The first part of this year’s Arrow revolved heavily on getting Starling City back to “normal”. Oliver Queen (the ever hunky Stephen Amell), being as dedicated as he is to protecting his city, took the destruction of Starling City (as well as the death of his childhood best friend, Tommy) very hard and went back to the island where he was stranded for those five harrowing years. Oliver ditches the hood out of guilt for failing his city and heads back to the Island. John Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), being the friends and allies that they are, seek out Oliver in order for him to rescue the city, and his family’s business, from further ruin by the hostile yet beautiful Isabel Rochev (Summer Glau).
There’s a lot of drama in the first several episodes; Oliver’s mother Moira (Susanna Thompson) is in jail fighting for her freedom, Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) loses his detective ranking, Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) takes over the mantle of the Hood, Thea Queen (Willa Holland) hates her mom and Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidey) is on the hunt for the Vigilante. Not to mention all of the crazy stuff that’s happening on the Island! Oliver, Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) and Shado’s (Celina Jade) love triangle gets even more complicated whenever a formerly presumed dead person show’s up: Sara Lance (Caity Lotz)!
Everything in the present gets even crazier whenever Sara shows up as the Black Canary. Now, the Canary is even more brutal than Oliver was in season one and has no qualms about killing (just ask the Dollmaker…sheesh!). Meanwhile, the underlying threat that has been boiling since the beginning of the season starts to come to fruition. A new villain, known as Brother Blood, is kidnapping the citizens of Starling City and injecting them with a potent super serum that either turns them into monstrous weapons (there is a strong Solomon Grundy reference) or kills them altogether. Things get even nastier when it is revealed that Brother Blood is none other than Sebastain Blood (Kevin Alejandro), an alderman for Starling City and it’s supposed savior.
During all of this chaos, Laurel, who was a champion and fan favorite in the first season, develops a drinking and pill habit that soon ends her law career. She denies any help from her father and Oliver citing that she is fine, although spinning into a self-destructive cycle in the process. This is my biggest problem with this season: I HATED Laurel throughout most of this incredible journey. Her turn as heel was fine, it was her attitude and overall personality change that ultimately had her in the fans sniper sights as a drudge on the season. She eventually pulls through, but it was a rough ride for the majority of what was otherwise a standout season.
Meanwhile, back on Lian Yu (the Island), Dr Anthony Ivo (Dylan Neal) and his band of mercenaries are looking for the fabled Mirakuru serum. This serum has the ability to turn you into a super powered, overly rage induced weapon or kill you…sound familiar? Anyway, Ivo manages to fatally wound Slade which prompt the gang to try the Mirakuru serum on him to save his life. At first glance, it kills him and Ivo takes the rest of the group into the woods; here he makes Oliver decide whom he will shoot: Shado or Sara. Oliver is forced into saving Sara, killing Shado in the process. Once Slade makes his miraculous recovery from his Mirakuru injection, he sees the slain Shado and seeks vengeance while Sara and Oliver look on.
Shado’s death is revealed to be the entire structure to the madness that is occurring this year. Even though Oliver tells his team that he killed Slade on the island, Slade shows up alive and well in Oliver’s own home as a supporter of the newly announced mayoral candidate, Moira Queen. Slade makes sure that Oliver knows that he intends to keep his promise, which he made on the island. You see, Slade finds out that Oliver let Shado die and promises Oliver that he will make him suffer and know true despair. The whole Brother Blood making a Mirakuru army to destroy Starling City (as well as Isabel Rochev completing her hostile takeover of Queen Consolidated) was the master plan of Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke.
After the reveal of Deathstroke, Arrow picks up the intensity to the nth degree. First, Slade takes it upon himself to make Oliver choose to spare another life again: his sister Thea or his mother Moira. Moira takes it upon herself to be slain, sparing Thea and Oliver in the process. Meanwhile, not only has Roy been injected with the Mirakuru (and subsequently turned into a crazy strong douche bag) but was also the guinea pig for a cure courtesy of Felicity’s buddies at the famed STAR Labs. Once the cure is confirmed to work, Oliver and his team take off to stop Deathstroke and his juiced up army. After the Mirakuru monsters are subdued, the final battle between Deathstroke and the Arrow have their final showdown. While all of this is going on, the fight between Slade and Oliver from the Island are interspersed with the current brawl. The final few minutes are worth the price of admission for the entirety of the season.
Of course, this season was by no means perfect. To be honest, I really think that these Arrow seasons should be cut down by at least eight to ten episodes. This could be a selfish notion, but I am worried that the show will be struggling for content over the next few seasons. Vertigo, one of Green Arrow’s most notable foes from the comics, is now dead. Isabel Rochev, who is a formidable opponent in the New 52 storylines, will also no longer be a problem. Granted, The Black Arrow is now back and Deathstroke is still kicking but I just want to see this show continue strongly year after year and I am not sure that in a full 24 episode format it can be done…hopefully I’m wrong.
Some will also say that the season ended on a less than stellar note, but I would disagree. The way that the showrunners mixed the Island fight in with the Arrow/Deathstroke fight was not only exceptional but also exhilarating. Also, Detective (yes, he finally got his title back) Lance falling down from an apparent poison attack was an excellent cliffhanger. I am looking forward to seeing what will become of Oliver, Laurel and the rest of the team coming back to tackle some all new threat. Based off of some pretty heavy hinting I am guessing that Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Assassin’s will play heavily in next season.
I can’t end this review without mentioning the most exciting event that has happened to this show and television (in my opinion at least) in a long time. A nerdy little crime scene investigator named Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) wanders onto the scene about halfway through the season. Barry, as many of you already know, becomes the Flash. During an accident, which is captured to near perfection on screen, Barry gains access to the Speed Force; this allows him to travel at near light speeds as well as some other cool stuff. This is leading into a spinoff into Flash’s own TV show that’s coming in the fall. This new show will be boom or bust for the CW, the Flash show as well as Arrow. I betting that the gamble pays off.
The first season of Arrow was a critical and numbers darling and stunned me as far as what a quality comic book based show could be. Sure, the writers played around with some canon, but I really didn’t care since it was done so well. Season two had a lot of hype to live up to and it delivered. Manu Bennet’s turn as Deathstroke stole the show; his menacing demeanor and physical prowess lent an imposing nature to a DC villain stalwart. Also, the episode involving the Suicide Squad was done so well that I am hoping for a spinoff for just them…lead by Diggle of course. The season built on what made the original so good and set another high bar for season three. I myself am looking forward to what Oliver and his team have up their sleeves for another hit season.