In the case of Arrow's return this week, this reviewer is in a rather unique and privileged position in being able to deliver a verdict on not only the first episode of Season Two, but in addition the second instalment. Rather than rating these two episodes separately across a pair of individual articles, we've compiled together our assessments of both City of Heroes and Identity into one piece.
Without further ado, then, let's return to a world of gritty superhero action and intense emotional drama. Here's our take on the impressive opening instalments of Arrow's latest run:
- CITY OF HEROES (4.5/5)- If the show's production team wanted to bring the series back with a bang in its début episode of Season Two, then they've succeeded in strong measure. By placing Oliver back on the island which transformed him into the man we saw develop over Season One, now in exile after the unjust demise of his friend Tommy in the Spring finale, writer Greg Belanti sets up a darker and ultimately more realistic tone for Arrow in its upcoming instalments. City of Heroes skilfully incorporates a plethora of story arcs into its overall narrative, although at times this flexibility proves to be its most detrimental component, shifting focus from the more integral elements of the ongoing journey towards Queen's becoming the Green Arrow in favour of love triangle repercussions, mother-daughter conflicts and copycat archers (who all-too-closely resemble John Barrowman's Dark Archer antagonist). Thankfully, this occasional tendency from Belanti to deviate from the series' most relevant aspects doesn't rob the episode of its intensely effective humour, action and dramatic impact. Quite to the contrary, those consistent strengths are prominent enough to mask those shortcomings for the majority, producing an extremely satisfying opener.
- IDENTITY (4/5)- A common rule of thumb right now seems to be that a season's second episode is never quite as strong as its first. All the same, Identity holds its own admirably, progressing individual story arcs in an unexpected manner and building to a tantalising climax. Where it does slip up once again, though, is in its lacklustre antagonist- the introduction of social hero Sebastian Blood should be a thrilling change in the series dynamic as Oliver is forced to defend himself not only in combat but in the media too, yet Blood comes off as little more than a Harvey Dent Dark Knight rip-off at this stage. On the plus side, the development of Laurel and the Arrow's relationship here is intricately handled, and the cliffhanger which brings the gradually increasing tensions to their crux is simply superb.
Arrow continues next Monday, October 28th on Sky1.