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Arrow 2.02 "Identity" Review: Yin and Yang


     This week’s episode of Arrow, “Identity,” was written by Ben Sokolowski and Beth Schwartz and directed by Nick Corpus. The episode features some good stunts and fight scenes and ends with one heck of a cliffhanger. We also get some gimmick arrows! My favorite was the tazer arrow. As we’ve come to expect of the show, it carries the theme of identity throughout the episode in several storylines and with a few different implications.

    Oliver (Stephen Amell) is still struggling with balancing both his identities, as are Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) and Diggle (David Ramsey). I loved the scene in which Felicity and Diggle are both dissatisfied with their new alter-egos. Felicity insists that MIT over qualified her to be Oliver’s executive assistant and Diggle is not happy to be the “black driver.” Meanwhile, Oliver struggles to find his feet as CEO of Queen Consolidated and make amends to the people of the Glades. Of course, he’s not helped by alderman Sebastian Blood (Kevin Alejandro), who seems determined to publicly humiliate Oliver at every turn. In another theme that runs throughout the episode, Blood tells Oliver that he sometimes lets his emotions get the better of him. He certainly seems to have a vendetta against the Queens. We see Roy in the present question whether anything makes Oliver angry, and Oliver cautions Roy on letting his anger consume him.

    Crusade 2.0 is proving a bit more difficult for Oliver because he doesn’t have the list to rely on, but an old nemesis – China White (Kelly Hu) provides their first target. She brings a new friend to help her – Bronze Tiger (Michael Jai White). Meanwhile, Oliver is also trying to be a better friend to Diggle. Felicity and Diggle have obviously grown closer while Oliver was away and she has grown in confidence enough to scold Oliver for not even realizing that Diggle and Carly have broken up. Diggle is having trouble reconciling the two sides of himself too and points out to Oliver that having an alter-ego and hunting down Deadshot comes with a price.

    Oliver has firsthand experience of that price. Laurel (Katie Cassidy) is prepared to be a good friend to Oliver while dedicating herself to bringing the Vigilante to justice. It’s very telling, in fact, that she refers to him as the Vigilante, blaming him for Tommy’s death. Of course, she ignores the fact that had Laurel herself gotten herself to safety before the quake, Tommy would also still be alive. Laurel tells Roy (Colton Haynes) that the Hood only acts like he’s your guardian angel. Her judgment on the Hood’s identity has been clouded by the events of the quake.

     Meanwhile, Roy is also struggling to decide who he is going to be. This was the first episode that I felt we really got to see Haynes add some layers to Roy, and I’m a lot more interested in seeing more of him after this. Thea (Willa Holland) gives Roy an ultimatum – stop putting himself in danger or get out of her life. In a nice nod back to the first season, she gives him the Hozen that Oliver gave her as a symbol of reconnecting. The Hozen is a buddhist symbol associated with the arrow. It symbolizes the reconnecting of friends or the meeting of true friends. It also symbolizes the destruction of the passions. It is also associated with the bow and arrow which are symbolic of intense concentration. The union of the bow and arrow can also symbolize love. All of this symbolism resonates with this episode that focuses on the control of passion and the role of love – how both love and passion can be barriers to concentration. It can also be seen as a symbol of connecting the two facets of the individual – the yin and yang in each person.

    The flashbacks show Oliver finding the Hozen and beginning to conquer his anger and his inner demon. This storyline is also the touchstone between Oliver and Roy as Oliver recognizes that Roy is very much in the same place Oliver was in on the Island, and as Shado (Celina Jade) offers to teach him, Oliver takes Roy under his wing. In an attempt to protect Roy and teach him to be safer, the Hood asks Roy to be his eyes and ears in the Glades to bring him information. Roy goes back to Thea and tells her he’s done trying to be a hero – which of course, he isn’t really.

    Wilson (Manu Bennett) tells Shado after Oliver kills the soldier with his bare hands that he’s seen men in war with the same look and Oliver is splitting into two people, one he doesn’t even recognize. He asks Shado to talk to Oliver before the anger tears him apart. Oliver confesses to Shado that he feels like the Island is turning him into something terrible, but Shado tells him the Island can’t make him something he’s not. She tells him there are opposing forces in everyone – darkness and light, killer and hero. Shado washes the blood from Oliver and then they make love. Wilson, meanwhile, after sending Shado to Oliver later tells him not to fall too hard for Shado because she’s a distraction that will get him killed. In contrast to Shado, Wilson tells Oliver that the Island is having an effect on him. A triangle can never end well, and it seems Wilson is conflicted about having Shado and Oliver grow closer.

    In another nice echo of the first season, the local newscaster points out that the question everyone is asking themselves is not “where have you been Oliver Queen, but what have you done for us lately.” Oliver’s attempts to help are stymied because his two identities need to be in two different places at the same time. He has to choose between attending his charity function or saving a medical shipment. China White tells him he’ll always be a criminal to the authorities – he’ll never be a hero. Oliver tells her it doesn’t matter as long as the city is safe.

    There’s a nice moment between Diggle and Oliver at the end of the episode when Oliver apologize for not being there for Diggle when he needed him. Diggle offers to drive him home, but Oliver tells him he’ll “find his own way” home. And in a larger sense, Oliver is making his own rules and carving his own way to help Starling city. The scene ends with Felicity bringing Oliver a coffee – a nice symbol of how she does take care of him – but as part of the team, not as a simple employee.

    The Hood visits Laurel twice. The first time he tries to explain that he isn’t her enemy, and reminds her that she used to think he was helping. Laurel tells him she blames him for Tommy’s death, for being a coward, and for not protecting the people he’d told her he’d protect. The Hood returns to Laurel after stopping China White... and walks right into a trap. I can’t wait until next week to find out how Oliver is going to get out of this one!

    What did you think of the episode? Who do you think poses the biggest threat to Oliver now – Bronze Tiger, Sebastian Blood, or Laurel? Do you think Oliver can keep Roy out of trouble and danger? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.