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Arrow: 201-202 “City of Heroes,” “Identity” Review

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Reviewed by Phil Boothman.

Oh Arrow: for all your faults, the overt cheesiness and the irritating supporting characters, I have to confess that I missed your unique brand of goofy superhero nonsense over the past few months. You’re not a Breaking Bad-esque drama of superb and lasting quality, but at your best you can be ridiculous escapist fun and there’s always a special little place for you in my television viewing schedule.

So let’s see what Arrow season 2 has got for us: Starling City is still recovering from the effects of the earthquake machine (the EARTHQUAKE MACHINE. Just reminding you that that was a thing that happened in this show), and everyone blames the Queen family. Except Oliver, he just blames himself, so much so that he has exiled himself back on Lian Yu and is waiting there shirtless (obviously) for Diggle and Felicity to find at the beginning of the season opener. They encourage him back to Starling City, where he renounces his former vigilante ways, with the news that Queen Consolidated is about to be bought out by Stellmoor International and Isabel Rochev, played by nerd-bait Summer Glau, who is either a ‘business enemy’ or a potential love interest for Oliver. Or both, in fact, which wouldn’t be out of character for this show.

We also discover that there are new vigilantes roaming the city, dressed like the Hood but using guns and general murder to make their point. Oliver seems content to let them do their thing until they kidnap useless Thea, now working as a waitress at Verdant, and Oliver returns to the green leather to get her back: the one difference is that he is now refusing to kill people, relying on convenient shoulder-shots to incapacitate the bad folks.

Meanwhile, on the island, Shado is kidnapped by some unsavoury types as she, Oliver and Slade realise that, even after all the shooty explodey death at the end of last season, they are STILL not alone on this apparently rather large island. Not much going on here this episode, but there’s some movement coming up in episode 2 which is pretty interesting.

As the episode concludes, a number of things go down: Oliver enlists the help of Walter, played by charm-incarnate Colin Salmon, to save his share in the company against Rochev buying him out; vigilante-obsessed Roy is saved from some generic goons by a foxy lady in a mask with a big stick; and Oliver decides to continue his vigilantism, although this time in honour of poor, dead Tommy, and wants to find a new name. After staring ominously at a GREEN ARROW, the episode ends.

Verdict: 7/10

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202. Identity

There are several new enemies introduced in this episode, along with the return of an old and frankly quite boring one: on the vigilante front, we get dull Triad assassin China White stealing medical supplies with the assistance of the actually quite threatening Bronze Tiger, played by Michael Jai White. With his deep, gravelly tones and his crazy Wolverine-claw weapons, he proves to be quite the match for the newly-nonlethal Hood in this episode, only downed by one of Oliver’s new trick arrows.

On the more personal front, business-Oliver has to deal with alderman Sebastian Blood (sharing a name with comic book supervillain Brother Blood, although this version probably won’t be a vampiric emissary for the powerful arch-demon Trigon. Although with the fully-superpowered Flash appearing later in the season, things are moving in new directions on the show, so there are no guarantees about that assertion!), who has a way with the media, particularly when lambasting the Queen family and Oliver in particular. Oliver’s notable absence at a charity event the pair are supposed to be co-hosting doesn’t exactly endear him to Blood, and the latter successfully stokes the fires of public opinion about Oliver while he’s off vigilante-ing.

The reason Oliver pops off is to stop China White and Bronze Tiger from stealing the latest medical shipment, which he succeeds in doing with a little help from Diggle, and leaves China White incapacitated and ready to be arrested. He also takes the opportunity to speak to Roy and tell him he needs someone to be his ‘eyes and ears’ in the Glades, as well as pay a couple of visits to Laurel.

Ah, Laurel, you pesky creature: having lost her main story arc from last season, namely the incredibly awkward love triangle between her, Oliver and Tommy, as well as her job and office in the Glades, she has now undergone a big change and started working for the District Attorney, apparently with a main goal of taking down the Hood. In doing this, she has gone from being whiny and annoying to being invasive and annoying, but is still annoying none the less. At least her new job offers the suggestion of her becoming a more competent character overall, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done with the character before I start to like her.

Anyway, the episode ends as vigilante-Oliver pays her a visit in her office, and she calls the SWAT team in to take him out. I seem to remember a similar cliffhanger in the early stages of the first season, and I have no doubt they’ll be able to wriggle out of it again this time, but it was a satisfyingly tense cliffhanger nonetheless.

Verdict: 7/10

I applaud the writers of Arrow for making a significant number of changes between this season and the last: there are other, lesser shows of the same genre (no naming names, but the one I’m thinking of rhymes with ‘Schmallville’) that would have taken the season break to reassert the status quo, but the runners of this particular show seem keen to point out that actions and disasters have major consequences and I have a great deal of respect for that. As for the first two episodes of season two, they were solid, entertaining hours of fun, but with nothing aside from the second-episode cliffhanger that particularly lingers in the mind. But I’m sure we can chalk that one down to the show finding its feet again after a long break, and I’m eagerly awaiting the rest of the season.

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