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TV Review: Arrow, “Identity” (S2,E2) – Good Ideas, Bad Dialogue

Posted on the 17 October 2013 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

In last week’s second 2 premiere of Arrow, Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) and Diggle (David Ramsey) went and dug a mourning Oliver (Stephen Amell) out of seclusion, giving him the necessary nudge to re-embrace his vigilante side with a newfound commitment toward non-lethal combat.  It was the type of episode where a climactic moment includes Oliver deciding to don the green hood again while Felicity and Diggle fawn over him, the swelling orchestral score emphasizing the heroic nature of the moment.  It all amounted to ”thank God you’re back, Oliver,” whereas this week’s episode (“Identity”) took a sharp left turn toward a thorough slap across Oliver’s arm to get him to look at you while you screech, “And why haven’t you asked me how I’ve been since you left, you insensitive jerk?”

–>Plot Recap

The main plot involved the return of China White (Kelly Hu), leader of the local Chinese Triad mafia, who Oliver discovers is hijacking FEMA trucks full of medical supplies meant for critical access hospitals serving the wounded survivors of the earthquake in the Glades.  Oliver wants to help the victims both in his everday life as Oliver Queen via his massive financial resources as well as his night life as a vigilante uniquely capable of stopping China White.  However, the episode argues that he cannot do both.  The damage done to the Queen family reputation by Moira’s involvement with the earthquake machine cannot be repaired by throwing money at it, and the cops are apparently so obsessed with catching the vigilante that huge crimes (like hijacked FEMA trucks) are going unnoticed thus enhancing the need for Oliver’s archery.  When Oliver’s battle with China White forces him to abandon a fundraiser he has set up with a new champion of the people in the Glades, Sebastian Blood, he is understandably crucified by Sebastian in the press.

Meanwhile, Oliver has to get his own house in order, having failed to realize the life-threatening danger Roy has been up to in copying the vigilante and not thoughtful enough to ask Diggle a straight question about his supposed girlfriend Carly (Christie Laing).

–>End Plot Recap

The idea of the episode was to chronicle Oliver’s rough transition into his new life as Queen Consolidated CEO and non-killing vigilante.  He was shown to be ignorant to the difficulties of such a life (arrogantly sure of his ability to help the people in the Glades) as well as to the personal plight of some of those closest to him.  It was largely an episode about humbling the hero who by his own admission began the episode unsure how to fight evil without the aid of a handy-dandy enemies list.  In the end, he had to accept his limitations and acknowledge the toll enacted by his life as vigilante, but he ultimately failed to completely learn this lesson or else he wouldn’t have walked into Laurel’s trap after she was 100% clear about not wanting to be contacted by The Hood again.

I liked the ideas in the episode more than the actual episode.  It felt clunky with somewhat too jarring outrage from Felicity, and there were some concerning nods toward more comic book-y territory (the less said about Michael Jai White as Bronze Tiger and his claws the better). Plus, has the dialog always been this bad?  And is it wrong that I am starting to struggle to care about anything on the island?

Here are my stray observations:


1. With Great Powers Comes Great Abs…Second Week in a Row

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For the second week in a row, an episode began with Oliver’s first scene featuring him shirtless. I’m going to keep making a point of this until there is an episode where this is not true.  Why?  I find the show’s transparency amusing.

2. Roy and Oliver

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Smallville fans should pick up on the color-coded costuming they are doing for Roy, who is often depicted in red ala his comic book counterpart’s costume

I was not one who was delighted to see Colton Haynes promoted to series regular status this season.  I found Arrow’s attempt to use him as the face of the plight in the Glades to be laughable, and Colton Haynes was simply difficult to buy as a street-wise wayward youth.  I appreciated what it did for the character of Thea, but I also had a hard time buying the romance with Thea which followed your basic “he’s a bad boy I can fix” story beats.  

Well, shut my mouth because that scene at the beginning between Oliver and Roy was surprisingly effective.  It efficiently slotted them into teacher and mentor roles (a dynamic also aided by Oliver’s physically towering over Roy).  Roy’s “how are you so strong?” facial expression when Oliver grabbed his arm during this scene was priceless.  This scene in general was significant as for quite some time now Roy has basically been on his own show with Thea, having very few scenes with anyone else.

Then there’s their conversation at the end, this time between Roy and the Hood he doesn’t know is Oliver.  When the writers chose to eschew their My Name is Early-esque first season story generator of Oliver’s big list of enemies I didn’t expect their season 2 story generator to be Roy serving as Oliver’s eyes on the street in the Glades, equipped with a red arrow to be used to signal messages.  I am not overly fond of this idea, but that list from the first season was a storytelling crutch that functioned perfectly for then but they are right to drop it now.  I applaud their efforts to challenge themselves; I’m just worried it will equate to a far more formless season overly reliant upon Colton Haynes’ performance.

3. Screw You, Secretaries

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As I argued they would, they wasted no time in explaining Felicity’s sudden omnipresence around Oliver at Queen Consolidated: she’s his new Executive Assistant, i.e., secretary.  I expected this storyline, but I did not expect Felicity to put up such a fight.  Honestly, I feel bad for any fans of the show who work as secretaries because boy does Felicity apparently have an incredibly low opinion of that profession.  In the process, we did discover Felicity went to MIT which when you stop and think about it is to this point one of the few things we know at all about her background.  In general, this episode featured Felicity at the most angry we’ve seen her to date meaning this was a new, unexpected shade to Rickards’ performance.  This is two episodes in a row in which Felicity has engaged in angry confrontations with Oliver, the anger coming entirely from her in both cases.

It was a bit odd, for me, to hear Team Arrow use the term “secret identity,” though, as that seemed like something someone who knows they are on a comic book show would say more than anything else.  I particularly enjoyed Ramsey’s performance this episode, particularly his one liners (“black butler”).  It’s unfortunate that they chose to end Diggle’s relationship with Carly off-screen in-between seasons after devoting so much time to it last year.

4. Is It Common for Attorneys to Simply Accompany a Squad Team on Police Busts?

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Honestly, I’m asking if you know.  I’m not a cop nor am I an attorney nor do I know anyone who is.  So, I don’t really know.  However, something about Laurel accompanying the cops to the scene to arrest Oliver rang 100% false to me, even if she does work for the District Attorney’s office.

5. Does Laurel’s Vendetta Make Any Sense?

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Laurel’s Method of Grieving? Immediately shift focus to a rather shaky quest for revenge.

They also didn’t wait long in giving us the background for Laurel’s vendetta against the Hood.  She explained her reasoning to Oliver last week, but now we see via flashback the moment this reasoning took hold was when she watched from afar as the Hood escaped after failing to save Tommy’s life.  So, this is not just a basic “you are the cause of this escalation” but also a “…and you failed to save my boyfriend’s life.”  She appears as motivated against the Hood by her grief as her father was against Oliver last season by his grief over Laurel’s sister Sara.

It’s an interesting role reversal for her, and sticks true to almost all characters on the show deriving their primary motivation from the death of a loved one (a common motivator for comic book characters).  Plus, it is a way of carrying through on there being serious consequences beyond the lost 503 lives from Oliver’s failure to stop Malcolm last season.  However, does Laurel’s reasoning make any sense?  She’s using specious logic to reason that bad things like the earthquake didn’t happen before the Hood showed up ergo he’s responsible for all of it.  Book him for manslaughter, of which he is guilty, but not this.

It’s tricky, though, because we don’t know how much Laurel knows.  For example, is it just common knowledge in Starling City that the Hood and Malcolm fought?  In general, Laurel has her timeline wrong – it is not the Hood that came first but Malcolm.  If you look bad at the plot of the first season you realize that almost everything Malcolm did would have happened regardless of Oliver.  Heck, even kidnapping Walter had nothing to do with Oliver.  There was no escalation nor was there any grand feud between the two.  There was Malcolm enacting the elements of a carefully laid out plan while a crimefighter tried to figure it all out and ultimately failed to completely stop him.   Laurel likely has no idea, but if she did would it make a difference?

6. Has the villain dialog always been this bad?

First eye roll:

China White: I feared you’d fallen in the quake denying me my opportunity to pay you back for your past indifference in my business.

Oliver: Your business is going under…permanently!

Really, Oliver?  That’s the best you’ve got.

Second eye roll:

China White: Our new partnership was easily cemented.  You see I was eager to see you dead…and he was eager to kill you!

Really, China White?  That’s the best you’ve got.

Third eye roll:

China White: I told you on time to die!

Add in some cold-weather-related puns and I’d swear China White was the Arnold Schwarzenegger version of Mr. Freeze from Batman & Robin.

7. Do We Miss Tommy Yet?

When Laurel was walking through Oliver’s fundraiser and clearly looking for someone when Sebastian asked her who she was looking for I naturally assumed it was Tommy.  Not because I think Laurel is so grieve-stricken to look for Tommy everywhere but because I simply have not quite adjusted to him not being a character on this show anymore.

8. Aren’t You Supposed to Hide Your Face?

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So, is it totally not a big deal at all that China White saw Diggle’s face?  Granted, if she’d never met Diggle prior to that moment just because she saw his face doesn’t mean she knows his identity.  But, still, she literally saw beneath the mask.

9. So, Sebastian Is Basically Like Pre-Two-Face Harvey Dent from The Dark Knight, Right?

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At Arrow, they love themselves some Christopher Nolan, and it appears fairly obvious that in the form of Sebastian they are presenting a Harvey Dent-style new White Knight capable of accomplishing demonstratively good things in the real world that Oliver simply cannot due to his commitment to his life as a vigilante.  For those who don’t know, Sebastian is actually a villain in the comics, but I read their presentation of him here as a foil who might evolve into a full-on antagonist as the season progresses.  I was far more encouraged by Kevin Alejandro’s performance in the role than I have been by other new characters like Summer Glau as Isabel Rochev and Michael Jai White as Bronze Tiger.

“Next Week on Arrow.“:

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

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