clue neither, so you know that it is ok :)

  • bleumystique Oct 13, 2013

    • The moment they begin focusing on Oliver and his wrestling with his demons and the fine line between vengeance and justice, I thought of Noel. :) I sort of rolled my eyes a bit over him finally stopping to really think about all of this only after Tommy died. All the doing it to honor Tommy bit felt a little too heavy-handed and in some ways didn't make matters all that better took Tommy dying for him to see that? But eh. It was still something that needed to be addressed. I especially liked the scene he had with Offercer Lance after he caught the vigilantes he inspired.
    • Soooo Thea is running the club. It's funny, becuase I was thinking that she was like sixteen or something, so that one threw me. As did the fact that Oliver sort of left her while their mom was in prison. But I'm assuming she's old enough to run and tend a bar which makes her 19? Thea continues to be an terribly inconsistent and for the most part pointless character. They would have been better off if she took a trip to Europe or something, just to get away.
    • Still not a Laurel fan. She's a tad more useful than Thea, but not as much to me. She still doesn't even feel like a believable love interest to me. She's just...there. Whenever it is convenient for her to be there. I guess the move to the D.A's office gives her some way to be involved. Personally, if you have to keep jumping through hoops and stretching far and wide to write for a character they probably shoudn't be in there.
    • I wasn't as jarred by Diggle and Felicity traipising through the island looking for Oliver.
    • I like the new Arrow cave.
    • I love Felicity. She is just the best. I love that she seems unapologetic about her lack of a filter now. She still rambles and everything but she seems more confident than she was last season. She's more vocal and doesn't come across as meek and awkward, but she's still...her. So it all works.
    • Summer Glau didn't do it for me.
    • Flashbacks were interesting, only because of the relationship between Oliver and Shado and of course the whole bashing a guy's head in and all.
    • I know it's against the rules to not adore Colton Hayes all of the time, but Roy stuff always feels like episode filler with no direction.
    • I continue to love and appreciate the way they address class and economic warfare on this show.

  • dustinwood9041 Oct 13, 2013

    Hey Noel! First time reading ur reviews and I am hooked! Love how passionate u are. I have been living with a rare disease since I was that goes thru stages of good and bad and when I first got it I was 8 and it was bad so I couldn't go outside all summer so my Mom was at a garage sale and bought this box of comic books and brought them home. It was a box no joke full of Green Arrow comic books. It had all the Longbow Hunters and the entire series 1 thru 100 of Mike Grells sequel series. They were the first comics I ever read in my life so I have been a Green Arrow fan since and Im now 25. I hold this character very close to my heart so you have no idea how much I love this show for making him as badass as he is in the comics.
    I wanted ur opinion on Stephen Amells comments about episode 202 coming up this week....he said its the BEST episode of the entire series thus far. Do you agree with this since you have seen a advanced copy? Thank you again for being epic and reviewing this show so amazingly.
    Dustin Wood

  • noelrk Oct 13, 2013

    I wouldn't say "best" but it's probably one of the show's strongest episodes so far.

  • dustinwood9041 Oct 13, 2013

    awesome! Thanks for writing back! So in ur opinion what is the best episode thus far if this one doesn't do it for u?

  • Aesandil Oct 12, 2013

    A surprisingly strong start to the season. Feels like Arrow has numerous interesting places to go.

    I liked the opening on (and over) Lian Yu. Diggle and Felicity are just so much fun to watch, especially when joined by Oliver. Narrative-wise, it made sense for Oliver to retreat back to his shelter, his cocoon. The island allowed him to be reborn back then and shaped the man that he is, so the island has become a sort of unofficial home. That's the best place he could go to after his perceived failures.
    I'll admit that the scene where Felicity stepped on an old land mine had me rolling my eyes. Yet another show playing that card, and yet another show would be surely wasting time on the other character (Diggle) digging a sensitive part out and disarming the mine. But lo and behold, Arrow played with my expectations. Instead of going for the same old beat theme, we had Oliver swooping down for the rescue. That's one way to disarm a mine. How fitting.

    While I could initially believe in Oliver wanting nothing to do with The Hood, his ongoing denial became akin to that of a spoiled brat, consequently turning into quite an annoyance. But at least they didn't let it drag on for several episodes. Giving the Queen part of his life more to do seems like a good move to balance the scales. Now he has the chance to become a major player in more than one way (and any reason to have Walter appear is just fine with me).

    Arrow also attempted a more mature way of dealing with the supposed issues of "body count" and "mass murdering". By admitting it and talking about it, for starters. And the treatment of such was more than just superficial. Oliver made a valid point for the much needed "kill or be killed" attitude when out on the hunt, Felicity made another with the "don't always have to kill", among other things (admittedly I liked the "what do you care" the most). So perhaps this will allow Mr. Queen more choices going forward (admittedly he didn't always try to kill before that, just didn't try as much not to).
    What I hope doesn't happen, however, is turning Oliver and Arrow into a mushy version of Clark Kent who always attempts to take the moral high ground and blah blah blah. What made the series so interesting is that it understood that sometimes there is a justification for taking another's life. It doesn't mean that every time Oliver killed someone it was completely necessary (rest in peace, droves of nameless hired guys), but it means that in several cases there's been a reason. More or less questionable, perhaps, but a reason nonetheless. What the show could do is to better emphasize such reasons.
    In any case, I just hope that Arrow doesn't take a sudden 360 degrees turn and make Oliver a hero who keeps locking villains who in turn escape, kill some civilians, get captured and locked again, then escape again to commit more murders, etc. That would be so horribly awful. I'd rather have it deeper explore the non-black&white; hues.

    If there is anything that currently worries me, it's elevating deceased Tommy to that of a saint. The assumption is being made that since Tommy called Oliver a "murderer", it means that he must've been oh so right. Because he knew how it was like and had to face what his friend had to face, right? And they all "betrayed" poor little Tommy, not at all because he acted like a jealous coward who eventually ran off to his not-so-perfect daddy.
    For the record - I liked Tommy, despite his inconsistent characterization. I was sad to see him go. But he was only around for the first season, and he has been shown to be full of shit quite a few times (coupled with demonstrating reedeming qualities the other times). I just don't want him to become a patron for Oliver's actions, of all people. That Tommy would be the one to facilitate a huge change is somehow offensive. It makes me wince that it could all be done now just to honor Tommy's memory, with Oliver spouting such horrible beliefs, that every kill would seemingly disgrace his dead friend. Just... no.
    Oliver really needs to stand on his own and not see himself only through the eyes of another seriously flawed individual. If Tommy casts too long of a shadow, I can see it quickly becoming tiresome.

    Some other things of note:
    * I don't care much for Summer Glau, but she played her part well. We'll see where it goes.
    * Thea still has mommy issues. Forever and ever. And now runs a club. Ooookay. To her defense, she did seem a little more mature there. At least for a little while.
    * I think Laurel was in this episode, and wasn't even annoying much. She and Oliver broke up, may it stay so forever.
    * The beginning of Moira's redemption?
    * I don't mind Roy, though he obviously has a long way to go.
    * Diggle needs more screen time.
    * Felicity needs more screen time. Luckily she still gets to have amusing lines. Plus is the best girl Ollie could find.
    * Oliver could certainly use a more modern take on his costume. Like, don't parade your face around so much.

    I've also noticed that there was some case of the week with some copycats. It was okay-ish, if nothing special. Made sense in the aftermath of partial Glades destruction. And they even survived.

    And of course, I loved my island flashbacks. Good fighting practice between Oliver and Slade, new enemies on the soil. Ollie and Shado make a cute pair, but man, does he have some serious rage issues. She better avoid taking on another boyfriend for the time being.

    Finally, it's good to have Noel's reviews back. I am grateful as always for the few juicy comic bits and some interesting notes. I've never been on board with that justice/vengeance obsession, nor did I think the show was as hazy or fumbled as much, so I guess this is where we still won't see eye to eye. At least Noel didn't hate on island flashbacks! ;)

  • crenshawdk Oct 12, 2013

    All in all a solid season premiere. However I got a bad vibe from it. The fact that Oliver got a conscience because of Tommys death seems like the show wants to go pc. I hate shows that go pc for the the sake of pc. It's not that it doesn't make sense or is in tune with the comic but I don't want it to be a feel good show, I want it to retain the dark overtone the first season had.

  • RichardHollin Oct 12, 2013

    Come on, Summer's train cameo on The Big Bang Theory and being creeped out by the guys ;) I want to see where this show will take Ms Glau

  • crenshawdk Oct 12, 2013

    Kudos to Noel for actually having read the comics and holding the show up against it. It's very interesting and informative and insightful.

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