Finale Fever – Arrow Season 2
Welcome to my first ever outing of a column that will be featured a lot once a year and then hardly ever the rest of the year. The first finale I did see was The Tomorrow People but I’ve not had the chance to write about that yet.
Reason I’m going with this first as it was a request from one of my new readers. Seriously, my Godzilla review absolutely exploded thanks to a retweet from the hilariously talented Angry Joe, seriously dude if you’re reading this thanks a lot. Also thanks to everyone else who read it, commented, gave me some feedback and generally made themselves known to me on twitter. It’s greatly appreciated. Anyway, let’s talk about some Arrow.
I’ll talk about the season as a whole a bit further down but for now I’ll say that it’s a season that went from strength to strength, giving the characters more complicated situations to deal with and taking the first step into a much larger world -namely a world with superpowers. I would definitely say that the season ended on a high note.
The show has been building to this for quite some time so it was important to get it right and make the “final” conflict between Oliver and Slade something that was satisfying and didn’t betray any of the established traits of the characters. Something that would be difficult given the scale of the circumstances and all of the loose plot threads dangling around.
I liked how the tables were turned in Oliver’s favour when Nyssa Al Ghul showed up with a detachment of League of Assassin’s ninjas to help out. This part was nicely done as it showed Oliver’s reluctance to work with a group of known killers but also that he had to acknowledge that he had little choice in the matter given the circumstances. It was a nice touch that Nyssa didn’t behave and disobeyed Oliver’s one rule of not killing. I will say that the exit of Summer Glau’s Isabel Rochev was very anti climatic, her character has been given a lot of focus in the more recent episodes and I really thought there was more that could be done with her character. Even without her powers she’s a nice foil for Oliver and the other characters so it’s a shame she probably won’t be back.
Regarding Oliver’s preference to not kill, it should be noted that this was a prevailing theme throughout the three part finale. Oliver feels that killing Slade would be letting him win and would have Oliver sinking to his level. Throughout the season he has struggled with changing up his methodology and not deliver fatal blows to criminals any more. It’s been an important piece of growth in Oliver’s character and a major step to him regaining his humanity after the island experience all but stripped it away. I find it interesting that he still shows weakness when it comes to this decision in his conversation with Quentin Lance who tells him that Slade needs to be killed. It takes Felicity to remind him of how hard he has worked to overcome this and that there must be another way to stop Slade. It’s clear that if Oliver didn’t have Diggle and Felicity then he would be in much worse shape morally speaking than he is now. Lance talks a good case here and it’s easy to see that he comes from the pragmatic position of being a police officer who has been trained to believe that killing is sometimes the only way to solve a particular problem.
Another part I really loved was how Thea reacted to Malcolm Merlyn surviving her attempt to kill him. Malcolm was very proud of her for pulling the trigger and recognises her as truly being his daughter. This is a really messed up father figure to have, one who takes pride in Thea’s ability to follow through on a threat like that. On the other hand though Malcolm Merlyn is the only paternal figure she has left -other than Walter- so it does make sense that she would be drawn to that despite how dangerous that obviously seems. She doesn’t immediately go to him and instead goes to a recently revived and depowered Roy who promises that they’ll run away together and start afresh. Roy is drawn by his sense of responsibility to help Oliver but still seems committed to making this work with Thea after he does this last thing for Oliver and the city. Thea finds a bow and arrow under the bed and instead chooses to go with Malcolm who seems to be giving her a better offer. I have to say I’m surprised that this was the choice she made but dramatically it completely made sense. With John Barrowman added to the cast full time next season it’ll be great to see how much he corrupts her or even how much she can redeem him, it could go either way at this point.
Lyla and Diggle get another chance to team up and it’s a joy to watch. The actors have tremendous chemistry and their characters have an implied complicated history. Their relationship is beginning to stabilise somewhat and Diggle finding out that she is pregnant should give him a lot of interesting things to do next season. Will he have to rethink his partnership with Oliver for the good of his family? We shall see. Seeing more from Diggle is something I’m very interested in given his predilection for fading into the background at times. Brief appearances of Amanda Waller and The Suicide Squad were not unwelcome.
Speaking of fading into the background, we have Felicity who does serve very much of a background role here. I’m hoping they will give her a lot more to do next season which includes episodes on her own. However, her role in this episode was great. The scene where she reminds Oliver that he doesn’t have to kill Slade and that he can find another way is really good. Another great scene is the one where Oliver declares his love for Felicity in full view of the hidden cameras that Slade installed in the mansion. Naturally this was a trick and I have to credit the writers with having some fun with those in the fandom who would like to see Oliver and Felicity become a couple. Both actors/characters played the scene sincerely and it was believable that Oliver was telling the truth, of course this had to appear convincing as it was all part of the plan. The connected scene at the end of the episode was filled with just enough subtext to keep fans guessing.
Personally, I don’t want to see these characters get together, at least not together. They are partners in their mission to protect the city and they are also good friends. Felicity serves as Oliver’s conscience when his begins to falter and she always makes sure he doesn’t wallow in self pity. Romantically linking them would just make that too muddled I feel. Incidentally, I was a big fan of Felicity getting a great heroic moment when she injected Slade with the cure
Laurel and Sara take something of a back seat in this part of the story. Sara’s role mostly involves getting the League of Assassin’s to help out on Oliver’s terms and agreeing to go with them in exchange. She’s around for the action sure but character wise that’s all she has to do. Laurel gets a hint that she’s to become Black Canary next. If they do her transition to this character well then it is absolutely something I’d like to see but I don’t think Laurel is as interesting as Sara is. I hope Sara comes back at some point. Quentin is similarly in the background other than his conversation with Oliver where he tells him that killing Slade might be the only way. He also has the sudden medical issues which hopefully won’t result in him being removed from the show.
Now we come to what the real meat of the story is, the conflict between Slade and Oliver. It has been built up for quite some time and comes to the end point in this episode. I’m very glad that this was satisfying in every way. I liked that curing Slade didn’t stop him, he has military training and is a formidable threat without being Mirakuru enhanced. The choreography on the fight was excellent and the way that the episode cuts back and forth between the fight in the present and the fight in the past, showing that Oliver is in the same situation in both time periods and has the same choices. The fight in the past ends as predicted, with Oliver jamming an arrow in Slade’s eye intending to kill him but the fight in the present ends differently, Oliver proves himself the better man and lets him live, locking him in a prison on the island as a consequence. I really liked that Oliver acknowledges Slade as being heavily responsible for making Oliver the man he is and that he had the strength to let Slade live. It’s good that they can bring the guy back if they want to because Manu Bennett is just fantastic in that role and such a great villain.
I should talk a bit about how Oliver managed to outwit him. I mentioned above that Oliver tricked Slade into thinking that Felicity is the woman he loves which leads him to capture her and threaten her life as Oliver watches. Felicity is armed with the cure and injects Slade with it as Oliver comments on how distracted Slade is, playing right into Oliver’s hands. That might be my favourite moment in the episode, it all came together wonderfully and it was definitely a moment worthy of applause.
Some setting up for season three was also done. Oliver in the past now seems to be in Hong Kong and hanging around with Amanda Waller for reasons that have yet to become clear. It’ll be refreshing to see the flashbacks take on a different format next season and it promises to be an interesting story. I’ve talked above about Thea leaving with Malcolm Merlin and Diggle’s impending fatherhood. Roy should have quite a bit to do next season now that he has a mask and his customised bow and quiver.
All in all, a fantastic finale that didn’t seem to put a foot wrong. It was well paced, the story was great with excellent rising tension as the inevitable final battle drew ever closer. It was awesome to see Team Arrow go on the offensive, with a particularly iconic image of Oliver leading them into battle followed by a small army of ninjas. It’s rare to see a conflict with a major villain be resolved in such a satisfying way and I’m glad the easy route wasn’t taken by killing Slade, the producers seem committed to Oliver’s character grown and that’s something I can really get behind. Can’t wait to see season three.
Season one of Arrow was really good but this one was just fantastic. This is the season that readily embraced the idea of a wider universe filled with colourful characters and started to introduce them slowly and organically.
The idea of super powers became a thing through the introduction of Mirakuru into the series which gives those who use it invulnerability and super strength. There are lots of backhanded hints as to the reasons for the survival of Malcolm Merlyn as well as the existence of other super powered beings out there. Of course we see the accident that gets Barry Allen his powers and that will play out in his own show Flash later in the year.
I’m really glad they decided to throw these concepts into the mix because part of the beauty of these characters is how they blend together and how the work or don’t work well together. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops now that it’s seen as something that has been accepted by most.
As far as episodes go they were of a very high standard this season, among others we had an interesting Dark Knightesque start with some copycat vigilantes that Oliver himself had to bring down because they were basically spitting in the face of what he stands for. It was great to see the consequences of vigilante justice and an exploration of where the line should be drawn in that regard. An obvious highlight was the two parter introducing Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), king writer down at DC Geoff Johns had a massive part to play in making those episodes work and he certainly managed that.
Lots of story threads were opened this season which really enriched the world the show inhabits. The enigmatic League of Assassin’s were established as well as Nyssa Al Ghul, daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul -who wasn’t actually seen but was mentioned a lot- who has a connection to the returning Sara Lance -now portrayed by the talented Caity Lotz- and her identity as The Black Canary.
Amanda Waller and The Suicide Squad were also introduced as well as a potential Harley Quinn cameo, they didn’t do much with these characters but they are around and can be picked up again next season and beyond. It was a cool idea to have this team under the control of Amanda Waller and her organisation but only through the threat of killing them using an implant.
Sara’s return was a welcomed one. Appearing both on the island and in the present, she helped enrich the island flashbacks. She was a brief addition to Team Arrow but fit in well there. Her return added an extra dimension to the characters of her family Quentin and Laurel, as well as a briefly returning Dinah -Played by Alex Kingston. The family reuniting played a massive part of the series and contributed to Laurel’s growing alcoholism. In terms of the alcoholism plot I’m glad they didn’t spend too much time on it and let it pass when it did because it might have got old really fast. Was good to see Laurel being a bit more interesting though.
Thea’s story was surprisingly watchable this season, I really liked how she seemed to have her life together in the first half of the season before slowly losing everything and having her world completely turned upside down. The revelation that Malcolm is her father was quite a shock for both me as a viewer and Thea as a character. The ramifications of that have proven to be quite interesting in the season finale and it drove an intriguing wedge into the Queen family.
The main plot of the season reared its head early on when we met Sebastian Blood who has a dual identity as Brother Blood -another comic character- and was running for Mayor. In his secret identity he was experimenting on people in the guise of a blood bank and claimed to be the saviour of the city after the destruction of The Glades at the hands of Malcolm Merlin. Summer Glau’s Isabel Rochev showed up early on as a foil/love interest for Oliver who clearly couldn’t be trusted from minute one. She was a good character and fed into the story of the season in ways that I didn’t initially predict. I actually thought she’d turn out to be Talia but I was wrong there. I like that the main story was bubbling along in the background before Slade was reintroduced into the present.
Slade as a villain was excellent, the island flashbacks were more concerned with establishing how he became the villain that was going to cause all this trouble in the present. We slowly see Oliver and Slade’s friendship fracture as they become the adversaries that they end up as. As villains go he was intelligent, calculating and brutal. He had an intricate plan to tear Oliver’s life apart and took his time to do it. Any time he was onscreen in the present he was straight up sinister and the Deathstroke costume was just damn cool.
Roy’s development was great as well, the series took its time in giving him more connection to The Arrow’s activities before he is powered up by Mirakuru, learns Oliver’s identity and then goes crazy. He’s depowered by the end but his arc was interesting, I’m hoping to see him move into a Red Arrow type role in the third season.
A late surprise came in the form of Moira Queen’s exit from the show when Slade Wilson murdered her to teach Oliver a lesson. She was an interesting character expertly portrayed by former Borg Queen Susanna Thompson. She could be intimidating, motherly and compassionate or cold hearted and uncompromising at the times she needed. Her loss from the show will be a massive one but I can see how her death was necessary.
I could write a book on what made this season great, I really could and I almost have. There was definitely a lot of care and attention thrown into developing this and enhancing the characters. All of the production team and the cast seem to be well on board with this and are committed to making this a great experience for the fans. Genuinely one of the most exciting seasons of anything I’ve seen on television and I can only hope that season 3 will be even better. There’s already some interesting things lined up including a change in the backdrop of the flashbacks and Oliver’s financial situation being far less stable than it was before. I would really like them to do a lot more with Felicity’s character next season, she’s a heavy focus in most of the episodes but mostly only serving the plot. There were some hints at her past but nothing major, hopefully they’ll give us more of that next time.