Summary: Some lapses in direction don’t drag down a sure-footed episode that introduces a longer-term challenge to Oliver’s quest and more depth to our lead character.
If you have not seen this episode yet and do not wish to be spoiled, do not continue reading!
When Oliver goes to court to repeal the death in absentia declaration filed on his behalf, he runs into Laurel, who is trying a case against a crooked shipping magnate with ties to the Chinese Triad criminal society. Laurel argues that, while attempting to hide his involvement in drug trade, Martin Somers ordered the father of her client killed.
Somers’ name also appears in Robert Queen’s book and Oliver goes after him in his vigilante persona. Spooked, Somers calls on the triad for help in the form of drug trafficker China White. After Thea tells her brother he needs to open up to someone, Oliver visits with Laurel. They are attacked by White and crew, but Diggle and Oliver manage to fend them off. Quentin Lance, not wanting to lose another daughter, warns Oliver to stay away from Laurel.
As the Arrow, Oliver confronts Somers to get his confession about the murdered man. He fights with China White again before Lance and the police arrive. Cornered by Lance, Oliver escapes by giving up a recording of Somers admitting his crime.
Meanwhile, as Walter and Moira attempt to bring Oliver back into the business fold, Oliver makes the decision that he can’t do what he wants to accomplish by giving in to what everyone else wants him to be. Flashbacks to the island reveal Oliver burying his father’s body and discovering a book with the drawing of a strange symbol in it. As Oliver says goodbye to his father, he’s shot in the shoulder by an arrow. In pain, Oliver turns to see a man in the distance in a green hood…
For a full recap and more on the episode, visit our helpful episode guide.
Freed from the constraints of having to set up a series, now the fun of Arrow can begin. For the most part, in this second episode, it does.
Still saddled with some silly dialogue and plot points painted in broad strokes, this chapter manages to start to warm and deepen Oliver Queen’s character while continuing to slowly leak out tidbits of his “origins” on the island. And with the starched quality of that statement aside…
Speaking of starched, series star Stephen Amell continues to attempt to settle into Oliver’s skin, at points coming across a bit too rigid, but at other times showing flashes of his own natural personality that give him some life on-screen. Though it’s clear he’s tethering Oliver to the dark experiences that now haunt him, he would do well to start relying on the latter to allow himself to breathe and connect with the others in the scene. The moments he does lead to a more believable performance and allow the audience in. Amell appears to be an engaging, mischievous soul off-screen and bringing that to the mix without tipping Oliver too far into the jovial would make the game all the more fun.
They make a crucial choice for Oliver to allow him to open up and connect with someone. The scene with he and Laurel sharing ice cream is a bit choppy in quality but there a lovely moments where Amell and Katie Cassidy share a soft connection that really sells the history of their characters well. That connection and insight brings on Oliver’s two best moments of the episode: the one in which he plays drunk and defiant to the crowd to let people know he will not be joining the family business and a very touching moment where he explains to the memory and spirit of his father what he must do to accomplish the quest they both set out for Oliver.
Laurel also has a great moment with her father after Somers has been caught and things begin to settle down near the end. Paul Blackthorne struggles a bit with finding an appropriate accent for Quentin Lance, which leads to some bigger line deliveries throughout. Cassidy is also guilty with juggling some broader work this episode, but the final scene the two share actually manages to ground both in their characters, their relationship, and their performances. One hopes this was the instance that clicked for them and they’re able to build on it going forward.
Kind of lost in the shuffle but no less exciting to see on the screen was the introduction of the first notable villain of the series, Kelly Hu as China White, a character who made her first appearance in the comics during the Green Arrow: Year One mini-series that forms part of the DNA of this adaptation. Oddly, there is a bit of reserved quality to the way she’s brought in, relegating the character to more of a glorified henchman in this given story. The fact that she gets away and this is but the first episode of an arc for the character, one can’t help but feel this was more to whet the appetite than really pit she and Oliver against one another.
That’s an exciting development for the series. While the nature of Robert Queen’s list that Oliver is working off of sets up an episodic quality to the show, the showrunners are weaving enough into the narrative that serializes the story and builds from episode to episode. Oliver getting on the Triad’s radar is something that looks to play out for a while and should add more depth to White and their struggle.
The glaring disappointment with this episode would have to be the direction and cinematography. While most of the episode was quite competent, the odd cuts and structure of the scene where Laurel is trying her case in court intercut with the events around the death of Victor Nocenti felt like a feeble attempt to create a living comic book. It proved distracting and drew us out of the story nearly altogether. Also, while the scene where China White and her goons attack Oliver and Laurel was exciting, the action of the fight between Oliver and China at the docks — which should’ve been the highlight of the episode — was lost in wide angled shots, sweeping camera movements and an odd rhythm that never really played to the choreography. After the precedent of the action beats set in the pilot, that was a letdown.
What was a bit surprising was the reveal of the other person on the island that likely trained Oliver in the skills that he has brought back with him. It seemed fairly clear, especially given the Deathstroke mask seen on the beach in the pilot, that someone else was either on the island or was going to appear that would provide that guidance for Ollie. Seeing Oliver struggle for a while trying to survive on the island and then coming across this other person appeared to be the most likely scenario that would play out. That’s what is so striking about this turn of events. He’s barely had time to settle on his new home and is allowed just to bury his father’s body when this stranger reveals himself, wearing the very hooded outfit Ollie will claim as his own one day, no less. Unexpected, to say the least, and telling of how they don’t want to hold the story back.
For only its second episode, the show has a sure footing and looks well on its way to finding the right alchemical mix to be around for a long while. If Amell can punch more holes in the moribund but determined (read:stiff) Oliver, while not giving up his pathos or tenacity, that’ll get the heart pumping on this entire world. There is also a bit of smaller connective material not finding its way into the story yet as it flits from plot point to plot point. That should come with a few more episodes under their belt.
Lastly, action should be choice centerpieces of a series like this. They should re-examine what worked in the first episode to make sure that those beats maximize the fun that the series wants to have.
Odds & Ends
- Diggle’s suspicions that Oliver is more than meets the eye, especially following the knife-throwing incident at Laurel’s, were played wonderfully by David Ramsey.
- Moira talking to a mysterious figured played better given the context of last episode. Just what did Robert Queen stumble upon and how does that symbol identify it?
- Personal distaste for most scenes of superheroes “suiting up” in movies and television shows, but the two times Ollie did it here were much more natural.
- As lackluster as the final fight was shot, the training sequence was well choreographed and shot well.
- The digital recorder arrow was just practical and just dorky enough.
- Laurel’s empassioned speech to her father about what her job means to her and why she does it was the perfect ethos for a certain fishnet-stocking-wearing alter-ego.
- Following the trend of naming characters after creators associated with the comics, Victor and Emily Nocenti are named after comic writer Ann Nocenti.
- The scene where Thea gets a good look at Ollie’s scars was well played by Willa Holland and Stephen Amell.