Mar 8, 2017
Giant Box of Television: Arrow Season 2
Most of the write-ups of Arrow cite this season as being the high point of the show thus far. Criticisms of seasons 3 and 4 note sloppy storytelling, or trying to pack too much into the show, or mishandling of relationships, but many see season 2 as a near perfect superhero series. Having just finished the whole series (well, up to the current episode), I'm not sure I agree, but I'm also not sure I disagree. I think season 2 is the tightest story arc. The flashbacks to the island impact directly on the contemporary storyline, showing us the descent of Slade Wilson into the Mirakuru-fuelled madness that leads him to put his hands around Starling City's throat. Other flashbacks in other seasons have thematically attempted to follow the main storyline, but this is the only one that has seemed like we were watching one large story told in a non-linear manner. So, for that reason alone, I can understand the privileging that season 2 receives.
It's also where Oliver starts to become a hero, rather than a murderer, the ramifications of which are still being felt on the show. Though the Mike Grell run on Green Arrow that inspired the series shows the character indiscriminately killing, it's hard to reconcile this kind of a "hero" with the larger DCU, which, thankfully, starts to show up a bit more in this season. As I watch the current season (5), I'm conflicted about the character of Oliver Queen. Should he get away with the wholesale slaughter of season 1, simply because he's decided that he's going to be a hero and stop killing? This is obviously what the season 5 villain Prometheus is also asking, which makes us beg the lovely question as to who is really hero and who is really villain in this piece.
But in season 2, Oliver was trying very hard to be a hero, and by the end of the season, he's there, I think. The other great thing about this season is that the supporting cast comes nicely into focus. They spent much of the previous season getting to know one another, but now they're becoming a family. Oliver and John's relationship is one of the nicest homosocial pairings on television, and Felicity Smoak, who for some reason catches a lot of flak from reviewers, is adorably dorky, fiercely intelligent, and super-sexy all at the same time. And don't think Oliver's not noticing.
Villain Slade Wilson is just great. I don't know if it was intentional, but the character bears a lot of similarity to the depiction of Deathstroke in the Teen Titans cartoon from a few years ago. He's brutal and lethal, but also charming and charismatic. He serves as a perfect foil for Oliver in this season, demonstrating the void that remains when someone gives themselves up to despair and death, a lesson that Oliver has to learn in order to emerge on the other side of the season as someone, or something, else.