Two years ago, DC and Warner Bros started the ambitious project of “Arrow,” a modern television retelling of the Green Arrow character. Following in the footsteps of WB’s previous DC adventure “Smallville” which even had their own version of the Emerald Archer, this new take was to be darker and character driven, with a “No Powers” mandate. Where “Smallville” was a fun show and was pretty well written, it began to drag on as the “No tights, no flight” rule began to hamper their storytelling. Towards the end they were telling Superman stories without a proper Superman. With “Arrow” the intent was always to get him into the suit, but it was also about evolving the character into the hero fans knew. Season One told the story of Oliver Queen’s (Stephen Amell) return home after being stranded on an island for five years, and his quest to get revenge on those that betrayed his father and the city. Season Two sees Queen’s vigilante persona move toward becoming more than that. And what a hell of a ride it was.
The first season did an amazing job at world and character building. You truly cared for and liked most of the principal actors and that was what made the show so great. It continues in Season Two. After exiling himself back to the island for a few months following the disaster that befell Starling City at the end of last season, Oliver is brought back to help save his family’s company which is being threatened by a hostile takeover. But this is the least of his worries as events from Ollie’s past are returning to haunt him. Luckily he’s getting some help from some new allies.
I really can’t say more about the season without giving anything away. Suffice it to say, the status quo in Starling City has changed. Allies are enemies, enemies are allies, and nothing is what it seems. The flashbacks to the island continue as we learn about Ollie’s past and his present as the two stories run parallel, which surprisingly never feels forced. I thought it’d get old after a while, but that story is just as intriguing if not more so than the one set in the present. And with each new nugget of information we’re given, we see almost immediately how it influences the present story, but it’s always done in a fluid and organic way and leads to an amazing and dramatic payoff at the end, and yet leaves questions open for next season.
The amazing cast is a major reason why the show has done so well. Amell is convincing no matter what time period you’re watching, though his wig in the past is a little jarring. He switches effortlessly between brooding hero, loving brother and son, to tortured survivor. David Ramsey and Emily Bett Rickards return as John Diggle and Felicity Smoak of Team Arrow. Ollie’s back up has really become his second family and they emphasize that a lot this season. They are my favorite characters, giving a grounded point of view to all the insanity. There may not be any powers (well not a lot anyway) but these are the two most normal people involved in these shenanigans, and they have some great reactions as well as great moments in general. There’s a particularly funny conversation about secret identities early on in the show.
Manu Bennett returns as Slade Wilson, this time making the turn from friend to villain. Watching his descent is actually sad, and watching he and Oliver’s friendship fall apart and seeing where it ends up is a major plot point that dramatically drives a lot of the story. Bennett again shows he’s not just a tough guy, but can really sink his teeth into the drama just as he did on “Spartacus.” And speaking of “Spartacus,” a few actors pop up here in “Arrow” as new characters — Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Naevia 2.0) shows up as Amanda Waller, leader of the government organization A.R.G.U.S., while Katrina Law (Mira, Spartacus’ right hand girl) plays Nysa Al Ghul, daughter of the Demon’s Head, Ra’s Al Ghul. The rest of the supporting cast all return, with Paul Blackthorne as Officer Quentin Lance, Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance, Willa Holland as Thea Queen, Susana Thompson as Moira Queen, and Colton Haynes as Roy Harper.
The show’s story and drama move things along, but the action also stands out. Outstanding choreography and tightly shot, there isn’t a ton of cutting and editing the fights together, and when it does happen, it’s done well. Everything can be seen and felt and heard. The fights are visceral, and when people fight they get hurt. And the best part is the action isn’t for action’s sake. It flows with the story so it never feels like the story is catering to the action, but the other way around. There are some fairly large set pieces in the show but the season finale really is epic.
The box set comes with a bunch of deleted and unaired scenes, as well as the 2013 San Diego Comic Con panel, a making of the season featurette, and a gag reel. If you are a fan of the show, there is no good reason not to have this. If you’re curious about the show, there’s no good reason for you not to watch this. “Smallville” started the whole comics on TV done right thing, but “Arrow” has set a new bar, and it’s high. It’s got some competition this year with new shows and returning adversaries, but it’s pretty safe to say that “Arrow” is on target to continue to be a hit!