I am not surprised that this series has gotten better in season two. That was a given after the fantastic end to season one. So what do they do more right then wrong this time around? Stick around and find out, and oh yeah; here be SPOILERS.
The Green Arrow is a vigilante superhero that was created by Morton Weisinger and designed by George Papp, and he first appeared in 1941. His real persona is a billionaire businessman, called Oliver Queen. His weapon is a bow and arrow, with different arrows that he invents. This tv-series is based upon these comics, taking some stuff and making other elements different. It was created by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Adrew Keisberg. This incarnation of The Green Arrow goes for a more realistic tone
The first season of Arrow was not fantastic television, but I liked the action and the characters. Also, while I am generally not a big fan of television shows having flashbacks as a large part of the show, Arrow showed that they could be interesting when sparingly used. The flashbacks of the series show how Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) became The Green Arrow, or The Vigilante or Arrow as they call him now. So mainly it's because we clearly see Oliver change and grow through these sequences, it's not a smokescreen. This time around the flashbacks still pack a punch, but at times less interesting than the modern setting, in the important episodes. Either way I wouldn't not have flashbacks in every episode, because I generally prefer them over what happens in the modern day setting. When that is said, the quality in the modern setting has been upped considerably. The season also gives new space to regular characters, and we see new strong characters enter the space. The choreography of the fighting is even better, the music continues to evolve with the show, the acting is steadily climbing up to greatness and the main arc takes more precedence than in season one. To sum it up, a better and greater season awaits you.
The Story so far
In season one we saw Oliver getting shipwrecked on a mysterious island. He accompanied his father and Laurels (Katie Cassidy) sister Sarah Lance. Just before his father dies, he gives Oliver a book with names of the bad elements in Starling City. Five years later Oliver finds his way back to Starling City. What he experienced on the island is thoroughly seen through the flashbacks. This continues in season two. Throughout season one Oliver works to get rid of all the bad elements in his city. Oliver was quite trigger happy and killed a lot of bad guys in the first season. This all changed in the wake of The Undertaking which leveled The Glades. This and Tommy's (Colin Donnell) death fuels the new path Oliver sets out on. After this Oliver swears that he will never take a life again. He continues to struggle with this all through the season, and trying to help others avoiding it.
John Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) continues to shine with sparkling wit and a dry sense of honor. Especially Felicity gets more to work with, and isn't just the techie that erupts in funny quips. Diggle takes more of a backseat, except for the excellent episodes that shows what a great character he is.
Moira Queen goes through a lot this season, being in prison, getting acquitted and then going forward as a mayoral candidate. She has a sense of grounding in the series that the show really needs. Also we have one person that becomes really important to Oliver. I can't really divulge who this is, but she becomes a huge part of Oliver's team.
Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) takes over the antagonist role after Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) last season. While repetitive, the character of Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) journey is pretty fascinating and well deserved in the end. Thea Queen (Willa Holland) unfortunately doesn't get much to do in the first half of the season. But fortunately she gets more interesting material to work with in the latter half of the season. Laurel, while in character, is all over the map. But as I will elaborate more on, it fits the character and what she's been through. The death of Tommy gets infused into everything Oliver and Laurel go through. I am really glad he is not forgotten this way. Laurels father, Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) also joins the crew of The Arrow, which is one of the strongest element of the season; they all band together.
Let's band together
The writing team has definitely picked up the pace in season two. The first season was plagued by standalone episodes with less than interesting villains. They are still present, but as I said, the main arc takes more precedence and this elevates the series to new heights! The plot-lines are as a result tighter this time around, and most of what happens doesn't feel shoehorned and out of place like some of the stuff that happened in season one. The flashbacks lends to this complexity and continues to be one of the most riveting aspects of the series. Oliver is constantly growing and evolving on the island, and he is becoming more and more like The Arrow. That's not all, the modern day settings helps him become a much more complex characters; especially with his qualms about killing bad guys. Also one big theme this season is keeping secrets, and this ultimately becomes the doom for the family at large. As I pointed out he constantly struggles with not killing people after Tommy's death and this of course infuses a lot of his character. It also sparks fascinating philosophical discussions, that are at times quite heated.
Speaking of Amell, he has become much more confident in his acting ability as Oliver Queen. It really shows. When I reviewed the first season for a Norwegian website, I said that I thought his most interesting material was the island and how he evolved. Now I am not so sure anymore. His struggles of abiding to the no killing code, and what happens in the modern day setting really shows that Amell's acting chops has risen to higher quality. It also might be that the Oliver we see in the flashbacks is now almost nearly identical to the person he has become. He exudes a commanding presence every time he is on screen. And there is especially one scene which says how far this actor has come. He has a conflict with Laurel late in the season which he excels with explosive and eruptive force. Amell is charming as ever, but his best material is when he interacts with his crew who has become much tighter than last season. He does a tremendous job, sometimes lazy like in season one, but mostly he brings his A-game. Oliver continues to be a fascinating and complex character.
Rickards as Felicity continues to amaze me with her wit and sarcastic comments. But it's good to see that's not all she's about. In season two she clashes more with Oliver and how he conducts things. Because of these arguments they grow even closer. Their chemistry is thundering, and in my season one review I was ambivalent about Felicity maybe being in love with Oliver. That's a thing of the past, and if it ever happens I welcome it with open arms. She also gets to show what a kick-ass character she is, and gets even more time in the field this time around. She definitely becomes a more dimensional character, and we actually get to know more about her back story. I just wish she got even more screen time. Maybe season three?
I don't think Diggle enjoys being an background character. There are so many new characters for this season, that Oliver's trusted friend has to relax and wait for his own centerpieces. But when those comes around for him, he really shines. Much can be talked about how charismatic Oliver is, but Diggle beats him in his best episode to date, The Suicide Squad. Here Diggle puts together his own team to tackle something from his past. He is also very James Bond in this episode, kinda like J. August Richards was in the Angel episode Players. While the flashbacks and the main story of this episode might not be the best Arrow material I've seen, it makes up for it with the character growth of Oliver's most trusted sidekick. Other then a couple of episodes dedicated to him he is delegated to the background. And I for one, do not think that suits him.
Laurel also gets more screen time, but quickly devolves into an unlikable person. Starting the season blaming The Arrow, to using pills and almost becoming an alcoholic. Cassidy is so good at playing unlikable, that she made me hate her character for a stretch of episodes. Problem with this is that she goes back and forth on it, and we don't get the whole story all the time. As I said earlier, all over the map. While Laurel was never my favorite character, I liked her kick-ass persona from season one. We don't really see much of this in season two. For half a season she's delegated to an spiraling depression. But if you want to become something better and really work on your problem you have to fall to the bottom. That is also what she does, and Cassidy plays this to perfection; never losing a single step. Thankfully her journey upwards begins before she becomes to unlikable.
The series is still ridiculously entertaining and fun to watch. It looses none of the steam built up by the fantastic season one finale. Story lines continues, evolves and propels forward. What I like about the season is that the plot threads from the previous season continues and still resonates with the characters. They don't get off easy any of them. While the antagonist has a weak reason for causing harm to Oliver, it's still compelling to see how they get from A to B. In the first season Bennett was one of the standouts. Sure he came late in the season, but he still managed to make an impact on me. In the first season we see the friendship Oliver and Slade builds. The fallout is excruciating to watch because of how close they have grown. In the second season he gets more screen time, and except for his weak reason to bring havoc to the city, Bennett gets to show a new side to him. He is fantastic every time on the screen and especially in the episode The Promise. An episode fully dedicated to the island, and Slade getting to know Oliver's family. Slade plays it chillingly to the point of creepiness. He is explosive every time he is on screen, and you really feel for him. The way he is presented in modern day setting is organic and you never question that he is there.
Lastly we have the new additions to Oliver's group. The mystery character that I am not gonna mention by name is a worthy addition to his team. Oliver's moral quandary become palpable when dealing with this character. Also, the character is a nice duality to Oliver's no-killing new persona. Quentin also becomes a reluctant new partner of The Arrow. Blackthorne is still excellent as the now demoted Quentin. Last season he was a lot of fun, but a little too cliched. I really like the turn-around of this character, and the growth is quite organic. Blackthorne takes the challenge with strides.
While Roy is somewhat a one-note character I still really feel for him, and like his character journey in season two. His lying to his girlfriend Thea becomes tiring after a while. Haynes is still perhaps the worst actor on the show, together with Holland. But both of them takes up the chalice after Amell and does so strikingly, and gets to show some new sides. Thea as already mentioned doesn't get a lot to do, except be Roy's girlfriend. Fortunately her characters rises to the occasion after midways into the season. Seems like she's got enough, and there is some great material for her in the end.
Epic soundtrack and fantastic action
Blake Neely continues with his fantastic scoring for season two. In the first season we saw him mixing orchestral tracks with electronic music. He still does it in this season, but it's taken to new limits. The music sounds much more organic, and some times it sounds like the real thing. To say he is the best composer in television these days is an understatement. Most of the time when I watch tv-shows i barely notice the music because it's so much in the background. But this guy takes it to the forefront and really plays with the instruments. When needed the music is sombre and low-key, but when the action hits it's the over-the-top and epic. Here he combines guitars and keyboards, and it seems like a marriage made in heaven.
I also liked the action in the first season. I commented that it looked quite close to how they do it in the movies. At the same time, there were too many quick-cuts for my liking. The quick-cuts are not as prominent this time around. The fighting is also a lot more organic, and it really looks like they've learned from how they did it in season one. The choreography of Oliver and his allies fighting side-by-side is truly something amazing. Most action movies should be jealous to see how good this show gets it on such a low budget. There are some really big moments that gets really flashy.
Flashbacks and faulty story lines
The flashbacks have taken another form, and we don't just see what happens on the island. We see key moments in Oliver's life before the island, also contributing to Laurel's (Katie Cassidy) life before losing him. The flashback with his mother (Susanna Thompson) late in the season is extremely important to the season, and what happens between him and her. We are basically told that she has always protected him. This we do know from before, but we haven't seen it this up close. This make the season much richer, and contributes to make the story lines important. It also shows that the creator has gone to great lengths to make it as organic as possible.
While the flashbacks is still an important part of the series, not everything that happens is as interesting. In season one I at times had that feeling, but the fantastic build-up of Oliver's character made it worth it. It still is, but some of the flashbacks feel pointless. I guess it's like the series Lost, that if you show flashbacks all the time, they slowly but surely lose their impact. This has happened somewhat for season two, but thankfully they mix it up with different flashbacks. They may have to do more to appease me in the next seasons. But as it looks by the end of the season, this will change.
Villains of the week are still the weak part of the season, and I can't grasp why they didn't learn anything from the first season. Some of the weak villains like The Count and China White show up. They are really not welcome and really doesn't add that much to the series. While The Count plays a more important part to the story, he is still just ridiculous and his accent is horrid. Thankfully we get some villains that adds more to the mix, and especially in the episode Time of Death where the Clock King makes his entrance. Played by Robert Knepper it can't be anything but good. He plays crazy to perfection
Even though I like that Oliver has formed his team this also means new and more characters. This is a problem for season two, because some of the characters doesn't get much to do because of this inclusion of the new characters. Some times the season feels bloated, like the producers wants to include every story they have. But some times you have to kill your darlings too make elements of the season breathe more. Because of the bloat some of the stuff lacks a certain punch. As a whole, the season would have benefited from a cut-down. While this problem isn't relegated to Laurels character, her character suffers and it might be because the task of giving all these characters something to do has stretched the writers thin. Even though I liked her journey in this season, they make her way too unlikable. Some of the things she goes through is way to outrages, and it doesn't really fit her character all the time.
Also lastly I want to mention that the show throw too many love triangles into the mix. I know this is a technique used to spark interest in the show from all demographics. Some of this works, but love triangles have never been the shows biggest strength. I just feels like they are putting on unnecessary padding just to get some good drama out of it.
Season two of Arrow is much better than the first one. It's much closer to fantastic television. The first part of the season may be a little slow and padding along, but when we get to the juicy stuff, we witness some of the most entertaining and ridiculous fun television I have seen in some time. Yes I guess I am saying that this series is quickly becoming one of my favorite shows in a long time. The characters are great, they grow and change, the music is epic and complex, and except for some missteps here and there I can honestly say I love this season.