Random Musings: A midseason look at Arrow

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Arrow season 2 promo poster

Arrow (Wednesdays at 8 on the CW), now in its second season, stars Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen, the once ne’er-do-well scion of the Queen Consolidated business empire.

In the first season, Oliver returned to Starling City five years after he was believed lost at sea when his father’s yacht, the Queen’s Gambit, sank. Instead, Oliver spent that time struggling to survive on a hostile island.

Upon coming home, he embarked on a mission to go after the (usually powerful) people “poisoning” his city. He does this cloaked in a green hood and using the archery skills he learned on the island. In this guise, he is known either as “The Hood” or “The Arrow.”
Oliver Queen in his vigilante persona

(Oliver Queen in his vigilante persona. Photo courtesy the CW.)

Arrow is inspired by the DC Comics character Green Arrow, who first appeared in 1941. However, it’s not necessary to know anything about Green Arrow, or comics in general, to enjoy the series.

In the comics, Oliver was marooned for three months and learned archery by necessity, to hunt game. In Arrow, he not only spent five years on the island, but he also had to contend with some very bad people. Survival involved more than not starving to death.

As with both Highlander and Forever Knight (and in a somewhat different way with Lost), most episodes have a flashback “B” plot that complements the “A” plot. These glimpses of Oliver’s time on the island show, among other things, how those experiences changed and matured the once callow youth.

Oliver had intended to carry out his mission on his own, but circumstances led to others, including his bodyguard, John Diggle, (David Ramsey); Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), an employee of Queen Consolidated’s IT department; and his best friend, Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell), learning his secret.

Tommy died at the end of the first season, killed in an attack orchestrated by his own father, Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman). The senior Merlyn set off a device that generated an earthquake in the Glades, a poorer section of town. His stated motivation was revenge for the murder of his wife some years earlier.
Sacrifice

(Oliver Queen battles Malcolm Merlyn. Photo courtesy the CW.)

Oliver’s mother, Moira (Susanna Thompson), was part of Malcolm’s cabal. However, she acted out of fear for her daughter, Thea (Willa Holland), her second husband, Walter Steele (Colin Salmon), and, when he proved to still be alive, Oliver himself. Last season, Moira secretly orchestrated an unsuccessful assassination plot against Malcolm. Ironically, Oliver foiled it.

Moira Queen went on trial for her part in the attack on the Glades (she’d held a news conference, warning everyone of Malcolm’s plans). She was acquitted, but her acquittal was rigged. By Malcolm Merlyn, who, contrary to what Oliver still believes, didn’t die in a confrontation between the two.

Malcolm’s out of the picture for the time being. Moira had informed an organization called The League of Assassins, who have a grudge against him, that he was still alive and in town. So Malcolm’s decided to go elsewhere.

But I’m sure he’ll return. He may even carry out his threat to reveal to Thea that he, not the late Robert Queen, is her father.

Meanwhile, Moira has decided to run for mayor, urged by both Thea and her now ex-husband, Walter.

The other candidate is Sebastian Blood (Kevin Alejandro), an alderman who has befriended Oliver.

He is also “Brother Blood”, a key member of an undercover cult.

Oliver’s former girlfriend, Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), knows the truth, but Blood discredited her. And Laurel’s being in a self-destructive spiral after losing her job in the district attorney’s office hasn’t helped her case, either. Even Oliver doubts her.

In the comics, Brother Blood first appeared in The New Teen Titans in 1982 as the head of the Church of Blood, based in the hostile nation of Zandia. Among other things, he sought to discredit the Titans in the media. Thanks to a TV reporter acolyte.
Brother Blood

Unlike his comics counterpart, the “Brother Blood” of Arrow isn’t the head of a church. He also works for someone else. An old friend of Oliver’s.

Like I said, you don’t need to know anything about comics to enjoy Arrow, but those familiar with DC Comics have probably noticed that several comics-related elements (such as Brother Blood) have been “recast.”

Which is fine. Comics are, in many ways, our modern mythology; and myths can be reworked to suit their intended audiences.

Some examples: In Arrow, Felicity Smoak is in her 20s. In the comics she was older, the head of a software company, and later the stepmother of Ronnie Raymond, half of the hero Firestorm’s composite persona.

Then there are the partnerships Green Arrow has had. In the comics, Dinah Laurel Lance is the second Black Canary (her mother (played by Alex Kingston in Arrow) was the first) and she’s traditionally been in a relationship with Green Arrow.

But the Laurel of Arrow is in no condition to be Black Canarying. And the current Black Canary (just called “Canary” in Arrow) is Laurel’s younger sister, Sara (Caity Lotz), believed lost when the Queen’s Gambit sank.
The Canary and the Arrow

(Sara Lance and Oliver Queen as the Canary and the Arrow. Photo courtesy the CW.)

It seems clear that after filming the pilot, the creative team changed their minds about Sara dying. First, she was played by a different actress in the pilot, Second, in that same episode, Oliver told Laurel that if he could trade places with Sara, he would.

Early in season two, we discovered that at some point in his second year on the island Oliver learned that Sara had survived. Though he did believe, until recently, that she’d since died. He later admitted to Felicity and Diggle that he let the Lances believe she’d drowned because it was better than their knowing some of the things she’d done in the interim. Thus, if Oliver (and the Arrow writers) had known that Sara survived the sinking of the Queen’s Gambit, it’s doubtful he’d have made the trading places comment.

    When he disappeared, Oliver was having an affair with Sara, so neither Laurel nor her father, Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne), was pleased to see him when he returned. 

   Last season, Quentin Lance was determined to catch the Arrow, going so far as to use Laurel as bait. However, after the Arrow warned him about Malcolm Merlyn’s plans, Lance (busted down to patrolman because of his communication with the Arrow) has started to become a supporter. 

   The Lance family now knows that Sara is still alive, though Laurel hasn’t taken her sister’s return very well. 

   Green Arrow had a young sidekick named Roy Harper (AKA Speedy). In Arrow, “Speedy” is the nickname Oliver gave Thea years earlier. And she’s in a relationship with a “bad boy” named Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) who’s been inspired by the Arrow to help others.
Titans #54

    On the island, Oliver joined forces with Australian intelligence agent Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett). Wilson was betrayed by a fellow agent named Wintergreen. In the comics, Wilson was an American one-eyed mercenary and assassin called the Terminator (full name Deathstroke the Terminator), who first appeared in New Teen Titans #2 in 1980. Wintergreen was his butler and ally. In a confrontation in Arrow last season, Wilson stabbed Wintergreen in the eye because of Wintergreen’s betrayal. At the time, I thought that maybe Wintergreen (assuming he survived) would be the Terminator in Arrow. He was listed in the credits as “Deathstroke” after all. 

   Turns out I was wrong. Brother Blood’s boss was revealed as Slade Wilson, sporting an eye patch and a goatee, like his comics counterpart.  

  Oliver believes Slade is dead. Slade, for his part, now views Oliver as an enemy. He’s promised to tear everything Oliver cares about away from him.
Terminator plots his next move

(“Terminator” plots his next move. Photo courtesy the CW.)

    I don’t know why Slade Wilson has been called “Deathstroke” instead of “Terminator” in recent years (the “Deathstroke” part of his full name rarely got a mention in the 80s and early 90s; now it seems the “Terminator” part never gets a mention). It can’t have anything to do with the Terminator movies, as the character pre-dates them by four years. I’ll continue to call him “Terminator.” 

   In the comics, Wilson was a soldier who volunteered for an experiment that resulted in his gaining increased strength and extraordinary reflexes. In Arrow, a critically injured Slade was injected with a chemical called Mirakuru, originally created by the Japanese during World War II, in a desperate gamble to save his life. Mirakuru gives enhanced strength (to those few who survive), but can also cause drastic personality changes.
Slade, Oliver and Sara

(On the island, a Mirakuru-affected Slade Wilson threatens Oliver as Sara watches. Photo courtesy the CW.).

    Brother Blood recently injected Roy with Mirakuru. Roy survived and Oliver is determined to help him, having failed with Slade (Though we’ve yet to see how these events unfolded, we know that Oliver cost Slade his eye. He presumably also believes Slade died at the same time).  

  Near the end of the episode “Tremors”, Oliver was forced to reveal his true identity to an enraged Roy in order to get him to focus on helping Oliver stop the activation of another earthquake machine, which would have killed thousands, including Thea.
Tremors

(The Arrow trains Roy Harper to control his anger. Photo courtesy the CW.)

    If you’re a comics fan and you like well-written, compelling storylines, you’ll probably enjoy Arrow.
    If you’re a not a comics fan and you like well-written, compelling storylines, you’ll probably enjoy Arrow.

Copyright 2014 Patrick Keating

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