Arrow TV Reviews

TV Review: Arrow, “Identity” (S2,E2) – Good Ideas, Bad Dialogue

To read our other Arrow episode reviews please go here.

  • Airdate: 10/16/2013
  • Director: Nick Copus (Dresden Files, The 4400, Nikita, Alphas)
  • Writer(s): Ben Sokolowski (Arrow) & Beth Schwartz (Arrow, Brothers & Sisters)

In last week’s second 2 premiere of Arrow, Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) and Diggle (David Ramsey) went and dug a mourning Oliver (Stephen Amell) out of seclusion, giving him the necessary nudge to re-embrace his vigilante side with a newfound commitment toward non-lethal combat.  It was the type of episode where a climactic moment includes Oliver deciding to don the green hood again while Felicity and Diggle fawn over him, the swelling orchestral score emphasizing the heroic nature of the moment.  It all amounted to “thank God you’re back, Oliver,” whereas this week’s episode (“Identity”) took a sharp left turn toward a thorough slap across Oliver’s arm to get him to look at you while you screech, “And why haven’t you asked me how I’ve been since you left, you insensitive jerk?”

–>Plot Recap

The main plot involved the return of China White (Kelly Hu), leader of the local Chinese Triad mafia, who Oliver discovers is hijacking FEMA trucks full of medical supplies meant for critical access hospitals serving the wounded survivors of the earthquake in the Glades.  Oliver wants to help the victims both in his everday life as Oliver Queen via his massive financial resources as well as his night life as a vigilante uniquely capable of stopping China White.  However, the episode argues that he cannot do both.  The damage done to the Queen family reputation by Moira’s involvement with the earthquake machine cannot be repaired by throwing money at it, and the cops are apparently so obsessed with catching the vigilante that huge crimes (like hijacked FEMA trucks) are going unnoticed thus enhancing the need for Oliver’s archery.  When Oliver’s battle with China White forces him to abandon a fundraiser he has set up with a new champion of the people in the Glades, Sebastian Blood, he is understandably crucified by Sebastian in the press.

Meanwhile, Oliver has to get his own house in order, having failed to realize the life-threatening danger Roy has been up to in copying the vigilante and not thoughtful enough to ask Diggle a straight question about his supposed girlfriend Carly (Christie Laing).

–>End Plot Recap

This was Arrow‘s big “can Oliver help people as both Oliver Queen and Green Arrow” episode.  After all, as CEO of Queen Consolidated Oliver Queen is now in position to help others without needing his bow and arrows.  Multiple bits of dialogue hit home this theme of a need to define identity, be it Shado’s explanation of yin and yang in an island flashback or China White’s taunting that the city will never accept the Hood or thank him for the good he does.  More so than anything, the story was designed to frustrate (fighting but not killing is much harder) and humble Oliver, who lashes out at Diggle at one point due to his inability to help anyone as either Oliver Queen or the Hood.  Last week was Oliver’s big welcome home, and this week was his rude awakening to how ignorant he had been about the extent of the damage done to his family name by his mother’s treachery as well as to simple matters as his best friend having broken up with his girlfriend.  Oliver appears in the end to have earned the spoken hug/apology with Diggle and coffee from Felicity, but his walking into Laurel’s trap even though she flat out told him never to come back indicates he hadn’t fully accepted her rejection yet.

The ideas at play here are solid, but the episode came off as tad clunkier than the season premiere due to really ham-fisted dialogue.  There were some concerning nods toward more bad comic book-y territory (see Michael Jai White as Bronze Tiger and his claws).  However, that cliffhanger ending was all kinds of fun, a sign that Arrow might be taking cues from Vampire Diaries in how to burn through storyline quicker than they can write it.

NOTES

1. With Great Powers Comes Great Abs…Second Week in a Row

Arrow Identity 2

For the second week in a row, an episode began with Oliver’s first scene featuring him shirtless. I’m going to keep making a point of this until there is an episode where this is not true.  Why?  I find the show’s transparency amusing.

2. Roy and Oliver

Arrow Identity 3
Smallville fans should pick up on the color-coded costuming they are doing for Roy, who is often depicted in red ala his comic book counterpart’s costume

I was not one who was delighted to see Colton Haynes promoted to series regular status this season.  I found Arrow’s attempt to use him as the face of the plight in the Glades to be laughable, and Colton Haynes was simply difficult to buy as a street-wise wayward youth.  I appreciated what it did for the character of Thea, but I also had a hard time buying the romance with Thea which followed your basic “he’s a bad boy I can fix” story beats.  

Well, shut my mouth because that scene at the beginning between Oliver and Roy was surprisingly effective.  It efficiently slotted them into teacher and mentor roles (a dynamic also aided by Oliver’s physically towering over Roy).  Roy’s “how are you so strong?” facial expression when Oliver grabbed his arm during this scene was priceless.  This scene in general was significant as for quite some time now Roy has basically been on his own show with Thea, having very few scenes with anyone else.

What of that last scene, though?  When the writers chose to eschew their My Name is Early-esque first season story generator of Oliver’s big list of enemies I didn’t expect their season 2 story generator to be Roy serving as Oliver’s eyes on the street in the Glades, equipped with a red arrow to be used to signal messages.  I am not overly fond of this idea, but that list from the first season was a storytelling crutch that functioned perfectly for then but they are right to drop it now.  I applaud their efforts to challenge themselves; I’m just worried it will equate to a far more formless season overly reliant upon Colton Haynes’ performance.

3. Screw You, Secretaries

Arrow Identity 4

As I argued they would, they wasted no time in explaining Felicity’s sudden omnipresence around Oliver at Queen Consolidated: she’s his new Executive Assistant, i.e., secretary.  I expected this storyline, but I did not expect Felicity to put up such a fight.  Honestly, I feel bad for any fans of the show who work as secretaries because boy does Felicity apparently have an incredibly low opinion of that profession.  However, it was in keeping with the season premiere in which she also angrily confronted Oliver.  She had backbone that first season; this season it’s even more pronounced.  In the process, we discovered that she went to MIT which is about one of the only things we know about her background.  I’m not 100% certain, though, if Rickards completely pulled off righteous indignation.

It was a bit odd, for me, to hear Team Arrow use the term “secret identity,” though, as that seemed like something someone who knows they are on a comic book show would say more than anything else.  I particularly enjoyed Ramsey’s performance this episode, particularly his one liners (“black butler”).  It’s unfortunate that they chose to end Diggle’s relationship with Carly off-screen in-between seasons after devoting so much time to it last year.

4. Is It Common for Attorneys to Simply Accompany a Squad Team on Police Busts?

Arrow Identity 5

Honestly, I’m asking if you know.  I’m not a cop nor am I an attorney nor do I know anyone who is.  So, I don’t really know.  However, something about Laurel accompanying the cops to the scene to arrest Oliver rang 100% false to me, even if she does work for the District Attorney’s office.

5. Does Laurel’s Vendetta Make Any Sense?

Arrow Identity 6
Laurel’s Method of Grieving? Immediately shift focus to a rather shaky quest for revenge.

They also didn’t wait long in giving us the background for Laurel’s vendetta against the Hood.  She explained her reasoning to Oliver last week, but now we see via flashback the moment this reasoning took hold was when she watched from afar as the Hood escaped after failing to save Tommy’s life.  So, this is not just a basic “you are the cause of this escalation” but also a “…and you failed to save my boyfriend’s life.”  She appears as motivated against the Hood by her grief as her father was against Oliver last season by his grief over Laurel’s sister Sara.

It’s an interesting role reversal for her, and sticks true to almost all characters on the show deriving their primary motivation from the death of a loved one (a common motivator for comic book characters).  Plus, it is a way of carrying through on there being serious consequences beyond the lost 503 lives from Oliver’s failure to stop Malcolm last season.  However, does Laurel’s reasoning make any sense?  She’s using specious logic to reason that bad things like the earthquake didn’t happen before the Hood showed up ergo he’s responsible for all of it (the copycat vigilantes, on the other hand, are very much so his fault).  Book him for manslaughter, of which he is guilty, but not this.

It’s tricky, though, because we don’t know how much Laurel knows.  For example, is it just common knowledge in Starling City that the Hood and Malcolm fought?  In general, Laurel has her timeline wrong – it is not the Hood that came first but Malcolm.  If you look back at the plot of the first season you realize that almost everything Malcolm did would have happened regardless of Oliver.  Heck, even kidnapping Walter had nothing to do with Oliver.  There was no escalation nor was there any grand feud between the two.  There was Malcolm enacting the elements of a carefully laid out plan while a crimefighter tried to figure it all out and ultimately failed to completely stop him.   Laurel likely has no idea, but if she did would it make a difference?

6. Has the villain dialogue always been this bad?

First eye roll:

China White: I feared you’d fallen in the quake denying me my opportunity to pay you back for your past indifference in my business.

Oliver: Your business is going under…permanently!

Really, Oliver?  That’s the best you’ve got.

Second eye roll:

China White: Our new partnership was easily cemented.  You see I was eager to see you dead…and he was eager to kill you!

Really, China White?  That’s the best you’ve got.

Third eye roll:

China White: I told you on time to die!

Add in some cold-weather-related puns and I’d swear China White was the Arnold Schwarzenegger version of Mr. Freeze from Batman & Robin.

7. Do We Miss Tommy Yet?

When Laurel was walking through Oliver’s fundraiser and clearly looking for someone when Sebastian asked her who she was looking for I naturally assumed it was Tommy.  Not because I think Laurel is so grieve-stricken to look for Tommy everywhere but because I simply have not quite adjusted to him not being a character on this show anymore.

8. Aren’t You Supposed to Hide Your Face?

Arrow Identity 8

So, is it totally not a big deal at all that China White saw Diggle’s face?  Granted, if she’d never met Diggle prior to that moment just because she saw his face doesn’t mean she knows his identity.  But, still, she literally saw beneath the mask.

9. So, Sebastian Is Basically Like Pre-Two-Face Harvey Dent from The Dark Knight, Right?

Arrow Identity 7

At Arrow, they love themselves some Christopher Nolan, and it appears fairly obvious that in the form of Sebastian they are presenting a Harvey Dent-style new White Knight capable of accomplishing demonstratively good things in the real world that Oliver simply cannot due to his commitment to his life as a vigilante.  For those who don’t know, Sebastian is actually a villain in the comics, but I read their presentation of him here as a foil who might evolve into a full-on antagonist as the season progresses.  I was far more encouraged by Kevin Alejandro’s performance in the role than I have been by other new characters like Summer Glau as Isabel Rochev and Michael Jai White as Bronze Tiger.

“Next Week on Arrow.“:

My first question: is Arrow going to force us to believe that Oliver won’t recognize Canary behind that mask?  It’s been pretty well spoiled that she is going to be someone from his past.

What did you think?  Like it?  Hate it?  Let us know in the comments section.

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5 comments

      1. As per usual, your take on the subject was even-measured and well-reasoned. Turning Laurel into an agent of conflict against the Hood (which I’ll keep calling him until they make clear what his name is..most likely Arrow) is not a bad storyline for all the reasons you listed: a vigilante needs someone in a position of authority hunting them to re-confirm their “outside the law” nature, Laurel’s logic is undeniably flawed but understandable (I agree with you about the survivor’s guilt thing), and it adds an interesting new dynamic to the Laurel/Oliver relationships while also working toward the writers’ stated intent of doing a better job of centering all season 2 storylines around Oliver. Also, I’d more focused on the role reversal between Quentin and Laurel that I hadn’t thought of the shift this season between the way Laurel treats the Hood and the way she treats Oliver. Excellent analysis on your part.

        The story is a brave choice on their part. They’ve certainly heard the cries from the anti-Laurel crowd. Placing her in an antagonistic context where she will be budding heads with the heroes certainly provides more fodder for those prepared to hate her. However, a fear of that shouldn’t stop them from going this direction. There might also be a fear/hesitation among some to embrace the story because it is undoubtedly a repeat of Laurel’s dad’s storyline last season. However, Quentin’s storyline spanned roughly the entire season, with him forced to work with the Hood on occasion but never silent in his distaste for the vigilante until the season finale. I don’t quite see Laurel’s crusade being a season-long story, with her stance eventually softening down the road a bit (especially if she finds out the identity of Canary). Either way, I think Cassidy has been up to pulling it off so far.

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