Four Color Television - Arrow Season 2 Recap
Following the death of his best friend and the arrest of his mother Ollie has been living like a hermit on Lian Yu for an entire summer, but it’s September again which means it’s time for Felicity and Diggle to haul the Arrow out of retirement for Season Two.
Season Two Lian Yu Plot:
After stopping an evil mercenary’s plot to shoot down planes Oliver finds himself once again captured, this time on a boat called The Amazo full of people that have been taken prisoner by Dr. Anthony Ivo, Dawson’s Creek actor Dylan Neal. Ivo is looking for a World War II era Japanese drug known as Mirakuru which gives superhuman abilities to anyone who takes it. Also in Ivo’s prison are Shado – whom both Slade Wilson and Oliver love, a very much alive Sarah Lance (yes that’s right, the girl in season one who Ollie was cheating on Laurel Lance with – was Laurel’s younger sister Sarah) and a Russian Bratva captain named Anatoly Knyasev who will become great friends with Oliver. Prison Oliver is forced to choose between the life of Shado and Sarah, and since he can save only one he saves his childhood friend rather than the woman who saved his life just a few weeks back. Eventually Dr. Ivo discovers the Mirakuru, but Oliver takes a brief window of opportunity to steal the drug and make a run for it with Sarah. The two escape with Slade Wilson, who unfortunately gets injected with the Mirakuru and slowly becomes paranoid and violent toward Ollie who he learns was responsible for the death of Shado. There is a final confrontation over the serum the leaves Sarah and Slade believed dead, Ivo actually dead, and Oliver Queen in Hong Kong with a woman by the name of Amanda Waller.
Season Two Starling City Plot:
In Present day Starling we have a reversal of fortunes because now Laurel Lance has taken to the bottle to try to deal with the death of Tommy Merlyn, allowing her father Quentin Lance to drive the recrimination train. Meanwhile a creepy cultist named Brother Blood has taken up residence in Starling City, trying to unite street gangs and testing out some super-secret mystery drug. Roy Harper has begun patrolling the streets of Starling by night, and no amount of discouragement from The Hood will stop him – so Ollie begins using him as a man on the street/ source for information. Laurel starts putting her life back together and joins the DA in a crusade to take down the Hood, and starts getting martial arts training to defend herself. A new female vigilante shows up in down calling herself the Canary and she turns out to be none other than Sarah Lance having found her way to a place called Nanda Parbat where she received mondo combat training from The League of Assassins, the same people who trained Malcom Merlyn. Brother Blood captures Roy Harper and injects him with his super-secret drug based upon the Mirakuru formula, and Roy begins developing super powers. To keep an eye on him, Oliver finally brings Roy into the Team Arrow fold as the superhero sidekick known as Arsenal. Brother Blood reveals he’s testing out the Mirakuru serum for his boss: Slade Wilson who has now fully embraced his role as the villain Deathstroke. There is a brief interlude when a charming, yet bumbling, Crime Scene Investigator named Barry Allen visits from Central City. Slade kidnaps Ollies sister Thea and informs her of the deep dark secret that she is really the daughter of Malcom Merlyn and not Robert Queen.
Brother Blood eventually realizes Slade is going to betray him and gives Oliver the cure to the Mirakuru – but not before Slade kills Oliver’s mother Moira and begins his scheme to destroy the city. Sarah Lance’s girlfriend Nyssa Al-Ghul, heir to the Demon’s Head brings forth the mighty warriors of The League of Assassins and working with Oliver they clash against Slade’s army of Mirakuru warriors. Ollie and Slade face off, and Oliver chooses not to kill but to place Slade in a shadowy government holding facility located on an island. Guess which island… that’s right Lian Yu.
Season One of Arrow was an uneven mess that found its strength in leaning on DC Comics history, and Season Two of Arrow took that lesson and used it to make a much stronger season of television. The Island flashback story was a simple but elegant story of friendships being forged, being frayed and falling apart forever under the stress of Lian Yu and the quest for the Mirakuru serum. Watching Slade and Oliver’s friendship deteriorate on Lian Yu is tragic and bittersweet, and in the context of the broader season story it makes the enmity between Deathstroke and The Hood so much richer. The Starling City plotline is also simple in its elegance; Slade means to destroy Oliver utterly and completely and that means stealing his quest from him by means of destroying Starling City. As things get worse for Oliver, things get better for the audience.
What works about Season Two is simple: Manu Bennett, Manu Bennett, and Manu Bennett. Slade Wilson is the glue that holds Season Two together and frankly no villain since has been able to stand up to the journeyman performance in this year. The arrival of Caity Lotz as Sara Lance is the kick in the ass the Lance family story needed to elevate it to the same level as the ongoing Queen family plotline. Mirakuru is the best cinematic version of the DC Universe’s venom super soldier serum famously used by Bane in the Batman comics. Arrow takes a lot of strength from being a sort of Batman Analog in Season two and beyond, using some of Batman’s rogues and core concepts to craft a much more serious version of Oliver Queen than exists in DC Comics. David Nykl as Anatoly is a brilliant piece of casting that will come back to elevate the shows Bratva storylines again and again over the rest of the series, even if he is not quite the type to play the DC comics version of the character – better known as KGBeast. Also of particular strength is the usage of Amanda Waller and the introduction of The Suicide Squad, a concept used to such great effect that it is a shame they were unable to explore any further.
The thing that works the absolute best in the whole season though is the two-episode arc that introduces us to Grant Gustin as Barry Allen and serves as a back-door pilot to The Flash. Barry Allen is a habitually late Crime Scene Investigator from Central City who is investigating bizarre crimes similar to the death of his mother. Barry comes to Starling City on the trail of a thief with super strength, but quickly finds himself squaring off with Team Arrow and even getting to learn The Hood’s secret identity as Oliver Queen. Before heading back to Central City to witness the launch of S.T.A.R. Labs new particle accelerator, Barry designs and gives to Oliver a new eye mask that will better conceal his identity. Barry returns home and is promptly struck by the lightning bolt that will change his life forever. Team Flash mainstays Caitlin Snow and Cisco Ramon make brief appearances in an episode at the end of the season, and the events in Central City are teased to get the audience primed and ready for The Flash.
What doesn’t work about Season Two is Laurel Lance’s crusade to take down The Hood as well as the terrible performances of “Brother Blood” and the rest of the gang during the beginning of the season before Slade arrives. The takeover plot at Queen Consolidated by Summer Glau’s Isabel Rochev is also a bit of a groaner, particularly in comparison with the much more charming version of this same plotline we’ll see in Season Three.
Next Week: The trial of the Demon’s Head, the charm offensive of Brandon Routh and Lightning Strikes Twice to create The Fastest Man Alive!
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