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Comics Alliance Recaps ‘Arrow’ Episode 2.1: City of Heroes

The CW’s superhero series Arrow re-imagines Green Arrow for a TV audience as a tough, often ruthless vigilante bent on setting things right in his home of Starling City by punishing the wicked. ComicsAlliance’s Matt Wilson will be following along to see how he fares.

This week, Ollie makes an important decision about his vigilantism methods, a business fight breaks out, and nobody plays any MMORPGs, no matter what the episode title is.

Previously: A neighborhood died and so did Tommy Merlyn. Oliver Queen cried about one of them.

This season opens on a callback to the beginning of the pilot all the way back in the long, long ago, but instead of an Oliver Queen that looks sort of like a hobo Robin Hood running through the woods on Purgatory, this time, it’s a short-haired, very shirtless Ollie who spots a plane flying above Flashback Island (but in the present).

Cut to the rickety old plane, where Dig and Smoak are on a comedy flight with a pilot who doesn’t speak English. I have no idea how they secured this passage, especially with Dig doing nothing but cracking jokes about dying and making guesses at translations, but they eventually get there and parachute down past a shipwreck (foreshadowing!) to Lian Yu, a.k.a. purgatory, a.k.a. the island the budget forgot.

Really, look at this. It’s like they accidentally parachuted onto the set of Land of the Lost.

Dig and Smoak trek through the woods for a while like they’re on a hike at a nature preserve. But then it turns out it’s a nature preserve with land mines and Smoak steps on one. Dig says he’s going to try to disarm it, but Ollie, who’s up in a tree waiting for the perfect moment to interject on this scene of one of his best friends in mortal peril, screams, “You can’t!” Sometimes an entrance trumps safety, I suppose.

Ollie tells Diggle to back away and Smoak not to move. Then, when Dig is maybe two steps back, Ollie swings in on a wire and grabs Smoak off the mine. It blows up and everybody goes flying. You could have waited for Dig to step back a little further, Ollie. You just wanna look cool.

Also, this is not at all how Slade dealt with the mine Ollie stepped on last season. He killed a guy and put his body over the mine. Go find a dead guy, Ollie! There have to be hundreds on that island!

Ollie isn’t big on guests coming, but since they are, he takes Dig and Smoak to his old crashed-plane abode so he can glower at them and only offer water when asked. Why’s he so mad? Because he knows Dig and Smoak want him to come back to Starling City, and he doesn’t want to. You know, how like Bruce Wayne quit being Batman in The Dark Knight Rises? Get ready for a lot of that.

What follows is a lot of people telling each other what they already know: Malcolm Merlyn destroyed The Glades, Tommy Merlyn died, Arrow failed, Moira’s in jail, etc.

There is one bit of new information: Stellmoor International, a company that apparently buys up other companies just to gut them, is after Queen Consolidated. Why would a company buy another, presumably profitable company with 30,000 employees just to shut it down? I don’t know, business?

Flashback Island actually flashes back to five years ago, where Ollie and Slade are sparring with some bamboo sticks. Shado walks in and Ollie stops fighting. Slade smacks him in the face with a stick and says, “LOL, women, am I right” before shuffling off to Buffalo.

Really, though: The dialogue in this scene is just awful. There are even more characters telling each other stuff they already know: How long ago they beat Fyers, that they have a proximity detector, that Proto-Arrow is dead, that they’re stuck on the island. If I had to hear these people exposit around like this every day, I’d just jump in the ocean and end it.

Anyway, they see three guys on the proximity detector (which is also a magic camera, it seems).

In another nod to The Dark Knight Rises, Ollie, Smoak and Dig return to Starling City from a place they seemingly have no passage back from and that it took Ollie five years to leave the first time with no fuss at all. They drive through the still-devastated Glades (HEY, REMEMBER THE PILOT) and Ollie notices a sign for an alderman named Blood.

I know I bag on this show a lot, but if that turns out to be Jason Blood, also known as Etrigan the Demon, I will flip right the f**k out.

Smoak gives Ollie a file full of pictures of Stellmoor’s VP of acquisitions, Isabel Rochev (Summer Glau), a character that debuted in 2010 (by E! News standards, that’s enough to be considered “classic”). Smoak says she looks angry in every picture. Are smirks generally considered an angry expression?

Meanwhile, Thea’s having wild office sex with Roy at Verdant, which she is now running and which still looks like the set from a PBS Kids show. Before things get very far, she finds some scabs or burn marks or something on Roy’s torso and shoves him away on the very spot of his injury, because she’s a sympathetic person. She gives him what-for because he’s been going out and doing some amateur vigilantism. He says he wants to stand up for what’s right “like he did,” and she says “the vigilante” is probably dead and not coming back.

Dramatic Irony Ollie comes in and says he’s back. More exposition: Thea hasn’t visited Moira in prison. She’s mad that her mom played a role in the death of those 500 people for some reason.

Anyway, she runs off to go run this club that she actually seems to be pretty good at running and Ollie hangs around to watch the news. And guess what! It’s a brand new news channel! Starling City got another one! It’s like a dadgum real city now, albeit one that’s obsessed with the number 52 just like everyone at DC Comics is. (Later in the episode, someone mentions 52nd Street. That’s gonna get real old real fast.)

I could complain about how no news channel leaves the anchor’s name up through the whole newscast, but they want people to notice that this is the same anchor and channel from the back matter in DC’s comics, and that’s fine.

Speaking of things fans of other media might recognize: Remember in Nolan’s Batman movies, how officials, like, say, a mayor and a district attorney, would have conversations about vigilantism and Batman’s place in the city’s hierarchy? Well, that’s what happens next, but the conversation and the characters are about 200 times more boring. And instead of being in City Hall offices the characters are in the stairwell of an opera house for some reason.

Also: Remember in the Nolan Batman movies, how Rachel was an assistant DA? Well, Laurel is now, too.

Also also: Remember in the Nolan Batman movies how a whole bunch of copycat Batmen popped up wearing hockey pads and junk? Here, there are copycat Arrows who wear facemasks and shoot people, including the milquetoast mayor, with guns.

I do think it’s rather apropos that Batman’s copycats tried to stop crime, but Arrow’s just kill people.

Laurel has a confrontation with the group, which calls itself “The Hoods,” because everyone in this city is so creative. She holds her own for a bit, but ends up staring down a gun before they run off.

In the aftermath, now-Officer Lance shows up and acts like a detective for a little while, talking to Laurel and the DA while the camera spins around them in a really distracting shot. Eventually, Lance’s boss shows up and dresses him down like he’s about four years old.

Ollie shows up to check on Laurel and also have Piano Music Time with her. She says it was a mistake for them to have that sex they had while Merlyn watched through the window. She feels like she betrayed Merlyn, and now he’s dead. Ollie decides the best way to respond to this is remind Laurel of that time he secretly went on a boat trip with her sister and she died. She responds by hugging him. These seem like the incorrect emotions.

In what we’ll discover are the ruins of a church in the Glades, The Hoods are watching the EXACT SAME NEWSCAST OLLIE WAS WATCHING EARLIER about how Ollie’s back in town. I guess Channel 52 just re-runs the same newscast all day like each DC comic has the same back matter every month. It’s cost-effective, I suppose.

Anyway, The Hoods make a snap judgment to start gunning for Queen on the basis that Queen Consolidated’s applied sciences division built the earthquake machine that destroyed The Glades. I mean, technically it was Unidac Industries that did it, but that was a Queen subsidiary, so that probably holds up under scrutiny.

Ollie arrives at Queen Consolidated’s offices to meet face-to-face with Rochev. She’s feisty right out of the gate, prefacing her plan to buy up the remaining Queen stock with “since you majored in dropping out of college.” I like her. Glau falls into a monotone at times, but in general she’s pretty good.

The Hoods waltz right in there (Didn’t this building have security last season) and start popping off shotgun blasts while everyone but Dig, who’s returning fire, cowers under the table. Smoak knocks one of the Hoods out with a plank and Ollie gets them out of there by crashing through the window, grabbing a chain and bursting through a window on a lower floor. He and Smoak take a breather atop some shards of broken glass.

Another aftermath scene follows, which features yet another weird spinning shot of Officer Lance talking to someone, specifically Smoak. Enough with the spinning, director. We get it.

After the cops are gone, Team Arrow has a big shouting match over whether Ollie should have Arrowed up and taken down the Hoods. Ollie says there’s one big problem with being Arrow, and that’s the body count. He’s been reading these recaps, I guess.

Or maybe he’s upset because Merlyn died and he disapproved of all those murders he was committing. Either way, he doesn’t want to kill anymore and that’s progress. I mean, it’s not like a murderer can take the stand and get off for saying he feels bad and doesn’t want to murder anymore, but it’s certainly a good step for the show.

Flashback Island again. The old team is tracking the three dudes. Shado is wearing the green hood now, so I guess she’s Neo-Proto-Arrow. But it’s only seconds after we learn she’s teaching Ollie Chinese that she gets kidnapped.

Back in the present, Ollie is visiting Moira in Iron Heights prison, which promises the most dimly lit visiting area in the tri-state area. They rehash the whole Glades falling to pieces thing and then talk about the company. Moira says she’s seen the news reports about Ollie coming back to take over the company, but apparently she doesn’t know anything about the takeover or Stellmoor.

I feel like these recaps are turning into a Starling City media criticism column, but seriously, get your act together, Channel 52. That s**t is news!

Anyway, Moira cryptically mentions the money in the banana stand that someone in the family could help out and then we’re off to Verdant. And look who’s here! It’s the Hoods. They start taking hostages, but before it gets very far, Roy rips a prosthetic hand off of one of them and grabs an assault rifle.

Roy has clearly learned a lot from his hero, Arrow, including doing nothing when something terrible is happening. The Hoods just kind of casually walk out with Thea and Roy stands there.

A little while later, Ollie comes in and gets briefed by Officer Lance. Luckily, the camera doesn’t spin around and make me dizzy. Ollie makes a really suspicious comment about how he’s “gonna check something downstairs.” He heads down to the Arrowcave with Dig and Smoak. She flips a switch to reveal the Brand New, Advanced Arrowcave, which includes computer vanity lights and a display case for his costume.

I talked last season about how impractical it was to have a vigilante crime-fighting headquarters in the basement of a busy night club. This does not seem to rectify that at all. We’ve already had scares involving people nearly going down there, because it’s seriously just the basement. Now we have the Arrow costume on full display, for anyone who comes in to see. This wasn’t all that well thought-out, is what I’m saying.

Also, I miss the constantly running water coming from nowhere. That was a nice, weird, nonsensical touch.

Ollie tells Smoak to look for a guy with a maimed hand, and somehow she finds the one guy who fits that profile. Seems like there would be more. Turns out his hand got messed up in the Glades earthquake, which also killed his wife. Team Arrow checks his phone records and discover he’s part of a support group for people who lost loved ones in the disaster.

Ollie decides it’s time to go kick some bereaved butt, and Smoak unveils the new bow she had made for him. Not to rain on their parade or anything, but wouldn’t something like that be pretty easy to trace? I mean, how many super-expensive, custom-made bows are there in the city? Probably not as many as there are guys with injured hands, right?

Another flashback. A sort of pirate-looking guy is asking Shado where “the graves” are (I pray that isn’t foreshadowing Justice League villain Mr. Graves). He hits her and threatens her with a knife, so Ollie prudently bashes his skull in with a rock.

In the show’s other ladies-be-gettin’-kidnapped plot, Thea’s being held captive at that old, effed-up church. After some debate, the Hoods decide to kill her, but Arrow shows up in the nick of time to stop it. Arrow and the Hoods have a brief goofy sound effects battle (the punches sound like weird slaps) that ends with Arrow shooting one of them in the arm in a way that leaves the guy hanging off a ledge. He actually saves the guy from dying, and that’s a big deal. He leaves them chained up to a wall like Spider-Man does, talks to Officer Lance for a second and shoots a zipline arrow at nothing at all to make his exit.

I love it when this show wears its superhero goofiness on its sleeve and doesn’t try to hide it under bad melodrama. More of this, please.

Actually, what follows is even goofier: A scene that takes place in a cemetery that’s full of nothing but earthquake victims.

You mean to tell me none of these people had already bought burial plots? And that the city just happened to have this graveyard space ready to go? It’s as silly as can be. It has to be on purpose, right?

Ollie’s visiting Merlyn’s grave (“Hey, should we put this Merlyn kid in his family mausoleum? That’s what he’d probably want, but he died in the earthquake, so in the ground he goes, fellas”) when Laurel shows up. There’s more Piano Musicing. They decide not to date. Far more interestingly, Laurel reveals she’s got a vendetta against Arrow. She blames him, at least in part, for Merlyn’s death. So now SHE’s Harry Osborn.

At Iron Heights, Thea is finally visiting Moira. They don’t say much of consequence, but they kind of reconcile and hug at the end. It cuts away before the guard can say “No touching” and Moira can ask for an ice cream sandwich. (Really looking forward to all the Arrested Development jokes that will come of this. Hope you are, too.)

Ollie’s having another big pow-wow with Rochev, who clearly hasn’t prepared her lines as well this time around. All she’s got for this meeting is, “Poverty isn’t as glamorous as Charles Dickens made it look,” which doesn’t do much but betray her only-passing knowledge of Dickens, whose entire bibliography is about how being poor is full of dignity and junk, but is also terrible.

Anyway, Ollie plays his ace card, who just happens to be former Queen Consolidated CEO Walter Steele, who is now the CFO of Starling National Bank. Apparently, he’s the only executive there, because somehow he got the bank to sign off on buying the remaining shares of the company that’s being blamed for a huge disaster that killed hundreds. That’s gonna look terrible on a balance sheet.

So now Ollie and Rochev each own half of Queen Consolidated. The business enemies have become business partners! They’re partenemies!

Hey, remember how in Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne beats his business enemy by…ah, you know the rest.

Flashback. Everybody’s standing around looking at that dead guy. And then the camera swings around to show us that shipwrecked boat we saw at the beginning of the episode. Wonder what’s gonna happen to it?

Roy’s out walking in The Glades, which actually looks surprisingly together considering the whole neighborhood was leveled in a devastating earthquake. Thea calls, he lies to her and goes running off to save a woman who’s being robbed. He…has some trouble with it, but, oh! What’s this! Another vigilante swoops in to help.

So the show has a Black Canary now, and it’s pretty definitely not Laurel. Poor Laurel, stuck being Harry Osborn.

Arrowcave. Ollie gives a speech about honoring Tommy from now on, which means, after some roundabout reasoning, that he needs a name other than “The Hood” or “The vigilante,” both of which the show is finally acknowledging are awful.

Dig asks what he wants to be called, and the camera pans over to the green head of the arrow Ollie’s holding. So tune in next week for Graphite Point! (But really, someone suggested he should make his name Green Arrow back in the ninth episode of the series and Ollie laughed that off. I guess he really has changed.)

Final thoughts

I said this on Twitter as soon as I watched this episode all the way through: The creators of the show seem to have gone out of their way to address all my concerns about the first season in this one episode. Arrow’s murders? Addressed, and hopefully pushed aside. His lack of a name? Addressed. Even down to there only being one news channel.

This was not a perfect episode by any stretch. The Hoods were a forgettable bunch of bad guys at best, and at worst they were grieving widowers who are going to go to jail for being angry that some rich guys killed their loved ones. Arrow‘s still got to work on its bad guys. The exposition was just plain awful at the beginning. But there seems to be an effort to right the ship this season. I actively enjoyed this one far more than a lot of the episodes from season one, so my fingers are crossed we’ll get some genuinely fun superheroing this year.

Here’s hoping.

 

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