Arrow Season 2 Countdown: Top 3 Episodes Arrow Season 2 Countdown: Top 3 Episodes
In anticipation of the Season 3 premiere, Matt Tucker counts down his ranking of the episodes of the superb and densely packed Season 2.... Arrow Season 2 Countdown: Top 3 Episodes

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As we await “The Calm” before the storm of Arrow Season 3, our Editor-in-Chief Craig Byrne teases tonight’s premiere, and Arrow exec producer Marc Guggenheim offers some insight on the theme of the new season and some things to expect.

Meanwhile, at stately Queen manor, GATV reviewer Matt Tucker offers his reflection on the superb, densely packed second season of the series. Concluding the series, Matt presents his top 3 episodes of Season 2.

You guys voted for your favorite episode of the season in this year’s GreenArrowTV Awards. Find out if Matt agreed.

Your “Arrow Year Two” countdown:

  • Mon 10/6 – Season 2 Episodes 23-14
    • 23. Blast Radius
    • 22: Tremors
    • 21. Birds of Prey
    • 20. Time of Death
    • 19. Crucible
    • 18. Broken Dolls
    • 17. League of Assassins
    • 16. Identity
    • 15. City of Blood
    • 14. Blind Spot
  • Tues 10/7 – Season 2 Episodes 13-4
    • 13. Keep Your Enemies Closer
    • 12: City of Heroes
    • 11. The Scientist
    • 10. State v. Queen
    • 9. Heir to the Demon
    • 8. Deathstroke
    • 7. Seeing Red
    • 6. Suicide Squad
    • 5. The Man Under the Hood
    • 4. Three Ghosts
  • Today – Season 2 Top 3 Episodes

Agree or disagree? Have your own rankings? As always, we welcome your feedback and discussion. Tell us what you think in the comment section below or over on the GATV forum, presented by KSiteTV.


Number 3: “The Promise”

The Promise

Season Episode: 2.15
Series Episode: 38
Original Airdate: March 5, 2014
Credits: Coburn & Sokolowski (writers); Winter (director)
Synopsis: Oliver is shocked to see Slade Wilson alive and in the Queen home, talking to Moira about her campaign. He can’t do anything to Slade with Moira and Thea there, but treats Slade with open disdain, much to Moira’s chagrin. Slade has the women give him a tour of the artwork of the house, cover to hide a number of cameras and listening devices. Altered to the threat, Sara, Roy, and Diggle intervene. With the evening over, as Oliver walks him to his car, Slade reminds him of a promise he made on the island. In the past, Oliver, Slade, and Sara attack the Amazo, freeing prisoners. When Oliver confronts Ivo, Slade overhears that it was Oliver’s decision that cost Shado her life. He turns on Oliver, capturing Ivo and Oliver, making a promise that he won’t kill Oliver until his life is put through utter despair.
Guest Characters: Sara Lance/Canary (Caity Lotz), Shado (Celina Jade), Anthony Ivo (Dylan Neal), Anatoli Knyazev (David Nykl), Hendrick von Arnim (Artine Brown), Thomas Flynn (James Pizzinato)

From Matt Tucker’s Review: “This episode, of course, bookends the first chapter of Oliver and Slade’s story. The earlier chapter was about the two working together and Slade coming to find some respect and brotherhood in this flimsy neophyte of a partner. Now, we’re witness to the total dissolution of that partnership, and quite compellingly from both cause (in the past) and effect (in the present) standpoints.” (more)

From Derek B. Gayle’s Second Opinion: “But no matter what, the excellence of ‘The Promise’ is based squarely on Manu Bennett’s captivating portrayal of Slade Wilson and the man’s rise to villainy. The breakdown of he and Oliver’s relationship is nothing new […] it’s something that needed to happen and we knew would eventually happen, but presented in about the most thrilling, non-stop, pitch-perfect way possible.” (more)

This would almost be my fave episode of the season, if not for the crazy fun and scope of the final two hours of the year. The tension and menace engendered by this chapter is so palpable that it feels like it’s camping out on your shoulders at the base of your neck. What makes it even more enthralling is that it’s only covering the present day parts of the episode, which like it’s benchmark cousin from Season 1, “The Odyssey,”are in the minority this go-round.

That’s not to say that the raid on the freighter in the flashbacks that make up the bulk of the episode isn’t thrilling and tension-filled. Far from. Interviews about the episode at the time cheered this as their most elaborate episode to date. They built a full-scale replica of the top deck and bridge of the freighter on the soundstage, and it’s astoundingly immersive as a result. The entire raid is explosive and heart-pounding, which sets a perfect environment for the tension of the confrontation that takes place on the bridge.

Slade spent most of the season in the past in pain, from his shell wounds to the mind-altering of the Mirakuru to the loss of Shado. Yet, his heartbreak reached new depths in the reveal of the truth behind Shado’s shooting. Bennett nails the crumble of a man and the vicious lash out as a result. The balance here is perfect, as it was in “The Odyssey” a year earlier that these two were forged as brothers in arms. Now, we get to see that connection forever broken, and it’s both scary and exciting thinking what awaits the last act of the season as we run up to the two showdowns between Slade and Oliver.

Amidst all of that, what really stands out to me is the creepy way in which Slade touches everything in the Queen mansion in the present. We learn it’s because he’s planting monitoring devices, something that will play a huge part of the season finale, but it’s a disturbingly subtle way to show that Slade has insinuated himself into every aspect of Oliver’s life. That kind of care and focus on character motivation makes this a standout.


Number 2: “Streets of Fire”

Streets of Fire

Season Episode: 2.22
Series Episode: 45
Original Airdate: May 7, 2014
Credits: Coburn & Sokolowski (writers); Copus (director)
Synopsis: Oliver and Laurel survive the blast underground and get free, as Diggle and Felicity fight Isabel with a van. The group meets up and learns that S.T.A.R. Labs has finished the Mirakuru cure and is rushing it into the city. Slade’s soldiers get to cure before Team Arrow can. Laurel runs into Canary and reveals she knows she’s her sister. Sara is still struggling with being a hero, but Laurel offers her encouragement. Sara saves a young girl from a house fire, and Laurel publicly calls her the Canary for the first time, the name taken from Sara’s Arabic moniker. Laurel joins her dad at the police station. The officers follow Quentin’s lead in helping the Arrow fight for the city and he’s promoted back to Detective. Sebastian is devastated at Slade’s true plans to demolish the city and steals the cure to give to Oliver. Isabel kills him for his betrayal. They test the cure on Roy, as ARGUS begins to block off the city. Oliver calls Waller and she reveals that she’s put a clock on the situation, intending to destroy the city with drones to prevent the Mirakuru from spreading anywhere else. Thea is attacked by a soldier while trying to leave town, and is saved by Malcolm.
Guest Characters: Sara Lance/Canary, Sebastian Blood (Kevin Alejandro), Isabel Rochev (Summer Glau), Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), Amanda Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), Kate Spencer (Chelah Horsdal)

From Derek’s Review: “It goes a long way to make all the hamfisted talk about heroes and fighting the good fight not just excusable, but believable and imperative. This shows itself in this episode especially, where we see these complex, realistic human characters struggling to adapt to an increasingly more fantastic comic book world.” (more)

From Matt’s Second Opinion: “Even when it takes breaths for character, it’s all momentum for the entire hour. Other than resolutions, there’s much about the episode that plays like a season finale, making this Act Two definitely feel of a larger piece than the usual set-up of a penultimate chapter.” (more)

While “City of Blood” proved somewhat disappointing because it was mostly set-up, “Streets of Fire” is all execution, and it burns bright. This is the carefully placed and choreographed dominoes falling, each thing compounding with the next to build to fever pitch for the finale.

What’s great about a quality second act like this is it is relentless. Even in the quiet moments where characters get to connect with one another amidst the craziness around them, they’re barely a breather and all feels like it continues to build. Sara and Laurel meeting up for big sister to offer support as younger struggles with her place in the world. It opens a great bit where Sara cements her heroic tendencies by saving the little girl. Quentin getting not only his Detective’s shield back but the respect and support of the SCPD behind him. Isabel learning about Shado for the first time, and Sebastian realizing too late that he was on the wrong side. Everything builds the stakes to astounding proportions entering the final hour of the season.

It’s also those proportions that are great. There are practical limitations to any show and certainly one on the CW. A regular viewer comes to accept that. Yet, the show is able to make the most of its resources to really sell the scale and scope of Slade’s attack on the city. The authenticity creates a feeling that permeates it all, given it the weight they hope the story holds.

Another great touch is that everything is reduced to the three cores of Team Arrow before the havoc unleashed in the finale. Sara is off on her own. Laurel left to find Quentin. Roy is unconscious. That leaves our three stalwarts buckling down and preparing to ride out the storm. So many people will factor into the finale, but bringing everything back to the core in final prep for that was essential.

And then Amanda Waller sets off her clock…


Number 1: “Unthinkable”

Unthinkable

Season Episode: 2.23
Series Episode: 46
Original Airdate: May 14, 2014
Credits: Berlanti (story); Guggenheim & Kreisberg (writers); Behring (director)
Synopsis: Slade’s final move is to kill the one whom Oliver loves the most. With the Mirakuru soldiers attacking the city, ARGUS ready to strike, and a working cure, Team Arrow, Lyla, Canary, Nyssa, and League assassins set out to take down the soldiers non-lethally. They make way to Slade at the QC building, but he escapes. Nyssa kills Isabel. Laurel is abducted, and when Quentin arrives to tell the Arrow, he insists he start killing again. Felicity convinces Oliver he needs to do something unthinkable, and Oliver devices a gameplan that Slade would never anticipate he would do. Taking Felicity to the mansion, Oliver confesses his love for her, knowing that Slade has the place bugged. Felicity is nabbed once Oliver leaves, and both Laurel and Felicity are brought to the final confrontation with Slade, as Waller’s drones descend on the city. The confession was a ruse, as Oliver slipped Felicity an arrowhead with the cure so that she could get close to Slade. She injects him and the effects of the Mirakuru are counteracted. Oliver and Slade have a final fight, as Diggle and Lyla break the Suicide Squad out of prison to fight their way to Waller to stop her. They convince her to call off the strike. Oliver bests Slade but doesn’t kill him. Slade is placed in an ARGUS supermax prison underground on Lian Yu, of all places. Oliver and company prepare to rebuild. After what she feels is a final betrayal by Roy, Thea joins her father, Malcolm Merlyn, and they leave the city. In the past, Oliver attempts to rescue Sara and faces Slade, seemingly for the last time. Anatoli fires on freighter with the submarine, per Oliver’s orders. As the boat sinks, Sara is swept out to sea, lost again. Oliver and Slade viciously battle, with Oliver finally getting the upper hand and stabbing Slade through the eye, seemingly killing him. Oliver nearly drowns. He wakes on the mainland in Hong Kong and is introduced for the first time to Amanda Waller.
Guest Characters: Sara Lance/Canary, Sebastian Blood, Isabel Rochev, Shado, Malcolm Merlyn, Amanda Waller, Nyssa Raatko/al Ghul (Katrina Law), Floyd Lawton/Deadshot (Michael Rowe), Lyla Michaels (Audrey Marie Anderson)

From Derek’s Review: “In a lot of ways, “Unthinkable” is the antithesis of last season’s “Sacrifice,” the main reason being that everyone actually ends in a pretty good or safe place. Well, okay—Quentin has a critical injury, and Thea has put on the black leather and is crossing over to the dark side. But[…] As catastrophic as these last few episodes have been, ‘Unthinkable’ is remarkably hopeful for everyone—even Slade can maybe, someday, redeem himself down the line.” (more)

From Matt’s Review: “The second season capper is an interesting beast in that it really only offers us one genuine shocker of a moment — with a few other more minor surprises — and yet absolutely everything is fulfilling and entertaining. There isn’t a beat that felt out of place, a development that didn’t feel earned, nor a moment that didn’t keep ones eyes glued to the screen. Most important, just as was described by the Exec Producers in their slew of media interviews leading up to this finale, this really is the close of a two-year opening chapter.” (more)

Last year’s finale, “Sacrifice” was so good, and yet there was one episode that stood above it on the year for me. This year’s finale is the majestic peak of a stout, imposing mountain of a season. To pick a pilot/premiere or a finale often feels like a cheat, particularly on a show like Arrow that does them so well. Yet, ‘Unthinkable’ is the expected but note-perfect culmination of everything on the season. It meets the stakes head-on and excels. There is just very little doubt that this is the tops of the year.

It seems a bit disingenuous to say that there were very few surprises throughout the hour. Makes it sounds as if they didn’t do their job, didn’t accomplish their mission. That’s precisely what they’ve done, and it’s all the more satisfying because it’s the proper, natural resolution.

Not just of the season, though. This is the culmination of both of the first two years of the show. There are threads left to explore, to be sure, and now we’re aware that the new season will feature Ra’s al Ghul as the Big Bad and focus on that pesky problem for heroes about having a life and identity separate of their public duties. Yet, at the close of Season 2, it really left very little clue as to what the main thrust of the show would be now. That kind of possibility is exciting and it speaks to just what this finale accomplishes and how well it does it.

The one shock of the episode, of course, was the love “confession” to Felicity from Oliver. It was a bold and potentially dangerous move. It spoke to the title of the episode in a way none of us had thought. “Unthinkable” seemed to imply Oliver was going to have to make hard, calamitous choices, potential unconscionable sacrifices, to defeat to Slade. Who would’ve thought it would refer to Oliver having to take gambles and approaches that his brain would normally never conceive. He had to act in a way Oliver Queen would never think to best his old pal. The devious manipulation was a chess move Slade would never and hadn’t expected

It also subverted our own expectations of a finale, but in a way that was true to every character involved and washed with everything that had proceeded it. This wasn’t some off-the-wall, deus ex machina cheat. That appreciation of the intelligence and trust of the audience, as well as understanding and belief in the characters, was a decided highlight of the hour. The potential to offend a contingent of the fanbase with such a move was rewarded handsomely. Most important, Oliver beat Slade at the very thing that was most important: he didn’t kill. He wasn’t diminished as a person, driven low and compromised, as Slade wanted.

Oliver Queen, the hero, emerged in total. “Unthinkable” solidified him as one we can root for, and earned the distinction of representing the best of the season.


For a little retro fun, you can also check out Matt’s ranking of Season 1 episodes from last year.
Season 1: Episodes 23-19Episodes 18-14Episodes 13-9Episodes 8-4Top 3 Episodes

Matt Tucker Editor/Senior Writer/Reviewer

Matt Tucker is a stage and film actor, writer, Seattleite, comics nerd, sports fan, and aspiring person. Someday, he’ll be a real boy. He's an editor and senior writer for KSiteTV network (GreenArrowTV, DaredevilTV) and the sports blogs Sonics Rising and Cascadia Sports Network. Follow him on Twitter at @MattBCTucker or @TuckerOnSports

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