Arrow: City of Heroes

"I'm trying a new way."

Oliver's journey has definitely come to a middle. His entire reason for returning to the city has been gutted, and he no longer sees the point in being the vigilante -- at least not the one that kills people and crosses names off a list.
Sure, it's a little cheesy to have him pledge his new direction in a vow to honor Tommy's memory. Yet it works, both for the character and the story. It feels like a natural progression. He still isn't doing it for the totally right reasons, but he's definitely going in a much better direction than before.

What really comes through is the fact that Tommy's death has meaning and lasting repercussions. His absence in Oliver and Laurel's lives has created a vacuum of unanswered questions, and has left them wondering how to move forward. I like that this level of characterization was considered. Also, the destruction of the Glades had a similar impact. This is exemplified by the copycat Hoods. They were trying to emulate Oliver by targeting the financial sector so they could redistribute wealth back to the Glades. Just like what Oliver did in the pilot, except that their grief made them go to extremes that Oliver hadn't.

Until they kidnapped Oliver's sister and threatened to kill her. That was the push Oliver needed to take the mantle of the Hood back up. And it took everything he had not to kill them. He had to be a shadow instead of a tank. He had to use all his skills, and it was impressive to watch. Oliver even strung them up so that (now) Officer Lance could arrest them. Their brief conversation really sold his return, and maybe validated Quentin's choices a little. Quentin could see the Hood trying to change, to not be the killer anymore. It was just the right hero moment for this point in Oliver's path.

Diggle and Felicity also did a lot to help Oliver figure out this new direction, starting with their daredevil entrance, parachuting down to Lian Yu. Oliver without them is basically aimless and reclusive, and they give him the support to be who he needs to be. And I love that Felicity is now basically Oliver's right hand. She acted as his assistant in all the meetings with the company trying a hostile take-over. There was even a few moments of genuine affection on Oliver's part. It's obvious he deeply cares for Felicity, even if it's just in a protective way.

As for the situation with Queen Consolidated, it was an interesting way to go. Isabel Rochev (see my Comic Book Bits below for more on her canonical background) is an interesting foil for Oliver. It was pretty obvious from the start that Walter was going to show up and save the day at the last minute. (telegraphed by Moira mentioning seeking family for help, and Walter being literally the only other family we've seen). They could've introduced a new character, but that wouldn't serve the moment in the same way.

I'm also really happy they didn't continue the Oliver and Laurel relationship. It would've felt off for them to pick up the romance so soon after Tommy's death. However, I am not so thrilled that Laurel is now on the 'We must catch the Hood!' train. Do the show runners want us to hate Laurel? Because I was at the point of writing Quentin off last season because of that very annoying character arch for him -- it's beyond tiresome. If that plot needs to exist, shouldn't it be on the police boss that demoted Quentin? Or maybe someone else, like that new D.A.? Why Laurel? Sigh.

On the other hand, I love what they're doing with Thea. Having her run Verdant and be the adult in her relationship with Roy is really cool. I was getting bored with her self-destructive angst-ridden teenage drug addict character arch. Giving her a new role in the family as the responsible one makes me like her even more. I'm curious if her proximity to the new Arrow Cave will eventually lead to her finding out, too, although it's more likely that'll be the way Roy joins the team. Roy clearly has dedicated himself to the life of a hero, but he also clearly needs a mentor. So this new heroine clad in black leather might just be a way for him to gain some experience. We don't know who she is yet, but if her costume is any indication, she might be some kind of Black Canary precursor.

Lastly, we have the continuing adventures of Oliver, Slade and Shado on Lian Yu. Things pick up five months after Oliver killed Fyres. Oliver has picked up quite a bit of training from both of his companions. He and Shado are still involved romantically, and there is a bit of potential friction with Slade because of it. Slade dropped a couple of little remarks about Shado that intimated he was interested in her, too, and maybe a little jealous. The time jump also allowed for their wounds to be healed without dealing with the recovery.

Yet the most intriguing parts of the story dealt with the new enemy on the island. A large ship has arrived, and they are looking for graves. They are also pretty merciless, willing to torture Shado for information. Oliver, being a bit of a hothead still, jumped into the fray and killed the guy who was threatening Shado. It was a pretty brutal scene, and that final moment with Slade and Shado begging for him to stop was really interesting. It served as a nice parallel to the things happening in the present with Diggle and Felicity pushing Oliver to take up the Hood mantle again. It was Oliver's first real murder (Fyres was a heat of the moment kill) played against his vows to never kill again.

Comic Book Bits:

Isabel Rochev is also known as "The Queen" in the Comics. She was a Russian girl influenced by Robert Queen and obsessed with the Queen family legacy, which she believes is her destiny. There's more, of course. but it could be potentially spoilery. Extrapolating from her comic book background, one thing is clear: she is not a good guy.

Star Labs, finishing up a particle accelerator. How much do you wanna bet that comes up later in the season? Star Labs is a big deal in DC land.

Show Bits:

The name of Isabel Rochev's company is Stellmoor International, which buys up companies and sells off its pieces. It has a parallel in the Comics too, although Isabel Rochev isn't a part of it.

The overhead shot of the Glades left in ruins was horrible, but at the same time it added some weight to the events of the finale.

Lian Yu looked incredible in those opening shots of the episode, with the white mountains and the pieces of the wrecked ships off the coast. Also that final moment with the pull back showing the ship off the coast with the searchlight was well done. I think the visual effects are markedly better.

An Alderman from the Glades named 'Blood' was mentioned as Oliver entered Starling City again, along with a billboard that was altered to rename the city 'Scar City'.

Deathstroke's mask from the pilot is still planted like a flag on the beach.

I really liked that Moira looked like an inmate, with her hair a mess and an unflattering prison uniform. Although Iron Heights must have lax policies, because they didn't immediately pull Thea and Moira apart when they started hugging.

Oliver must've had a plane or boat. Otherwise, how did Felicity, and Diggle get back off Lian Yu when they had to parachute in?

The new D.A. is named Donner, and Laurel is working for him.

I liked that both Roy and Laurel tried to stop the Hoods but failed.


Diggle: "Felicity, if you're so scared, why did you insist on sitting up front?"
Felicity: "It was the only seat with a seatbelt."
Diggle: "Which will come in handy when we hit the water at 180 miles per hour."

Thea: "You never texted, no post cards, almost like you were on the island all over again."

Felicity: "They're all in the conference room. Just FYI, no one is eating the bagels."

Oliver: "There's a part of being the Hood that neither of you are considering: the body count."
Felicity: "And excuse me for saying this, but so what? Since when do you care?"
Diggle: "Since Tommy."
Oliver: "After he found out my secret, you know what Tommy called me? A murderer. He was right. My best friend died thinking I was a murderer, and anyone that I kill dishonors his memory."

Moira: "If I had known the key to you taking your rightful place in the company was its demise, I would've declared bankruptcy a year ago."

Felicity: "This morning we flew in a plane so old I'm pretty sure I was safer once I jumped out of it. You could at least offer us a water... or a coconut."

Roy: "What I lack in height, I make up for in wicked good hearing."

Felicity: "Not bad for someone who got a 'D' in tenth grade algebra. (Oliver gives her a look) If it's online, I can find it."

This was an excellent start to the season and set up a lot of new and continuing plots carried over from last season. It's clear there's no reset button on this show (except for injuries) and I'm very happy about that.

3 1/2 out of 4 Super Composite Bows

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related. He reviews Arrow and Farscape and cool new movies that strike his fancy.


Billie Doux said...

It was a very good premiere. I keep expecting Arrow to be brainless, fluffy action and it's not. They're making good choices and building on them.

And for some reason, I like Stephen Amell as Oliver a lot now. I didn't care for him at all when the series started.

Great review, J.D.

John Fox said...

I enjoyed the review, J.D., and pretty much agree with your take on the episode.

One detail I really enjoyed about this episode hasn't been mentioned yet--in the opening shots of Lian Yu, a partially-sunken ship is shown--it looks very similar to the ship that (in the flashbacks) brought the new enemies to the island. It's hardly mind-blowing to predict that flashback Ollie and friends will defeat these people, but I thought the inclusion was a nice touch on the part of the producers.

Patrick said...

I loved this premiere, I thought it did everything it needed to do. It gave people new to the show an idea of what had happened last season. It gave viewers a sense of what went on during the summer haitus. It let us see where everyone's head is at now. It gave us a rip-roaring adventure to start the season, and it put plotlines in motion that will play out over future episodes.

JD, I agree wholeheartedly about Laurel's new anti-Hood viewpoint. I get that it's born mostly out of her grief over Tommy's death, so I can forgive a little irrationality, but she's had five months to see reason. Certainly Moira's provided details to the DA's office about Malcom's plan going back WELL before the Hood ever showed up, so the idea of blaming him for the earthquake is a bit of a reach.

On the other hand, there's potential for some fun with Quentin now that he's no longer the Hood-hater he used to be. He has a discreet line of communication to him through Felicity, and the two of them play well off each other.

Speaking of Felicity, she's REALLY stepped up so far, Team Arrow really does feel like a group of three equal partners, or at least more so than you get from DC Comics' other billionaire vigilante. That was highlighted when Oliver said at the end, "If WE'RE gonna do this," instead of, "If I'M gonna do this."

Yay for Walter coming in to save the day! I really hope that isn't the last we've seen of him. Colin Salmon has such great screen presence, it'd be a shame to waste it. I would think we'll get at least one scene of him visitng Moira in prison, so we could see them talk about what happened now that he has a better understanding of WHY it happened. Not saying they'll reconcile, but still...

Billie, you're right. The writers on this show have been making a lot of smart choices and well-thought plans. It's refreshing. And yes, Stephen Amell has really grown into the role. You can see it on and off-screen, he's really taken ownership of it.

J.D. Balthazar said...

John Fox; Great catch with the boat thing. I bet the climax of that story is the sinking of said boat.

Patrick; I totally agree with you about how Oliver treats his team as a team instead of sidekicks. "If we're going to do this" is a great example of that. The idea of using Laurel's new found quest to capture the Archer, versus Quentin's new burgeoning relationship with the Archer might just be a lot of fun. I hadn't thought of that. I also hope we see Walter again, and Colin Salmon does have a great screen presence. The first time I saw him was in Resident Evil, and I liked him even though there was no character building for him at all. A scene between Moira and Walter would be a lot of fun.

I didn't want to bring up too many Batman parallels, but the whole scene in the lobby with the Mayor felt like it was pulled straight from the Dark Knight.

CrazyCris said...

First Carter, now Lance... what's with all the good detectives being demoted this year?!

Speaking of which, can someone explain to me WHY Lance got demoted? Was it his obsession to catch the Hood and his failure at it? Otherwise I seem to have forgotten some crucial point of last season's finale...

And it's interesting his and Laurel's switching places on the Hood issue. I'm pretty sure Laurel will come round faster than her father did though.

Happy to see Walter!

And I was thinking the exact same thing when Moira and Thea hugged! What's with the lax security?! :p

Could Shado be what drives a wedge between Slade and Oliver?

Thanks for the extra comic book info! Most helpful! :o)

J.D. Balthazar said...

CrazyCris; Quentin had to make a choice in the finale to trust the Hood with information about the Glades so that he could evacuate those people. When he told his boss, he basically sacrificed his career for what was right.

As soon as Shado was introduced I was pretty sure she was going to be the reason, or a part of the reason, why Slade and Oliver have a parting of ways. Although I have no idea if they are going to do it that way.

Freeman said...

Great premiere. The actors who played the Hoods were pretty darn terrible, but whatever, they got the job done. Of course Laurel continues to ask me to dislike her, and I will oblige. Good job pimp-slapping one of the Hoods though.

I reckon that particle accelerator mention will be what factors into the creation of The Flash. Which excites me to no end. The Flash is one of my favorite superheroes.

I see the writers continue to mock me and tease Oliver x Felicity. It must happen. Laurel can just go away.

Probably the oddest thing in this episode was Colton Haynes needing a stunt double for the scene where he fought the Hoods. Has Colton not been bulking up for his possible new role as Speedy/Red Arrow?

ChrisB said...

An excellent way to kick off the season. I was invested as soon as I realized that Oliver had gone back to the island. What a fascinating choice and what a wonderful character beat.

I like the changes the other characters are making/have made, but I am still a huge fan of Felicity's. I always find myself smiling when she is on-screen.

Billie Doux said...

I smile when Felicity is on screen, too. Adding her as a cast member was a smart move.

Josie Kafka said...

Your reviews convinced me to give this show another shot, JD, and I'm glad I did. While I still feel a bit like Arrow has that weirdly thin feeling that many CW shows have, I've enjoyed what I've seen so far, and I'm glad that it isn't just a supervillain of the week show.

Felicity is great, too. :-)

Lamounier said...

For some reason, I didn’t love this. It had all the right elements, but a couple of things dragged the episode down for me. Like Laurel, that now wants to catch the Hood. Really, Laurel? The guy that saved you a bunch of times last season? Man, even the way she announced to Oliver this new obsession of hers was inserted very weirdly in the dialogue.

The copycats did nothing for me. They had too much firepower, and yet on that meeting on Queen Consolidated no one was barely harmed. Also, they walked in and out of places very easily. What happened to the security personnel? Would anyone really leave the mayor standing vulnerable while an unseen man shouted he failed the city?

Summer Glau is here! The characters’ attempt to take over Queen Consolidated felt like Business Drama for Dummies, but Glau rocked it anyway. While I loved seeing her, I wasn’t crazy about seeing Dylan Bruce, though he seemed to be less robotic here than he is on Orphan Black.

I did not see Walter’s appearance coming. In fact, when Moira (whose scenes I enjoyed a lot) told Oliver he should look for family’s help, I wondered who the hell she was talking about. Of course it was Walter. My memory betrays me sometimes.

I’m not spoiled for this show (except for a plot point in season three that went all over the internet), so I have no idea where the character arcs are going, but are they headed to a Felicity and Oliver pairing? Felicity’s dressing and makeup were more “sexy smart woman” than “geek girl”, and her moments with Oliver had more emotional beats than usual.

Speaking of Oliver, he’s become my favorite character, and it was good to see Tommy’s death had a lot of impact on him. I like how the writers keep building opposite arcs for current day Oliver and island Oliver. We also got Stephen Amell obligatory shirtless scene (I’m wondering if he’s been shirtless in *every* single episode thus far).