ARROW Season 2 Primer: Ten Things You Need to Know Before Picking Up the Bow Once More
Whether it’s super-heroic Emerald Archer action or the super-heroic abdominals of the preternaturally fit Stephen Amell that that’s got you programming your DVR for Season Two of Arrow, the CW Network’s action/drama based on the DC Comic Green Arrow, you’ve got a lot to get caught up on especially if you are jumping on late.
For the uninitiated, put simply Arrow is Smallville’s darker, moodier cousin. More mature than its televised superheroic predecessor, Arrow presents a hero whose trademark progressivism/populism is a byproduct of his own personal quest to rid himself, his family and his city of its demons. A quest that, at least at the beginning, he has no qualms about using lethal force to fulfill.
After the earth-shaking events of the Season One finale, the world of Arrow is primed to take a turn for the worse despite the efforts of our heroes, so it’s important to take a look back before the season premiere and see what is left to build upon. Note that if you are not yet through your box set of Season One Blu-Ray’s, be warned, spoilers ahead. We fully recommend you take the journey yourself for the full experience, and the blu-ray set (which also included standard DVDs and digital downloads) is available now, so go, watch, then come back and see what we think are the most important takeaways.
He's not Green Arrow, at least not yet
Despite his (very dark) green leather outfit, complete with hood, not to mention actual green arrows in his green quiver, this vigilante archer Oliver Queen does not call himself nor is he ever earnestly called by anyone else “Green Arrow” (though the words are uttered once, as a little in-joke).
For Queen, his vigilante outfit is a relic of his time marooned on a (nearly) deserted and heavily forested island. There, the green was great day/night camouflage and quite durable since there wasn’t a J. Crew outlet in the middle of the China Sea.
When Oliver takes his skills to the streets of Starling City (small change from the comics, where it’s Star City), it’s his identity concealing headgear (and perhaps his Sherwood Forest-esque modus operandi) that grants him the moniker The Hood, rather than the color of his weapons.
This STILL isn't The Island from LOST
Parallel to the serialized action of Oliver Queen: nigh-unstoppable vigilante in Starling City is the story of Oliver Queen: billionaire party-boy castaway.
Whenever he experiences a crisis, Oliver flashes back to a similar moment during his time on the island of Lian Yu, aka Purgatory, where his public story of years of solitude after the wreck of his father’s yacht gives way to the truth that he got caught up in an international conspiracy to destroy the Chinese economy.
On Lian Yu, Oliver encounters a number of DC Comics characters cast in important roles in his personal transformation including the enigmatic Yao Fei, his master archer daughter Shado, the villainous Eddie Fyers and a reluctant ally: the Australian Special Forcers trooper Slade Wilson, who’s uniform incudes a very distinctive orange and black facemask.
In the end, Oliver sacrifices an easy way off the island to do the right thing, but as much that has been revealed about how the island changed him, much hasn’t been. For instance how he became a capo in the Russian Mafia, where he learned toxicology, how to apply nerve pinches to simulate death and who the mysterious woman was behind Fyers’ plot.
Welcome to (what’s left of) Starling City
Season One “Big Bad” Malcolm Merlyn’s master plan to get revenge on an entire neighborhood for the murder of his wife during a mugging and to make a fortune on rebuilding the area took decades to plan and a wide ranging conspiracy to pull off, and he wasn’t going to let some bow and arrow wielding do-gooder foil it, especially since he himself is a master combatant and archer.
So just as it looked like Oliver and his allies had foiled the plan (known as “The Undertaking”) and saved the city, Merlyn revealed before he died at Oliver’s hands that he had planted a second “earthquake machine” in secret and it accomplished more and less than he expected. The artificial tremor destroyed a large part of the target area, a run-down crime ridden area called The Glades, but it also caused the death of his son, and Oliver’s childhood friend, Tommy Merlyn.
Along with the lives lost, the earthquake destroyed or may have destroyed a number of reoccurring Arrow locations, including Dinah Laurel Lance’s public-aid law office, the local Big Belly Burger where Oliver ally John Diggle’s widowed sister-in-law worked, the trailer home where Oliver’s sister’s paramour Roy Harper Jr. lived and Oliver’s nightclub, Verdant, which was built to hide the existence of his base of operations below. Will the ruined city end up a No Man’s Land?
Lives in the Balance
Amidst all the carnage both in the past and the present from the season one finale, there were only two confirmed casualties and two implied ones. As villains no one can ever be sure that Malcolm Merlyn and Eddie Fyers are really dead-dead, even if they were respectively stabbed through the chest/blown-up.
In the past, Oliver’s enigmatic savior and ally Yao Fei was executed once he was blackmailed into playing his part in Fyers’ scheme. In the present, Oliver’s on again/off again friend and romantic rival was impaled by a girder while saving their shared love interest from her collapsing law office.
Left up in the air is the fate of several of the show’s supporting characters including Oliver’s sister Thea “Speedy” Queen and her boyfriend, Roy Harper Jr. (the character Roy Harper was the first “Speedy” sidekick to Ollie in the comics), who were last seen helping people trapped by the earthquake, as well as breakout supporting character Felicity Smoak, who was in Oliver’s nightclub lair located inside the quake zone.
Life on Earth (One)
Fans of continuity and DC Universe references had a lot of reasons to keep their eyes peeled and ears open during the first season of Arrow. From the once drug-addicted Thea Dearden Queen’s childhood nickname being “Speedy” to Dinah Laurel Lance having the names of a couple of Black Canaries, a dozen or so other names on Arrow are taken from DC Comics or DC Comics creators – like Ollie’s confidant and bodyguard Diggle, named for Green Arrow: Year One writer Andy Diggle (whose full name was used for the character’s dead brother).
Locations get the same treatment as well. While the comic book Green Arrow’s home of Star City has become Starling City, DC fans would be happy to know that it’s just a train ride away from Central City (home of The Flash) and a commandeered C-130’s flight away from the rust-belt shell of a city known as Bludhaven, where Nightwing once prowled the rooftops. Internationally, instead of visiting the island where Oliver was marooned (and perhaps never leaving) you can visit the Tibetan city of Nanda Parbat, a spiritual nexus in the DC Universe and where Malcolm Merlyn picked up his deadly archery skills.
Back in Starling City, local businesses are thriving, including the DC fast food restaurant stand-in Big Belly Burger (though the burgers are plenty large, they are not the comically huge comic book versions) and the portentously named Kord Industries.
Thea Queen’s drug problem and her romance with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks is the least of the Queen family’s problems by end of Season One. Ultimately it was revealed that both senior Queens were involved in Malcolm Merlyn’s plot to destroy The Glades and Robert Queen’s hesitation to go along with the deadly plan ultimately cost him his life and inadvertently cost Oliver five years of his.
Widowed, Moira Queen played a longer game in and around Malcolm’s plan, rationalizing the fact that she was complicit in a plan to kill thousands by telling herself she’s putting her remaining family’s safety first. Ultimately this ends her second marriage when her new husband is kidnapped and almost killed trying to uncover the conspiracy.
Shocked into doing the right thing via a phony kidnapping orchestrated by her son Oliver (who cleverly allowed himself to be ‘abducted’ as well), Moira held a press conference to confess to her crimes and plead for the evacuation of The Glades before the area is destroyed. She was then led away in handcuffs by the police leaving the fate of the family and the family corporation in doubt.
A Partner, Not a Sidekick
Like painting fences and binge drinking, vigilantism is more fun with friends. Oliver was all set to start his career in nocturnal avenging solo, but the assignment of Special Forces trooper turned bodyguard John Diggle complicated the effort. The pair chafed each other for a long time, Oliver found it increasingly hard to ditch his shadow so he could go out in costume and Diggle had trouble hiding his disdain for being a lackey to a party-boy wastrel. When the pair reconciled and shared their secrets, they formed a solid partnership. Since then, Diggle’s military training and intelligence agency contacts (including the DC Comics outfit ARGUS) have proven valuable assets.
Since getting into the action Diggle is rarely sitting with the car while Oliver does his thing. When necessary, Diggle acts a stand-on for Oliver to throw off those looking to uncover The Hood’s identity, pulls Oliver out of situations when he gets hurt or in over his head and he even takes advantage of Oliver’s skills to improve his own and uses Oliver’s resources to solve personal problems extra-legally.
More Than a Voice with an Internet Connection
Naturally these days you can’t fight crime or city-destroying conspiracies without tech support on call. That role is ably filled by Felicity Smoak, a Queen Industries employee who repays the loyalty that Oliver’s step-father, the Queen Industries CEO, shows her by helping Oliver in his mission. That is after she defies a well-worn comic book trope by quickly seeing though our hero’s billionaire-playboy ruse and deducing that he is the local vigilante. Felicity’s intelligence and charmingly frank nature provides a good counter-balance to the grim-natured gentlemen of Team Arrow.
Though she sadly does exhibit some classic attributes of TV show computer hackers: the tendency to techno-babble, a certain kind of lack of social grace and the inability to recognize how stunningly gorgeous she is, she’s not (too) afraid to go out in the field when it is necessary. Though it usually ends with her having a bomb locked around her neck or in some similar peril.
Bring On The Bad Guys
Despite Arrow’s, grounded nature and Oliver’s propensity toward killing his enemies, a number of uniquely monikered villains have managed to survive and now loom in the shadows perhaps plotting a return. First among them is Helena Bertinelli, aka The Huntress, who like her comic book counterpart is the daughter of a local crime boss, though here she has turned against her father directly in revenge for his killing of her fiancé. After crossing paths and beginning a relationship with Oliver, he tried to help her and even trained her in the use of crossbows and hand-to-hand combat, but she proved to be more ruthless and manipulative then he could handle and they parted ways.
If Oliver’s nemesis was Malcolm Merlyn, John Diggle’s is Floyd Lawton, aka Deadshot. The master sniper and assassin was responsible for killing John’s brother and despite Oliver putting an arrow in his eye, Lawton survived (and eventually acquired his signature cybernetic eye piece) and continues to be a thorn in the side of our heroes.
More DC Comics villains that appeared and survived the first season of Arrow include Triad boss China White, jewel thief The Dodger, most of the Royal Flush Gang and the evil chemist and creator of the dangerous party drug Vertigo: The Count.
The Jump On Point
In classic comic book fashion, the First Season of Arrow ended with a conclusion that could change everything or next to nothing. Most significantly the conspiracy that brought about his father’s death and Oliver’s own marooning on Lian Yu has run its course. Its leader is very likely dead and his plan was almost completely fulfilled.
Everything that has driven Oliver for the past five plus years is over: the true meaning behind his father’s book of names and last words. The very reason that he goes out at night armed and in disguise is gone. If there is going to be a Hood/Green Arrow on Arrow, there will have to be a strong reason for it and those tuning in for the first time will learn it right alongside returning fans.