Warning: Season One spoilers will be discussed in this review, and it should be avoided until you have viewed it.
When the CW debuted Arrow in the fall of last year, it didn’t take long for me to realize that this show had the potential to be one of my favorites currently running. Despite being an admitted DC Comics fan, I also will fess up to not being able to sink enough time into reading them to know every character’s ins-and-outs, and Arrow takes a character I knew very little about brings him to the forefront. What I have found out is that the Green Arrow, a character who I had previously only known any story about from his run on CW’s own Smallville, is that he is one of my absolute favorite comic book heroes.
Whether that is simply the creative direction taken by Arrow’s creative team or not is up for debate, but even if it is, this iteration of Oliver Queen is imply addictive to watch. I reviewed season one shortly after it had finished airing earlier this year, and gave it a very high score, ranking it among one of my favorite inaugural seasons of television ever, and now that we are a few episodes into it’s sophomore bow, I can safely say that this show has not lost any steam. In fact, it’s clear that the momentum gained at the end of last season has kicked the show into overdrive, and it has now fully accepted what it is, and what it wants to be.
The result has been an amazing start to the season, with very little to find in the realm of faults. Arrow picks up nearly five months after the tragic events of season one’s finale, and we learn that Oliver has taken the full emotional impact of the Glades destruction, as well as the death of his lifelong best friend, all upon his shoulders. Now, this is no new idea, and indeed when it first started, I was truly worried that we would have to suffer an early-season lull with Oliver wanting to stay in hiding, avoiding returning to Starling City and refusing to continue to be it’s protector. Luckily, we didn’t get any of that, as by the end of the season premier, he was back to patrolling rooftops, and back with a renewed focus, now not only as the hooded vigilante, but as one who wants to repair his image, and take a new path of enlightenment, avoiding death at all costs.
Much was made about the decision for Arrow to include what ostensibly amounts to the murder of Green Arrows foes in the first season, I myself even had a problem with it in the early going, but it made sense for this setting, this down-to-earth and dark telling of this particular heroes journey. It worked in the first season, and helped sell the audience on the idea that not only did the villains and the police force of Starling City not want The Hood’s help, but for the most part, the general public didn’t either. It’s always been a hard thing to reconcile in my mind, when reading these vigilante comics like Batman or Green Arrow, how the public and the police force would ever take issue with someone that has extraordinary abilities using them to help rid the streets of the plague of crime.
But, with a vigilante who takes the lives of his enemies into his own hands, opting to end lives rather than bring criminals to justice, it all added up. This is what helped sell me on the first season of Arrow. Now, Oliver has sworn to never kill again, and the death of his friend Tommy has helped him to come to this conclusion. The result has been to create a groundswell uprising in support for Green Arrow (soon, they have to start calling him this soon, right?) even if it is still coming at a snails pace from all fronts. It’s all an example of the great lengths this shows has gone to to create legitimate and meaningful progression, not only in it’s story, but it’s characters as well.
Season one set the standard for this show’s story, with brilliantly interspersed segments of Oliver’s time spent shipwrecked on a deadly island for five years, all while tying each story together with the trials he faced in current time, and season two has continued that trend. Oliver has slowly started to become a more hardened man, now nearly a year on the island in the flashbacks, and has already taken his first life in defense of someone he loves. The seeds of Green Arrows formation have really taken hold here, and I have a feeling that by the end of this season, we are going to get a real treat when it comes to Oliver’s time on the Island, and the direction it all takes.
And one of the most interesting stories from the Island of Lian Yu, Oliver’s student-teacher relationship with Slade Wilson, DC Comics infamous anti-hero/villain Deathstroke, is the prime example of what has made season two so enjoyable thus far. As I stated earlier, this show has now fully embraced what it needs to be, and that is a comic book adaptation. Season one was full of references to the source material, bits and pieces, characters and storylines that linked to the comics, but nowhere near the amount of them that have already been peppered throughout the first four episodes this year. It seems like each and every week a new character ripped directly out of the pages of DC Comics is making their way onto the screen, with the already announced huge new superhero from the Justice League of America still to come.
Already, we’ve seen more of Deathstroke, we’ve seen a return of Kelly Hu’s China White from season one, we’ve seen Spawn alum Michael Jai-White take on the role of Bronze Tiger, we’ve seen just pieces of Brother Blood and of course, the most important revelation, Black Canary. For the uninitiated, Black Canary has often been linked to Green Arrow in the comics both as an ally and through romantic involvement with the super hero, and this iteration has been quite clear on both of those links being a possibility. I will save her identity and subsequent reveals from being spoiled here, but I will simply say that when it is revealed the powers behind Black Canary’s existence, it stands as one of the best and most exciting moments I’ve had watching television in nearly a decade. The potential for the future of this story line is off the charts, and I personally cannot wait to see where it goes from here.
As for the action and the acting of the show, not much has changed in those realms from season one. Some of the best choreographed moments on TV reside within the streets of Starling City, and with each passing week, it just gets cooler to see Green Arrow go about his crime fighting ways. Stephen Amnell has fully embraced the role of Oliver Queen, and plays both aspects of the character better than most who have donned the cape and cowl, as well as the business suit, of the most famous DC Comics Billionaire Playboy, Bruce Wayne. It’s equally enjoyable seeing Oliver fight to maintain peace and prosperity for his families company amid the torrid times it’s seeing at the hands of his mothers involvements in the events that ended season one as it is to see him patrol the streets and get into frantic battles with maniacal villains.
David Ramsey remains one of the most enjoyable parts of Arrow, as the created-for-TV character of John Diggle, and Emily Brett Rickards has improved greatly over the past year as the third member of the crew, Felicity Smoak. In fact, the only concerning performances so far have been Caity Lotz who is playing Black Canary, though when compared to last years femme fatale, The Huntress, played by Jessica De Gouw Lotz deserves a multitude of awards, and Katie Cassidy who plays Laurel Lance. Laurel was a bright spot in season one, mainly as an enjoyable character, but Cassidy’s acting wasn’t sub par, either, however there have been multiple moments in this young season that have actually produced cringes from me while watching, and that’s unfortunate because her character is one of my favorites.
Hopefully these are isolated incidents, because I really feel like the entire cast has great chemistry, and in the past, she has surely shown enough talent to carry her own on this show.
It’s easy to fall into the trappings of hyperbole for me when talking about Arrow, but so far, season two has taken everything I already love about this show, and kicked it into a new gear. When you factor how highly I regarded it’s first season, it becomes painfully obvious that this show is among my absolute favorites currently running, and has the potential to be forever etched as one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve ever seen. I have no doubt in my mind that this trend will continue this year, as what we have been promised, most notably the introduction of The Flash at the end of this year, does nothing short of bringing chills to my spine. Wednesday is now the day of the week I look forward to most, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.