Just in case you are new to the planet, Wednesday was the season premier of Arrow and what an opener it was. Last season’s finale ended not just with a proverbial bang but a literal boom as Malcolm Merlyn leveled the Glades and attempted to exterminate everyone in it, rather like someone using an insect bomb in a house to rid it of fleas. But the consequences of “the Undertaking” could not have been predicted as Merlyn not only devastated the area and ruined thousands of lives, he also indirectly murdered his own son. Tommy’s heroic attempt to save Laurel from the wreckage of her office resulted in his own demise, and the emotional fallout was huge.
The season opened by returning to the island, the location of Oliver’s transformation, which I think was a great move. What better way to reinvent a character than to take him back to his origins, illustrate how he developed into his character initially, then elaborate on how he has evolved from those beginnings. Gee, did I just describe Wolverine, well, this was better done. By setting the scene with Oliver on the island we are reminded of the battles he had already fought before returning home. Originally his personal hell, the island has become a secret refuge for him, not unlike the Batcave, a place where he is safe from scrutiny, judgment, and guilt. We now see an Oliver who understandably doesn’t want to be the Hood anymore because of all that it symbolized: his failure at saving the city and fulfilling his promise to his father, and his failed relationship with Tommy. So he can’t be that guy any more, and if he can’t be the Hood then who is he? When fate forces his hand (through attacks on himself and his family later) he makes the decision to be the savior in the dark because someone must do it, but he becomes a rather reluctant hero. And aren’t those the best kind?
Interestingly, those characters who originally objected to his methods in the past (Felicity & Diggle for instance) are much less bothered by body count than is Oliver. In fact, since the earthquake the situation in the city has deteriorated so badly that D & F parachute to the island to find him. What a fun ride that was, complete with Felicity puking and, the moment I was waiting for, Oliver swinging from the trees like Tarzan to save her from a land mine. This of course resulted in one of those awkward moments between the two of them which we (or at least I) have grown to love. When Oliver finally did return home he found a brokenness much akin to his own. Laurel has changed too, which was good to see. I really felt she needed a shift in direction as she often came across a bit too soft and placating. Tommy’s death had a very realistic impact on the lives and psyches of Oliver and Laurel and the writers were able to make changes in each character’s motivation and emotional approach through the utilization of that one incident that otherwise would have been contrived. Oliver has clearly has lost his passion for vengeance, so his new motivation must be a better, higher purpose. Laurel’s reaction to Tommy’s death has made her a slightly colder and harder person. She has a bit of edginess which wasn’t present before (shades of a previous incarnation as Lilith probably helps). Guilt can be a powerful motivator and while she acknowledges that she didn’t do anything wrong, she freely admits to feeling guilty about sleeping with Oliver so quickly. Additionally, she sees the Dark Archer and the Hood as the perpetrators of Tommy’s untimely death and plans to take the Hood down. While this will create some interesting conflict between them, I hope the show doesn’t overplay her drive to catch him, it could easily be a device to push her character’s behavior way over the top. Psychotic obsession was believable for Detective Lance, it wouldn’t be as believable for Laurel.
Other perks of this episode included an updated Arrow lair with new and improved toys, including a brand new bow that looks much more dangerous than the last one. Felicity, apparently enjoying her role as interior decorator/IT architect has turned the salmon ladder into a monument, which it should be. I must admit, I really enjoyed how she kind of turned Oliver into her personal eye candy. Objectifying? Yes. Well-deserved? Yes…she deserves it, because she is awesome. Her off-kilter comments are still there, but did anyone else notice that she is becoming less embarrassed by them and a bit more bold saying them? Never mind the promo pick of the two of them surreptitiously holding hands…we shall see. I was so preoccupied during this whole scene that I even forgot to check out her shoes!
The much anticipated appearance of Summer Glau’s character did not disappoint as she was really enjoyable in a prickly way, and, like a kid who can’t resist touching a cactus just to see if it really is sharp, every attempt Oliver made at dialogue resulted in a little barb. I half expected him to giggle and say, “Ouch, that hurt!” I enjoy watching women who are condescending on TV, but then Murphy Brown was my hero growing up. It was nice to see Walter, and enjoyable to see Thea develop into a more dimensional character. I am actually interested in her now. My only real question during the show was can Diggle’s arms possibly get any bigger? We also saw the emergence of more DC lore in the mention of the particle accelerator project in Central City (a little Flash anyone?) and the dramatic appearance of a mysterious blond who showed up in time to save Roy’s amateur posterior. I have been a bit hesitant in my approval of seeing too many characters show up too quickly in this verse, however, I feel the show deserves my trust as thus far, it has never failed to deliver. In fact, every time I think the story can’t get any better, it goes and does. I can’t remember ever having this much fun watching a TV show. I ate a whole bowl of popcorn in 20 minutes (that’s a very large bowl).
I only have two complaints, 1) Stephen Amell should post on his Facebook page a list of acceptable activities viewers can engage in to lower adrenaline levels after viewing (my kids just do not seem interested in simulating the fight scenes and it could be dangerous), and 2) CW should not be allowed to insert 25 commercial breaks into the last 30 minutes. If they are not careful, they will get a visit from a hooded, middle-aged mother of three with too much vigilante inspiration.