[This is a review of Arrow season 2, episode 5. There will be SPOILERS.]
Now that Arrow has essentially completed its first major storyline by letting Officer Lance in on the secret that his daughter not only isn't dead, but she's also a mask-wearing vigilante with a penchant for attracting deadly assassins wherever she goes, the series has demonstrated the kinds of stories it's looking to tell in season 2 - and so far the results are pretty satisfying.
Leaving the Sara Lance saga open-ended in the present while apparently continuing to focus on her manipulation and training in Oliver's flashbacks is a great way to keep the Black Canary arc fresh and relevant until her eventual return. And while the appropriately titled 'League of Assassins' was one of the most enjoyably action-packed episodes so far this season – and demonstrated how the writing staff has a much better grip on balancing the Arrow stuff with the ongoing Queen family melodrama – the real focus was to bring the oft-overlooked Officer Lance into the storyline as something other than a foil for Oliver and the surprisingly expansive group of heroes running around Starling City.
It's hard to think that someone receiving a demotion might wind up being the best thing that could happen to them (character-wise), but in the case of former Detective Quentin Lance, getting busted back down to wearing the uniform has altered his character in such a way that he's become a real asset to the show – as the secret-keeping parallels between Moira Queen and his arc helped make for a more emotionally intriguing episode. Sure, it's still hard to believe he hasn't pieced together who the guy in the green hood is yet, but then again, it isn't really important to the kind of storytelling Arrow is doing this season that Lance be overly concerned with a vigilante's secrets. (Besides, he's got plenty of his own, now.) In fact, having Lance ally himself with the man he was once tasked with bringing to justice actually serves both characters better, as Paul Blackthorne can now be inserted into an episode without also having to build an excuse for him not to turn around and try to arrest the Arrow, which gives the character a lot more freedom from a storytelling standpoint.
But, of course, the biggest takeaway from 'League of Assassins' would the appearance of the titular league itself, led by non other than Navid Negahban (Abu Nazir of Homeland) as Al-Owal. Other than presenting a unique foe for Oliver that can not only put up an impressive fight against him, but also poses a significant threat both physically and personally – as was demonstrated by the ease in which Al-Owal entered and left stately Queen Manor – the league in many ways validates the existence of Arrow to people like Lance, who may still be more on the skeptical side of things.
This expansion of the Arrow-verse, by bringing in more and more aspects of the larger DCU, has worked out quite well so far. And considering it's cherry-picking elements that more of the viewing audience is likely going to be familiar with (e.g., Ra's al Ghul), as a springboard for larger storylines, it looks as though season 2 has built itself a unique position to start from that will hopefully stay as strong as these first five episodes have been.
Arrow continues next Wednesday with 'Keep Your Enemies Closer' @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below: