Network: The CW
Showrunner(s): Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg
Air Date (US): 9th Oct, 2013 – 14th May, 2014
No. Of Episodes: 23
Main: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, David Ramsey, Willa Holland, Emily Bett Rickards, Colton Haynes, Manu Bennett, Susanna Thompson, Paul Blackthorne
Guest: Kevin Alejandro, Caity Lotz, Summer Glau, Dylan Neal, Celina Jade, Michael Rowe, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Grant Gustin, Katrina Law, John Barrowman
After the disappointing manner in which Smallville ended, many people, myself included, were not expecting much from The CW’s next foray into the world of superheroes. Instead, Arrow Season 1 went on to equal (and perhaps even best) the Superman show for quality in its freshman season alone. Though initially bogged down by classic CW drama, the show really hit its stride after the mid-season break, going on to produce a spectacular finale.
The pressure was therefore on the showrunners to continue improving on the show’s first season success – and boy did they answer with style! Season 2 hit the ground running from the very start, and never appeared to look back, producing quality television week-in-week-out, with a consistency not usually associated with primetime TV (let alone The CW network). For me, by the end of its run this year, Arrow was rivalling Game Of Thrones for the title of ‘best genre show on TV’.
Stephen Amell’s work as the central hero tends to divide opinion. While his acting abilities haven’t yet truly impressed, his enthusiasm and commitment to role really does shine out. Improving on his Season 1 performances, he worked well as the central dramatic anchor on a show that did not always revolve around him, but perhaps needs to embrace the lighter side of the character of Oliver Queen in future seasons.
Colton Haynes, Emily Bett Rickards and Manu Bennett were the standout stars of the second half of Season 1. While the former duo fell away a little this year, Bennett took Slade Wilson to a whole new level, easily becoming the most entertaining villain this show has had. His incredible speech in the mid-season finale, Three Ghosts, still sends shivers down my spine. Elsewhere, impressive supporting performances from Caity Lotz, Kevin Alejandro and the ever-entertaining Michael Rowe showed just how much talent in depth this show has.
“Once he has lost everyone and everything he values, I will drive an arrow through his eye.” – Slade Wilson
Some critics may have taken particular issue with Katie Cassidy’s arc as a drug-addled Laurel this season. While it was a plot point that felt a little dragged out by the end of its course, for me it added some much needed depth to her character, while Ms Cassidy’s performance in Blind Spot was one of the highlights of the season. However, the true unsung hero of the year was David Ramsey, who has turned the original character of John Diggle from a forgettable bodyguard to a fan favourite. He even got a bit of time in the limelight headlining two fantastic episodes (Keep Your Enemies Close and Suicide Squad).
Plot & Characters
Where Arrow struggled in its first season was the forgettable nature of more than a few of its episodes. Season 2 almost completely avoided this pitfall, only suffering from a few villain-of-the-week mishaps, while the majority of its episodes were unique and very entertaining. Shifts between a Russian prison-heist (Keep Your Enemies Closer), a Lance family special (Time Of Death) and an all-out battle on the island (The Promise) were what placed this show head and shoulders above its competitors, and made sure it never felt monotonous.
The overarching story was equally as impressive, managing to cover a full 23-episode season without ever really burning out. Deathstroke made for a fantastic nemesis, and while his descent on the island was handled a little carelessly at times, his appearances in the present were something special. Equally Sebastian Blood held his own when carrying much of the early season, while appearances by Amanda Waller, the Suicide Squad and the League Of Assassins offered some very interesting directions for the future.
On the side of the heroes, Oliver again showed a lot of development as The Arrow, most notably with his “no killing” rule, which was forced through a little heavy-handedly unfortunately. Roy was most exciting when he was following in The Arrow’s footsteps, and becoming a hero in his own right (rather than when he was infected by Mirakuru). Finally Moira played a far more interesting role in the season
Other side-plots showed mixed success. Sara Lance’s introduction initially shook things up nicely for the early season, but she soon faded away a little in the second half episodes. Roy and Thea’s relationship was also hit-and-miss, and their frequent fighting seemed a little contrived at times. Laurel again looked a little lost as a character without the Oliver/Tommy love triangle she had in the first season, while Felicity’s importance was drastically reduced to gazing longingly at Oliver for much of the season. That said, the show’s biggest success has been evolving and changing things around, and brighter futures appear to be on the horizon for the characters above in Season 3.
Behind The Scenes
For the most part, the writing and direction was again on top form. The production value was very impressive with well-constructed sets both in Starling and on the island, while there was some fantastic stunt co-ordination for the fight scenes. Perhaps what generated a lot of the success was the writers acceptance and use of various DC Comics heroes and villains – elevating Arrow as a platform for an expanded universe (and setting up a sister show in The Flash next fall). All of this work culminated in a fantastic season finale (Unthinkable), which saw The Arrow and his allies take on his nemesis Deathstroke in a battle for Starling that topped it’s Season 1 predecessor.
City Of Heroes, 09/10/13
Oliver returns to a broken Starling City, and requires Walter’s help to save his company from Isabel Rochev. Roy steps up in The Arrow’s absence and is helped out by a new heroine on the block (The Canary). The Amazo docks by the island – 10/10
Roy attempts to help The Arrow take down China White and Bronze Tiger, while Oliver tries to rebuild the Glades with ‘man of the people’ Sebastian Blood. Laurel sets a trap to catch the vigilante – 8/10
Broken Dolls, 23/10/13
Laurel is kidnapped by The Dollmaker. The Canary comes to The Arrow’s aid with both the police and The Dollmaker, and revealed to have ties to the League Of Assassins. Roy meets The Canary’s ally: Sin. Oliver is imprisoned on the Amazo in the flashbacks – 10/10
Oliver learns that The Canary is Sara Lance, and teams up with her to bring down a criminal called The Mayor. Afterwards, The Mayor is experimented on by Brother Blood. Laurel develops a drinking problem, while Moira faces the death penalty – 9/10
League Of Assassins, 06/11/13
Al-Owal arrives in Starling to bring Sara back to the League Of Assassins. The Canary reveals herself to Quentin Lance to protect him from them, before skipping town. On the island, Sara is revealed to have been saved by Dr. Anthony Ivo on the Amazo – 9/10
Keep Your Enemies Closer, 13/11/13
Diggle goes to Russia to rescue his ex-wife, Lyla, from a gulag. Once inside however, he has to ally with his nemesis, Deadshot, in order to survive. Oliver ‘negotiates’ with Isabel in the meanwhile. On the Amazo, Ivo reveals he is looking for a Japanese serum – 9/10
State Vs. Queen, 20/11/13
The Count returns to Starling attempting to infect everyone with Vertigo – including Diggle and Felicity, and forcing Oliver to break his “no killing” rule. Moira is found not guilty, thanks to Malcom Merlyn, who is alive and revealed to be Thea’s father – 9/10
The Scientist, 04/12/13
Barry Allen comes to town to investigate a robbery of Queen Consolidated, hitting it off with Felicity. Roy and Sin look for a missing friend, while The Arrow hunts down the thief, Cyrus Gold. On the island, a dying Slade is injected with Mirakuru serum – 8/10
Three Ghosts, 11/12/13
Oliver is left hallucinating after his fight with Cyrus Gold. Brother Blood tests Mirakuru on Roy. On the island Ivo kills Shado when Ollie chooses to save Sara. Barry is caught in an accident at Star Labs, and Blood is revelaled to be working for Slade – 10/10
Blast Radius, 15/01/14
Oliver hunts for Brother Blood to no avail. Felicity returns from visiting Barry, who is in a coma in Central City. Sebastian Blood’s campaign for mayor is targeted by serial bomber, Shrapnel. Thea learns of Roy’s Mirakuru super-strength – 8/10
Blind Spot, 22/01/14
Laurel investigates Sebastian, who has Laurel busted for narcotics, while diverting The Arrow’s suspicions by using a decoy Brother Blood. Roy kills a man in rage, and The Arrow offers to train him. Slade appears as Deathstroke to threaten Blood – 10/10
The Arrow tries to teach Roy self-control, but the Mirakuru gets the better of him. Oliver is forced to reveal his true identity to Roy in order to catch an escaped Bronze Tiger, who is later propositioned by Amanda Waller. Moira decides to run for Mayor – 8/10
Heir To The Demon, 05/02/14
Nyssa Al Ghul arrives in Starling City, kidnapping Sara’s mother to convince her former lover to rejoin The League Of Assassins. Felicity reveals the truth of Thea’s parentage to Oliver. A spiralling Laurel is enraged to find out her sister is alive – 9/10
Time Of Death, 26/02/14
When Sara joins Team Arrow, Felicity feels inadequate and attempts to take on new villain The Clock King on her own. Quentin tries to take Laurel to an AA meeting, while Oliver comes to dinner with the Lance family. Slade reveals he is alive to Oliver – 8/10
The Promise, 05/03/14
Oliver is forced to make pleasantries with Slade, who is apparently backing his mother’s mayoral campaign. On the island, Ollie, Slade and Sara mount an assault on the Amazo, but Ivo reveals to Slade the truth behind Shado’s death – changing things forever – 9/10
Suicide Squad, 19/03/14
Diggle is called upon by Lyla and Amanda Waller to join her expendably black-ops ‘Suicide Squad’, alongside villains Deadshot, Bronze Tiger and Shrapnel. Oliver is forced to go to Waller for help as well, based on their common interest in catching Deathstroke – 9/10
Birds Of Prey, 26/03/14
Laurel is reinstate Frank Bertinelli’s trial, but only to act as bait, and is kidnapped by The Huntress, who has returned to kill her father. The Canary teams up with Laurel to stop Helena. Roy breaks up with Thea to protect her – 8/10
Slade kidnaps Thea, and reveals her parentage. Oliver starts a manhunt to find her, leaving his company in the hands of Isabel, who back-stabs him. Quentin is arrested for aiding The Arrow, Roy leaves town, and Slade reveals to Laurel who Oliver really is – 10/10
The Man Under The Hood, 16/04/14
Slade defeats the Arrow team singlehandedly, and steals Clock King’s skeleton key in order to gain access to a lab for his Mirakuru project. Diggle ‘kills’ Isabel when rescuing Roy from Slade, who is building an army. Felicity works with Star Labs for a cure – 8/10
Seeing Red, 23/04/14
Roy goes on a Mirakuru-fuelled rampage, as Sara thinks the only way to stop him is killing him. Thea manages to calm Roy enough to drug him. Sara leaves town and Oliver has an illegitimate child. Moira sacrifices herself to save her children from Slade – 9/10
City Of Blood, 30/04/14
Diggle and Felicity use Amanda Waller’s help to track down a grieving Oliver. Isabel is revealed to be alive, and drives Thea out of town. Laurel reveals to Oliver that Sebastian is working with Slade, and the pair are cornered by the Mirakuru army – 8/10
Streets Of Fire, 07/05/14
Felicity saves Diggle from Isabel, while Malcolm returns to save his daughter. Quentin convinces the police force to stand by The Arrow against Slade’s army. Star Labs synthesise a cure, but Slade recovers it before The Arrow can.
Blood is horrified by the destruction, and betrays Slade, giving Oliver the cure, but paying with his life. Amanda Waller threatens to bomb Starling to stop Slade. Oliver tests the cure on Roy. In the flashbacks, Oliver is captured by Slade on the Amazo – 9/10
Sara arrives with Nyssa and the League to help Oliver fight Slade. The cure works on Roy, Nyssa kills Isabel, and Diggle, Lyla and Deadshot try to stop Waller from bombing Starling. Oliver tricks Slade into kidnapping Felicity, who injects him with the cure.
Oliver defeats Slade, both in the present and on the Amazo, and he is locked away in an ARGUS prison on the island called ‘Supermax’. Thea leaves with Malcolm, Sara rejoins the League, while in the flashbacks it’s revealed Oliver first met Waller in Hong Kong – 10/10
This season represents one of DC’s greatest achievements, hitting new highs that nobody ever expected from The CW network. A huge amount of effort has gone to establishing an expanded DC Universe without any loss to the central focus of the show itself. Showrunners Berlanti, Guggenheim and Kreisberg have worked to create a consistently entertaining show, that continues to evolve and improve at break-neck speeds.
MVP(s): Manu Bennett & David Ramsey
Season Rating: 8.9