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Note - There are 4 things you need to know about me before reading this review:

1. Laurel was my least favorite character in season 1. For me, she waffled between self-righteous martyr and manipulative hypocrite, neither of which did the character any favors.
2. I really, really want to like Laurel and I have high hopes for her this season.
3. The #1 item on my wish list for Arrow season 2 was that the writers improve Laurel's character.
4. I hate shipping. In fact the only romance I can even root for on this show is Thea and Roy and that's only because they both are interesting alone and as a couple. All other pairings, canon or not, generally make me sigh.

Previously on Arrow 2.01: Laurel was neither wishy nor washy. She stood up for her convictions without playing the martyr and saved her boss' life while risking her own. As well as kicking vigilante butt, she also defended her friend from a political bully. She was clear, sympathetic, and non-judgmental when she broke up with Oliver and understanding at Tommy's gravesite. Her interactions with her dad were both mature and heartwarming. All in all, this was a much improved Laurel. I cheered.

Fast forward 7 days and Laurel's a conundrum. In many ways I like Laurel 2.0. I have absolutely no problem with her targeting the Hood in an anti-vigilante campaign. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to me. If Laurel sees all vigilantes as a threat to peace in Starling City, no matter who they are, then it feels right for her to rid the city of them. It's a natural reaction to watching hundreds die senselessly after one person lashed out in grief over losing his wife. After all if one vigilante could turn so evil, a post-traumatic stressed Laurel could easily feel all vigilantes are a potential threat. Even last year she was uneasy with her partnership with the Hood partnership, questioning his motives and methods. However when she interrogates Roy, it is very clear this is a personal vendetta against the Hood himself, not a general crusade for justice. She doesn't care about the masked vigilante Roy speaks of and is only interested in Roy for Hood information. This is not a sweeping crusade for the legal system and judicial check and balances. It's a war on the Hood, and that's where things get tricky.

For the writers to sell Laurel's new anti-Hood attitude, she has to have a good reason and it was definitely fervent. Laurel: "My friend was inside the building when it collapsed. He went there to rescue me and by the time I managed to climb inside he was gone, but I saw you running away into the night. You didn't save him. You were too busy fighting a meaningless duel with Malcolm Merlyn, and when people…people you told me you would protect needed your help, you weren't there. I don't think you wear that mask because you are a hero. I think you wear it to hide that you're a coward and I promise you, I will see you unmasked, prosecuted, and sent to prison. Don't ever speak to me again." On first watch, this speech sold me. Laurel's hurt, anger, guilt, and own self-loathing rolls off in venomous breaths, underscoring tremendous grief and eliciting sympathy for a woman trying to cope with an unthinkable tragedy. It is Katie Cassidy's most powerful scene on Arrow to date and it is moving. But…

It won't make skeptical Arrow fans like Laurel. There is a difference between understanding a character's motivation and respecting them. After mishandling Laurel's character so badly last season, the writers must make the second lead character someone fans can root for. Having her go after the main character won't do that. The problem isn't the crusade but the motive behind it. Basically Laurel's trying to imprison the Hood because Tommy died trying to save her but the Hood didn't save him so the Hood is to blame. Not only is that logic completely hypocritical, an issue I had with Laurel 1.0 too, but it also assigns blame to someone who did not create the mess in the first place. It's as if Laurel is fixating on the Hood for not living up to her fantasies, for being a living, breathing, and yes, fallible person. She calls the Hood a coward and yet her own father and apparently most of the Glades know he tried to stop the massacre. While Laurel cannot know everything the audience knows about the events, she condemns the Hood for not being omniscient. He couldn't have known Tommy needed him. In addition, even someone with no earthquake safety training, like the majority of Starling City's residents including Laurel, should know that removing an impalement kills you quicker. What did she expect the Hood to do? Laurel is seeing the tree, oblivious to the forest. While her laser-focus on the Hood as the source of Starling City's and her own losses is realistic in this instance, I don't think it's the best way to redeem Laurel's character. If, of course, that is the writers' purpose at all. If not, I think it is a mistake. This isn't Breaking Bad and they are already trying to move Oliver from anti-hero to straight up hero. They need to afford Laurel the same opportunity to shine.

I'm more positive about Laurel already this season. She has a storyline which ties her to the plot beyond damsel-in-distress, bad guy of the week introduction, or 1 leg of a love triangle. That alone makes her less superfluous. She also seems more compassionate, willing to listen, and less judgmental of those she cares for like her father and Oliver. Laurel's no longer a saint; she's fallen off her self-righteous pedestal and she feels more real because of it. All of these are positive changes and I'm willing to give the writers more leeway than I would have last year. May they continue to make her independent but not at the expense of sympathy for her character. She's already more intriguing. Now it's time to help her win over the fandom.


Episode Awards:

Episode MVP:  James Bamford
-As always the fight scenes were top notch. Arrow and Revolution have the best fights scenes around so kudos to Bamford, fight choreographer, for another job well done.

Best line:  Thea: "I'll always think of you fondly."
-When your older brother asks for alone time with your boyfriend at the police station, it's not a good sign. I love Thea's snarky attitude and the fact that she never protested, but left Roy to his fate. Ha!

Worst line:  Felicity: "And I love spending the night with you…."
-Argh! Stop making Felicity sound like a silly twit tween with her first crush. It's embarrassing and no longer fits the character. She has grown up by being on Team Arrow. Just stop, writers.

Other great lines:

Diggle: "This is Starling City. You never have to look very far to find someone engaged in illegal activity."
Laurel: "We're not pressing charges so long as he gives up looking for trouble." Thea: "Might as well tell him to give up breathing."
Diggle: "Well it could be worse. My secret identity is his black driver."
Felicity: "Oh, may I get you a cup of coffee?" Oliver: "You're not actually offering to get me a cup of coffee are you?" Felicity: "Yeah…nope. That won't be happening…ever."
Shado: "No island, no place, can make you something you're not." Oliver: "So I've always been a killer."
Felicity: "I love that we live in a city where the police are more interested in catching you than the drug stealing mobsters. Our tax dollars at work."
Thea: "Now that we're closed are you going to be starting your second shift, suicide by Chinese street thugs?"
Felicity: "I hacked into FEMA's sever…yet another federal offense, thank you very much…"
Diggle: "You know we're getting dangerously close to hug territory so I'm going to fall back. You need a ride?" Oliver: "Turns out that being CEO, I actually have some work to do. I'll find my own way." Diggle: "You always do."
Roy: "I can fight." Hood: "You can take a beating. There's a difference."

Worst attempt at heroics:  Roy flips the car
-I root for Roy as a hero, but he is always over his head…this time literally.

Best forward plot movement:  The Hood recruits Roy to be his eyes and ears in the Glades
-Roy spent more time taking himself out than actual crime lords so I'm glad he's got a solid reason to keep in the mytharc, develop as a character, and end a never-ending argument with Thea. Kudos to the writers for accelerating Roy's timeline before it got stale.

Best Oliver character development:  Oliver: "What I meant was I'm sorry that I wasn't there for you because I should have been. I got wrapped up in my own suffering and I forgot that some other people might be suffering too."
-Now there's the Oliver who cares about his team. I like considerate Oliver a whole lot better than douche Oliver, which brings us to…

Best Felicity character development:  Felicity calls Oliver out for being a douche to Diggle
-I like how Felicity stands up for herself and the team now. It makes her more of an active partner instead of just the IT wiz. Last year both Felicity and Diggle took too many of Oliver's scoldings. While others may prefer Felicity's anti-secretary rant, I find this scene more adult and more team-focused.

Biggest "Ouch":  Slade: "She's a distraction and in a place like this a distraction is going to cloud your judgment and that is what is going to get you killed. Look at what this island's already done to you, kid."
-Not sure if it's jealousy or tough love but Slade just told Shado to talk Oliver down. I doubt this was psychologically helpful. Douche move, Slade.

Best Karaoke Moment:  Shado tells Oliver everyone is both good and bad, yin and yang
-Everyone else thought this was a beautiful moment. I got the lyrics to Ebony and Ivory stuck in my head:

"We all know that people are the same wherever you go.
There is good and bad in everyone, and we learn to live.
We learn to give each other what we need to survive, together alive."

Biggest Rip-Off:  Bronze Tiger's Wolverine claws
-I don't know comics at all so maybe Bronze Tiger came first, but Wolverine is better known by the general public. It makes me less interested in Bronze Tiger no matter how many arrows he chops mid-air.

Best Geek Girl Moment:  Cop: "Who in the hell could be feeding us year-old surveillance?"
-I adore Felicity's smile when she hears the cop. This is Felicity at her geeky best.

The "You Read My Mind" Award:  Diggle: "You know I've been meaning to tell you that it really wears me out to no end the way you refer to yourself in the third person like that."
-Thank you Diggle. Oliver's not a king. No need for the royal "we".

Biggest Hint a Character is Evil:   Blood is pro-crucifixion
-I'm calling it right now. Blood's involved in the medical thefts to rile his constituents for political power. He's evil. All he needs now is a mustache and German accent. (Um, sorry the latter is Sleepy Hollow.)

Biggest Logic Leap:  FEMA's trucks
-Why is FEMA sending unarmed trucks? This is not a local crime. If they attack FEMA, it's federal. That should bring the FBI and possibly the National Guard out for these thieves.

Best Unusual Character Interaction:  Laurel and Roy in interrogation
-I like that different characters are interacting. It is good to see Laurel outside the Queen/Lance families. It also let Roy spout his beliefs with someone besides Thea, while getting a glimpse into Laurel's thinking.

Best plot reveal:  Diggle and Carly broke up
-From what Felicity said, I thought Carly died post-quake but any end to the uncle-daddy plot is a relief.

Biggest Cliffhanger Bound to be Resolved in 30 Seconds or Less:  Oliver trapped in the police station
-Oliver is one smoke bomb arrow and shot to the ceiling away from escape, especially since the cops completely surrounded him and cannot shoot him without shooting themselves.  (facepalm)

"Egads, Not ANOTHER Love Triangle" Award:  Slade sees Shado and Oliver post-coitus
-Aaaaarrrggggghhhhhh!!!!! We just got rid of one. Please stop. If Slade goes evil over this, I give up.

Amell Abs Watch:  The Abs guest star in the new weekly opening as well as an extended workout role. They also strip tease for Shado. I hope they get their own paycheck.

Most Missed:  Tommy of course but I think Laurel needs Joanna back again to talk her off the ledge.


Screencaps by MTV, ComicBook.Com, Comics Alliance, and Screencapped.net.

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