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8 Observations About Arrow’s Season 2 Premiere “City of Heroes”

Posted on the 10 October 2013 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

Watching Arrow‘s second season premiere, “City of Heroes,” last night was an odd experience for me.  I started watching Arrow before this site even came into existence last February, and it wasn’t until the show’s penultimate first season episode that I wrote about it.  Since then, I have covered the show pretty extensively, so much so that my fellow writer on the site took to joking we should re-name the it “We Minored in Arrow.”  I tracked most of the news stories related to the show (and its eventual spin-off centered around The Flash) before finally signing out because I was tired of being exposed to so many spoilers.  That means last night’s episode was the first one I watched not just as a fan but as someone who makes a habit out of writing about the show.  The end result was a viewing experience that yielded no surprises as all major story beats had been openly discussed by the show’s executive producers or already depicted in the San Diego Comic-Con trailer they put together after they finished filming on “City of Heroes.”

So, “City of Heroes” wasn’t so much about seeing where the story was going but observing how exactly they pulled off all the things they said they were going to do.  To that degree, it was a success which established new enemies and coalitions, contained more than a couple of standout action sequences, and began Oliver (Stephen Amell) on his new journey to become a genuine hero and not just a revenge-seeking agent of vigilante justice.

In lieu of a formal review in which I break down the plot, I will instead offer a series of stray observations under the assumption that you have seen the episode.  If you want a good, succinct breakdown of the plot, check out LivingTheGeekLife’s review.

1. With Great Power Comes Great Abs

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Come on – who didn’t laugh a little when in Oliver’s first scene of the new season he shows up sans shirt because shirts are for wimps?

2. Felicity Still Makes Him Smile

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Over the summer, on more than one occasion Amell shared the story that the first time his character really smiled on the show occurred during his first scene with Emily Bett-Rickards as Felicity Smoak, whose performance amused Amell so much he couldn’t help but crack an unscripted smile.  As such, it was an interesting callback to have him crack his first smile of this season at Felicity’s odd pronunciation of the word “coconut” when requesting he provide her and Diggle with something to drink.

3. Roy is Literally Bruised Goods, Ala Kickass

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At the end of The Dark Knight Rises (Spoiler Alert!), the implication is that the mantle of Batman has been passed on from Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) to John “Robin” Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).  However, while Blake has displayed many of the personal characteristics to prove himself worthy of becoming Wayne’s successor more than a few fans were quick to point out that he lacked the years of physical training necessary to just suddenly become Batman.

The same is true for Roy “Speedy” Harper (Colton Haynes) and Oliver on Arrow.  On the show as is in the comics, Roy is being positioned as a future member of Team Arrow, but as much as you care to apply real world logic to the show the fact still remains that he lacks the background to make him ready for such a calling.  Diggle has a military background, and Oliver has the five years on the island where he was also trained by military figures.  Roy?  He grew up on the mean streets in a universe in which it’s perfectly normal for an impoverished youth, street thug to look like an Abercrombie & Fitch model.  The skills he would have been required to gain in an effort to survive such an existence would be inferior to those of Oliver and Diggle.  As such, I liked the moment in “City of Heroes” where we see that he is suffering a very genuine physical punishment as a result of his efforts to mimic the vigilante he idolizes.  It is a page out of The Dark Knight RisesDaredevilKickass or The Amazing Spider-Man, and I don’t really recall there being a whole lot of emphasis placed in the first season on any kind of physical toll suffered by Oliver as a result of his Hood alter-ego.

4. They Addressed the “But Didn’t Felicity Want Him to Not Kill Anyone?” Question

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It is a fair criticism of the first season to note that the writers were not entirely consistent with Felicity.  She began as a figure who would sue for peace and help set Oliver on a more righteous path, helping to curb his homicidal tendencies.  More explicitly, her stated intention to only help him until they rescued Walter (Colin Salmon), a clear surrogate father figure for her, largely fell away.  Over time her protests over Oliver’s killing grew quieter before becoming non-existent.  As such, there were likely many of us composing “remember when Felicity was anti-killing” jokes in our heads when she called Oliver out for not standing up to the vigilantes during the Queen Industries attack.  By the end, though, the writers took those jokes away from us by having Felicity actually acknowledge this disconnect, reconciling that maybe there was a better, non-lethal way.  Considering the producers stated hyper-awareness of social media chatter, I read this as their attempt to acknowledge the stated criticism of Felicity and course-correct.  If so, I’d regard their effort as a success.

5. Do We Still Hate Thea After That Scene With Her Mom?

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One of the biggest chores of Arrow‘s early episodes of its first season was getting past Thea’s scenes without wanting to punch her.  As the person on the outside of Oliver’s secret, she was placed in the unfavorable light of having to react to the version of Oliver she knew and not the hero we the audience were coming to know.  This meant lots of “snoddy teenager” scenes.  The producers acknowledged and agreed with this criticism, attempting to expand Thea’s universe in the second half of the season by getting her out of the mansion and working under Laurel (Katie Cassidy) as a kind of Big Sister.  Plus, they gave her a love interest in Roy Harper.

The second season premiere again returned Thea to a potentially unsympathetic light, as she attempts to hurt her mother without having access to all of the information we the audience were exposed to in the first season.  For all we know, all Thea knows about her mother’s evil-doings are exactly what her mother said in the press conference in the season finale.  That communicates the big picture but not the emotionally anguished specifics we witnessed as Oliver investigated his mother in the first season.  However,  I did not actually find Thea particularly unlikable in this storyline, which also served a dual purpose to present Roy as a positive influence upon her based upon his insistence that she see her mother in prison.  The eventual meet-up between Thea and her mother (Susanna Thompson) was effectively emotional, although when they hugged I did find myself expecting an instant Arrested Development-style yell of “No touching!” from one of the guards.

6. Do We Think Oliver Squeezed Laurel’s Hand Even Harder When She Started Her Anti-Hood Rhetoric?

As predicted by many and flat-out spoiled by the show’s producers, the season set about addressing the Laurel-Oliver romance by separating the two as a couple, returning them to just friends status. I, for one, was slightly surprised Laurel went so easy on Oliver for having apparently skipped town for 5 months without so much as a goodbye or a postcard.  Then again, she did see him again for the first time after having almost been killed meaning she might have been in that euphoric “just happy that I’m still alive and you are too” state.

The later scene with them at Tommy’s grave was touching, and it was nice to see them hold hands and admit their mutual feelings of having betrayed Tommy with their romantic dalliance.

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And then that hand-holding must have become incredibly awkward for Oliver after he learned that Laurel blames The Hood for everything.  This is but another stumbling block delaying this would-be couple’s romance, and radically shifts the manner in which Laurel will function this season.  They have effectively inverted character roles, placing was-Detective-now-just-Officer-Lance (Paul Blackthorne) as the one sympathetic to Oliver’s cause and willing to cooperate with Laurel now the agent of conflict.

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Paul Blackthorne, please never go away so that I might get to continue typing your fantastically awesome name.

Is this a wise move?  After all, poor Katie Cassidy already has the Felicity-Oliver shippers rooting against her, calling into doubt not just the suitability of her character as  a mate for Oliver but also Cassidy’s abilities as an actress.  This now positions her as an minor antagonist on her journey to eventually becoming Black Canary.

7. Summer Glau=Ice Queen

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Savor it. That is Glau’s one and only smile in the episode, and it’s a half-smile at best.

When Summer Glau was announced as having been cast as comic book villainess Isabel Rochev, I was apparently among the few to greet this with news with considerable enthusiasm.  I subsequently discovered via the IMDB message board for the show that there were many opposed to her casting, fearing the dreaded Summer Glau curse (for whatever reason, most shows she stars on die early deaths) as well as questioning her abilities as an actress.  Now that we’ve seen her in action I have to admit that I did not foresee her Rochev being such an incredible ice queen, and was slightly distracted while pondering what it is about Glau exactly that causes her to continually be cast to play mostly emotionless characters (Firefly, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Arrow).  However, there is a long game at play here, and although I assumed as much at the time Rochev is not necessarily being presented as one of the seasons’ new big bads.  That being said, it sure as hell seems that way, and I look forward to Glau getting the chance to show a bit more range as the season progresses.  Plus, how do you cast the girl from Firefly and not eventually get her into some awesome fight scenes?

8. Cool Last Shot

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Now, that is how you end a season premiere.


-As most eagle-eyed viewers, DC comics readers undoubtedly noticed, the name of the newscaster Oliver observes on a TV in his nightclub is Bethany Snow.  If you don’t want to be spoiled, do not follow this link but the background of her character in the comics does align with a new character they’ve said they will introduce this season.  Then again, in the current New 52 continuity there is nothing more to Snow than just being a news anchor.

-I take it that we are to simply assume that the four hooded copycat vigilantes simply took out security guards off-screen when they crashed the mayor’s party, Queen Industries, and Oliver’s night club.  However, I have to admit that each time they entered I couldn’t help but wonder how they kept seeming to show up at places which should have had plenty of security on hand to prevent their entrance.

-It’s tempting to knock the show’s copycat vigilante angle as being a knock-off from the opening of The Dark Knight, but at this point you either accept that they are taking a lot of their ideas from the Christopher Nolan trilogy or you don’t.  Plus, there already was a copycat vigilante storyline last season which served to delineate the moral gray areas of Oliver’s brand of justice versus a copycat’s, and it makes sense that others would rise to mimic him after Malcolm Merlyn’s undertaking.

-Do you think Isabel Rochev or any one of her nameless cronies ever looked around the board room scenes and actively wondered who the hell Felicity was or, if they at least knew her name, wanted to know why Oliver seemed to always carry around a low-level IT employee everywhere he went?  Diggle’s presence would make sense within the show’s universe as he has a cover identity as Oliver’s bodyguard, but unless we learn of Felicity having received a major promotion in the interim she was only present because the show knows she is a part of Team Arrow.

-I honestly didn’t know who Moira meant when she advised Oliver to rely upon his full family.  Duh – his rich, successful step-father Walter.  Welcome back, Dr. Moon from Doctor Who‘s “Silence in the Library” – we missed you!

-Am the only one who thought the overhead shot of the island would reveal that there was actually a beach resort nearby catering exclusively to vigilantes?  Forever working against this show will be the increasingly improbable island storylines which will slowly challenge Gilligan’s Island for the loosest definition of “abandoned island”

-It’s hard to know what more to say about that Black Canary tease with Roy toward the end when the entire sequence was already in the “City of Heroes” trailer shown at Comic-Con.  To me, she looks far more comic book-y in that brief shot of her than has been true of the show to this point.

“Next Week on Arrow.“:

What did you think?  Like it?  Hate it?  Let us know in the comments section.

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