The CW's new superhero series Arrow re-imagines Green Arrow for a TV audience as a tough, often ruthless vigilante bent on setting things right in his home of Starling City by punishing the wicked. ComicsAlliance's Matt Wilson will be following along all season to see how he fares.
This week, Arrow and Laurel Lance take on an evil businessman (who'd have thunk) working with the Chinese Triads to smuggle drugs, and Ollie makes a decision about his own business career. Plus: more trick arrows! Hit the jump to find out what magic they do!
Before I get going on this recap of the second episode of Arrow
, I want to clarify just how I felt about the pilot, which I wrote about at length
earlier in the week, since there seemed to be a little confusion about my actual opinion. Though I did crack wise -- it's what you generally get with me -- about some of that episode's sillier plot elements (like the money-transferring arrow, deal with it), I mostly did like it.
Frankly, now is a great time to adapt Green Arrow to TV, with the ongoing Occupy movement and one percenters serving as the top social villains of the day for many. A modern-day Robin Hood story with Nolan Batman trappings is about as 2012 as you can get, even if the hero of the day also happens to be a rich dude himself. And, to the show's credit, the pilot largely pulled it off.
With that out of the way, let's dive in to Arrow
episode two, "Honor Thy Father!"
The episode's seven-and-a-half-minute(!) cold open mostly serves as a quick rewind of the pilot for those that missed it, as if Hulu ain't even a thing. Since it knocks out stuff mostly covered in the previous episode, I'll just hit the high spots with some bullet points:
A slightly modified version of the "forge myself into a weapon" speech from the pilot reminds of Arrow's mission and clarifies that the Mysterious Book of Names came from his dad via voiceover while Ollie Queen suits up in his now more brightly green looking hooded costume.
In what seems to be Arrow's version of the Batman: The Animated Series opening credits, Arrow confronts a bunch of thugs on a rooftop and threatens a Generic Evil Business Guy with death by air conditioner fan blade if he doesn't return some pension money. It's a quick reminder of what Arrow does.
A scene at the Queen home reminds us that Ollie out of costume is maintaining a party boy public image, has been catching up on the Kardashians because he's been away for five years and is headed to court to be legally declared not dead.
Ollie enters the courthouse as reporters yet again remind us he was stranded on an island for five years. Pfft. Reporters. In court, Ollie describes the yacht wreck that stranded him (because it's a story that proves you're not dead in Unspecified State Starling City Is In rather than, say, a DNA test). That's intercut with flashbacks to the wreck, as well as his dad, Robert Queen, committing suicide.
Out in the courthouse hallway, Ollie runs into his attorney ex-girlfriend, Dinah Laurel Lance, and there's an exchange reminding us of their chilly relationship. (He sort of led her sister to her watery death.)
Outside the courtroom, reporters hound Ollie again, leading his bodyguard, Dig, to threaten to make one persistent photographer "swallow that Nikon," which has to be a euphemism for something. Ollie, ever the scamp, drives off before Dig can get back in the car.
The plot of this episode really only gets going as Laurel makes an opening argument against the episode's second Evil Business Guy, Martin Somers (Ty Olsson), whom she's suing for the wrongful death of an innocent stevedore named Victor Nocenti. Laurel's story is Somers killed Nocenti for threatening to squeal about a drug operation. In a cool touch, Nocenti and his daughter Emily are characters with yet another comic creator's name (as in Ann).
Katie Cassidy, who plays Laurel, did a nice job in the pilot of being the scorned ex with a grudge, but the courtroom scene here, well, it's pretty rough. Stagey might be the best word for it, in that it feels more like a scene from an off-off-Broadway musical about courts than something from a real courtroom. She chews the phrase "Chinese Triads" like an understudy who's only been off-book for a week.
It doesn't help that the writers seem to have forgotten the name of the city where the show is set, as Laurel says "the city we live in" or "our city" multiple times. It's Starling. You changed it, remember?
Anyway, after a short scene in which we discover that Somers' name is on Arrow's list because of course it is, which also doubles as an excuse to get Stephen Amell's shirt off, Arrow heads back out into action. He strings Somers up at the docks and tells him he'd better confess to killing Nocenti while using the persuasion method of shooting arrows at his face. Arrow disappears Batman-style and leaves Somers whimpering.
Then, finally, a title card. Whew!
At Queen Mansion, ex-military man Dig's string of humiliations continues as Mom Queen chews him out for letting Ollie slip away yet again. Ollie appears as if by magic to lie that he's been sneaking off for some casual sex, which leads his mother to remind him that "there is a maniac out there hunting the wealthy," a line I'd almost expect to hear from Lucille Bluth
. Actually, Moira Queen is like the Bluth matriarch in a lot of ways, having people kidnap her son and all. What's great is that Ollie is both Michael and GOB.
Ollie promises to stop embarrassing poor Dig, who threatens to quit if it happens again. Thea/Speedy passes through promising to go get trashed as she tells Ollie she doesn't appreciate his judgmental eyes. Holy crap, she's Lindsay! Let's just come to an understanding here that I may consider this show a prequel to Arrested Development
from here on. I can't wait for Tobias to show up.
Out at the docks, Detective Lance is questioning Somers about a 911 call about Arrow's attack, which Somers is denying ever happened. Oh-ho, but one of the cops found an arrow by the docks and Lance has a real hankering to find who shot it, because, you know, he kills people.
Somers doesn't want to hear it, though, what with Lance's daughter suing him and everything. The detective says he can keep his emotions in check about stuff like that, which leads Somers to threaten, "You and your daughter don't want to find out what I'm capable of when I get emotional." Look out, everyone, it's Evil Bon Iver!
Oliver, Moira, Dig and Walter Steele arrive at the Bluth Co--Queen Consolidated to some positively tedious dialogue about modernization and drinking soda in the office, which finally turns into a talk about Steele and Moira wanting to name the new Applied Sciences department (they didn't even bother to change the name from the Nolan Batmans) after Ollie's dad. They also want to give Ollie a leadership position in the company, something Ollie adamantly states he doesn't want because Mysterious Island University didn't have an MBA program and also Steele married his mom.
Outside the office, Ollie is once again accosted by reporters, because I guess he puts off some kind of pheremone they can't resist. Dig escorts him to the car. As they wait for the driver, Dig says several weird things about how "home is a battlefield" and how Ollie's shipwreck experience was comparable to his own in Afghanistan. To prove just how much of a warzone the island of Purgatory was, there's a flashback to Ollie keeping seagulls away from his dad's dead body in the raft. Which isn't a great experience, but may fall a bit short of being at war in Afghanistan.
Responding to Somers' threat about emotions, Detective Lance assigns around-the-clock police protection to Laurel, Emily and Legal Aid Co-worker Who Is Still Nameless. Laurel doesn't like it, but her dad uses his barely-concealed English accent to shout her down.
Back at the docks, X2's own Lady Deathstrike, Kelly Hu, as triad leader China White in a red dress and just plain hilarious blond wig, meets with Somers to discuss the various threats to their drug operation. They consider several murder options before landing on Laurel as the optimal target.
A TV report on at Queen Mansion (which Hu may recognize as the Xavier School) notes that Somers ain't confessing a thing as Ollie slowly puts on a shirt. He's too slow, in fact, to keep Speedy from noticing the 20 percent scar tissue that now covers his body. He says he's not ready to talk about how he got that yet, because we've still got basically a whole season to thread this stuff through, let's remember.
Like some teenage Ghost of Christmas Future, Thea takes Ollie out back to show him his own grave and tell him she used to talk to it about boys and stuff. She says she felt closer to him when he was dead and begs him to open up to her. He responds by looking stoic, or maybe trying to imitate the gravestone so she'll like him again. It's a little hard to read.
At her apartment, Laruel's feeling jumpy even though she's got some soothing music you can buy on iTunes right this minute playing. A caller at the door turns out to be Ollie, whom she quite rightly calls out for telling her she should stay away from him last episode. Turns out Ollie took his sister's pleas for an emotional connection as a cue to go bug Laurel at home in a shirt a prisoner would wear.
There's actually some nice tension in this scene. Cassidy makes up for the stiltedness of the courtroom scene from earlier by once again doing a great job with her seething contempt for Ollie. But then Ollie pulls some ice cream out of a bag, says he dreamed about eating ice cream with Laurel while on the island, and all the air goes out of the room. The subsequent talk about the office stuff, parent expectations and blame for Sarah's death is near-deafeningly bland. Lucky for the momentum, some thugs (including Kelly Hu herself!) show up to kill Laurel. Dig charges in and shoots a handful of them, but China White gets away in the struggle after taking a knife Ollie throws from across the room.
Detective Lance arrives as the dead thugs' bodies are being carted out, promising Dig carte blanche to run as many red lights in the city as he wants (can one detective really pull strings like that?). Lance is less forgiving with Ollie, who he essentially threatens to kill if he hangs around Laurel anymore, even though he for-real wasn't the reason anyone almost died this time!
At Casa Queen, Dig treats his wounds and lets Ollie know he noticed his little knife trick. Ollie quite terribly tries to play this off as dumb luck, and I'm not sure if that's how it's supposed to be played or Amell being extra wooden in this scene. Amell tends to do a lot better with pretend hedonism than fake sincerity. Either way, Dig sees through it, but he still lets Ollie slink off to his bedroom so he can climb out on a lattice and go assault criminals with deadly arrows. Boys will be boys.
Father and daughter Lance argue over whether she should risk death or be put in a cell for protection -- kind of a lose-lose there -- when he gets a call that doins are transpirin' at the docks. Arrow's there making a ruckus by, well, shooting guys with arrows (maybe lethally, maybe not, though one guy definitely takes a nasty fall), while Somers, who's now being targeted by the Triads, tries to skip town.
Arrow catches up to Somers, who screams, "Oh God no!" to which Ollie offers the rejoinder, "He can't help you!" So he's a vigilante and a theologian. Multifaceted.
Because it obviously worked so well the first time he did it, Arrow again tries to get Somers to confess to Nocenti's death by threatening him with arrows. "I'll just shoot them at him better this time," he must have thought.
It sort of works. Somers fesses up to having Nocenti killed just as China White swoops in to fight Arrow with daggers. She's dressed in all black in this scene, and if it wasn't for the wig, she'd basically be Lady Deathstrike again.
Police sirens break up the fight as Arrow and China White run off in separate directions. Arrow manages to pick the way that leads straight to Detective Lance, who tries to arrest him but gets what looks like a bank-transfer arrow to the gun.
Turns out it's an audio recorder arrow instead, which Arrow used to get Somers' admission of guilt on tape. Despite that being admissible as evidence in almost no court anywhere, it's a good get, Ollie!
Flash forward to the groundbreaking at the Applied Sciences center, where Laurel and Tommy Merlyn meet up to deliver another end-of-episode nudge that they're an item. Steele tries to get the groundbreaking going, but Ollie shows up to drunkenly ruin it with shenanigans so he can prove he's not worthy to run the coompany. Amell is really good at this stuff, where he gets to open up and act like a douche. More acting like a douche!
The team at the legal aid office finds out from a Canadian newscast (how else do you explain how that anchor says the word "dollars") that Somers has been arrested and talk Emily into dropping her lawsuit, like she can't use some of those dollars. Detective Lance swings by to argue with Laurel about whether Arrow's vigilantism is warranted, a conflict I'm sure we'll see playing out for months or years to come, depending on the ratings.
Back home, Ollie marks another name off his list, which he does in a big open room anyone could walk into. Good to see you're staying sharp with protecting your identity, boss. This causes him to flash back to what looks like some camcorder footage of finding the list in his dad's pocket as he drags Daddy Queen's body across the island. But, wait! The book is actually blank except for a cryptic symbol! This some Lost s**t up in here.
Now we're off to Ollie's mom, who's meeting with a mysterious figure in a limo to say Ollie has no clue the yacht was sabotaged. I'm sorry, sabotaged to what, exactly? Go through a typhoon? Are we talking weather control? Man, I hope so. Anyway, the Mysterious Limo Figure holds up a folder with the same cryptic symbol from Ollie's dad's book! This some Alias s**t up in here!
Ollie has some tearful words with his father's grave in a less-than-stellar scene and has some workers take down his own headstone. Dig asks if "we're going out tonight, sir" and Ollie says they definitely are, almost implying they're going to be knocking some heads together...together.
Back on Flashback Island, Ollie has just finished burying his dad when he gets shot in the shoulder with an arrow. Before passing out, he looks to the shore to see a guy in a hood shooting arrows at him.
This cliffhanger is fantastic.
For the sake of space and my own sanity, in lieu of high points and low points, I'm just going to wrap these up with a brief section of final thoughts.
So how was this episode? The acting took a bit of a hit, I thought. Amell seemed more stiff in places, Cassidy's big courtroom scene was not good and Paul Blackthorne's accent broke through in spots. Still, it could have been a lot worse.
The writing seemed a little more soapy than in the pilot and the Evil Rich Guy of the week plot was pretty rote. It even ended with a secret recording!
That said, it was cool to see Kelly Hu do Lady Deathstroke-style stuff. I hope we get more China White and crazy fight scenes. And, really? I'd keep watching just for the insane meta-plot stuff. The mysterious symbols and the appearance of Proto-Arrow have more or less got me hooked.