'Arrow' Sets a High Bar for Superhero TV Shows Review

While Smallville still holds the record for the longest TV show based on a DC character, it was surpassed in about every other way by Arrow in just two seasons. If the series’ first season did a pretty good job of introducing the character of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and his arrow-slinging alter ego while balancing simultaneous storylines of his survival on a remote island with his return from the dead in Starling City. It established some long-term and short-term villains, looked at the difficulty arising from living two lives, and it started the slow build of the second season’s primary villain: Deathstroke. With that setup courtesy of the first season, the second season starts off sprinting and rarely ever lets up despite the introduction of a number of important characters and backdoor spin-off pilot for CW’s new DC show, The Flash. Arrow is a perfect example of just how good junk food television can be.

(Also, don’t worry if you don’t know who Deathstroke is; if you didn’t already know, knowing he’s a villain spoils nothing for you, and if you did, then you already knew he was bound to be one of the show’s big bads anyways when he appeared in the first season.)

The second season starts five months after Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) and Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson), Oliver’s mother, unleashed an serious earthquake on Starling City’s slums killing hundreds of innocent people, including Oliver’s best friend (and Malcolm’s son) Tommy (Colin Donnell). In the aftermath, Malcolm is presumed dead at the hands of the Arrow and Moira Queen is in jail awaiting her trial for her part in the tragedy. The shame of Moira’s actions have driven both Oliver and Thea (Willa Holland) away from her side, and both of them bury themselves in their respective hobbies, being a nighttime vigilante and being a nightclub manager.

For Oliver, the streets have gotten a little more dangerous as unknown forces have begun experimenting on abductees, including Thea’s boyfriend Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) with a chemical that seems to give them incredible strength but also severe anger issues. It’s a combination Oliver has seen once before during his stay on the island, and flashbacks to that point in his life shed light on that as well as the arrival of a new ally (Caity Lotz) who has similarly returned from “death” and quickly joins up with “Team Arrow” (they don’t actually call it that) alongside Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) and Diggle (David Ramsey).

The second season deserves considerable credit for doing a dozen different things and doing them all well. First and foremost it both definitively ties Oliver’s time on the island back to the modern story in multiple meaningful ways and it ends the season with the flashbacks getting a whole new setting. (The latter was especially badly needed because by the second season’s end they’ve effectively maxed out the number of things they could believably have happen there without it seeming ridiculous). Second it establishes a number of different teams (like the Suicide Squad and, in a small part, the cast of The Flash) without any serious detriment to the season’s narrative. Sure, things kind of jolt to a stop so the Suicide Squad-related episodes can occur, but by keeping Oliver and company involved or busy doing other things in the margins, they feel like tangential lines of thought instead of just outright and sudden turns in the overarching story.

Of course, with all the characters the story is juggling some of them, like Katie Cassidy’s Laurel Lance, kind of get the shaft with an alcohol abuse story that keeps her busy rather than keeping her interesting. The other Lances in the cast have more substantial happenings, like her father’s (Paul Blackthrone) demotion and how he deals with it, following his cooperation with the vigilante and that cooperation then being discovered by higher ups in his department. It’s an unexpected realistic but seemingly minor thing, but considering how seldom people with insider knowledge of a superhero get subpoenaed for that information in comic books, movies, and TV shows, it’s oddly satisfying. Laurel, by contrast is just a sounding board for that development and a few other major ones (like one involving the season’s secondary villain). She’s there so the actions of others have a witness, but besides that she just becomes a drunk.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

The set includes the season on Blu-ray, DVD, and as an Ultraviolet digital copy, along with extras like production featurettes on the series’ stunts, special effects, and story. A gag reel, some deleted scenes, the 2013 Comic-Con panel, and a season one episode-long recap round out the set.

"Arrow: The Complete Second Season" is on sale September 16, 2014 and is not rated. Action, Adventure. Directed by John Behring. Written by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg. Starring Caity Lotz, Colton Haynes, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Katie Cassidy, Stephen Amell, Manu Bennett.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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