Arrow: 102 -103 Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
102: Honor Thy Father
The theme of Arrow’s second episode is the concept of legacy, the idea that someone could live on through the words and actions of others. Unfortunately, the episode itself doesn’t leave me with a great deal of hope about the possibility of Arrow leaving a lasting impression on viewers.
So, while Oliver struggles with how best to honour his father’s memory, Laurel continues her desperate quest to improve Starling City’s own legacy, in a far more legal way than Oliver. This means the introduction of another sleazy, corrupt businessman, this one with connections to the Chinese Triads and their drug trade, and another ‘evil’ man for Oliver to terrorize.
For Arrow to succeed in terms of storytelling, the writers need to introduce more subtlety and complexity to their villains: an endless slew of obviously evil or at the very least entirely amoral corporate types is already becoming tiresome. Although I recognise the necessity for simplicity in the early stages of the show, in order to set up the premise, the villains of both this and the previous episode have been alarmingly similar, and more diversity will allow the series to remain fresh.
Oliver’s conflict over how best to represent his father’s legacy is probably the most interesting part of the episode. The rest of his family believe he should take a high-ranking position at his father’s company, while Oliver himself believes he should continue his vigilante operations to honour the man he discovered his father was after the yacht crashed. This sets up an interesting example of how difficult it is for such a high-profile public figure to lead a double life, and with any luck this theme will recur throughout the series, as it lends some much-needed depth to Oliver’s character.
The action in this episode was a minor step up from the pilot, with some pleasing acrobatics on Oliver’s part and a villain in the form of the mysterious ‘China White’, a Triad assassin, who stands more of a chance against Oliver than the average henchman. However, the choreography still felt a little too stagey to be truly engaging, as it somewhat took away from the realism of the fight sequences.
A less than stellar second episode, with glimpses of promise, but overall a rather disappointing outing for Arrow.
103: Lone Gunmen
The third episode, on the other hand, fares much better. The introduction of a more ‘comic book-esque’ threat in the shape of the assassin Deadshot (actually a character in the Green Arrow comic books) raises the stakes significantly, and promises a move away from the formula the previous two episodes have set up. Deadshot’s presence distracts Oliver from his list for a week, providing a new and far more dangerous target for ‘the Hood’.
As Deadshot proves far more elusive than Oliver’s average objective, it alters the show’s dynamic to take on a more investigative style: Oliver uses some shady underworld contacts to try and find him, and has to do some neat un-costumed acrobatics to retrieve some vital evidence. This change is welcome, as it shows that Oliver has gained skills other than the creative dispatching of bad guys during his time on the island, and adds a neat extra layer to the show.
The representation of Deadshot is also reasonably well-handled, mostly through the show’s creators choosing to barely feature him in the episode: as an elusive killer, the less screen time the character has, the more believable he is as a secretive assassin. He only falls down when they state he ‘never misses’, a claim followed by a sequence in which he misses Oliver quite spectacularly, not to mention repeatedly.
The final confrontation between Oliver and Deadshot is some of the best action we’ve seen on the show thus far, with a sense of the two being evenly matched: even more so than with China White last week. I was also relieved to see Oliver admitting to killing people, as it would have been too easy for him to act the innocent when we’ve seen him kill a number of people over the course of the last three episodes.
The subplots in this episode are mostly well handled: Oliver finding both an alibi and a cover-up for his hideout in the shape of a new nightclub was concise, as was Oliver finding out about Tommy and Laurel’s tryst, which could have been drawn out far longer than it needed to be. Similarly, the flashbacks to Oliver’s time on the island, while slow-burning, are intriguing enough to keep my interest, and I suspect the figures in black fatigues shown briefly towards the end of the episode will be showing up again in the near future.
However, the most exciting moment for many fans of both the show and the comic books was Laurel’s brief display of combat skills, possibly foreshadowing the character’s transition into the vigilante known in the comic books as ‘Black Canary’.
Nonetheless, the ongoing subplot concerning Oliver’s sister Thea and her dubious extra-curricular activities remains pretty flimsy, this week featuring Moira grounding her for underage drinking, and breaking and entering. While I understand why this subplot is present, as it allows us to see some of the process which turned Oliver into such a spoilt playboy, but it just makes Thea come across as incredibly bratty and irritating, when there are far more positive emotions which should be connected with the beloved younger sister of the protagonist.
It is the final scene of the episode which will change the show’s dynamic irrevocably, however, as Oliver reveals his secret identity to Diggle. The drama of the revelation is swiftly cut short by the episode ending abruptly, so we shall have to wait until next week to see the ramifications of Oliver’s actions here.
A vast improvement on the previous instalment, with superior action, much better handling of the multiple plot strands, and a far more interesting villain. Still, there are elements which need work in order to make Arrow a stand-out addition to the TV schedules, but after this episode my hope is restored.