Arrow had a lot to prove after its first season. While there were certainly some high points, it was mostly a copy of Batman Begins, scarcely paying homage to either Batman or the Green Arrow comics. The second season, along with dramatically improved the quality and storytelling, set a high benchmark for not only other comic book shows, but as a strong season of television.
There’s no point beating around the bush, this season was all about Slade (Manu Bennett). Deathstroke, the Terminator is one of DC’s best villains when utilized well. This is hands down the best portrayal of the character, in any medium, since The Judas Contract (New Teen Titans, 1984). Initially, Bennett was inline with the rest of Arrow’s casting; could be good, but seemed a little off. Once Slade was shown in present day, not as Deathstroke, just as Slade, it was obvious that Bennett was perfectly cast. His reveal, replete with eye patch, grey hair, and goatee, was chilling. Still, Slade’s introduction was earned as the season built up to not only his reveal, but his plan.
Slade aside, the writers continued to introduce elements more true to Green Arrow. The first was Black Canary, who was thankfully not Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy). Laurel’s sister, Sarah (Caity Lotz), returned from the dead, embodying the wig wearing warrior (heh). Her background changes were fine, allowing her to work in this world. Instead of her sonic scream, she used grenades that would generate the glass shattering pulse. A smart concession.
A variety of comic elements were included, each one translated successfully to live action. Sebastian Blood (Kevin Alejandro) was a worth pawn, but sadly we won’t see him as his truly menacing Brother Blood incarnation, maybe. Summer Glau was a great addition, if only slightly underutilized. Nyssa al Ghul (Katrina Law), Dr. Anthony Ivo (Dylan Neal) – aboard the Amazo no less, the frequent mention of Kord Industries, Solomon Grundy, Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes), Dollmaker (Michael Eklund), Clock King (Robert Knepper), Channel 52, and even a mention of Jean Loring (Teryl Rothery) were all present in varying capacities, each successful. They even acquired a better looking wig for China White (Kelly Hu). Of every DC name drop, the best was easily Barry Allen (Grant Gustin).
Looking at him initially, Gustin didn’t seem to fit the character, physically. In his two-part establishing episodes, Grant nailed the role of Barry, showcasing what makes the character fun. Originally, Barry was set to return in the 20th episode of the season as a backdoor pilot for a Flash show. Barry’s introduction was so successful, and popular, the producers nixed these plans, opting to jump straight to series. While there was no resolution to his arc, it worked to build anticipation for his eventual return.
The final major introduction was Amanda Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), A.R.G.U.S., and best of all, the Suicide Squad. Addai-Robinson was effective as Waller, nailing the characterization but not the look. At least not the traditional look, with her design based on the New 52 version (skinny/sexy instead of overweight/intimidating). The Suicide Squad was a mixed bag, though mostly a success. This subplot gave more screen time for Diggle (David Ramsey), while building an interesting relationship with Deadshot (Michael Rowe). The only weak part was Shrapnel (Sean Maher), who was completely underutilized. Though he did serve a purpose, showing how Waller didn’t play games. Also, a possible Harley Quinn appearance?
Despite the myriad of improvements, a few weaknesses from the original season still remained. The Lances, both Laurel and her father (Paul Blackthorne), are some of the dumbest characters on television. Det. Lance not deducing the Arrow’s identity, even after learning his daughter’s (Canary), along with dating Oliver, is just plan stupid. Laurel is just as bad, coupled with Cassidy’s poor acting, her character was constantly annoying.
As for the rest of the cast, Thea (Willa Holland), Moira (Susanna Thompson), and Roy (Colton Haynes) were all serviceable. Thea was understandably angry and broken, though she’s a bit stupid as well. Moira turned out to be smarter than initially believed. At least someone knew who Oliver was. Her arcs were fine, being on trial and running for mayor, but the switch between the two was unconvincing and clunky. Roy’s arc was fine, though his constant red hoodie was a bit on the nose. Was this a substitute for his drug problems? And Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) was fantastic, given a chance to grow along with providing some of the funniest lines.
Again, Slade was the highlight of the season. His every move was captivating, creating dire straights for the Oliver. Oliver’s welcome and well executed evolution as a hero, vowing not to kill, helped sell Slade. Deathstroke’s plan echoed of Bane’s first appearance in Batman, though this was better executed. The buildup across two seasons, ruthlessness in his plan, aesthetics, and foreboding presence was superb. His return, playing against how his first encounter with Oliver ended, was poetic. Wisely he was left alive. It would have been a waste to kill him.
The second season of Arrow was phenomenal. Not only did they correct many of the nagging issues from the first season, but blew the doors off with quality. Hopefully they didn’t waste their best ammo too early. With reality broken, adding superpowers, the sky’s the limit.
What was your favorite moment? Did Slade give you chills? Comment below.
Seriously, Slade, wow.