Arrow‘s season 2, which has been quite spectacular all through its run and also significantly better than the debut season, is now in its final stages. We started off with a familiar Starling City and a familiar core cast of characters, but along the way many things have changed. Many new characters have joined the cast and the map of Starling has been redrawn by several new villains, all looking to make their mark on the city. But, there has always been a master-plan in place and in the last few episodes we have seen how all of that has played out as we get one revelation after another, revelations that have shocked the lives of the core characters.
In the last couple of episodes we saw Deathstroke and his allies take the fight to Team Arrow and humiliate them again and again. We’ve seen the good guys brought low and have watched as the bad guys became ascendant. Oliver Queen clearly thinks that it is time for the good guys to go on the offensive and that’s what much of this episode is about. Team Arrow has had it with Deathstroke dictating their moves and they strike back this time. And all the usual character drama and action follows, except of course that every performance is at the top of the actors’ games.
There’s a hell of a lot to love about this week’s episode. In the previous episodes we saw how Deathstroke exposed some of Oliver Queen’s lies and secrets to the people around him, the people he cares about the most. All of this served to fracture his relationships with these characters just when things were on the mend and really going good. All of that comes to a head in this episode as we begin to see the true fallout of that exposure and as Oliver’s mistakes begin to relentlessly catch up with him. This is the episode where the good guys get beaten down by the bad, but where they manage to inflict some pain back on the bad guys.
This episode is titled “The Man Under The Hood“. This can of course be referring to any of the character on the show. Obvious choices would be Deathstroke, Arrow and Canary, since they literally wear hoods, but you have to look past it. This is a show where every character has secrets and you have to dig past the surface masks, metaphorically, to see the man under the hood. This can therefore refer to Laurel, Isabel Rochev, Moira Queen, Thea, Officer Quentin Lance or anyone else. The show has always tried to peer past the surface details and this episode is really no different in that regard.
We learn how and why Thea feels so conflicted these days and it all goes back to her parental issues. We learn just why Isabel Rochev entered Oliver’s life and why she invested so much of her time and energy in Queen Consolidated. We learn how Moira feels about the secrets that she has kept and why she kept some of them. We see how Laurel deals with the incredible knowledge that she was given recently and how she uses that knowledge to develop herself as a character and connect with her friends and her family. We see how Officer Lance has changed from the old days when he would have liked nothing more than to put a bullet between the Arrow’s eyes. We see how Deathstroke deals with Oliver’s constant interferences, especially when they threaten his great project. We see some of how Sara feels about her family and her friends and how they all matter to her. And finally, we learn more about what Oliver and Sara did on the island, and how those experiences changed them to in turn affect their present and their probable future.
There is so much character drama packed into this episode, and yet, even with all of this present and with all these plotlines going back to even the show’s premiere episode in 2012, we still manage to get some kickass action sequences. The very first significant one involves Deathstroke taking on Team Arrow, again, and wiping the floor with them, almost literally. I’ve remarked again and again that the fight scenes on the show have been exemplary and that they always feel so realistic and consequential. That applies to this episode as well, especially when Deathstroke and Arrow get up close and personal, not just one but twice. Lightning-fast movements that flow into each other and deliver a really satisfying visual experience.
And then there are the new characters, Cisco Ramon and Caitlin Snow. If you’ve been following DC Comics of late in the last year, then you know that Cisco Ramon is the civilian identity of the superhero Vibe who has powers somewhat similar to The Flash except that he can work with dimensional forces. And also, Caitlin Snow is the identity of the supervillain named Killer Frost. either of these two characters appear in their heroic/villainous personas in this episode, but it is a great easter egg especially since they’ve both been confirmed to be in The Flash, which will premiere later this year and is a spin-off of Arrow. In this episode, the two are shown to be STAR Labs employees working in Starling and they get a nice decent outing here. It is a cameo, little else, but this also serves to bring in Dr. Arthur Light, formerly a villain in the DC comics-verse but rebooted to be a hero and a member of the Justice League of America as founded by Amanda Waller in Geoff Johns’ comic of the same name for the New 52. I think there were a couple other name drops in this episode, but this one definitely stuck out given how Arthur Light kicked off DC’s big 6-issue event Trinity War last year.
Arrow has been great at such cameos and mentions throughout its entire run thus far, and it is nice to see that the writers and the showrunners are always looking to add more. Such as the fact that Iris West is also mentioned in a conversation between Caitlin, Cisco and Felicity, as well as hints being dropped about her relationship with Barry. Of course, in the Arrow-verse Barry Allen aka The Flash is currently comatose after being hit by lightning and his spinoff show will deal with the young forensics scientist’s transformation into his superhero identity.
The fact that Arrow is laying down some solid groundwork for the show is excellent and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Regardless, the fact remains that in this episode both Team Deathstroke and Team Arrow up their game significantly. Deathstroke needs an army of mirakuru-infused criminals and it is up to Arrow to stop him, no matter what he has to do.
Geoff Johns and Arrow veteran Greg Berlanti did the story for this episode while Andrew Kreisberg and Keto Shimizu did the teleplay. With these big writers on the episode, it is no wonder that this was another standout episode of the season and that it kicked so much ass. The big thing about this episode is that it shows that while the good guys may have suffered a number of setbacks and are going through some really intense personal conflicts, they are not down and out of the count. They’ve still got a fire in them and that’s what counts.
A special mention should be made of Laurel’s character here since given the revelations she faced in the last two episodes and her history on the show, I expected her arc here to go in a very different direction that it did. And this means, for me, that Laurel is continuing to develop into a character who is no longer annoying but is fascinating and interesting. That’s all I’ve really wanted from this show, to be honest, and she happened to be the poster damsel in distress for a long, long time. If the current new arc with her continues, then I don’t see why she can’t be an even better character.
As always, each and every actor brought his or her best to the episode, and it is gratifying to see that the chemistries between all of them are still pretty rock-solid. The performances each week are definitely one of the main reasons why I keep coming back again and again each week, and why I couldn’t give up on the show even if I wanted to, which I don’t. The show is just that damn good.
More Arrow: Reviews of all the second season episodes can be found here.