Arrow 2×01 – City Of Heroes

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Oh Starling City, how I’ve missed you.

It’s funny – Arrow didn’t have a perfect debut season, but I still adored the show’s opening year. It steadily improved over the course of the season, and ended with a run of fantastically-plotted hours. And if this premiere is a taste of things to come, then we’re in for one hell of a action-packed and explosive year.

The biggest moral quandary facing Oliver Queen last year was the escalating body-count he left in his wake. Unlike other superheroes, Arrow had absolutely no problem taking lives left and right. I’m pleased that this element was tackled so elaborately in the premiere, because it provides the basis for further growth where our hero is concerned. Tommy’s death in particular, had enormous ramifications on Oliver’s psyche, as he purposely decided to exile himself to the island that imprisoned him for five long years. Quite compellingly, Oliver comes face-to-face with a gang of vengeful victims from The Glades upon his return, and that’s when he assumes a new purpose: to claim his rightful place as the hero Startling City so desperately needs. It’s a fantastic and exciting turn, punctuated by that epic final sequence with Ollie surrounded by his sidekicks and contemplating what to call himself, as he gives his arrow one insightful glance. Wow.

But Ollie’s not the only one who’s undergone some changes since we last saw him. I was somewhat vocal over my dislike of Thea last year. Willa Holland is alright, but she was saddled with some fairly irritating teen-oriented material. Thankfully she’s more mature this year; she’s in charge of Oliver’s bar while juggling her relationship with budding superhero Roy Harper. But most importantly, she’s harboring a lot of hate towards her imprisoned mother, which gave us one of this episode’s standout sequences: the tearful and powerful reunion between mother and daughter. Susanna Thompson was a revelation last year, and she continues to imbue Moira with a remarkable dose of likeability amidst all the horrors she’s partaken in.

We didn’t get to spend too much time on the island this week, but what we did get was quite fascinating. Not only has Oliver taken great strides in his fight training, he’s started a relationship with Yao Fei’s daughter Shado (much to Slade’s dislike). Is there a love triangle brewing here? All I know is, I’m beyond pleased that Manu Bennett has been upped to series regular this year as he brings out the best in Island Amell. In addition, a short sequence with Oliver going completely bonkers and slaughtering a mysterious agent for kidnapping Shado (hello, new mystery), went a long way in further conveying just how capably Oliver managed to turn on that guiltless killing streak (a perfect parallel to the present day storylines).

Oh Laurel, let’s hope you assume the Black Canary mantle soon as I’m kind of tired of you being on the outs. Wouldn’t the show be much cooler if she became part of Arrow’s gang instead of vowing to hunt him down thanks to her new District Attorney job? Nevertheless, it feels like we’re finally on the right path where her character is concerned (and it was great to see her kick ass again during the Mayor attack). There was a lot of hoopala this summer when ANOTHER actress was cast as The Black Canary (the masked vigilante makes a swift appearance at the end and saves Roy), but the show’s writers have assured fans that this is part of Laurel’s journey so we’ll have to see where this goes. I’m less excited at the prospect of her and Oliver simply remaining “friends“, but I guess that’s expected so soon after Tommy’s death.

As for the rest of the cast, Diggle and Felicity continue to be the most awesome sidekicks ever, while Detective Lance has been demoted to plain old officer. Honestly that’s for the best; I really wanted him to get killed of in the season one finale, so maybe now that he’s more supportive of The Hood, he’ll become more likeable and less cartoon-ish. Furthermore, this premiere saw the return of Walter, who rescued Oliver’s from Summer Glau’s Isabel Rochev. Again I wasn’t Walter’s biggest fan last year, but it was actually quite great to see him stand by Oliver’s side despite everything that happened with Moira. I’m less impressed by Glau, but I guess she plays the ruthless robotic antagonist well. I’ll reserve further judgment until I see more of her (she’ll be playing a prominent role this year, now that she owns a significant stake in Queen Consolidated).

Bits & Arrows

– The teaser was superb with Diggle and Felicity parachuting onto the island. It was also quite thrilling to see Ollie swing from the treetop and save Felicity from the exploding mine. Amusingly, she points out that he’s “very sweaty“.

– Well, the mayor sure got offed quickly. We hardly knew ya.

– Felicity keeping the salmon ladder pull-up thing because she “likes” watching Oliver “do that” made me smile. Plus she got him a badass customized bow.

– Action wise, we got Roy kicking ass in the Queen club, and an excellent fight between Oliver and the thugs in the church. But the real highlight for me was Oliver jumping out the window with Felicity in tow. It was just outstanding (and they transitioned from the stunt doubles to our actors beautifully). I’m still consistently impressed by the production values on Arrow. They’re starting to rival Nikita‘s.

– Love how Thea finally defended her mother’s actions when under duress.

– So who are the agents who kidnapped Shado? And is the boat outside the island the same one we saw decimated in the teaser? Somehow I feel like it has to do with Fyers’ mysterious female benefactor from last year’s finale.

– Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me that the gang of hooded copycats were so underdeveloped. Their presence accomplished a specific purpose: convey just how vengeful (and remorseless) the surviving victims of The Glades have become.

– It’s funny, but when compared to last year, Laurel and her dad have completely switched places with regards to their stance on The Hood. Now, he’s the supporter and she’s the one doing the hunting.

– The musical score was astounding this week. It was especially rousing as Ollie discovered his revamped Arrow-cave, and that final moment when he looked at the arrow. Kudos Mr. Blake Neely (who was equally terrific on Brothers & Sisters).

Starling Quips

Felicity: (to Oliver) You could at least offer some water… or coconut?

Thea: (to Roy) Keep in mind I do control your paycheck… and your sex life.

Oliver: Sorry I’m late.
Isabel: For this meeting, or a career in business?

Oliver: When I put on the hood, it’s kill or be killed.

Felicity: You were right, once I signed on I stopped thinking about all the bodies you dropped, because I knew that being the hood meant occasionally being a killer. Maybe there’s another way..
Oliver: They have my sister.. what other way is there?

Thea: If I hug you, will they shoot us?
Moira: I’m willing to risk it if you are.

Felicity: (to Oliver) You did it. Not bad for someone who got a D in tenth grade algebra – if it’s online, I can find it.

Conclusion
A thrilling and solid start to Arrow‘s sophomore season. Bring on the awesomeness.

Nad Rating
A-

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