A while back I gushed about Arrow season one. Now I am back to deliver more of the same plaudits for season two!
It’s often easier to create a sensational first season of a television show than it is to build on that success with a solid second one. Just ask the creators of the late lamented Heroes. Great first season. All downhill from there. Arrow producers Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg faced just such a challenge going into season two of the CW’s surprising hit superhero show. To recap, lead character and bon vivant Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) spends five years on a deserted island, only to return a changed man. Haunted, toughened, and bearing enough secrets to choke the NSA, Oliver begins a war on Starling City’s corrupt power elite.
That war changes him. He gains allies and enemies. Clever flashback sequences to his life on the island slowly reveal how he survived and changed into the expert fighter and archer he is now. Oliver wears a hood to hide his identity and uses brutal methods to accomplish his goals. He kills for the cause of justice, but ultimately fails to prevent a calamity that costs his city dearly. The end of season one left him mourning the loss of one of his dearest friends and questioning his methods and his mission.
Staunch Arrow allies John Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) open season two by traveling back to the mysterious island where it all started. Oliver has exiled himself there to lick his wounds and heal his soul. Convincing him he is still needed in Starling City, the trio returns home to face a raft of new threats, and a deadly menace from the Arrow’s past. Season two explores the identity of Oliver’s alter-ego and his progression from “the Vigilante,” to the “the Hood,” to “the Arrow” by the first few episodes. We see this progression most starkly through the eyes of tough cop Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne). Season one is all about him hating the Vigilante or the Hood. Just as the island changed Oliver, the disastrous events in Starling City change Lance. The Arrow’s many shifting relationships create lots of dramatic tension.
Season two features even more of the DC Universe characters fans will recognize and love. At the risk of revealing too much, we get to see a lot more of Deadshot and a certain “Dirty-Dozen” style task force. Some other familiar faces return, and plenty of new ones emerge. It delivers on the promise shown in season one, and ratchets the action and drama up yet another notch on the salmon ladder. Of course now season three will have even more to live up to, and I will return next year to blog about it!
I just spent the last weekend watching Season One of Arrow. Regular readers of Eleventh Stack know that I consume a lot of superhero material in any number of mediums. Arrow might just be the finest television adaptation of a comic book hero I have yet to encounter. If you’re unfamiliar with the whole DC Comics Green Arrow mythos, here’s a quick summary. Oliver Queen lived a life of leisure as a rich, vacuous playboy until he was shipwrecked on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. While there he learned many hard lessons, but chief among them was the value of life, and the inherent wastefulness of his previous bon vivant existence. Oh, and he also became a badass archer. You can apply this basic summary to both the comic book Ollie Queen and Stephen Amell’s amazingly kinetic television version.
While Arrow takes great pains to develop a strong supporting cast, Mr. Amell shines in the titular role. His character returns from five years of exile on that lonely island to exact vengeance on Starling City’s rich elite who continue to drain the wealth and vitality from its middle and lower classes. While Amell’s Arrow (also referred to as “The Hood” by Starling City’s police and media) does take on street criminals, his principal mission involves righting the wrongs wrought by a specific and mysterious group of super-elite rich folks from a list furnished to him by his now dead father. There’s more than a bit of class war in Arrow, but the show’s creative team turns that concept on its head a bit because Ollie himself dwells and walks among the city’s ultra rich. Like the Robin Hood of legend, he robs from these rich scoundrels and gives the money back to their victims.
Among the many fine actors in Arrow, David Ramsey and Katie Cassidy stand out. Ramsey portrays John Diggle, Afghanistan war veteran and Queen’s bodyguard. He eventually becomes his confidant and conscience. Ms. Cassidy portrays Dinah Laurel Lance, Queen’s erstwhile lover, and a continuing source of romantic angst for our hero. She’s also a crusading attorney for the poor and disenfranchised. She and her father, homicide detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne), have deep and sometimes troubling ties to Queen that reverberate throughout this twenty-three episode run. Arrow uses these complex character relationships to take the focus off of the sort of zaniness and super powers you might see in a normal show in the genre, and place it firmly into the wheelhouse of gritty action and suspense. The tone of Amell’s Arrow feels more like Christian Bale’s Batman than the old Adam West version.
That does not mean we don’t get to meet other denizens of the DC Comics universe. While not always overtly named, the show offers up compelling versions of various DC heroes and villains to tangle with our hero. The action and fight choreography in Arrow delivers big budget thrills on a TV show budget, and the Vancouver cityscape becomes a character all its own, taking on the role of the fictional Starling City. Heavily influenced by Thai classic Ong-Bak and the parkour movement, Arrow’s fighting style takes advantage of this urban terrain, and includes plenty of acrobatic takedowns to go with the hero’s truly dazzling archery skills.
If you like action and a bit of melodramatic romance, Arrow nicely checks both of those boxes. I’m also not going to lie to you here–Arrow‘s cast is beautiful. I mean, really beautiful. Easy on the eyes indeed. So if you think watching beautiful people doing dramatic stuff in a fictional, superhero setting will work for you as well as it does for me, jump in! The hard part will come with waiting for Season 2 to arrive at the library!