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TV REVIEW: ARROW Season 2, Episode 1 City of Heroes
21/10/2013 REVIEWS

arrow-tvreview-logosmallArrow Season 2 aired tonight on Sky 1 much to my great joy. After the explosive finale last year, I’m both excited and intrigued to see how this year plays out. There’s the promise of new characters from the comic continuity this year, but before that – how does this opening episode stand up? Click on to find out.

Synopsis (from TV.com:): Diggle and Felicity go to Lian Yu and convince Oliver to return to Sterling City. Upon his return, he finds out that Isabel Rochev wants to take over Queen Consolidated. Thea is refusing to visit her mother in jail, Roy has stepped into Arrow’s shoes and Laurel is trying to take down the vigilante. Flashbacks from the island show Shado, Slade, and Oliver in a difficult situation.

Last season, Arrow ended in what I thought was a fantastic and unexpected manner. The hero lost. Okay, his nemesis was apparently defeated and killed but Merlin’s plan succeeded anyway. Contingency plans. More villains should have them! With Oliver Queen’s best friend dead and an area of the city literally falling off the map we were left wondering what could happen next.

It’s a year later when the series re-starts and Oliver Queen has (in I think an out of character move) shirked responsibility and run off to sulk on the island that made him. His mission given to him by his father’s list is over – and it failed. So he ran away. What this does allow is for the story to have moved along to a point where the dust has settled somewhat. In many ways a more interesting place to start a story than the immediate aftermath of the cataclysm. I found it hard to credit that the residents of Starling City don’t put two and two together as both the Hood and Oliver Queen have been unseen since the Glades were dropped in a hole …

I still find some of Stephen Amell’s acting to be a bit bland as “current” Oliver – all the more noticeable because the rest of the cast are superb. “Island” Oliver is another matter entirely. He wears his emotions on his sleeve while interacting with Lawton and Shado. The contrast is understandable given his time on the island, but I would like to see more of the old Oliver emerge – even if only slightly.

With regards the regular characters, I still don’t rate Laurel very highly at all. She remains somewhat bland – although her desire to bring the Vigilante to justice should make for some interesting drama. It’s great to see Thea stand up and take over management of the club. She’s learned a lot since the show first began and has really grown as a person. Indeed, it’s now her trying to keep an unruly acquaintance in line rather than being the one kicking out against the world.

Of course, Felicity and Diggle remain superb. Their frustration with Oliver is well played and the scene where they realise just why Oliver ran away is possibly my favourite of the episode. A quiet moment between these three. This crisis of method is contrasted with the island flashbacks which deal with Oliver learning that he must do some hard things to survive.
It’s difficult not to compare this second time-out from Starling City to the manner in which Bruce Wayne was handled in Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy – particularly given how Queen Industries faces take-over due to crashing stock following last year’s finale. Frankly, I found the return much better handled in this small screen series. I really liked a board-room showdown which featured the return of a familiar face returns to play a role. Well played, writers. Well played.

In addition to a city which has turned against the Queen family and the aforementioned hostile take-over of his family’s company, Oliver has to face a number of copy cats. As well as a gang of “Hood” vigilantes (reminiscent of the “Sons of the Bat” from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns), Thea’s Glades-born boyfriend, Roy has retained his hero-worship. It will be interesting to see the direction that the show takes Roy, given their willingness to diverge from the comic series. Will Roy become Oliver’s side-kick? Or will Oliver’s desire to protect Thea make him convince the young man to stop.

This episode seems to guest star Makeup. Laurel, Thea and Felicity have been layered in the stuff this week. I really don’t remember this to have been the case last year as Felicity in particular was more of a “regular” girl genius. Added to this her new more glamorous attire (which we’d seen before but only when she was on a mission and she never seemed to be comfortable in it), I have to wonder what direction the show is going with regard its female leads.

Overall, this was a great opening episode. While I initially had my doubts about Oliver’s leave of absence, it certainly opens the way for some excellent story points to have developed in his absence. It’s only in the final act of the show that Oliver really returns as the Hood which worked really well to ramp the tension. Got to love the scene where he enters his training basement too . It’s also during this episode that Oliver decides to try to find a non-lethal solution to the crimes he stops. This is excellently contrasted with the methods of the copy-cats who had “learned from his example”.

Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Wedgedoc

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