TV Report Card | 'Arrow' Season 2 Review

Overview: Oliver lost a loved one, remembered the torture of the island, partook in a one-night-stand with a business associate sans any lead-up, hooked-up with the back from the dead sister he’d cheated on his “true love” with, mentored an herbed out Roy and ignored tech genius Felicity. The other Queen, Thea, ran her brother’s club, found out she’d unwittingly tried to kiss her half-brother and attempted to keep her boyfriend from hulking out.

Meanwhile, Queen matriarch Moira, beat the charges for her role in the death of hundreds of people and decided to run for political office the following week.

Storyline Direction Pros: The backdoor pilot for The Flash, which also happened to feature a Felicity-centric storyline, provided strong moments. As did “Suicide Squad” and “Keep Your Enemies Closer” aka Diggle’s Russian rescue-op episode. All three of those episodes centered on the Oliver/Diggle/Felicity rapport that had been developed in the first season.

These episodes would end up being “specials” or stand-alone efforts that’s themes didn’t resonate throughout the season, as Diggle and Felicity were subjugated to the back-burner so Sara and Roy could be introduced to the team. 

Moira’s trial, redemption and subsequent fight to win back her children provided compelling familial drama for Oliver and allowed one of the more richly layered characters on the canvas to be explored. Laurel felt more fleshed out this season, as a flawed woman overcoming her personal demons. The return of Malcolm Merlin was a promisingly wonderful move. 

Storyline Direction Cons: The introduction of Sara was the beginning of the season’s queasy downward spiral. There was no room for the character and the forced slot she was given drew away from the core characters, the previous season had built the foundation for. The season’s big bad was poorly conceived as Slade’s mild infatuation with Shado exploded into an obsession so virulent, he went on a crazed pursuit for “justice”.

The mechanism was weak and Oliver falling into Slade’s guilt trap was non-sensical, even for the guilt-martyr that is Oliver Queen. In a story about a hero, the villain is the key component to get right and Slade was not properly executed. His vendetta was preposterous and his strategy absurdly convoluted.

While the show features fantasy, the political storyline with Moira running for Mayoral office, having just beaten charges of genocide, broke all credulity. Killing off the character was an even bigger mistake. She generated leagues more story alive than dead. Not to mention, the gravitas she brought to the series. “Arrow” needs a character like that and the short-lived shock value of her demise was a nearsighted move.

The island and flashbacks need to end. The season became so overwrought trying to fill in the past that it failed to progress the present. Occasional flashbacks are understandable. Devoting an entire half of the show to the tension-less antics of a past that’s resolution is apparent, is not necessary. It massively damaged the momentum throughout the season.

Production Caliber: The action sequences, sets and special effects were magnificent. A little effervescent lighting would help the show feel loads richer. A show like “Arrow” is supposed to be fun and the dinginess and lack of daytime shots give the series a depressing air.

Performance Quality: Stephen Amell’s stoic performance was palatable. It was hard to determine if it was the writing but Oliver felt more emotionally stagnant this season. Whether geek or chic; Emily Bett Rickards demonstrated great versatility as Felicity and her levity brought dimension to the stark atmosphere. David Ramsey’s portrayal of Diggle was keenly dynamic, a hearty mixture of humor and seriousness.

Katie Cassidy shined as Laurel’s adversity threatened to overcome her. Cassidy’s performance is still grave, though less frigid than last season. Once again, the line between, the writing and acting choices is heavily blurred and it’s hard to determine which is the culprit.

Susanna Thompson will be missed, as she brought such an intense ferocity to her portrayal of Moira. She played her final scenes with a devastating restraint that was dignified and crushing, all at once. She’s left an indelible mark on the series and a massive hole in the wake of her exit. 

Musical Score: Pleasant indie music filled the sonic background, admirably.

Overall Grade: B- (first half) / C+ (second half); the season started strong and it seemed to have worked out its first season jitters before devolving into island fever and other missteps. Capping it off was a finale that repeated the first season’s as the city, once again, fell into apocalyptic oblivion.

Losing its grip on what works (first season Team Arrow) and what doesn’t (flashbacks), the experimenting should be over. Now all that’s left is looking forward to next season.

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