In stark contrast to the structural and tonal difficulties which Marvel's TV drama Agents of SHIELD faces over on ABC and Channel 4, The CW and Sky1's Arrow is going from strength to strength in its second season. For the twelfth window on our Advent Calendar, then, On-Screen brings you a round-up of verdicts on the superhero series' most recent episodes.
If there's been any uncertainty in your mind as to whether to continue pursuing Arrow's explosive weekly romps, then this should be the article to set it at ease. Here are our reviews of Episodes 3-8 of Season Two:
- BROKEN DOLLS (4/5)- After two weeks of subdued emotional melodrama for Laurel, the prospect of an immediate threat to the sanctity of Oliver Queen's ex-love was enticing beyond words. Broken Dolls upped the stakes via a potent mixture of psychological thriller with familial drama, and better yet, the third instalment boasted the series' most memorable antagonist in the Dollmaker since Malcolm Merlyn- and we'll get back to him...
- CRUCIBLE (4.5/5)- Further major plot developments were in store here, with the fully-fledged revelation of Sara Lance's survival coming to light. Whether it was in its pairing of the Arrow with the Black Canary for a number of splendid visceral setpieces or its compelling analysis of the moral implications of Sara's neglecting to impart the truth to her father and sister, Crucible was packed with highlights for both the hardcore fan and the series newcomer.
- LEAGUE OF ASSASSINS (4.5/5)- The title of Season Two's fifth episode alone should have been enough to allude to the potential greatness that lay within and was tapped with ease. Although Ra's Al Ghul has yet to make a physical appearance in the show, and this reviewer suspects that such an occurrence will not come about until this season's final episodes (at least), the iconic DC villain's presence in proceedings was extremely tangible, such that our anticipation for his arrival in Starling City reached a tantilising high from the moment one of his titular League uttered the name!
- KEEP YOUR ENEMIES CLOSER (3.5/5)- How ironic, one might argue, that after an episode which benefitted so visibly from its ties to DC continuity came an instalment which was all the more weakened by those connections. Deadshot returned to Arrow after a temporary hiatus here, and ARGUS' infamous Amanda Waller made her debut on the show, but neither of these appearances played out in a manner which could be perceived as substantial with regards to the series' wider plot arcs. For the first time in a while, The CW's screenplay team might need to consult Smallville for a solid reference point on how to do Waller and the Suicide Squad justice.
- STATE V. QUEEN (5/5)- The return of the Count, Oliver breaking his promise to Tommy and John Barrowman's Malcolm making a surprise revived cameo? State V. Queen had all the makings of a highlight episode from the outset, yet by the time each of these events had graced our screens, its ranking in the series' Hall of Fame was inevitable. Courtroom procedural drama can struggle to be correctly conveyed when a different genre adopts it for a single chapter, but writer Marc Guggenheim appears to do so with no hassle whatsoever, and simultaneously he redefines Arrow in its strengthened capability to juggle complex season-spanning plot arcs and construct an emotionally charged, intoxicating standalone narrative.
- THE SCIENTIST (4.5/5)- Despite lacking even a single reference to Coldplay, this opening segment in Season Two's double-barelled midseason finale gets off to a superb start. Grant Gustin's Barry Allen isn't necessarily the Flash that fans will know and love, yet, but as Smallville has proven, give it time and no doubt Gustin's incarnation will either morph into a guise more befitting of expectations or subvert them to the extent of dissapating those misconceived assumptions of the character entirely. Short of a wildly detrimental curveball being thrown into the mix next week, The Scientist indicates that Arrow's 2013 run will culminate with a bang!