Arrow: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review
Green Arrow has long played second fiddle to DC’s most lucrative dark, brooding hero, Batman. Comparisons have often been made between the two characters, and it’s easy to see why – they’re both billionaires that decide to take the law into their own hands, utilizing a host of advanced gadgets and prowling the city rooftops for criminal scum. CW’s hit show Arrow aims to modernize the character and carve out its own identity, and it largely succeeds. While the show went through some growing pains in year one, Arrow took its criticisms in stride and became a better, more cinematic series in season two.
The 23 episodes comprising Arrow Season Two feature better defined storylines, ramped-up action, and more interesting characters – the most notable of which is Slade Wilson, whose transition into the mad, insidious Deathstroke feels realistic and well fleshed out. Similarly, Oliver Queen’s evolution from murderous vigilante to hero is a central theme of season two, as Ollie vows to clean up Starling City through non-lethal means to honor his friend Tommy Merlyn’s memory. As Ollie quickly finds out, it’s easy to put an arrow through the heart of your enemy, but fighting superpowered beings with one arm tied behind your back is quite a challenge. His resolve is tested numerous times over the course of this season, especially when his family is put in danger. The Arrow’s adversaries have no qualms with taking life, and almost all of them have been injected with the newly-revealed Mirakuru drug, which grants users superhuman strength but leaves them almost entirely insane – that is, if it doesn’t kill them outright. Not to mention, the police are still constantly trying to capture or kill the Arrow since he operates outside the law. As if all this wasn’t enough to deal with for our hooded hero, he must also contend with a woman named Isabel Rochev attempting to seize control of Queen Consolidated, and a man named Sebastian Blood, who seeks justice against the Queen family for the deaths of the 503 civilians who were killed in the Glades earthquake last season.
While the first season of Arrow felt like it was trying very hard to remain as realistic and grounded as possible, as in The Dark Knight trilogy, Season Two breaks free from those self-imposed shackles. There’s the aforementioned Mirakuru drug that provides a scientific explanation for super strength, and we get to see the origin story of The Flash, both of which feel very comic book-y but open up the story for more interesting material. We also got to meet Black Canary, Sin, and Deathstroke, who was perfectly played by the returning Manu Bennett. Oliver and Slade’s brotherly bond turned into full-on hatred for one another by the season finale, but Bennett’s incredible portrayal of the character allowed the audience to sympathize with him even as Deathstroke committed some truly heinous acts. Stephen Amell’s acting range was similarly showcased this season, having to play the character of Ollie at numerous points in his life, with plenty of emotional scenes throughout the 23 episodes. Both actors, as well as much of the supporting cast, are given some great material to work with here, and Ollie and Slade have a few truly awesome battles. Arrow continues to have some of the best fight choreography and stunt work on TV, and the CGI artists are no slouches either, lending believability to some of the more extraordinary sequences.
There’s a lot that worked in Season Two of Arrow, such as Roy Harper’s journey toward becoming the Red Arrow, and having to deal with the inner turmoil and maddening rage brought on by the Mirakuru injection. While Roy was a huge asset for Team Arrow, given his newfound superhuman strength, he was also a liability. Ollie worked hard to help him control his anger and keep him from turning into another Slade Wilson. The flashback sequences were back and remained a highlight of the show, and many of the guest performances were superb, especially Kevin Alejandro as Sebastian Blood and Summer Glau as Isabel Rochev (though she could have used more screen time). Katrina Law was good as Nyssa Al Ghul, and the League of Assassins being utilized made Arrow truly feel like part of a larger universe. I also enjoyed the Suicide Squad being introduced (with a short cameo from Harley Quinn), and that particular episode gave Diggle (David Ramsay) a chance to shine, though he was severely underutilized this season. Michael Jai White was a great pick for Bronze Tiger, bringing his natural athleticism and martial arts experience to the role. Laurel continued to be a problem for the show, as her battle with depression and alcoholism over Tommy’s death just made her more annoying, as opposed to the sympathetic figure that the writers must have intended. Caity Lotz’ Sara Lance came across much better, and I enjoyed her kicking ass as Black Canary this season.
Arrow: The Complete Second Season offers a lot of interesting extras in its Blu-ray package. There are deleted scenes which can be accessed alongside the episodes on the corresponding discs. Year One is a bonus full length episode that is essentially a recap of the entire first season, which is great for those jumping in now. From Vigilante To Hero showcases Oliver’s journey from well-intentioned killer to Starling City’s savior. How Did They Do That?! The Visual Effects of Arrow takes a look at the CGI integration in Season Two, breaking down shots such as Diggle and Felicity skydiving onto the island. Wirework: The Impossible Moves of Arrow demonstrates how the superhuman fight sequences were shot. Rounding out the package are a gag reel and the Arrow 2013 Comic Con panel.
Overall, Season Two of Arrow raised the bar, improving upon nearly every aspect of Season One and solidifying its place as TV’s best comic-based show. Fans get a fantastic audio/visual presentation and a wealth of extras with Arrow: The Complete Second Season on Blu-ray, as well as a code to redeem all 23 episodes through the UltraViolet streaming service. If you’ve missed the series up to this point (what’s your excuse?!), now’s the perfect chance to jump in, especially with this Blu-ray set’s handy recap of the first season.