Arrow Season 2 Episode 1 Review: City of Heroes

The latest episode of Arrow is heavy on character and light on action. And it still works out just fine. Here's Mike's review...

This Arrow review contains spoilers for season 2.

Arrow Season 2, Episode 1

“City of Blood” is not an action-packed episode of Arrow, nor is it particularly heavy on DC Comics references. It’s a talky, glacially paced (well, for a superhero show) piece of television full of teary goodbyes and lingering, meaningful looks. And surprisingly enough, I loved nearly every minute of it. Fair warning, there are actual spoilers also contained in this review.

I could almost leave this review at that paragraph, couldn’t I? Stripped of everything that is generally billed as a big attraction on Arrow (the fights, which weren’t completely absent, the DCU easter eggs, the complete lack of a shirtless Stephen Amell scene etc), “City of Blood” still gets the job done. I’m not sure who to congratulate first. Director, Michael Schultz? First time (that I can tell, at least) Arrow scripter, Holly Harold? The entire cast?

Could I have done without the strange musical mash-up of Moira’s funeral with Sebastian Blood’s inauguration? Yes. It was a pretty ham-handed juxtaposition and an awkward way to open an episode. It set off alarm bells. Sometimes, it’s good to be wrong…

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I often spend these reviews (and the comments) speculating heavily on what bit of trivia was hidden in the background, how this might pay off in terms of future masked adventurers, and other bits of general nerdery. Not tonight. “City of Blood” quietly goes about its business of dealing with the repercussions of, not just last episode, but pretty much every episode since “Deathstroke” (if not all the way back to “Suicide Squad” or “The Promise”). An episode like this wouldn’t have been possible in season one, or even in the first half of season two. And while I complained that much of “Seeing Red” simply felt like marking time before that big ending, I can’t think of anything I would jettison from “City of Blood.”

Just to hit a few of the high points: the unmitigated arrogance of Isabel to show up at Moira’s funeral. Wow. Felicity and Diggle’s reaction to that was priceless.

It’s nice to see Laurel once again fully in command of her faculties, her destiny, and whatever else. I still feel her arc this season was uneven, compressed, and generally a little too much, too soon, but it’s nice to have Katie Cassidy on screen and not be annoyed by her. Her pep talk to Oliver was terrific, but the best part was her pivot from being a concerned friend appealing to his better nature to being a coach at halftime with a “get angry and get even” speech. By far, I’d have to call this Laurel’s best moment of the season.

Oliver and Thea’s goodbye was a total home run. I’ve often had issues with how some of Ollie’s relationships on the show (familial and otherwise) are portrayed, and some took time to really grow. But Thea and Oliver was something I always bought and accepted wholeheartedly, all the way back to the pilot episode. For a scene that could have been awfully saccharine if written or played the wrong way, I think they really nailed this. Great stuff.

Oliver’s death wish felt real enough, and I was genuinely unsure of what he was going to do in a few scenes. His appearance at Blood’s table (“Hello, Sebastian. May I join you for dinner?” is a season highlight) was a fun, quick shock. Kevin Alejandro and Stephen Amell have played off each other so well all season long, and this was no exception. Blood shoots Ollie a really nice “unhinged” look before he composes himself as they sit there exchanging threats.

There’s even more! Diggle’s smile at Sebastian’s bodyguard in the elevator, followed by Felicity’s “Hi. I’ll be your interrogator” might also make the season highlight reel for me. For all the pyrotechnics this show is capable of, they’ve really done a remarkable job of building these characters up, and when they’re written right, it shows. 

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I have two relatively minor complaints. Unless I missed something, was Roy’s name even mentioned at all this episode? Seems like a pretty big point to just bury. (Correction courtesy of Farray in the comments…I was clearly not as attentive as I usually am)

Also, the whole “using the mirakuru army to soften up the city to make it more easy to rule” reminds me a little of some League of Assassins holdover from Batman Begins or The Dark Knight Rises. But the scope of the army and the plan now that it’s in motion sure does look large enough, and next week should be pretty intense.

Also, and this doesn’t fall under the heading of “complaint” but I AM a little worried. Did Oliver giving that “the essence of heroism is to die so that others can live” speech to Felicity about the nature of heroism seal her doom this season? I hope not. It could apply to SO MANY characters, though. Should we start an Arrow dead pool for the season finale, or what?

With no Black Canary, Roy Harper, or Deathstroke to be found, and precious little actual Green Arrow in costume time, “City of Blood” still feels like an indispensable piece of this season’s mythology. Well done. It’s getting harder and harder to imagine what things will be like at the start of season three. They won’t be able to hit the rest button so easily.

Meanwhile, on an island…

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Who the heck is Peter? He’s the fella played by Seth Rogerson who has often been the voice of reason with the castaways, and who gives Oliver his heroic speech before volunteering to steer a torpedo to his imminent doom. Is there a greater significance to this character that I’m missing? Or is he just, y’know, a good guy who doesn’t necessarily have to be from the pages of a comic in order to be good and/or interesting. 

Do you see what comics have done to my brain?

DC Universe Watchtower

ummmmm…other than the obvious (Hello, Ravager!) I got nuthin’ this week. For a minute I thought that the ARGUS tech patches looked like Brother Eye, but I was wrong. So, how about I ask you all some questions, and maybe you can help me out!

– I repeat: who is Peter? Anyone?

– I couldn’t catch Sebastian’s bodyguard’s name, no matter how hard I tried. They say the hearing is the first thing to go. 

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UPDATE: Sebastian’s bodyguard is Clinton Hogue, a Brother Blood associate in recent New 52 issues of Animal Man (thanks, Farray!)

– Is the satellite model number that Felicity mentions to the folks at ARGUS significant? I couldn’t quite figure that one out, either.

See you all next week for “Streets of Fire.” Something tells me this one won’t be as quiet!

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Rating:

4 out of 5