Long before Marvel moved onto the small screen with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., DC’s own CW series Arrow had already found itself a fan following. Now two episodes into its second season, Arrow shows no signs of slowing. Instead, the sophomore series is in the process of maturing its characters and storylines while folding in more characters from the DC universe. For the uninitiated, Arrow stars Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen/Arrow, a young billionaire who survives a shipwreck and spends the following five years on a dangerous island, only to return to Starling City to seek vengeance against wrong-doers as a hooded vigilante. Amell and his character have come a long way since Arrow’s premiere, and season two of the series is reflecting that fact nicely. Hit the jump for my review of tonight’s episode, “Identity”.
Last week on Arrow’s season two premiere, Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) ventured to the isolated island in order to convince Oliver to return, not as the hooded vigilante, but as a member of the Queen family. One of the best things about Arrow is its balance of comicbook action series (explosions, crazy stunts, brutal fights, etc) with that of a soap opera drama (intricate romantic entanglements, political intrigue, and plenty of hot bodies on either side of the gender divide). The premiere had all of these strengths in spades, from Queen’s introduction via a shirtless Tarzan-esque rescue to a hostile takeover of Queen Consolidated by Isabelle Rochev (Summer Glau) and multiple battles against hooded copycat vigilantes. Queen’s return to Starling City in the season two premiere paralleled that of his return from isolation in the series premiere, but this time around, the vigilante Hood is transitioning to the crime-fighting Green Arrow to honor the memory of the fallen Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell).
Got that? Good! Now on to tonight’s episode. Since Arrow likes to split time between the present day in Starling City and a previous time spent on the island, we’ll tackle the island first.
In the season premiere, mysterious invaders of the island put Shado (Celina Jade) in harm’s way and Queen reacts by bludgeoning one of the men to death. In this episode, Shado helps him deal with his guilt over the murder with a little lakeside love-making session. Slade (Manu Bennett) later warns Queen not to fall too hard for her since that will only make his time on the island more difficult. The trio then finds a hideout full of disfigured skeletons of Japanese imperial soldiers, there since World War II. Oliver finds a stone arrowhead with Japanese kanji on it.
Back in Starling City, Roy (Colton Haynes) is in trouble with the law again (surprise) and he gets a stern anti-vigilante message from Laurel (Katie Cassidy). This incident sets up a number of conflicts for Roy, including an ultimatum from Thea (Willa Holland) that forces him to choose between his relationship with her (symbolized by that very same stone that Oliver found in the cave and gave to Thea upon his previous return) or his dangerous life of crime-fighting in the Glades. Roy also gets an earful from Oliver himself, but when Ollie learns just how chaotic the Glades are becoming, he talks to Roy again as the vigilante and recruits him to be his eyes and ears in the dangerous territory.
Oliver needs all the help he can get now, especially with his increased responsibilities as the new CEO of Queen Consolidated and his new-found ambition of becoming a respectable crime-fighter rather than a short-sighted vigilante. He’s still got Diggle, who seems to be okay with his secret identity as “Queen’s Black driver”, but Felicity is none too pleased with pretending to be Oliver’s secretary. Be that as it may, the team works together to prevent further hijackings of medical supplies bound for the Glades. In the process, Oliver finds more enemies than he planned on.
Oliver Queen’s new nemesis comes in the form of Glades’ alderman, Sebastian Blood (Kevin Alejandro) whose superpowers include firing up a raucous crowd and using Starling City media to turn people against Queen and his family because of their involvement in the destruction of the Glades. Oliver attempts to get in Blood’s good graces by hosting a benefit dinner for the beleaguered neighborhood, but criminal activity perks up, which calls him away as Arrow.
While Arrow is attempting to protect the driver delivering the medical supplies, China White (Kelly Hu) and Bronze Tiger (Michael Jai White) show up to take him down. It was a nice return for Hu and a good debut for White, but White is such a force in the world of martial arts that I’m surprised he didn’t get more of a spotlit one-on-one fight with Amell in this episode. It’s a missed opportunity, but hopefully we’ll see him return.
Perhaps the enemy Oliver least expected was that of Laurel Lance, assistant district attorney. Dropping in on her as the vigilante one time too many, Arrow finds himself caught in a trap at the close of the episode as dozens of police officers draw their rifles on him. A nice cliffhanger to keep us guessing until next week!
On a character note, I like the direction season two is taking with Queen, forcing him to grow as a character and as a hero. He’s going through some growing pains with Diggle and Felicity, for sure, but this episode featured a nice broment between Queen and Diggle over the failed relationship he had with Carly (Christie Laing). Rickards is perfect as always and her portrayal of the fickle Felicity was spot on. There was also a nice touch from the editing department that overlaid Blood’s speech denigrating Oliver Queen while showing Queen suit up as Arrow to take down the bad guys. A solid, but safe episode with the only real missed opportunity coming in not showcasing White’s talents to the fullest.
Roy, holding a red arrow, on the vigilante: “I hear now he likes green ones.”
Queen: “I need a Girl Wednesday.” Felicity: “It’s Friday … and the answer is no.” Diggle: “It could be worse. My secret identity is his Black driver.”
Diggle on Deadshot vs Carly: “I guess I couldn’t hate him and love her at the same time.”
Diggle: “You know, I’ve been meaning to tell you it really weirds me out when you talk about yourself in the third person like that.”
Felicity: “Which suit are you planning on wearing tonight?”
Blood: “Crucifixion has such a bad reputation. The Romans used it to punish people who acted against the common good.”
Bronze Tiger: “Go ahead, waste your arrows.” ::Gets shot in the arm:: “That hurt, but it won’t stop me.” ::Arrow electrocutes him:: Arrow: “That will.” (Gotta love the over-dramatic dialogue.)
China White: “You’ll never be a hero.” Arrow: “As long as the city is safe, it doesn’t matter.”
No Canary this week, but next week she’ll be “uncaged” according to the promo. Arrow airs Wednesday nights at 8pm ET on the CW.