Arrow, The CW, Wednesdays 8pm
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Green Arrow is one of those characters of whom I haven't read a lot of comic books, but am somewhat familiar with from TV (such as Justice League Unlimited and Smallville). Of course, any TV version I've seen has probably been different from the comics and different from each other, and this is no exception. Basically all I know is that Oliver Queen had rich parents, who died in a boating accident somewhere in the ocean, and Oliver himself survived the accident, spending several years on a deserted island before being rescued and returned to civilization. Except in this version (which, btw, even though it's on the same network as "Smallville" was, is in no way related to that show), only Oliver's father, Robert, died (his mother hadn't been on the boat). Anyway, the series starts with Oliver's rescue after five years (supposedly) on an island called Lian Yu. Throughout the first season, there will be flashbacks to his time on the island, where he's helped by a mysterious guy named Yao-Fei, and later a guy named Slade Wilson. And later still by a woman named Shado, the daughter of Yao-Fei. (They all want to stop a bad guy named Fyers, who's in charge of some evil operation on the island.)
But I digress. After five years, Oliver returns home to Starling City, where he reconnects with his mother, Moira, his younger sister, Thea (played by Willa Holland), and his best friend, Tommy Merlyn. He learns that Moira has remarried, to his father's old friend and business associate, Walter Steele (who now runs Queen Consolidated). Oliver also sort of reconnects with his former girlfriend, Dinah Laurel Lance (who goes by her middle name). While Oliver was on the island, Laurel became a lawyer, working at CNRI (City Necessary Resources Initiative, which seems to take cases for people who can't afford lawyers and prosecute cases that other lawyers won't touch, I guess). The only other person we ever really see at CNRI is Laurel's best friend, Joanna de la Vega. (Though we just see her a few times in season one, maybe once in season two, then never again.) Anyway, things don't go well between Oliver and Laurel at first, because he had been cheating on her with her sister, Sara, who died in the accident. Things are also understandably tense between Oliver and Detective Quentin Lance (Laurel and Sara's father), who blames him for Sara's death. But eventually Laurel and Oliver reestablish a somewhat awkward friendship.
While Tommy helps Oliver get back into his old spoiled rich playboy lifestyle, Oliver has secret plans to right certain wrongs in his city. Before his father died, he confessed to Oliver that he'd done terrible things, at the expense of many people in Starling City. And Robert Queen was not the only one who did so: much of the city's corruption is perpetrated by various people on a list that Robert gave to his son. Now Oliver, who spent the past five years honing his skills in things like archery and hand-to-hand combat, becomes a vigilante, fighting against the people on his father's list. (So far, his alter ego isn't called "Green Arrow"; people just call him "the vigilante" or "the hood guy.") But before Oliver even begins his vendetta, he's abducted from some mooks in masks, though he easily escapes from them. (And it's clear that he'll kill anyone he has to, to protect his secret identity, so he's not exactly a "hero." Though he does prefer not to kill anyone, unless he deems it necessary.) The abduction incident leads to his mother hiring a bodyguard named John Diggle to accompany Oliver wherever he goes, though Oliver's pretty good at ditching him when he needs to. Of course, Detective Lance will have to try to stop the unknown vigilante. And by the end of the first episode, we learn that Moira Queen was behind her son's abduction. So clearly, she's got some dark secrets of her own.
Eventually, Diggle learns that Oliver is the vigilante, and starts working with him on his secret mission to clean up the city, but also tries to act as a sort of moral compass for him. There's also an IT girl at Queen Consolidated named Felicity Smoak. Oliver sometimes goes to her for help with cases he's working on, always with some ridiculous cover story about what he needs her help for. Eventually she also finds out he's the vigilante (which doesn't surprise her, because she's not an idiot), and begins helping him. Actually, she had also helped Walter with his own investigations into certain matters which happen to tie into a major conspiracy involving Robert's death, and all the names on Oliver's list. Because he was looking into this, he is abducted, and Felicity only agrees to help Oliver and Diggle until they can rescue Walter. (They finally do, but Felicity keeps working with them.) And eventually they learn that Moira is involved in something called "the Undertaking," though Oliver doesn't want to believe that. He kind of has no choice, but until he figures out what the Undertaking is, he tells Diggle that his mother is off limits for their investigation. Meanwhile, Moira (still unaware that her son is the vigilante) wants to get out of the whole thing. Which is complicated by another member of the group, Malcolm Merlyn... Tommy's father (played by John Barrowman).
And... there's a lot of other stuff going on. While Oliver was on the island, Thea became a party girl, and her life is pretty much a mess, and her relationship with her brother and mother becomes strained. And Tommy starts dating Laurel. And Laurel sometimes helps the vigilante (who she doesn't realize is Oliver), or asks for his help, which makes her relationship with her father more strained than it already was. Oh, and Oliver opens a nightclub called Verdant in an abandoned factory his family owned, below which he makes a secret headquarters for his vigilante work. Also, he gives Tommy a job as manager of his club, when Malcolm cuts him off financially. (It seems like there's no such thing as a family without strained relationships, on this show.) And I need to mention that Diggle had a brother named Andy, who had been killed by a man named Floyd Lawton (aka Deadshot). Andy's widow, Carly, works as a waitress at Big Belly Burger, where Diggle and Oliver sometimes eat. And everyone keeps telling Diggle that Carly is romantically interested in him, so he should ask her out. Which he is reluctant to do. (Personally I'm squicked out by the idea of a guy dating his sister-in-law, so I don't know why everyone he knows thinks it's a good idea.) And eventually Thea starts dating a petty thief named Roy Harper, who lives in the Glades (an underprivileged section of Starling City). At one point the vigilante saves his life, so Roy becomes obsessed with finding him, in the hopes the vigilante will teach him to be like him. And eventually Oliver learns that the Undertaking is a plan to destroy the Glades, which Malcolm wants to do because his wife had been murdered there. And of course I'm leaving out some details, to avoid too many spoilers.
Throughout season two, we'll see more flashbacks to the island. (Or maybe a couple of different islands, I forget.) Oliver was still stranded there with Slade and Shado, though they had defeated Fyers at the end of season one's flashbacks (though Yao-Fei had died). But this season, a new enemy shows up, a man named Anthony Ivo, who's searching for a drug called Mirakuru that had been developed during World War II. (Mirakuru gives people great strength, but it also drives them mad.) Ivo had a ship called the Amazo, and one of the people on that ship was Sara Lance (which was of course a shock to Oliver, who thought she was dead). She was working for Ivo, but she eventually joins Ollie, Slade, and Shado, to try and stop Ivo. Anyway, Slade eventually gets injected with the Mirakuru... and something else happens that makes him hate Oliver. But I don't want to spoil that. I suppose I should mention that Oliver befriended a Russian named Anatoli Knyazev, who was one of several prisoners on the Amazo. I think this is how Oliver came to be involved with the Bratva (Russian mafia), which had provided him with some help a few times in season one.
In the present, Oliver is feeling terrible for having basically failed to save the city. I don't want to say too much about that, but I will say that Tommy died at the end of season one. So Ollie took some time away, but Diggle and Felicity convince him to come back, mainly to try to stop Isabel Rochev (played by Summer Glau) from taking over Queen Consolidated. But of course he also goes back to being a vigilante (now called "the Arrow"). He's done with his father's list, but there are always plenty of other villains to fight. But this time, he vows not to do any more killing. Meanwhile, Oliver befriends an alderman named Sebastian Blood, who eventually runs for mayor of Starling. And Roy finally starts working with the Arrow (he eventually takes on the code name "Arsenal"). And in an ironic turn of events, Laurel turns against the Arrow, but her father eventually starts working with him, to some extent (though he doesn't know it's Oliver). Also, Laurel is no longer at CNRI, but becomes an assistant D.A. And Quentin has been demoted from detective to officer, but toward the end of the season he's reinstated as a detective. Oh, and Roy has a friend named Sin, a girl who turns out to have a connection to a new vigilante in town (the Black Canary, or maybe just "the Canary")... who we eventually learn is actually Sara Lance. Which is surprising, because everyone thought she had died when the Queens' boat sank, six years ago. Everyone except Oliver, of course. He did think she was dead, I guess, but he also knew that she hadn't died quite that long ago. So he's still surprised that she's alive, and that sometime after her second supposed death (at the end of this season's flashbacks), she had joined the League of Assassins, which explains why she's now such a badass. In the present, she wasn't planning on joining the Arrow and his team, but she eventually does. And she and Ollie renew their relationship (at least sexually, though I don't think either of them feels that an actual romantic relationship is possible for people in their line of work). Also this season, we meet another member of the League of Assassins, Nyssa al Ghul (who had been Sara's lover, and is the daughter of the League's leader, Ra's al Ghul).
I also want to mention Lyla Michaels. We'd actually seen a bit of her in season 1, and a bit more of her in season 2. She's an agent of a secret group called A.R.G.U.S., as well as being Diggle's ex-wife. Digg, btw, had ended up dating Carly in season 1, but the relationship ended this season, I guess. And he sort of reunites with Lyla, though they don't see much of each other. ARGUS is run by a woman named Amanda Waller, who knows all about the Arrow and his team. So, um... ARGUS sometimes sort of helps them, and sometimes sort of forces one or more of the team to help ARGUS; but it can also be a threat to them, at times. Also this season we learn that Malcolm Merlyn is still alive, though he supposed died at the end of season 1. And he was a member of the League of Assassins, though they now want him dead, so he mostly stays in hiding. But we also learn... something even more shocking about him, which I won't spoil (at least not until season 3). And at some point this season, Thea starts running Verdant, and gives Roy a job there. Though he keeps secrets from her (mainly that he's working with the Arrow), so there will be strain in their relationship. And eventually Roy gets injected with Mirakuru, which leads to even more problems for everyone. There are a number of villains-of-the-week, of course, but there's also a new season-long story arc which involves several people working together. It also involves Mirakuru. One villain is a guy in a creepy mask, called Brother Blood (who viewers learn long before the heroes do, is actually Sebastian Blood). But he's really just a pawn of the season's true villain, Slade Wilson (who is now called Deathstroke, at least by ARGUS). He has a master plan to get revenge against Oliver for what happened on the island. Also this season, Arrow's team is briefly joined by a young forensic cop from Central City, named Barry Allen. He and Felicity develop potential romantic feelings for each other, but he returns home... and then an explosion puts him in a coma. (Next season this leads to a spin-off series, The Flash, and there will be more crossovers between the shows.)
So, um... lots of other stuff happens that I don't want to get into, but I should say that after this season, we won't be seeing Moira again. And Arrow's team had some contact with S.T.A.R. Labs in Central City, where a cure was developed for the Mirakuru. And... man, I feel bad about all the important stuff I'm leaving out. But ultimately Slade's plans are foiled, and he's imprisoned in a secret facility ARGUS has on Lian Yu.
At the end of last season, the flashbacks showed Oliver arriving in Hong Kong, which is where most of this season's flashbacks are set. Amanda Waller forces him to work for ARGUS, and to become a torturer. She also assigns him a handler named Maseo Yamashiro. Oliver also meets Maseo's wife, Tatsu (who in the comics is known as "Katana"), and their young son, Akio. One of the enemies Oliver and Maseo will face is Chien Na Wei, aka "China White" (played by Kelly Hu), a Triad assassin who had been (would be) an adversary a few times in seasons one and two, in Starling City. In this season's flashbacks, she steals a bioweapon, a super-virus called the Alpha and Omega. The virus is later obtained by a U.S. Army general named Matthew Shrieve, whom Oliver, Maseo, and Tatsu will have to try to stop from releasing the virus.
In the present, Quentin Lance has been promoted to captain. Queen Consolidated is acquired by a businessman/scientist named Ray Palmer, who renames the company "Palmer Technologies" (or adds it to the already extant Palmer Technologies, I forget). He eventually reveals to Felicity that he's developing an exo-suit that he could wear to become a superhero (the ATOM), and he wants her help designing it. She's reluctant at first, but eventually she helps him. And at some point, Ray makes Felicity vice president of Palmer Technologies. And they start dating. Early in the season, Sara is killed, and for some time there will be an ongoing mystery as to who did it. Lyla and Diggle have a baby, whom they name Sara. Also, last season Laurel had learned that Oliver was the Arrow, and that Sara was the Canary. Now she wants to avenge Sara's death, and she starts training to replace her as the Canary (against Oliver's wishes). She learns to fight from a boxer named Ted Grant, who used to be a vigilante, himself (in the comics he's "Wildcat"). For most of the season, Laurel hides the fact of Sara's death from her father, because he had heart trouble, and she thought the news might kill him. Also last season, Thea had left town with Malcolm Merlyn, who she had learned was actually her father (he'd had an affair with Moira, years ago). Now she's in Corto Maltese, where he's been training her to become a fighter (mostly with a sword). But Oliver finds her, and convinces her to return to Starling City. Eventually we learn who was responsible for Sara's death. I don't want to spoil that, but it leads to the major conflict of the season, against Ra's al Ghul. Halfway through the season, Oliver travels to Nanda Parbat, where the League of Assassins is headquartered, to fight Ra's to the death. And Oliver loses, which makes for a very dramatic cliffhanger before the midseason hiatus.
When the season resumes, Oliver's allies back in Starling are fearful that he may be dead, but they do their best to carry on the work of protecting the city, in his absence. For a few episodes, a major villain is Danny 'Brick' Brickwell (Vinnie Jones), who turns out to have an important connection to one character's backstory, which I don't want to spoil. Meanwhile, in Nanda Parbat, Oliver is rescued by Maseo, who is now a member of the League. He brings him to Tatsu (from whom Maseo is separated), and she nurses him back to health. He later returns to Starling City. He reveals to Thea that he is the Arrow, news that she takes better than he expected her to. Merlyn begins working with Oliver's team, though they all still hate him. But his knowledge of the League is necessary, if they're going to defeat Ra's. Quentin finally learns that Sara is dead, which leads to a rift between him and Laurel, as well as a return to his original desire to stop the Arrow's vigilantism. Also this season, Diggle and Lyla remarry. Eventually, we learn that Ra's is centuries old, because of the Lazarus Pit, which contains rejuvenating waters. But that can't last forever; he's not the first Ra's al Ghul, and he won't be the last. Since Oliver survived a battle that should have killed him, Ra's wants him to become his successor to the title. Oliver refuses, so Ra's and the League frame the Arrow for crimes that make him a pariah in Starling. The ATOM tries to apprehend the Arrow, but Oliver convinces him he was framed, and Ray starts working with team Arrow. Eventually, Quentin arrests Oliver, but then Arsenal dresses as the Arrow, so he's arrested and Oliver is released. While in prison, Roy fakes his death, and later leaves Starling to assume a new identity, elsewhere. With everyone believing the Arrow/Roy Harper is dead, Oliver can't, you know... be the Arrow, anymore. And he eventually goes back to Nanda Parbat and assumes the name Al Sah-him, training to become the next Ra's. This leads to conflict between Oliver and his (former) team. But there is a happy ending (with a couple of exceptions). And... I want to avoid saying exactly how the season ends, at least until next season.
This season's flashbacks begin with Amanda Waller forcing Oliver to return to Lian Yu, to infiltrate some sort of paramilitary group that's up to no good. There's not much I can say about that, as yet.
In the present, Starling City has been renamed Star City. This is something Ray Palmer had suggested in season 3 (and it's what the city had always been named, in the comics). I guess it finally happened between seasons, as a way to honor Palmer, who had (apparently) died at the end of the season. Also near the end of the season, Oliver and Felicity had begun dating, and in the finale they moved away. Felicity is now the CEO of Palmer Technologies, which I guess she's been running through teleconferences, or whatever. So... it's an interesting reversal that she's now the one with money, as the head of the company that used to belong to Oliver's family. While they've been gone, Diggle, Thea, and Laurel have continued operating as vigilantes in Star City. (Thea calls herself "Red Arrow," though I guess she's still sometimes called by Oliver's old nickname for her, "Speedy." Diggle doesn't have a code name yet.) But things have been getting harder for both the vigilantes and the police, as a group of criminals called the Ghosts have proven virtually unstoppable. They've also been killing off many of the political leaders of the city, including anyone who dares to run for mayor. The Ghosts are led by Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), a former member of the League of Assassins, whom Ra's had mentioned last season. Laurel and Thea contact Oliver and ask for his help, though Diggle isn't happy about this. (Oliver had done something last season that I won't spoil, but it caused Diggle to stop trusting him.) But Diggle accepts his help, grudgingly. (And it turns out that Felicity had been helping the team all along, while she and Oliver were gone.) Their return to Star City was supposed to be temporary, but when Oliver saw how bad things had gotten, he decided to stay. And he began calling himself "Green Arrow," to preserve the public's belief that Roy Harper had been the original Arrow. Though Captain Lance knows the truth, and he is not happy about Oliver being back. However, he has a secret of his own: he's been working with Damien Darhk. He's not happy about this, but he seems to have little choice.
Oliver soon becomes concerned about Thea's excessively aggressive behavior, a side effect of something that happened last season, which I guess I hadn't mentioned. Ra's had nearly killed Thea at one point, and she would have died of her wound, but she was healed by the Lazarus Pit. At the end of the season, Oliver finally killed Ra's, but instead of taking the title of Ra's al Ghul himself, he allowed Malcolm to claim the title. This season, Laurel and Thea return to Nanda Parbat, seeking advice on how Thea might deal with her aggression. Malcolm tells her she'll only be able to temporarily quell her bloodlust, by periodically killing someone. She is understandably quite upset about that. But also, Laurel brought Sara's body with them, wanting to bring her back to life with the Lazarus Pit. Malcolm refused at first, because it had never been used to resurrect someone who was actually dead, and he said whatever came back- if it worked at all- would not really be Sara. But he eventually agrees, and Laurel and Thea bring Sara back to Star City, though she has no memory of who she is, and acts with absolute aggression. So they chain her up in Laurel's basement, and the only one they tell is Quentin, who is disturbed by this.
Also this season, Diggle figures out that Damien Darhk is actually the head of a group called H.I.V.E, which had been responsible for the murder of his brother. And Oliver decides to run for mayor, and his campaign headquarters is the former headquarters of Sebastian Blood. (Which is convenient, because it comes with a secret underground lair, which Team Arrow was in need of after their last lair was compromised.) And there's a tech guy at Palmer Technologies named Curtis Holt, with whom Felicity begins working closely. (It's kind of a neat twist that she starts out asking him for help with things for Team Arrow without revealing what it's really about, just the way Oliver used to ask her for help while lying about the reasons, back in season one.) It's not long before Curtis learns that Felicity is working with Green Arrow, though so far he hasn't learned his identity.
Unfortunately, part way through the season, I had to stop watching the show, so I have no idea when I'll be able to update my review.