REVIEW: IZOMBIE – SEASON 1

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MAIN CAST

Rose McIver (Power Rangers RPM)
Malcolm Goodwin (The Bellman)
Rahul Kohli (Happy Anniversary)
Robert Buckley (Killer Movie)
David Anders (Alias)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Aly Michalka (Two and a Half Men)
Molly Hagan (Sully)
Bradley James (Merlin)
Steven Weber (2 Broke Girls)
Ty Olsson (Battlestar Galactica)
Daran Norris (Veronica Mars)
Hiro Kanagawa (Caprica)
Elysia Rotaru (Arrow)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (Smallville)
Devon Gummersall (Roswell)
Elise Gatien (Fifty Shades of Grey)
Aleks Paunovic (Van Helsing)
Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars)
Chris Gauthier (Watchmen)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Chad Rock (Timeless)
Sunita Prasad (Unreal)
Teryl Rothery (Stargate SG.1)
Jillian Bach (Two Guys and a Girl)
Erica Cerra (Power Rangers)
Britt Irvin (Smallville)
Erica Luttrell (Lost Girl)
Percy Daggs III (Veromnica Mars)
Bryce Hodgson (Falling Skies)
Bex Taylor-Klaus (Scream: The Series)
Nick Purcha (Angels In The Snow)
Leanne Lapp (No Clue)
Brian Markinson (Arrow)

I’ve been impressed with Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars’ creator) and Diane Ruggiero’s adaptation of iZombie. The comic of the same name by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred inspired the world on The CW show, but the series used the existing story as a launching pad. Thomas and Ruggiero developed the plot and world in new directions and executed one of the best first seasons of a television series in recent memory.One aspect that contributed to the success was how the stakes kept moving. When we first met Liv, life as a functioning zombie didn’t seem like the worst thing ever. The overall tone was more humorous, Liv was more introspective. She learned more about living and embracing existence by being undead. But then, things shifted. Different types of zombies were introduced, character paths started converging, and the stakes grew higher and higher — and much bigger than Liv and her self-actualization.The show followed a case of the week formula, which a tricky thing to manage, but it often worked to the benefit of the series. The new cases added consistency and allowed the relationships between Liv and Clive and Liv and Ravi to breathe. Though some of the cases didn’t particularly resonate, they occasionally tied into the larger story arc. When those tie-ins happened, they didn’t feel forced; they were a natural extension that helped grow the mystery or pushed characters into new territory. And oh boy, were the characters pushed. Liv went through a slew of personalities, sure, but additionally, she dealt with mortality, gaining and losing someone she loved, seeing her friends in danger, and the list goes on. Rose McIver rose to the challenge of portraying not only Liv, but Liv as several people. She did fantastic work keeping a thread of Liv present through all of the character’s various meals.McIver also communicated the weight and struggles of Liv’s problems in a way that was human. Liv put brains in all her food regularly (and I so appreciate how Liv changes up her methods of brain consumption), but she rarely came across as a monster. The entire cast played well together. Each relationship was the right amount of comfortable at the right time. Example: Liv took a little while to warm up to Lowell — as she should have — and then they were in the new couple phase where they were extremely adorable. Ravi and Liv is one of my favorite friendships on television, but then again, so is the Ravi and Major pairing. Clive’s more serious, get the job done personality is a wonderful complement to the group, and Blaine is the ideal villain.When you create a world where zombies are real, telling people the news and seeing how they react to it is a big part of the story. iZombie surprised me in this regard. I expected Clive to find out long before Peyton — and I do think Clive should know by now because he’s too smart and observant to not realize something’s off with Liv — and I didn’t think Major would be the person to react violently to the news. They showed varying responses, which is how it should be. It wouldn’t have been believable if everyone was as accepting as Ravi. Back to Major briefly, he went on the most unexpected journey. Transforming the nicest guy into a gun-toting zombie killer seems like an impossible task, but they accomplished it and made it believable. They found just the right hook to make the turn work.Seattle has a zombie problem, and the first season made us understand the extent of the issue without dumping it into our lap like a memo. We learned slowly as Liv learned, and the reveal of each puzzle piece made the severity of the situation hit home. With Blaine’s enterprising business presumably closed down and Max Rager employees potentially on the hunt for zombies, the pieces are lined up for a second season full of possibilities.iZombie had an incredibly strong first season. It was intricate and smooth in a way most series don’t come close to achieving in their initial episodes. Though a lighthearted tone was consistent throughout, they regularly upped the stakes and delivered emotional moments. The performances were top notch, and I look forward to seeing what this cast can do together in the years to come.

REVIEW: SCREAM: THE SERIES HALLOWEEN SPECIAL (2016)

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MAIN CAST

Willa Fitzgerald (Gotham)
Bex Taylor-Klaus (Arrow)
John Karma (Premature)
Amadeus Serafini (Smoke)
Carlson Young (True Blood)
Tracy Middendorf (New Nightmare)
Santiago Segura (Silicon Valley)

GUEST CAST

Alexander Calvert (Arrow)
Alex Esola (The Young Pope)
Zena Grey (Snow Day)
Austin Highsmith (Gangster Squad)
Karina Logue (Bates Motel)
Anthony Ruivivar (Beauty and The Beast)

Everyone seems in good spirits following another of year of murder and torture. The Lakewood teens are just looking for a little break from the Halloween hype and decide to venture off to a remote island where they think a relaxing beach getaway will solve all their troubles. Aside from these teenagers’ total inability to spot a bad plan when it is right in front of their face, there were many changes among the Lakewood crew, some that may even play out for the recently renewed, yet shorter, season three.

I guess if you were paying attention, Stavo and Noah have a lot more in common (creatively) than we thought. Their obsession with the horror genre and death somehow lead them to write/illustrate a book together and therefore have an editor urging for more work. The basis for the trip to the island was their editor, Jeremy’s, idea to help inspire Noah through his writer’s block. Shallow Grove Island (nicknamed Murder Island, mind you) played host to the Whitten mansion where a terrible murder spree occurred in which Anna Hobbs apparently murdered her family and the people they worked for.

The story was eventually proven untrue through some sleuthing and puzzle piecing by Noah. However, this new partnership is one that I’m intrigued by and after Noah’s narration at the end of the episode, the two may continue collaborating in season three. Stavo is finally a part of the Lakewood teens group, instead of being considered as a suspect.

When Emma cozies up with the only remaining descendant of the Whitten family, things start to take a turn. Alex Whitten immediately catches Emma’s eye and most viewers too. He’s mysterious, quiet, good looking, kind. He’s had a troubled life, too with the tragedy of his own parent’s death. Emma relates to his feelings of being in the spotlight because of his trauma and is inspired by how he has made a good life for himself. However, their new romance is tainted by a new set of murders on the island, starting with the man who ran the museum with Anna Hobbs’ mask and murder weapon (garden sheers). Those things were taken and used as the killer’s disguise. Who knew a potato sack mask could be maybe even more creepy than the revamped scream mask regularly on the show?

Then everyone starts dropping like flies, including Stavo and Noah’s arrogant and annoying editor, Jeremy who by the end of the episode, wasn’t such a devastating loss. I thought we’d have to deal with him once season three was back but, apparently not. What this means for their book deal…I don’t know. The Lakewood 6 eventually find a sanctuary at Alex Whitten’s mansion as a storm comes in and prevents them from getting off the island.

I was a little disappointed by the trick factor. I guess this isn’t an M. Night Shyamalan. However, I did like the subtle nod to Shyamalon’s most recent horror film comeback, The Visit. Emma realizes Alex is the murderer on the island when she finds the real Alex Whitten’s mangled body in a chest at the mansion. Yes, Emma gets the final take down of Alex Whitten when she pushes him off a balcony. Emma’s gusto was pretty kickass in this episode and I can’t wait to see more of it. Her character has definitely taken a turn for the better as she has become a person with a lot more strength and gumption. Finally, the Lakewood teens are all reunited and get the hell off that island.

Overall, I was happy with this brief storyline they created for the Halloween special and am excited about the new storylines they introduced that will contribute to the direction of season three. We will have to wait for more answers once season three premieres in 2017. While the season will only be six episodes, that just leaves more opportunity for some jam packed episodes of shock, drama, and a good dose of horror.

REVIEW: SCREAM: THE SERIES – SEASON 1 – THE DANCE / REVELATIONS

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MAIN CAST

Willa Fitzgerald (Gotham)
Bex Taylor-Klaus (Arrow)
John Karma (Premature)
Amadeus Serafini (Smoke)
Carlson Young (True Blood)
Jason Wiles (Zodiac)
Tracy Middendorf (New Nightmare)
Tom Maden (Killer Coach)

GUEST CAST

Bella Thorne (Amityville; The Awakening)
Amelia Rose Blaire (True Blood)
Bobby Campo (The Final Destination)

THE DANCE

Mr. Branson is taken into custody for the murders, but Emma starts to suspect his innocence when Kieran is placed in the spotlight. Sheriff Hudson is attacked by the killer and Piper and Emma visit Mrs. James, Brandon’s mother, who reveals the identity of Brandon’s son. Brooke plans her Halloween after-party.

REVELATIONS

Mr. Branson has escaped when Deputy Roberts is murdered by the killer, and the search for Sheriff Hudson is on. He is later found, and dies from his injuries. The group is splintered, with Jake, Audrey, Brooke, and Kieran unaware of the killer’s grand finale. Unable to reach them, Noah and Emma take things into their own hands, racing against time to save their friends. The killer claims yet another victim, a random party goer named Greyson, and injures Audrey. The killer also chases Brooke before locking her inside a freezer, where he attacks and non-fatally stabs her through the walls of the freezer. But when her mother is taken by the killer, Emma must rescue her, and when the killer is revealed, she must stop the Lakewood Slasher, once and for all. Once Emma is at the dock, the killer confronts her and Maggie, before being revealed to be Piper Shaw. She is Emma’s long lost sister, and Brandon James’ daughter. She reveals her entire plan to Emma and her mother, then attacks Emma. She is shot dead by Audrey and Emma. Emma’s mother is taken to the hospital, and everyone begins grieving. Noah takes over Piper’s podcast.During his first episode on the podcast, Noah talks about the possibility of Piper having had an accomplice since when Will was attacked Piper had been a supposed victim of the killer. It it then revealed Audrey had exchanged letters with Piper months prior to the murders, which she is shown burning, implying that she was somehow involved with the murders, possibly being Piper’s accomplice.Choosing to end the first season on Halloween was brilliant, having the big revelations come about at Halloween was also a good idea, I absolutely loved these episodes and the big reveal in the finale was  awesome.

REVIEW: SCREAM: THE SERIES – SEASON 2

MAIN CAST

WIlla Fitzgerald (Gotham)
Bex Taylor-Klaus (Arrow)
John Karma (Bindlestiffs)
Amadeus Serafini (Smoke)
Carlson Young (Heroes)
Tracy Middendorf (New Nightmare)
Kiana Ledé (Guidance)
Santiago Segura (In The Deep)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Tom Maden (Killer Coach)
Austin Highsmith (Dolphin Tale)
Anthony Ruivivar (Chuck)
Mary Katherine Duhon (Underground)
Bryan Batt (Funny People)
Sean Grandillo (Secrets and Lies)
Karina Logie (Bates Motel)
Tom Everett Scott (Dead man On Campus)
Bobby Campo (The Final Destination)

Emma returns to Lakewood after several months at a retreat. Her friends begin to question whether she has truly gotten over the killer’s crimes. Meanwhile, Audrey is hiding her connection to the killer, but is getting harassed by someone who knows the truth, and Noah is getting closer to the truth about the murders. Lakewood’s murderous past, both recent and distant, are once again brought to focus – with this killer’s psychotic mind-game intent on targeting the Lakewood Six survivors.

Although there appeared to be many cringe-worthy moments, I personally enjoyed all the pop culture references as it made the show feel more relatable growing up in world where social media is everything (whether we like to admit it or not). It brought the show into a modern era using terms such as ‘viral’ and ‘gif’ which would appear in everyday conversation of young adults and adolescents, making the show even more appealing. Also, the use of Samsung’s and iPhone’s was very well done as it used the proper text tones and ringtones. Even small technical adjustments such as these, make all the difference to getting the audience on the director’s side as it shows familiarity and makes an extremely dramatized show even the slightest feeling that maybe something this insane is possible.

 

Overall, this show is thrilling and constantly keeps the audience wondering who the killer under the Scream mask is.  Although it appears far-fetched at times, the story is interesting and the characters are lovable as well as having the scare-factor within each episode. I would definitely recommend if the horror genre is something you’re interested in.

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: ARROW – THREE GHOSTS

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THREE GHOSTS
CAST
Stephen Amell (Screamer 2)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)
David Ramsey (Dexter)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Paul Blackthorne (The Dresden Files)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Susanna Thompson (Cold Case)
Colton Haynes (Teen Wolf)
Manu Bennett (Spartacus)
GUEST CAST
Colin Donnell (Pan Am)
Grant Gustin (The Flash)
Kevin Alejandro (Ugly Betty)
Celina Jade (Skin Trade)
Caity Lotz (The Machine)
Roger R. Cross (Stargate SG.1)
Bex Taylor-Klaus (Scream: The Series)
Barry manages to save Oliver’s life, but Oliver is angry to find out that Felicity has revealed his secret when he regains consciousness. Back at Queen’s house Thea revealed Roy did not go to the hospital and needed aid, Oliver took out the arrow and called for John to come over with First Aid kit. Oliver starts to hallucinate, as well as a flash back with Slade dying, Oliver, Shado, Sara being held at gunpoint and led outside the sub. Ivo makes Oliver choose either Shado or Sara to choose to die in 30 seconds. Oliver went back to the Arrow’s hideout, and asked about side effects from Barry.
Barry and Felicity are able to identify and locate Oliver’s attacker, Cyrus Gold. While continuing to discover the truth behind the death of Sin’s friend Max, Roy is captured by Cyrus and brought before Sebastian who injects him with the Mirakuru serum. The serum fails to work and kills Roy. Oliver arrives but defeated by Cyrus, had another hallucination about Tommy. Tommy encourages him to keep on fighting and stop Cyrus, he then destroys the remaining serum. Oliver revives Roy, but later worries that the serum may affect him negatively. It is revealed the mastermind of this is Slade (alive and all), he states that new Mirakuru can be made with his blood and he will corrupt or kill “The hood’s” followers or the ones he loved before killing him himself because just killing him is too easy for him. Ordering Blood to leave the vigilante alone for his plans. In flashbacks, Ivo kills Shado, but flees when Slade turns up with super-human strength and kills his men. Oliver went back to the hideout. Barry leaves a green domino mask for Oliver, to better hide his identity, and returns to Central City. A malfunction with the new particle accelerator, coupled with a lightning storm, causes an explosion and Barry is caught in the blast. Felicity helps Oliver puts on his new mask.
Three Ghosts served as an excellent season 2 mid-season finale setting up Slades return. It also sets up the Flash TV series. Every year Arrow Christmas episodes get better and better and seeing Slade alive and off the island was one of the best cliffhangers done on Arrow, it made people wanna come back to how it all turns out.

REVIEW: ARROW – SEASON 3

 

CAST

Stephen Amell (The Vampire Diaries)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)
Colin Donnell (Chicago Med)
David Ramsey (Pay It Forward)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Paul Blackthorne (The Dresden Files)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Colton Haynes (Teen Wolf)
John Barrowman (Reign)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Grant Gustin (The Flash)
Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)
Manu Bennett (Spartacus)
Caity Lotz (The Machine)
Audrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Spartacus)
Karl Yune (Real Steel)
Rila Fukushima (The Wolverine)
Peter Stormare (American Gods)
J.R. Ramirez (Power)
Katrina Law (Chuck)
Matt Nable (Riddick)
Charlotte Ross (Drive Angry)
Christina Cox (Defying Gravity)
Noland Gerard Funk (Glee)
Amy Gumenick (Supernatural)
Nick E. Tarabay (Spartacus)
Jill Teed (Highlander: The Series)
Carlos Valdes (The Flash)
Danielle Panabaker (Sky High)
Kelly Hu (The Scopion King)
Alex Kingston (Flashforward)
Vinnie Jones (The Cape)
Peter bryant (Dark Angel)
Austin Butler (The Carrie Diaries)
Bex Taylor-Klaus (Scream: The Series)
Eugene Byrd (Bones)
Marc Singer (V)
Michael Rowe (Tomorrowland)
Steven Culp (Jason Goes To Hell)
Doug Jones (Hellboy)
Adrian Holmes (Smallville)
Francoise Yip (Andromeda)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Sanctuary)

Season 3 certainly started off on a strong note with the premiere episode, “The Calm.” That episode laid out the general status quo for team Arrow post-Slade uprising. Ollie had saved his city but found himself struggling to find meaning in his existence outside of putting on a costume and shooting criminals full of arrows. That struggle was complicated with the addition of a new recurring player in the form of Ray Palmer, a charismatic businessman who managed to steal both Ollie’s company and the affections of Felicity. Coupled with the debut of Peter Stormare as a much superior new version of Count Vertigo and the cliffhanger murder of Sara Lance.

Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins emerged as the villains of the season, when we get to episode 8 & 9 we the one-two punch of “The Brave and the Bold” and “The Climb” had great momentum . The former offered the first extended crossover between Team Arrow and Team Flash, and the results were as fun as fans of the two shows could have hoped. The latter, meanwhile, saw Ollie journey to Nanda Parbat and confront Ra’s al Ghul in the flesh. Their clifftop duel easily ranks among the best action scenes in the show’s three-year history. The choreography was solid. being a mid season cliffhanger left fans hanging over christmas.

Ollie’s friends believed him to be dead and found themselves defending Starling City from the seemingly invulnerable crime lord Brick (played with gusto by Vinnie Jones). The three-part Brick storyline was another highlight for the season.

Ray Palmer was a great addition to the show. He brought a charm and a sense of humor. Even when Ray’s ongoing story arc seemed tenuously linked with the rest of Team Arrow, the character’s sheer entertainment value and his dynamic with Felicity justified his presence. The fact that we got to see Ray evolve from billionaire industrialist to full-fledged superhero in his own right was a bonus.  Arrow continues to serve as prime breeding ground for other DC heroes to emerge.

The show also deserves credit for the overall quality of its special effects and action choreography. That’s an area where Arrow has consistently improved over time as the budget has grown and the cast and crew have grown more experienced. A number of action scenes really stood out this season, whether it was the first glimpses of the A.T.O.M. suit in action, the epic street riot in “Uprising,” or the fateful duel between Ollie and Ra’s in “The Climb.” Looking back, the one action sequence that stood out more than anything this year was the shot of Roy running through a pipe while gunfire exploded behind him in “Left Behind.” There’s a growing cinematic flair to this show that never gets old.

The season led to the showdown between Arrow and Ra’s Al Ghul, the resolve brought new dimensions to the character which will lead into the upcoming 4th Season. John Barrowman was also a great return addition to this season being a full time player, changing from villain to anti-hero. Katrina Law was always great to see again, every time she shows up you know it will be a great episode.

Arrow continues to become a a shining beacon of the DC Universe and with season 4 on its way, it’s here to stay for a while.

REVIEW: ARROW – SEASON 1 & 2

CAST

Stephen Amell (The Vampire Diaries)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)
Colin Donnell (Chicago Med)
David Ramsey (Pay It Forward)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Susanna Thompson (Dragonfly)
Paul Blackthorne (The Dresden Files)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Manu Bennett (Spartacus)
Colton Haynes (Teen Wolf)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Colin Salmon (Limitless TV)
Jamey Sheridan (The Ice Storm)
Annie Ilonzeh (Beauty and The Beast)
Brian Markinson (Izombie)
Derek Hamilton (Disturbing Behavior)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Kelly Hu (The Vampire Diaries)
Ty Olsson (X-Men 2)
Byron Mann (Dark Angel)
Roger Cross (First Wave)
Euegen Lipinski (Goosebumps)
Michael Rowe (Tomorrowland)
John Barrowman (Reign)
Currie Graham (Agent Carter)
Kyle Schmid (The Covenant)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (V)
Jessica De Gouw (Dracula)
Jeffrey Nordling (Tron: Legacy)
Tahmoh Penikett (Battlestar Galactica)
Sebastian Dunn (The Other Half)
Andrew Dunbar (Leprechaun: Origins)
Danny Nucci (Eraser)
Ben Browder (Stargate SG.1)
Christie Laing (Scary Movie 4)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
David Anders (Izombie)
Ona Grauer (V)
Adrian Holmes (Smallville)
Agam Darshi (Sanctuary)
James Callis (Battlestar Galactica
Rekha Sharma (Dark Angel)
Chin Han (The Dark Knight)
Janina Gavankar (True Blood)
Alex Kingston (Flashforward)
Celina Jade (The Man with The Iron Fists)
Seth Gabel (Salem)
J. August Richards (Angel)
Summer Glau (Firefly)
Dylan Bruce (Heroes Reborn)
Caity Lotz (The Machine)
Michael Jai White (The Dark Knight)
Kevin Alejandro (Ugly Betty)
Bex Taylor-Klaus (Scream: The Series)
Teryl Rothery (Stargate SG.1)
Aubrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Jimmy Jean-Louis (Heroes)
Cle Bennett (Flashpoint)
Dylan Neal (Sabrina: TTW)
Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Spartacus)
David Nykl (Stargate: Atlantis)
Sean Maher (Firefly)
James Kidnie (Robocop: The Series)
Katrina Law (Chuck)
Nicholas Lea (V)
Robert Knepper (Cult)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Animated Series)
Lochlyn Munro (Little Man)
Jorge Vargas (Power Rangers Ninja Storm)
Carlos Valdes (The Flash)
Danielle Panabaker (Sky High)

Image result for arrow pilotAfter turning the story about Clark Kent’s evolution from humble teenager to world’s greatest hero into one of the most successful science fiction TV series of all time, what exactly do you do for an encore? The obvious answer would be a series about a young Bruce Wayne. Or maybe a crime procedural starring the men and women of the Gotham City Police Department. Instead, The CW gave us Arrow, a series that simultaneously explores Oliver Queen’s first months as a vigilante hero and the painful hero’s journey he undertook while stranded on a remote island. Even considering Green Arrow’s popularity in Smallville and Justice League Unlimited, it wasn’t the most obvious choice. Nor was it the choice many DC fans wanted. But ultimately, it was a choice that paid off.

To their credit, they succeeded. Even right off the bat, there were many notable elements that he writers introduced into the Green Arrow mythos. Generally a loner in the comics, here Ollie was given a full family and circle of allies. Some were inspired by characters from the comics, while others were entirely new creations. Probably the most successful new addition was John Diggle as Ollie’s personal bodyguard-turned-ally in his war on crime. Watching the dynamic between Ollie and Diggle morph from cold and hostile to warm camaraderie was a treat. And the two sequences featuring Diggle in the costume rather than Ollie suggested that this show could have a life beyond that of its lead character.Image result for arrow pilotAmell’s performance grew stronger over time, and the subtle ways in which he distinguished his performances during the present-day and flashback scenes stood out.With other characters, it was more a question of the scripts shedding light on motivation and relationships before they really came into their own. This was certainly the case with Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson), who was a bit of a hard sell as a sympathetic mother figure until viewers came to understand her role in “The Undertaking.” Similarly, Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell) came across as a fairly flat and unimportant character at first. But by the end of the season, Tommy had emerged as the emotional heart of the series and Donnell’s one of the strongest performances.

Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) was endearing, her instant charm made fans fall in love with her making her a regular was the best choice when they headed into season 2. As Laurel, Katie Cassidy was excellent as future Black Canary, dealing with her emotions of seeing her former boyfriend back from the dead and the lost of her sister.  Structurally, the season started out strong and finished even stronger. The writers managed to weave together an overarching narrative as Ollie slowly uncovered the truth of The Undertaking and his own parents’ involvement while contending with various smaller villains and conflicts.

Anchoring the series throughout were the frequent flashbacks to Ollie’s five years on the island. The pilot episode offered a tantalizing glimpse of what had transpired over the course of those five years with the Deathstroke mask discarded on the beach. Various plot twists revealed just how complicated that story is, teaming Ollie with Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) and Shado (Celina Jade) in an ongoing guerrilla war against mercenary leader Edward Fyers (Sebastian Dunn). Particularly once Slade entered the picture and his bond with Ollie became a major focal point, the flashbacks emerged as one of the strongest elements of the show.

Everything in Season 1 culminated in two climactic episodes as Ollie fought for the survival of Starling City in the present and to stop Fyers from sparking an international incident in the past. These episodes offered a satisfying blend of big action scenes and emotional character showdowns. In particular, the final scene between Ollie and Tommy that closed out the season was perhaps the best the show has delivered so far.

Right off the bat, “City of Heroes” set the tone and direction for Season 2. We saw a despondent Ollie still crushed by the death of his best friend, Tommy, and having retreated to the island in a self-imposed exile. Though Colin Donnell only briefly reprised his role as Tommy this season, his character was very much a lingering presence driving the actions of Ollie and Laurel throughout the year. And his death formed the crux of Ollie’s renewed mission. It was right there in the revised opening sequence – “To honor my friend’s memory, I can’t be the killer I once was.” And that, more than Ollie’s battles with Slade Wilson or Sebastian Blood or Isabel Rochev, was the core conflict of the season. It’s easy enough to fight criminals by shooting them dead. But could Ollie muster the strength and the courage not to kill, even if it meant putting himself, his family, and his city in greater danger? It was a struggle, but the most satisfying element of the finale was the way Ollie definitively answered that question and established himself as a better class of vigilante.

Overall, Season 2 was a good showcase for Stephen Amell’s acting talents.  Ollie was haunted by demons and shouldering heavy burdens throughout the year. He suffered more often than he succeeded, and Amell conveyed that pain well. Most impressive was the way Amell was so capable at portraying Ollie at different periods in his life. We saw plenty more of Ollie’s life on the island in the various flashback scenes. Having already spent a year fighting for his life against men like Edward Fyers and Billy Wintergreen, flashback Ollie was closer to the man he is in the present, but not all the way there. And we even caught glimpses of a pre-island Ollie, most significantly in “Seeing Red.” More than the changes in hairstyle or fashion, it was Amell’s purposeful shifts in vocal intonation and body language that differentiated the different versions of Ollie.

Having established himself as one of the better supporting players in Season 1, it was very gratifying to see Manu Bennett step fully into the spotlight and become the big antagonist of Season 2. That’s despite him not even being revealed as the secret mastermind of Brother Blood’s uprising until the mid-season finale, “Three Ghosts.” But it was crucial that the show spend so much time, both this season and last, in building up the brotherly bond between Ollie and Slade and the island. We needed to feel the pain of seeing them broken apart and Slade become a vengeful villain hellbent on tearing his former friend’s life down. And it wasn’t until much later still that we saw how that rift occurred and Slade turn his wrath against Ollie. It’s a testament to both the writing and Bennett’s acting that the character never quite lost his aura of sympathy even as he murdered Ollie’s mother and tried to do the same to Felicity. This was a man driven half-mad by the loss of the woman he loved and an injection of a super-steroid. But conversely, I appreciated how the finale took pains to establish that it wasn’t just the Mirakuru fueling Slade’s anger. Even now, super-strength gone and exiled back to the island, Slade is a clear and present danger to Ollie’s world.

The show introduced Sebastian Blood and Isabel Rochev as Slade’s subordinates, with Blood serving as the most visible villain for much of the season. I really enjoyed Kevin Alejandro’s portrayal of Blood. Alejandro’s Blood was so disarmingly charming that it was often difficult to reconcile him with the masked man kidnapping drug addicts and turning street thugs into super-soldiers. Ultimately, Blood became the sort of villain who does the wrong things for the right reasons. He had an honest desire to make Starling City a better place. And when it became clear to him that Slade Wilson wouldn’t leave a city left for him to rule, Blood did the right thing and aided Team Arrow.

Most of the increasingly large supporting cast were given their moments to shine in Season 2. I was often disappointed that Diggle wasn’t given more to do, but at least he was able to take a starring role in “Suicide Squad.” Diggle’s backseat status was mainly the result of Sara Lance stepping into the limelight early on and eventually becoming the fourth member of Ollie’s vigilante crew. The Arrow had his Canary finally. Sara’s own struggles with the desire for lethal force and reuniting with her family often made for good drama. But among Team Arrow, it was often Felicity Smoak who often had the best material.  Emily Bett Rickards had much better material to work with this year, whether it was her unrequited love for Ollie, her burgeoning relationship with Barry Allen, or her desire to pull her weight alongside her more physically capable allies. The final three episodes all featured some standout moments for Felicity as she established herself as a force to be reckoned with.

Elsewhere, Roy Harper was often a focus as he transitioned from troubled street punk to superhero sidekick. Roy’s temporary super-strength powers were a welcome story swerve and a fitting physical manifestation of his inner rage. His character arc received a satisfying conclusion in the finale when he proved himself worthy and received his own red domino mask, but lost Thea as a result.

As for the various women in Ollie’s life, Felicity and Sara aside, Season 2 was a little more uneven. Moira definitely had an interesting ride. She started out Season 2 fighting for her life while on trial for her role in the Undertaking. Then, in an unlikely turn of events, she was spurred to run for mayor. And finally, her life did end when she became a pawn in Slade’s cruel game. It was a terrific finish for Moira, proving once and for all that, whatever wrongs she committed, she was only ever trying to ensure her children’s survival. Thea was more up and down throughout the season. She was often underutilized, but received a boost late in the season when she learned the truth about her parentage. Laurel’s character  had her own crucible this season, spiraling into into drug and alcohol addiction and losing her job before hitting bottom, rebounding, and playing her part in saving Starling City.

The Mirakuru drug served as a plausible, pseudo-scientific way of introducing super-strength and allowing Slade to transform into Deathstroke. And even when it came time to introduce the Flash midway through the season, Barry Allen never felt too out of place alongside the more grounded characters.

Season 2 really opened the floodgates as far as drawing in characters and elements from other DC properties. Barry Allen’s debut was the most high-profile, but we also saw plenty more of Amanda Waller and A.R.G.U.S. “Professor Ivo became a recurring villain, along with a very different take on Amazo. And in a welcome twist, it turned out that even the Batman franchise is fair game with this show. Early on we learned of Sara Lance and Malcolm Merlyn’s connection to the League of Assassins. Nyssa al Ghul appeared in a couple of episodes, and we know her father is out there in the world, leading his shadowy organization in the hidden city of Nanda Parbat. Even Harley Quinn had a brief cameo.

And beyond the introduction of all these new elements, the scope of Arrow really opened up in Season 2. The action was bigger and better choreographed. The scale of the conflicts was bigger. The producers simply seemed to have more money to throw around. And whether that was actually the case or just the result of experience and planning, the end result was the same. Arrow became a bigger, more cinematic TV series this season.