As we await “The Calm” before the storm of Arrow Season 3 with this Wednesday’s premiere, GATV reviewer Matt Tucker offers his reflection on the superb, densely packed second season of the series. Over the next three days, Matt presents a countdown of his ranking of each of the twenty-three episodes of Season 2.
Your “Arrow Year Two” countdown:
- Today – Season 2 Episodes 23-14
- Tues 10/7 – Season 2 Episodes 13-4
- Wed 10/8 – Season 2 Top 3 Episodes
Number 23: “Blast Radius”
Season Episode: 2.10
Series Episode: 33
Original Airdate: January 15, 2014
Credits: Coburn & Shimizu (writers); Behring (director)
Synopsis: While Oliver is frazzled over the appearance of the Mirakuru in Starling City and Felicity has been visiting a comatose Barry Allen in Central City, an anti-government bomber is taking out various targets around town. His latest target is a “unity rally” held by Sebastian Blood. Team Arrow takes down the terrorist. Laurel looks into Blood’s mysterious past. Thea witnesses Roy’s emerging superstrength. The Arrow and Blood make an alliance that could prove bad for Oliver.
Guest Characters: Sebastian Blood (Kevin Alejandro), Mark Scheffer/Shrapnel (Sean Maher), Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), Adam Donner (Dylan Bruce), Anthony Ivo (Dylan Neal)
In one regard, it’s tough to find fault with “Blast Radius” because it actually has quite a number of positive character moments going on in its secondary storylines. We get a further idea of Sebastian Blood’s past, but also a rather insidious ploy to gain the Arrow’s trust. Laurel gets something to do after her promising thrust to open the season was killed off so quickly. Diggle is back out in the field, and despite a little treading of water, the torment of Oliver while Slade’s condition worsens in the past builds in slow, meaningful ways.
It’s just that the main story with Shrapnel proves to be such a pointless and weightless effort. Shrapnel is so inconsequential that he’s brought back to be on the Suicide Squad only to be used as the killed-off example to show that Amanda Waller means business. This was an odd choice to come back from the winter hiatus with, and I seem to recall talk that the show was kind of losing its way coming around this period in the season.
Number 22: “Tremors”
Season Episode: 2.12
Series Episode: 35
Original Airdate: January 29, 2014
Credits: Guggenheim & Greenberg (writers); Bee (director)
Synopsis: The Arrow attempts to train Roy to use his abilities and calm the rage caused by the Mirakuru. Oliver eventually has to reveal his identity to Roy in the field to leverage his strength to disable a prototype version of the Markov earthquake device used by an arms dealer and Bronze Tiger. Moira is convinced to run against Sebastian for mayor. Laurel is disbarred for her addiction problems. Amanda Waller recruits Bronze Tiger for a special “squad.”
Guest Characters: Sara Lance/Canary, Ben Turner/Bronze Tiger (Michael Jai White), Amanda Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), Mark Francis (Nicholas Lea), Walter Steele (Colin Salmon), Joanna de la Vega (Annie Ilonzeh), Milo Armitage (James Kidnie)
This is one of those episodes that’s such a split personality in focus that it affects its ultimate placement on the list. Bronze Tiger and Armitage both prove to be effective but kind of innocuous villains this go-round. (Though, the visceral opening bit with Turner’s escape from prison was a dark highlight.) Yet, that plot is aided by the excellent dynamic between Oliver and Roy as they try to get Roy’s superabilities under control and focus. Revealing his identity was inevitable, but there was a organic narrative reason to do so.
Even with the somewhat eye-rolling addiction storyline, they also don’t let Laurel off the hook. (Well, not this time, anyway.) She’s becoming thoroughly unlikeable here, and it actually works for where they are taking the character. The audience might not like it, but that was kind of the point.
It’s the other half of the personality here, the Moira for mayor storyline, that absolutely kills this. Without doubt, this was the most boneheaded development of the season. It simply defied logic, and worse, served to undercut the intelligence and plausibility of both Moira and Walter as characters.
Number 21: “Birds of Prey”
Season Episode: 2.17
Series Episode: 40
Original Airdate: March 26, 2014
Credits: Bemesderfer & Bradley (writers); Behring (director)
Synopsis: Frank Bertinelli is captured by the Arrow and Canary, drawing Helena back into town. Donner clears Laurel with the Bar Association and rehires her to try the case, but it’s all a ruse to be able to capture both Frank and Helena and lock them away. Helena takes prisoners at the courthouse, including Laurel, and Canary goes to rescue her sister. Helena then bargains with Oliver to trade Laurel for her father. Frank is killed by a rogue SWAT officer and Helena arrested, beginning to finally see the error of her ways.
Guest Characters: Sara Lance/Canary, Adam Donner, Anthony Ivo, Helena Bertinelli/The Huntress (Jessica De Guow), Frank Bertinelli (Jeffrey Nordling), Kate Spencer (Chelah Horsdal), Anatoli Knyazev (David Nykl)
The placement of this episode so low on the list is not likely to be controversial, given that voters for this year’s GreenArrowTV Awards picked this as their worst episode of the season. What might be controversial is the fact that this rates so low only in respect to the quality of the other episodes of the season. It’s a much better episode than this placement would seem to suggest. In the end, that speaks more to the overall quality of the season than to the shortcomings of this hour.
To be fair, this installment does have some issues, particularly with an abrupt about-face of Laurel’s progression and turning her into the skid of darkness as a supposed means of empowering her. The message meant becomes kind of gobbledygook in the long-run, and her blackmailing of Kate Spencer to keep her DA’s job is both head-scratching and disappointing. The fight between Canary and the Huntress was also not one of the better action segments on the series. And the whole Huntress identity was sort of a moot point when everyone knew who Helena was.
But, people were prejudiced against the episode from the get-go, from the title and from another appearance from the not well-liked Helena. Frankly, though, it’s a better episode than most give credit.
Number 20: “Time of Death”
Season Episode: 2.14
Series Episode: 37
Original Airdate: February 26, 2014
Credits: Mericle & Schwartz (writers); Copus (director)
Synopsis: With Sara joining Team Arrow, Felicity feels marginalized and tries to prove herself by trying to capture a bank robber called the Clock King for the precision timing of his heists. The team shows up to save her, but ultimately it’s Felicity’s ingenuity that takes him down. Oliver and Sara attend a Lance family dinner together, which sends Laurel into a rage. On the island in the past, Sara promises a dying downed pilot to find and take care of his daughter, Sin.
Guest Characters: Sara Lance/Canary, Sin (Bex Taylor-Klaus), William Tockman/The Clock King (Robert Knepper), Dinah Lance (Alex Kingston)
At least, this was the push to finally get Laurel into recovery. But what in the hell were Sara and Oliver thinking by showing up to the dinner together, especially after recognizing that it might be better to keep things low-key?
Clock King seems like an interesting villain, but we get merely a surface treatment of him, and altogether a rather pat outing. Felicity’s insecurity feels honest to start, but the execution comes off a bit juvenile. This shouldn’t necessarily be a likeable aspect of the character, but it’s a shrill note that makes this a less enjoyable episode overall.
Slade’s reveal in the present at the end of the episode helps to elevate it, but only so much.
Number 19: “Crucible”
Season Episode: 2.4
Series Episode: 27
Original Airdate: October 30, 2013
Credits: Kreisberg & Mericle (writers); Egilsson (director)
Synopsis: Canary is revealed to be Sara Lance, who has been tracking Laurel to keep an eye on here. Lyla tells Diggle about thefts of military-grade weapons led by a man called the Mayor, who wants to rule the Glades. Arrow and Canary team to stop him. Laurel drowns her sorrows in the bottle and gets pulled over for DUI, which Quentin gets her out of to help her. In the past, Oliver is held captive on the freighter and discovers that Sara is part of the crew.
Guest Characters: Sebastian Blood, Sara Lance/Canary, Sin, Anthony Ivo, Adam Donner, Anatoli Knyazev, Isabel Rochev (Summer Glau), Shado (Celina Jade), Lyla Michaels (Audrey Marie Anderson), The Captain (Jimmy Jean-Louis), Xavier Reed/The Mayor (Clé Bennett), Officer Daily (Jesse Hutch)
This is the big Sara reveal. While it would’ve been more effective if it hadn’t been spoiled in the summer prior to the season starting, there are a lot of good moments. Still, it’s kind of a cluttered mess that added to a feeling by most of us here at GATV that using Sara this way was not a great decision.
Thankfully, we were proven wrong and Sara became an integral and welcome piece of the season. That wasn’t until a number of episodes past this one, though. Still, there was a particular thrill in getting to see live-action versions of Green Arrow and Black Canary fighting together on-screen.
Not a thrill was the silly execution of the Laurel escapes into booze storyline, particularly the abrupt pull-over for DUI. Her heading this way was never the issue. She suffered a pretty scary ordeal at the hands of the Dollmaker and the focus of her anger and guilt over Tommy’s loss unraveled when she realized the Arrow wasn’t at fault. The family history offers precedent. It was just never executed well, and that all started here.