Reviews

‘Arrow’ Midseason Review: Rise of the Heroes

Diyah Pera/The CW

After a bumpy first year, Arrow easily wins the award for most improved show this season. We have to give major props to the writers and producers for fixing some of our biggest issues with the show, specifically the lack of serialized story arcs and Oliver’s hypocrisy. We knew he was supposed to be the hero, but considering that his solution was to murder his enemies, he often came across as overly judgmental last year. Thankfully, season two has changed him for the better.

While we still mourn Tommy’s death, it was the catalyst that made Oliver want to change his ways and be a hero instead of a vigilante. Even though he was working with Dig and Felicity last season, their dynamic has strengthened this year and because of that central bond, the show feels stronger as a whole. The focus is no longer vengeance, but rebuilding and coming back from the brink of disaster.

Team Arrow has also expanded to include Roy and Detective Lance, even if those two don’t know who is wearing the hood and Sara, whose return from the dead has been one of the greatest stories the series has told. Roy’s journey toward being a hero in his own right has had its ups and downs and now he’s faced with what his new physical strengths can do for him. Will he continue the good fight or go down the same dark path as Slade? We’re looking forward to seeing what’s next for him.

But not everything is perfect. Laurel still seems to be treading water and only given bits and pieces of stories like her sudden drug use or her need to take down the vigilante, which only lasted for an episode and a half. Thea has become a supporting character in Roy’s life instead of the other way around and for every great comic book introduction (Barry), there’s a useless one (Bronze Tiger). Then there were the filler plots like Moira’s trial and we still don’t know what Isabel’s purpose is. Let’s talk about the best and worst of season two so far.

Overall Midseason Grade: B

Best Twist: Oliver knew Sara didn’t drown

Sara’s entire storyline has been one of the highlights of season two. We were skeptical when it was revealed that she was alive and would be the first version of Black Canary instead of Laurel. But we can admit when we were wrong and everything about this storyline put our fears to rest. The twist that Sara was alive was spoiled over the summer, but the biggest jaw dropping moment was when we learned that Oliver had seen Sara after she’d supposedly drowned. Not only that, he assumed she died another way and whatever happened was so bad that her family would never forgive him if they found out the truth. We cannot wait for the show to fill in the missing pieces.

Worst Twist: Malcolm is alive and Thea’s father

Malcolm Merlyn was consistently in our worst category throughout season one. He was the epitome of the mustache-twirling cartoon villain and it was a relief when Arrow killed him or so we thought. Despite the arrow to the chest, Malcolm managed to survive and he returned to Starling City to save Moira from jail (one small point for him there) and to reveal that Thea was his daughter. Gross. We love soapy drama as much as the next person, but this was beyond unnecessary. Having him alive was bad enough, but why drag Thea into it? As much as we want her to have a story that’s just for her, this is not what we had in mind.

Best Episode (tie): “League of Assassins” and “The Scientist”

This was a hard call to make because there have been a lot of good episodes this season, but these two were both great from start to finish. “League of Assassins” filled in some of the blanks on Sara’s backstory and reunited her with her father. It also brought Sara into the island flashbacks, which instantly made them more interesting as we wait to find out how and why Oliver ended up thinking Sara had died for real.

“The Scientist” introduced us to Barry Allen, who will soon become The Flash and hopefully have his own series on the network next fall. Barry got off to a shaky start with Oliver, but a great one with Felicity and it was so fun to watch their cute interactions. It was also the beginning of the superhuman era on the show and we’re excited to see how that will play out over future episodes.

Worst Episode: “State vs. Queen”

Nearly everything about this episode was terrible. Moira’s trial turned into a circus when Laurel was forced to step up and prosecute the case and it didn’t do her character any favors with the audience or with the other characters on the show. Meanwhile, Count Vertigo had returned and he was just as over the top annoying as he’d been the first few times he’d passed through Starling City. The episode brought the return of Malcolm and the terrible news that he was Thea’s father and it also reignited Oliver’s killer instinct. But we can’t blame him for that. After watching The Count creepily stroke a terrified Felicity’s ponytail, we were cheering when Oliver put an arrow in him.

Best Character: Team Arrow

One thing that has always worked for us on this show is the team dynamic between Oliver, Felicity and Dig. It got off to a shaky start last season as they began working together and trying to find their grove as a team, but now they’re more than just members of a team. They’re family and their devotion to each other and the cause shines through in each scene that they share.

The season opened with Felicity and Dig convincing Oliver to come back to Starling City and led to his decision that he wasn’t going to be a vigilante anymore. He was going to be a hero and the two people working at his side have more than demonstrated that they’re heroes too. But it’s not all gloom and doom and business in the arrow cave. There are plenty of humorous moments and bromance bonding and a certain chemistry that hints at something deeper than friendship. No matter what’s happening with these three, it’s fun to watch.

Worst Character: Lack of Female Development

Okay so this is not technically a character, but it’s a problem that the show doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to fix. Last season, one of our biggest issues was the lack of female character development and it remains a major problem. At first, it seemed like the writers struggled with women in general, but Sara Lance proves that’s not the case. She’s only been in a handful of episodes and she’s had better character development than the women we’ve known since the beginning of the series.

We know Laurel’s history, but she’s rarely given a purpose on the show. Thea matured from a bratty teenager into a responsible business owner, but we didn’t get to see any of it. We’re told that she’s different now, but her main purpose seems to be as a buffer between Oliver and Roy. Felicity is a great character, but we know nothing about her outside of Team Arrow. Does she have family? Where does she live? What was her life like before? The show hired three fantastic actresses for these roles and now it’s time to give these women more of a purpose that has nothing to do with the men currently in their lives.

Looking Ahead to 2014

Since The CW was kind enough to send out a screener, we already know what’s going to happen in the next episode and we’ll have teasers for it next week. In the meantime, feel free to check out the trailer.

Looking past 2×10, we hope the series continues on its current track of serialized storytelling and gives characters more opportunities to shine. More than anything, we’d like to see Laurel, Felicity and Thea get chances to be more fleshed out and to have journeys of their own.

Now it’s your turn. We want to know which stories, characters and episodes you loved and hated. What grade would you give the first nine episodes? What’s on your wish list for the rest of the season? Hit the comments and share your thoughts with us!

Arrow returns Wednesday, Jan. 15 at 8/7c on The CW.

About the author

Mandy Treccia

Mandy Treccia has served as TVSource Magazine’s Executive Editor since 2016, formerly as Editorial Director from 2012-2016. She is an avid TV watcher and card carrying fan girl prone to sudden bursts of emotion, ranging from extreme excitement to blind rage during her favorite shows and has on more than once occasion considered having a paper bag on hand to get her through some tough TV moments. Her taste in TV tends to rival that of a thirteen-year-old girl, but she’s okay with that. Follow her on Twitter at @SourceMandy.

2 Comments

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  • Thank you! And I think you’re totally right. It’s next to impossible to like every single aspect of a show all the time. I don’t think there’s ever been a show that I loved every second of. I also think you’re right about Laurel becoming BC and how it will never feel as authentic as Sara. For me, I think the biggest mistake was having Laurel on the show from the beginning as Oliver’s first love. I think it would have been better to bring the character in later or have them be strangers and she was already BC. But what’s done is done so all I can hope for is that they will come up with something semi-believable and entertaining for her. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  • I really love your assessment of the show. I completely agree with most of what you stated. Here’s my problem. I like Sara as Black Canary, she has the background/history and the moves to actually back it up. I just can’t see Laurel Lance as Black Canary in a believable manner. It’s literally comparing the training of a highly skilled professional killer to that of a woman trained in self defense at the local YMCA! Seriously. And a few months off screen is not going to change this. And unlike you, I think I’ve given up all hope on ever caring about her character as I once did. And maybe that’s OK. Is it ever possible to love every single aspect of a show? I am stoked about the action Arrow delivers without fail, and I adore team Arrow. All aspects of their dynamic. I love the Diggle/Oliver bromance. I super love what’s going on with Oliver and Felicity, and I’m smitten with the Diggle and Felicity scenes. I mean, Diggle actually wants to empower her to defend herself and trained with her. That’s so Diggle. This ALL works well, all aspects. So maybe that’s enough? I just think that there is no conceivable way for them to transition Laurel into the Black Canary that Sara is. But I also feel that everyone should have something they love about the show, so I’m just hoping this minor nuance is not something that will inevitably cause me to cringe and turn the channel. So I’m going to give the show an A. It would have been an A+ but I’m still underwhelmed by Laurel. Even Roy & Thea are growing on me a bit.