Time for the second installment of my quest to catch up with one of the best shows on TV…
Season 1 Episode 6 – ‘Legacies’
The episode title is another attempt to parallel the story of the week with the longer arc of Oliver’s father and the promise Oliver made. It’s another switch up of the episode format as Oliver and Diggle go after a group of bank robbers for ‘reasons’. This time, the threat of the week is an initially promising but ultimately disappointing sinister card mask gang. Meanwhile on the island, the mentor gets a name – Yao Fei – and we’re also treated to visions on the island as Oliver’s Dad shows up on the island.
It’s a bit of a meh episode to be honest, the first so far. But I remember when series used to take one or two seasons to get going (“Star Trek: The Next Generation” I’m looking at you) and I’m hard pushed to remember a genre show which has come out of the gate as strongly as “Arrow” has. With the lacklustre a-story, there’s unfortunately room to bring Tommy and Laurel to the fore, which doesn’t interest me one little bit. And the fact the disposable criminal family of bank robbers had ties to Queen Consolidated was a bore too, making the same mistake as “The Amazing Spider-Man” movies by having everybody tied into one corporate origin story. One of the few highlights of the episode was the great chemistry between Stephen Amell and Susanna Thompson who really make the relationship between Oliver and his Mum seem authentic, despite the secrets both characters are harbouring.
Season 1 Episode 7 – ‘Muse Of Fire’
Ha ha, an action movie cliché! Running diagonally on foot trumps a motorised vehicle going around the block every time. I have to say, because of some of the cops mumbling in the episode, I kept thinking they were after the Bert ‘n’ Ernie crime family rather than the Bertenelli. That being said, this was another great episode and a strong return to form after the previous disappointment. The dinner scene is deliciously clever as Oliver and Helena dance around their respective similarities and it’s a great way to have Oliver confront himself in a ‘through the mirror darkly’ kind of way, bringing some measure of ethical oversight to his increasingly violent and ruthless methods. The scene at the end of the episode is genuinely moving as Oliver finally finds someone he can be completely open and honest with, without fear of judgement or condemnation.
Season 1 Episode 8 – ‘Vendetta’
After the great set-up in ‘Muse Of Fire’, this episode is a bit of a let-down. The initial conflict between Oliver and Diggle over trusting/ training Helena is quite promising and as she is transformed into The Huntress it looks like it could be a promising partnership. But it basically fizzles out in a predictable mafia showdown that feels like it’s lifted from a Grand Theft Auto mission and The Huntress bows out without much of a fanfare. I suspect she’ll be back, but it would have been nice for the relationship to have lasted a few more episodes to make her eventual fall to ruthlessness more impactful. Oh well.
Season 1 Episode 9 – ‘Year’s End’
Yay! A Christmas episode: Tinsel, Tinsel everywhere! This is as good a point as any to say how much I’m enjoying the Microsoft product placement in “Arrow”. It’s such a refreshing change from having Apples everywhere, although I guess having apples would be a little more William Tell than Green Arrow. The Dark Archer is cool villain, and the way he’s introduced is particularly well handled. Felicity Smoake is definitely starting to get interesting as well, so I’m guessing the character’s being groomed for a bigger role as the series progresses. I’m kind of ambivalent about the Dark Archer turning out to be Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) but the series has earned my trust enough to see how it plays out. The final fight between Arrow and The Dark Archer is pretty bone crunchingly brutal and again I’m impressed by how edgy this series is prepared to be. The kidnapping of Walter was a bit of an odd move, though. How on Earth is that going to be smoothed over?
Season 1 Episode 10 – ‘Burned’
Holy hardcore, Batman! Burning a guy to death in cold blood is pretty dark for any TV series, let alone a superhero series on The CW. So far this series is consistently confounding my expectations and I’m kicking myself for having waited this long to watch it. It’s a brilliant touch of realism that Oliver has been lying low for six weeks and is reluctant to resume his vigilante role after getting his ass handed to him so thoroughly by The Dark Archer (although it jars a bit with Oliver’s vow to ‘take him down’). It’s appropriate that the stakes which get him back in the game are suitably grim and urgent. The arcs are kept in the background this time around, with the story staying focussed on Oliver’s acceptance of his role as a protector and avenger, not just a slave to his hit list.
Ten episodes in and I’m thoroughly hooked. I’m hoping to be right up to date when Season Three takes its mid-season break but if the quality stays this high, I might be caught up well before then!