[This is a review of Arrow season 2, episode 4. There will be SPOILERS.]
From the beginning, Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and crew stated that Oliver Queen's backstory told through the island flashbacks would be as integral a part of Arrow as the vigilante's present day adventures in Starling City. For much of the first season, those flashbacks told of Oliver's survival against basic things like the elements and hunger, and, eventually, his more extreme fight for survival against Edward Fyres and his merry band of mercenaries.
Naturally, all of that introduced pre-Arrow Oliver to an increasingly interesting group of characters that included Yao Fei, his daughter Shado and, of course, the irascible Slade Wilson. Things could have continued as they were for quite some time, but in season 2, Arrow has decided that as exciting as things on Lian Yu tend to be – especially following the discovery of a cave full of dead WWII-era Japanese soldiers with what looks like deformed skulls – it's time to get the characters (or Oliver, at least) off the island for a little while and introduce a different dynamic to the mix. The decision, frankly, comes at the perfect time, as the supposedly deserted island that was Oliver's home/prison for five years has turned out to be a pretty popular hangout trafficked by pirates and ne'er do wells the world over. And besides, the idea of Slade, Oliver and Shado running around trying to find a way off the island is only exciting as long as there is some compelling reason to keep them there; once Fyres was taken out, that reason left with him.
What's been so enjoyable about season 2 early on, is the idea that the Arrow writing team have fully embraced the idea of forward progression, of moving the storyline in directions it needs to go in order to continually feel fresh and interesting – which it has managed to do by introducing characters like Kevin Alejandro's Brother Blood and even Summer Glau's Isabel Rochev. And perhaps it’s a testament to what they are doing at this point that they can bring back a supposedly dead character and tell us with a straight face that the story Oliver had given recounting her demise was pretty much false.
Once Black Canary started showing her masked face around Starling City, it probably didn't take long for fans of the comics to surmise she had something to do with Laurel Lance, and the Lance family in general. And some may have even figured it was the supposedly drowned-at-sea Sara Lance from the get-go – although The CW played a fast one on everybody by replacing Jacqueline MacInnes Wood (Sara from the pilot) with Caity Lotz (a.k.a. Anna Draper's niece from Mad Men), so trying to place who the character actually was became exponentially harder. On the plus side, however, the show landed a performer capable of pulling double duty as both an emotionally wounded individual and someone skilled at taking down gang members with similar proficiency as Oliver.
It's an incredible stretch, to be sure, but Arrow certainly seems to be moving in that direction. Beside it's a move the show seems eager in backing up via Oliver's newly invigorated flashbacks, which, so far seem to have more of a thematic connection to his present day adventures than before. If the show continues to upend expectations as it has, and maintains the bombardment of plot-thickening end scenes, we could be in for quite the entertaining season.
Arrow continues next Wednesday with 'League of Assassins' @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below: