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Arrow 2.01 "City of Heroes" Review: Maybe There's Another Way

    I think that there is always a certain amount of anxiety that a show won’t live up to its first season, but Arrow not only lives up to its first season, it may even be on its way to being an even better season. This week’s episode, “City of Heroes,” was written by the terrific creative team of Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Marc Guggenheim and was directed by John Behring. The consistency in the show is a testament to the consistent use of writers and directors and the obvious involvement of the creative team to really flesh out each story line. Not to mention the terrific stunt and fight team work helmed by James Bamford that brings this world so realistically and vividly to life. The special effects are terrific, but the point is that there is so rarely a need for special effects due to the live action magic created on this set.

    Once again, the writers find a way to layer a theme throughout the episode through a number of story lines. All of the characters are finding a different way to live their lives as all have been profoundly impacted by the devastating events in the Glades in last year’s finale. The previously on montage at the beginning of the episode showcases Tommy (Colin Donnell) as it’s his death that has a specific impact on most of the characters. It’s a lovely way to tie the two seasons together when Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) tells Oliver (Stephen Amell) as the Hood, that he can’t win because he doesn’t know in his heart what he’s fighting for. In season two, Oliver is fighting to honor Tommy.

    Laurel (Katie Cassidy) is also dedicating her life to avenging Tommy’s death and atoning for what she feels was her betrayal of him. She has joined the DA’s office, and she tells Oliver that she plans on helping her new boss, Adam Donner (Dylan Bruce), catch the remaining archer who she feels is directly responsible for Tommy’s death. She also pushes Oliver away again and tells him that sleeping with him had been a mistake. This time at least, she does agree to remain friends. We do get a nice scene in which Cassidy punches out and disarms one of the vigilantes – in heels and an evening gown no less! However, with a cooling off period between Oliver and Laurel concentrating on trapping the Hood, I have to wonder how much we will get to see that side of Laurel – the kick ass fighter-side that is. We already know from spoilers that the Black Canary will appear this season (and does at the end of this episode!) and she won’t be Cassidy. I trust the creative team behind the show, and I do like that Laurel is a strong professional woman in a largely male world, but I want more Laurel fight scenes!

    Thea (Willa Holland) has also had to find a new way. Unlike the first time that Thea found herself largely on her own and turned to partying to fill the void, this time she filled the void by becoming a successful business owner. Of course, she does still have Roy (Colton Haynes) in her life. Roy is trying to remold himself into a version of the Hood to address the city’s wrongs. I loved it when he quipped to Thea that what he lacked in height he made up for with acute hearing! I’m really looking forward to seeing more of Haynes’ fighting skills. Roy may not always be successful – and is rescued by Black Canary at the end of the episode – but he’s got a very unique style. Again, this is a testament to the detail of the fight team – that every fight doesn’t begin to look the same. When fighters share a unique move it’s for a reason, such as the neck/leg/roll that Oliver, Shado, and Yao Fei shared because Fei taught it to all of them.

    Thea begins the episode not having been to see Moira (Susanna Thompson) because she blames her for the deaths in the Glades. There is a great scene between Thea and Roy that reveals how their relationship has grown and gives some nice backstory to Roy about his relationship with his parents. Roy urges Thea to see her mother, and Thea protectively tries to get Roy to stop placing himself in danger. When Thea is kidnapped and fears for her own life, she finally begins to understand the fear that Moira felt from Merlyn. Thea’s growth in the episode to understanding her mother’s actions felt very real.

    Susanna Thompson has two great scenes; one with each of her kids. Thompson is outstanding in both. She allows herself to be shot with very minimal makeup in pretty extreme close up and she delivers some powerful performances. It was nice to see that Oliver understood her motives and didn’t blame her for the Glades.

    The episode begins much as last season’s first episode with Oliver on the Island. The difference this time, of course, is that Oliver is there by choice and Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) are coming to bring him home. I loved Oliver rescuing Felicity, not once but twice, via “swinging vine” in the episode. Felicity is still a bit awkward at times but has really started to find more self-confidence. It’s Diggle as father-figure, however, who really convinces Oliver that “it’s time to come home.” They convince him that even if he doesn’t want to be the Hood, he still needs to save his own family and the family business.

    One of the other great ironic moments is when the vigilantes show up at Queen Enterprises and accuse Oliver of “failing this city” and then proceed to try to kill him. Oliver does manage to help get Isobel (Summer Glau) and Felicity to safety – though not before Felicity brains one of the vigilantes and saves Oliver. I was a bit hesitant over the casting of Glau, but she thoroughly won me over – she does a great job playing a cold, nasty, b...usiness woman.

    After the attack, Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) asks Felicity if she’s seen their mutual friend. She says she keeps hoping for him to show up, while pointedly looking at Oliver. I love that Quentin has obviously changed his opinion about the Hood – even as he’s switched position on that front with his daughter. The scene between newly demoted beat cop Lance and the Hood at the end of the episode is hilarious – and I hope the beginning of a new and fruitful relationship. Maybe all the arrests the Hood can help him make will get Quentin bumped back up to detective sooner!

    Felicity and Diggle both tell Oliver that he could have taken the vigilantes out and are amazed that this isn’t the catalyst to get him back in the hood. Diggle does understand that Tommy’s death had a profound effect on Oliver. Oliver tells them that his best friend died thinking he was a murderer and that everybody he kills now dishonors Tommy. Once the vigilantes kidnap Thea, Oliver is back in the game, and we get to see the brand new lair that Felicity has created! It’s very much state of the art, and it was hilarious that she kept the salmon run because she liked watching him do it! Love her! And it seemed very appropriate that Felicity gave Oliver his new bow. I do have to wonder what Thea thinks of that locked door, and why she was never curious about Felicity having access and coming and going... but details.

    Felicity tells Oliver that once she signed on, she stopped counting the bodies, but maybe there is another way. Oliver tells her that now that they have his sister there is no other way. Yet, when push comes to shove he does find another way. He can take down the bad guys without killing them. It helps that these vigilantes are somewhat sympathetic because at least one of them is a veteran and they all lost loved ones in the quake. Thea’s kidnapping is a perfect parallel to the flashbacks on the Island. Shado (Celina Jade) is kidnapped. All the parallels between the past and present are very interesting. Wilson (Manu Bennett) is very much the Diggle figure, while Shado is somewhat Felicity, though she and Oliver have definitely developed into a relationship. The difference in Oliver’s reactions are very telling. Shado’s kidnapping result in Oliver brutally murdering her kidnapper with his bare hands, truly becoming a killer and beginning to become the figure we saw at the beginning of last season. The Oliver who saves the vigilante is moving in the opposite direction from that Oliver to not only regain his humanity but start to become a hero.

    The final two scenes were terrific. It was a fantastic surprise to see Walter (Colin Salmon) back. It was nice to see that he’s still there for Oliver – and no doubt Thea too – so there is some hope he may be able to forgive Moira at some point too. The theme of the episode played out here as well as Oliver tells Walter that he had to try another way – Oliver had to seek help – he’s learning not to be a loner anymore but to reach out to friends and family. It was nice to see Oliver get the upper hand on Isobel, though I doubt that is going to last. It felt very right for the final scene to be Oliver re-committing to the cause. Oliver has found his true calling – to honor Tommy and give the city what it really needs: a hero. We are left to wonder what name other than the Hood Oliver will choose. Will he go right to Green Arrow or just stick with Arrow?

    What did you think of the premiere? Are you disappointed that Laurel and Oliver have taken another break? Who do you think Black Canary is? Were you surprised to see Laurel in the DA’s office seeking vengeance on the Hood? Were you happy to see Walter back? Who do you think those guys on the Island were and why were they looking for the graves? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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