After last week's impressive debut, the second episode of the super series "Arrow" presents much of the same, with a few noticeable improvements.
We kick off with what this series does best: action. A brief but cool fight scene takes place on a highrise rooftop, with Queen literally fighting to win back the lost pensions of downtrodden workers. Opening the show on an exciting high note is all well and good, but Ollie needs to get a better catchphrase than "YOU FAILED THIS CITY."
Meanwhile, Laurel and her cleverly named advocacy group CNRI represents Emily Nocenti against this week's evil businessman Martin Somers. Somers is a shipping dock owner in league with the Chinese Triad's drug trade, who order Nocenti's father to be killed after the stevedore stumbled onto Somers' dirty deeds. This is seemingly a quick job for Queen -- take out Somers and his bodyguards and insist that the boss confess to the murder (or else) -- but Somers has other ideas. Enter China White, Triad assassin with a bad wig. There really isn't much to say about the character at this point; guest-star Kelly Hu holds her own in a couple of fight scenes, and while she doesn't detract from the episode she doesn't particularly add much of a super-villain vibe either.
Again, much of the positives and negatives from the pilot last week carry over to this week. What worked for me: the action, some of the more inspired photography, the more intensely-charged, suspenseful scenes. What didn't: many of the heavy-handed emotional scenes, the voiceover, Amell's attempts at the party-boy personality. Much like the pilot, there's an imbalance between Oliver's smarmy public persona and his alter ego. Then there's the emotionally genuine side -- the side that wants to reconnect with his distant sister, to mend fences with his ex-girlfriend, etc. Better writers could ably navigate a character that's being pulled in these different directions, but on "Arrow" they tend to fall short.
Case in point, some of the pathos-heavy scenes are just overloaded with expository dialogue that needlessly spell out each character's reservations and motivations where a lighter touch would be more welcome. I would point to the stand-off between Oliver and Laurel (Katie Cassidy) at the courthouse early in the episode as a prime example, as Laurel helpfully summarizes every. single. thing. that happened between the two in the previous episode. "This is Oliver. He spent five years on an island. My sister's dead because of him. Last week, he told me to stay away from him. I think that's a good idea." Exposition and recapping is a good idea to welcome in new viewers who might be in the dark on what's happening, but much of this was already addressed in flashbacks and Queen's proof-of-life speech to the courtroom just moments earlier. It's a bit much, and it's tough to blame the actors for simply working with the material they're given.
With that said, there's plenty of potential in these relationship side-stories. One of the better overall scenes features Thea's tearful graveside confrontation with Oliver, in which we further develop the sibling's relationship while also complicating Oliver's lone-wolf mentality. Additionally, one of the most promising and enjoyable side-stories is the developing kinship between Oliver and bodyguard Diggle. Both are natives of the city who then spent five years fighting for their lives elsewhere (albeit in very different ways), and now have returned home with a completely altered outlook on life. There's a brotherhood there that I can see developing into a partner-in-vigilantism role, as the two kick a little Triad ass in one action scene.
The second episode stays strong where it was strong before while making a little headway in improving some of its weaker aspects. What did you think of the follow-up to last week's pilot?
Final Grade: B+