jedi_of_urth: (elena)
[personal profile] jedi_of_urth posting in [community profile] tori_reviews
So is everybody ready to (finally) get going on season 2 of Arrow? I actually really am, this was the season that progressively took me from my ‘I guess it’s okay’ attitude of s1 to being a show I really loved and was invested in. As such this is probably the season I have the fondest view of; we’ll see if that holds true once it gets the full review treatment.

I think this review has turned into a jumbled mess, so not off to a great start there.

Arrow 2x01: City of Heroes

Right from the title, this season is setting up a very different style of show that s1. Starling City was certainly the battleground of season 1, but as a character it was rather abstract. Now we’re setting up before even starting, that the city is going to be full of heroes, and would-be-heroes, and fallen heroes, all kinds of heroes (whether they’re ultimately good or not). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg with how things are changed and changing.

About that time gap
There is a lot of exposition thrown about during this episode to deal with the fact it’s the start of a new season and picking up months later. It’s not that bad in terms of quick and dirty characterization as sometimes happens (I’m looking at you LoT 2x01), but there’s a lot of exposition thrown around to bring people up to speed.

And we do have to talk at least once more about the s4 retcon, but this may be the last time before it actually happens (though probably not considering I never let a point go). I was watching the Laurel-Oliver scenes to see if we could pretend that was in continuity and for parts of it you kind of can; it makes them look worse than intended in those scenes, but it could fit. Oliver makes reference to not being able to handle things after the funeral, which does play out, would in fact fit well with everything we see in the s4 flashback except for them sleeping together; but when you put in the idea that they did sleep together it seems like he’s apologizing for that as much as leaving. But mainly the problem comes when Laurel actually references them sleeping together, she does so in the context of how it feels like she cheated on Tommy, which makes a lot more sense if she means when he was alive and their relationship status was uncertain. She could still feel that way about doing it again after he was dead, but if that was the case it should have been said, but couldn’t be since it wasn’t in continuity here. It doesn’t help that in that episode she doesn’t seem grief or guilt stricken at all; I keep referencing those flashbacks because they make me angry.

I also have to question just how well Oliver’s cover story would have worked. He’s awfully newsworthy in Starling City to disappear off the face of the Earth for months on end (not that this will be the last time). But more importantly, what did he say to people before taking off? Was it just a bigger form of his regular “I have to go” excuses? Did he actually sign something to hand the club over to Thea or did Felicity fake it? Was Moira hurt more hurt by Thea being around and not coming to visit or by Oliver running away so he couldn’t? Did he just give Felicity full access to his bank accounts and tell her “fake me doing stuff while I’m gone” that she then also used to rebuild their crime fighting operation?

Old faces made new
Most of the character changes that happen between seasons make sense either because of what happened or because time has passed. Some work well and some of them might have worked better if we’d had more info on how they came to those decisions.

Thea’s development works for me. The delinquent of season 1 has changed into a responsible business manager (or owner, it’s never quite clear). While she is almost certainly still drawing from the family coffers, she also wants to distance herself from her family name. She’s living and working in what’s left of the Glades, which doesn’t give her any distance from what her family has done, thus keeping her anger fresh. And then her change of heart in this episode feels alright too, partly because this tends to be how she has acted before when angry at Moira, she just dragged the angry phase out longer than she did at times in s1; and partly because her anger is that a daughter who feels betrayed rather than the anger at the act itself that other people feel; so it’s easier to break past the anger and once it’s broken it crumbles.

I find Laurel’s change in direction about half understandable and sympathetic and half less so on at least one of those. Yes CNRI was destroyed by the earthquake, and considering what happened that night she’s looking to get some distance from it; but that she decided not to do anything to fight for the noble cause she was so devoted to in s1 is borderline out of character; it may also be relevant to keep in mind (though the actual conclusion to draw is debatable) that, per the s3 flashbacks, Tommy convinced her to take that job in the first place. It works with where I know they’re going with her character this season, that she is not in a good place after all this, and maybe it’s good that this is a sort of subtle indication of that to start us off, but it’s never really called out as such.

But the big changes are Team Arrow. Right from the start the whole dynamic of the team seems different, and considering Oliver’s been gone so long I’m not sure how much of it is earned. The changes to Oliver himself, as a reaction to having failed, lost Tommy (in so many ways), and realized his quest wasn’t built on what he thought, those changes I don’t question, for all you could argue they might have been a little forced.

I think the big change for Team Arrow is the treatment of Felicity. I made a note of something in the finale that I opted not to actually discuss, but now seems to have been relevant. Digg said something in the vein of “You’re not alone since you brought me...us into this with you,” that at the time I wasn’t sure whether to take as Digg still adjusting to there being more of the team or if Digg was getting wise to the idea that Oliver often responds more/better to Felicity on such things. Here we seem to have settled on the latter; paired with Digg no longer seeing Felicity as someone who needed to be protected as he did when she first joined; I guess it’s why they have to go together on the mission to bring Oliver home. In s1 they were sort of a club that hung out and stopped crime, at this point they’re a team.

When I rewatch s1 I remember why I didn’t see Oliver/Felicity as potentially romantic, I still kind of don’t see them that way in s1, as much fun as I may have making “future love of your life” comments; but here things are different. I still didn’t see it fully my first time through, but looking at it now it’s easy to see the groundwork being laid for them as potential love interests. We have two Tarzan and Jane moments, she’s the one who does most of the work convincing him to come home, she’s in full work-wife (whichever work that might mean) mode most of the episode. It was all growing last season, especially late in the season, but here it’s as obvious as...Felicity looking at Oliver while talking about the Hood with Lance or Oliver’s blatant ‘let’s go to the basement team’ look after Thea’s taken, or the fact that the Hood always seems to show up to save the Queen family; it’s not quite completely obvious, but it’s pretty easy to see once you notice.

The blame game
A lot of the discussions this episode involve who is blaming who for the Undertaking. While most people rightly blame Malcolm first and foremost there’s variety in how much blame gets spread to other parties. Oliver regularly reminds people that Malcolm is where the blame properly resides, not that he doesn’t take some of it on himself. Unlike Thea, he doesn’t seem to blame Moira for her role much at all.

Laurel’s choice of target is of course the big factor introduced. While she isn’t entirely wrong that there was a crossfire between the archers going on, it must be well enough known by now (through Moira if nothing else) that Malcolm’s plan had been in the works for years, long before the Hood was a thing. I guess it is sort of like how the city will decide to punish Moira so severely; Malcolm’s dead and the natural tendency is to want to hold someone responsible and Laurel chose the Hood.

Setups
There are a few things in this episode that have an odd feel of trying desperately to hang on to a status quo that is otherwise slipping away, and I don’t mean by the characters, I mean by the writers. The combination of grief/guilt over Tommy and Laurel’s vendetta against the vigilante seem designed to keep Oliver and Laurel apart for another season; they’re still meant to be the endgame couple, but they have to have obstacles because CW relationship drama (and just dictates of TV relationships in general). And the reappearance of Walter seems to be in part because he’s a semi-main cast member from season one, so he’s supposed to still be around (I like Walter, I wish he was around more).

In other things the draw of the old status quo is a factor in the story. Mostly in terms of whether Oliver is going to be the Hood as he was before or manage to help without killing. Oliver has never been a fighter without being a killer; his view is kill or be killed, because that’s what forged him into this, and it’s an all or nothing step for him. That actually is very consistent across the years to come, the other way has to be a choice, one he gets better at making, but the natural inclination of the man in the hood is that of a killer.

We have a whole new trope for the series, the regularly dying mayors, sometimes I regret that I wasn’t keeping tallies of those sort of series tropes. Also, this will be a problem for a good chunk of the season, I can’t tell the DA apart from Blood, they look way too much alike.

And we have the first appearance of the Canary (we all would have said Black Canary back in the day, but why confuse things more than necessary?). I don’t remember if I jumped to any conclusions much less the real one at the time. I’m pretty sure I didn’t think they had jumped Laurel’s characterization that far forward, but outside of that I don’t know what I thought then, except that it was obviously supposed to be our first (Black) Canary.

Lian Yu (five years ago)
I basically have two thoughts on the flashbacks. Short thought that, Oliver’s wild killing is very much there to contrast him turning away from killing in the present; that has often been the thing about the flashback, the fall of past Oliver contrasted with the rise of the present. It all would have worked better with more preplanning of course.

And then there’s the island threesome. And while this is highly subjective and I don’t remember if it holds, I think Oliver would have been down for some island threesome action; I don’t think he likes excluding Slade; and Slade’s simmering jealousy doesn’t help things. I don’t think Slade really wants a threeway though, he wants Shado; and Shado does not want Slade, she is quite happy with just Oliver. It was a messy situation that was pretty likely always going to end badly.


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