(Minor Spoilers Below)
I’ve been watching Arrow since the very beginning. I was there when it was only about relationships and some less-than-convincing acting. But I was also there to see it grow and evolve into something I don’t think anyone could’ve expected. As Season 1 continued to unfold, the show improved in almost every possible way and ended with a finale that hit me harder than any other show did that year.
With all that behind it, Arrow had some pretty lofty expectations going onto Season 2, and many people, myself included, wondered if it would be able to continue to improve in the way it did with the previous season. However, it didn’t take long for our fears to be put to rest, as the very first episode of Season 2 Arrow came out swinging and never really stopped until the credits rolled on the finale.
Much like the first season, this year Arrow took everything that worked before and made it even better. As the cast grew into their roles, their performances became more compelling, and with a much higher budget and more freedom to explore the world it created, Arrow’s Season 2 was, in every possible way, bigger and better than anything it had done before.
After the death of his best friend Tommy in the Season 1 finale, Oliver vows to stop killing entirely and change the way he protects his city in order to honor his friend’s memory. For me, this was a brilliant way to start the season, as it not only carried emotional weight, with Oliver clearly still struggling to accept his friend’s passing, but also made a clear statement that things were going to be different.
Oliver killing the criminals he faced in Season 1 was, at times, one of the things that kept me from really connecting to him as a character. While it was kind of refreshing to see a hero not hesitate to end the villains who shouldn’t be left alive, his refusal to follow that path again in the first episode of Season 2 opened up a whole new world for him as a hero that brilliantly came to life throughout the season.
In many ways, Oliver, and his heroic alter-ego, the Arrow, was an entirely different character this time around. Actor Stephen Amell has never been better in the role, and he is somehow able to consistently, and excellently, juggle the many different sides of Oliver’s character. It created for a dynamic and exciting journey that was only heightened by the stellar writing and support from the rest of the cast.
Not only did Season 2 of Arrow further develop every single character in their main cast, while also introducing some new ones, it simultaneously managed to delve into the overall lore of the DC Universe and expand the show’s connection to the backlog of comic book stories in a way that never failed to plant a smile on my face.
In addition to the fantastic introduction of Barry Allen, which acted as a direct prequel for the exciting Flash spin-off TV series airing this Fall, Deathstroke also made his triumphant reveal this season, as the character of Slade Wilson, who was one of the real stand-outs from Season 1, underwent a drastic transformation that slowly, but surely, redefined him as the masked mercenary we all know as Deathstroke
Deathstroke was a fantastic antagonist for a number of reasons, such as his personal history with Oliver and his terrifying and iconic costume. However, it was Manu Bennet’s brilliant and haunting performance that really defined the character. Bennet handled his material better than almost anyone else on the show, and it’s thanks to him that Slade’s transformation into Deathstroke was so convincing and ended on such a strong note.
In addition to Barry Allen and Deathstroke, we were also introduced to Sarah Lance, the younger sister of Laurel Lance and previous girlfriend of Oliver who was supposed to have died in the same boat crash that stranded him on the island. What made Sarah such a phenomenal character, and a great addition to the cast dynamic, was the fact that she was a vigilante much like Oliver was in the first season. Relentless, brutal, and struggling to cope with normal life.
By including the Black Canary, who is known only as the Canary here, Arrow managed to push Oliver to his limits in a new way that felt fresh and exciting. Sarah is a great character in her own right, and thanks to some fantastic acting from Caity Lotz, she quickly became one of my favorites on the show, and her own struggles with being a hero, which often ran parallel to Oliver’s, was a great way to characterize them both.
Much like Oliver, Sarah often struggled with understanding what it meant to be a hero, and her much more violent, vengeful attitude acted as a great comparison for Oliver, and I really enjoyed seeing their relationship play out throughout the second half of the season. It even carried some good emotional weight, as Sarah had to eventually reveal herself to her own family, which created some compelling drama for everyone involved.
I have very few complaints about Arrow this season. There are only a couple episodes I didn’t absolutely love, and even though the finale lacked the emotional punch of last season’s conclusion, it did so much right it’s hard to complain. Nearly every character was improved here, with Felicity Smoak once again stealing the show on more than once occasion and providing some great banter for her costars.
Even new characters, like Sebastian Blood, one of the morally ambiguous ‘villains’ for the season, got to have a fantastic story arc, and his own seemingly misguided exploits created for some really exciting drama that resulted in some great plot twists. Kevin Alejandro was excellent in the role, and he played a huge role in the season’s most shocking, heartbreaking moment that nearly equaled Tommy’s death as the series’ most emotional scene.
However, if Arrow does anything wrong here, it’s that it occasionally mismanages some of its secondary cast members. Roy Harper had a great character arc this season, but it felt rushed, as he would be literally ignored for three or four episodes at a time. And even John Diggle, who has become a fan favorite, only got a handful of episodes to really take the spotlight in, and I would’ve liked to have seen a bit more of him.
While Katie Cassidy had always been one of the cast’s weaker links, she handled the material she was given surprisingly well, but her character struggled because the show just didn’t know what to do with her for most of the season. She went on such a roller-coaster of a story arc that it was hard to feel sympathetic towards her, but thankfully, the final episodes remedied this and left her in a place ripe with opportunity for next season.
What really hurt though, was that Summer Glau’s character Isabel Rochev was sadly ignored for most of the season, and it was frustrating to see such a great performer like Glau given so little to do. This wasn’t a crippling flaw, as the show was still great even with its few flaws, but I hope to see the show figure out how to manage an even larger cast next season, especially with so much planned.
We were teased this season with glimpses of the League of Assassins, Ra’s al Ghul, Harley Quin, the Suicide Squad, and even the return of a familiar face from last season that is sure to shake things up in the third season. Arrow has always told its own story, but its respect and reverence to the deeper lore surrounding its characters has always been appreciated, and it made a great show even better.
Overall, Arrow has done a wonderful job with its second season, and it did nearly everything right and brilliantly succeeded in turning itself into a consistently exciting and compelling superhero television series. Even with the occasional mismanagement of some of its secondary characters and villains, Arrow concluded Season 2 with an explosive climax that left us hanging with a ton of tantalizing teases for the future.
If you’re a superhero fan, you really owe it to yourself to be tuning into Arrow on a weekly basis, as even when it occasionally misses the mark it’s still more fun than almost any other show on network TV at this point. Without a doubt, this is the best superhero show we have ever had the privilege of watching, and I cannot wait to see where it goes next.