[This is a review of Arrow Season 2 Episode 2. It contains SPOILERS.]
Since coming back from the island, Oliver has not been the man that he was before. That goes for both instances: The time he came home after spending five years supposedly stuck on Lian Yu, and after his brief stint there during the season 2 premiere. For whatever reason, the island is a transformative place, as well as the starting point from which Arrow propels Oliver Queen in whatever direction he’ll be headed next.
Showing Lian Yu in more than just the flashbacks helps tie season 2 back into the series premiere and that sense of direction the character had from the second he stepped foot back in Starling City. But after the series made the move to end the first leg of the Hood’s journey in what amounted to a massive failure, topped off with an unthinkable death toll, it made sense that Oliver would have to undergo some kind of mental and spiritual reboot, even while the world around him kept right on going.
In addition, bringing the story back to the island also works by giving the audience a chance to see what shaped Oliver and turned him into the kind of person he is today. We understand where he obtained his physical abilities – hanging out with Slade and Shado, one is likely to pick up a few tricks – but understanding the psychological shift that took him from being the spoiled son of a billionaire to a vigilante willing to kill for what he believed in wasn’t quite as clear. And to a certain extent, it’s still unclear; we’ve only just begun to see glimpses of his change under Slade and Shado’s tutelage. And while the ‘Identity’ goes to great lengths to show the initial struggles Oliver had coming to terms with almost instinctively killing a man to protect someone he cared about, the episode also does a nice job of illustrating how the character views himself in the wake of the Glades earthquake – and especially Tommy’s death.
To that end, ‘Identity’ makes it clear in several different ways that, although his quest is essentially a morally principled one, Oliver Queen has more than just the blood of evil doers on his hands. And that’s not counting the other, more troublesome Blood he has on his hands with regard to Kevin Alejandro’s Alderman Sebastian Blood (a.k.a. Brother Blood), who, with his growing legion of supporters, is quickly turning not just the Glades, but all of Starling City against Oliver Queen’s civilian identity.
So with an action-packed second episode, Arrow marks the next transition for not only Oliver Queen, but the rest of the characters in the series as well. While we see personal and professional shifts in Diggle and Felicity, those Oliver has done battle with in the past have chosen to bolster their ranks, as China White does by brining Bronze Tiger (Michael Jai White) along while the triad is hijacking FEMA medical supplies headed to the Glades.
This approach of greater force meeting Oliver’s shift to non-lethal tactics presents an interesting challenge for a vigilante who is fighting to present himself as a hero, even if the city he’s trying to protect and people like Laurel may always see him as a villain. It’s a familiar conundrum, but one that seems entirely appropriate for the story that Arrow is trying to tell.
Arrow continues next Wednesday with ‘Broken Dolls’ @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below: