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.
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12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: ARROW – YEAR’S END

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CAST
Stephen Amell (Screamer 2)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)
David Ramsey (Dexter)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Paul Blackthorne (The Dresden Files)
Colin Donnell (Pan Am)
Susanna Thompson (Cold Case)
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YEARS END
GUEST CAST
Colin Salmon (Hex)
Byron Mann (Catwoman)
Sebastian Dunn (Blackwood)
Brian Markinson (Izombie)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
John Barrowman (Torchwood)
Adam Hunt is on the phone trying to raise money for a deal despite the fact that he was recently taken down by The Hood. An unseen figure, who Adam seems to recognize, makes an unexpected visit. Adam asks the visitor if he is here to extract another pound of flesh. The intruder responds by firing three arrows into Adam’s chest, killing him.
Oliver and John spar in the Arrowcave. John points out that Oliver has really thrown himself into his vigilante work since his breakup with Helena, having taken down three of the men on the list in a single week. He tells Oliver that he’s taking his nephew to the mall for Christmas shopping and Oliver realizes that it’s Christmas. He explains that on the island he was too busy trying to survive to keep track of things like holidays, and remembers how his father Robert, would put Christmas trees in every room of the manor. John tells Oliver that he deserves a break and to go spend time with his family on Christmas. Yao Fei unseals the cave and is surprised that Oliver is still alive. He leaves Oliver a jug of water and a rabbit for food. When Oliver inquires as to where he has been Yao brings in a surprise prisoner, Edward Fyers. Oliver’s first thought is to gain revenge on the man who tortured him, but Yao Fei tells him that he is more valuable to them alive, as they can use his private plane to return to civilization.
Oliver returns to Queen Manor and discovers Thea leaving their parents’ dinner party. He asks about the lack of Christmas decorations and Thea hesitantly says that everyone was just too busy to bother. Oliver then joins the dinner party where Moira and Walter are hosting several rich and important guests, including Malcolm Merlyn and Police Commissioner Brian Nudocerdo. They discuss The Hood and whether his actions are justified. While Brian voices his disapproval of vigilantes, Malcolm notes that the crime rate has gone down for the first time in 5 years. Brian insists that his new departmental policies are responsible, but Walter suggests that The Hood has put the fear in the criminal element. Malcolm asks Oliver his opinion. Feigning neutrality, Oliver says the vigilante needs a better codename than “The Hood.” Malcolm suggests “Green Arrow,” which Oliver snidely dismisses. Their conversation is interrupted when Walter gets a call from Felicity. He takes it in the other room and she tells him that seven of the men on the list have been taken down by The Hood. Walter is not surprised by this, but Felicity quickly gets his attention by revealing that Dr. Doug Miller, the head of Applied Sciences at Queen Consolidated, is also on the list. Felicity suspects that Doug may be the Hood’s next target. Meanwhile, Brian’s aide whispers a message to him and he tells the guests that arrow has struck again and killed Adam Hunt, his first victim. Oliver fakes a call from a contractor and promptly excuses himself.
Quentin Lance arrives at Adam’s apartment and meets with Brian Nudocerdo, while The Hood eavesdrops from a balcony. Brian suggests the vigilante is responsible, but Quentin disagrees; the arrows used to kill Adam were black instead of green, and The Hood had already shut down Adam’s Ponzi scheme and left him a broken man, killing him now would make no sense. He suggests a copycat is responsible. The next day, Oliver and John try to work out who killed Adam. Oliver points out the placing of the three arrows in Adam’s chest and figures that the killer is an expert archer. He figures the archer used custom arrows that can be traced and tells John that they’ll get one from the police. At the police station, Quentin receives a disposable cellphone, which begins ringing almost immediately after he picks it up. Using a voice distorter, Oliver tells Quentin The Hood is not a very good nickname for him. He then insists that he didn’t kill Adam, but he needs Quentin’s help to track the real killer. He insists that he can go places that the police can’t Quentin isn’t interested, but Oliver warns that the killer will likely strike again, and instructs him to call the pre-programmed number if he changes his mind.
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Walter calls Dr. Doug into his office and tells him that security red-flagged him as someone The Hood might come after. Doug claims that he has no idea why the vigilante would want him. Oliver and Thea are having lunch at Big Belly Burgers, and Oliver again inquires about the lack of Christmas celebration. Before she can answer, a young man named Shane Colvin comes in and asks if Thea wants to hang with him and his friends. She passes, explaining that she’s with her brother. After Shane leaves, Oliver returns to the topic and Thea explains that after Oliver and Robert disappeared at sea, no one felt like celebrating Christmas. After that they just kept avoiding it for the next 4 years. Thea doesn’t consider this a big deal, but Oliver clearly does. Later, Oliver gathers his family and expresses his desire to resume the annual Christmas party. He went without Christmas during his time on the island, and he knows that he was the reason they stopped celebrating, so now, he can be the reason they celebrate it again. “I know that I haven’t been the son, the step-son, or the brother that all of you deserve, especially lately, but this feels like the right moment to start making up for lost time”. Moira agrees and Oliver tells them that he’ll handle all of the arrangements. As the family leaves, Walter tells Oliver that he’s a good man.
Yao Fei leads Edward and Oliver through the forest, and Edward tells Oliver that he can tell that he’s a good man, since he suffered torture rather than betray Yao Fei. Edward asks Oliver what he knows about Yao and explains that Lian Yu was a prison. The Chinese army kept the prisoners there that were too dangerous to imprison anywhere else. When they shut down the island 8 years ago, they sent Edward and his men in to purge the facility. Only two prisoners were spared. Yao Fei and Billy Wintergreen. When Oliver points out that Edward had Wintergreen torture him, Edward says that he only did it to find Yao, who had “slaughtered dozens of people,” and asks what Oliver would have done in his position. Moira meets with Malcolm at a secret location. He tells her that Doug reported to him, and that Walter knows more than he should about the list. Moira suggests she talk with him, but Malcolm says they are past the point of conversation. He recalls how she blackmailed him into staying away from her family. He has honored that agreement, but now it seems her family isn’t staying away from him. He wonders if they need to bring in their “associate” to clean things up. Moira nervously assures him that she will handle it.
A businessman, Nelson Ravich, is walking home when The Dark Archer kills him. Brian and Quentin arrive sometime later and close the crime scene. They know that The Hood terrorized Ravich into giving up his embezzlement funds a week ago. Brian tells Quentin to accuse The Hood of the two murders but Quentin refuses, pointing out that it doesn’t match The Hood’s normal pattern of leaving his victims alive once he gets what he wants from them. Brian takes Quentin off the case and leaves, while Quentin goes back to the station. After careful consideration, Quentin calls Oliver and tells him that he left one of the black arrows at a heating vent. However, he warns the Hood that he has until Christmas to find the killer, after that, he’ll come after him, “copycat or not”.
Oliver recovers the black arrow and goes over it with John. They confirm that it’s a custom job and that The Dark Archer is deliberately trying to call Oliver out. Oliver takes the arrow to Queen Consolidated and asks Felicity if she can confirm the point of origin so he can order more for a friend. She does so, and discovers that the company holding the patent on the arrow is called Sagittarius, after the famous archer on the Zodiac calendar. Felicity locates the address of the shipment and gives it to Oliver, who wishes her a happy Hanukkah and departs.
When Laurel comes home, she finds her father listening to Brian’s press statement on the news. She figures that The Hood isn’t the killer, reminding Quentin that the Hood protected her during the prison breakout. Tommy arrives at the apartment and Quentin rebuffs his attempts to impress him. Laurel reminds Tommy that she wanted to be with her father on Christmas, but he says that Christmas is a time for people to be together, and points out that she’s holding something back. When he invites her to the Queen holiday party, Laurel refuses and Tommy gives her his Christmas present and leaves. Quentin complains about how Tommy and Oliver are selfish and Laurel should stay away from both of them. She’s surprised and touched to discover that Tommy’s gift is an old photo of herself, Quentin, and Sara. Oliver dons his Hood costume and goes to the address that received the black arrows. A single black arrow is rammed into a table and as Oliver examines it, the door slams shut behind him. A bomb lights off and begins a countdown, and Oliver blasts the door open with an explosive arrow and gets out just in time. He goes back to the manor where the party is in full swing and tells John what happened. As they talk, Shane comes in with flowers for Moira. Oliver has his family pose for a Christmas party and then Thea goes off with Shane, Moira tells Walter that they’ll talk later and goes off. Tommy and Laurel arrive and Oliver goes to greet them. Tommy still thinks things are weird between Laurel and Oliver and goes off to get drinks.
When Walter finds Moira, she reminds him that he promised not to investigate any further. Walter reminds his wife that Robert was his oldest friend and that he had no intention of letting the murderers go free. He asks his wife if whatever she is protecting is worth the lies, and Moira explains that she salvaged the boat to use as leverage against the organization. Walter offers to help fight them, but Moira says that she is one of them, and that she hoped Walter’s love could save her. He accepts her explanation for the moment and tells her that the time for lies is over, and Moira promises to tell him everything after the party. Laurel and Oliver talk privately and she figures out that he’s still uncomfortable with the fact that she’s with Tommy. Oliver insists that he’s fine and Laurel admits that since Oliver was declared dead, she hasn’t been able to connect emotionally with anyone. She tells Oliver that Tommy is the first person that she has been with in 5 years, and Oliver assures her that he’s happy for them.
Once Laurel leaves, Oliver goes to find Thea and discovers her in bed with Shane. He kicks Shane out and demands to know why Thea is skipping the party. She angrily explains that the party is something he’s doing to make himself feel better and that all it’s doing is digging up old memories that she rather forget. Oliver wonders why she wants to forget, and Thea tells him that things will never again be as they were before his disappearance. As she walks away, John comes in to tell Oliver that the copycat situation has escalated. They turn on the news and discover that The Dark Archer has captured five hostages and is holed up at an abandoned warehouse. One of the hostages reads a statement from The Dark Archer, accusing the police of lacking the will do what justice demands. He will execute one hostage every hour unless The Hood faces him alone. John suggests that the police handle it, but Oliver insists that it’s his responsibility and assures his partner that he handled much worse on the island.
Image result for ARROW YEAR'S ENDYao Fei tells Edward to radio his troops and instruct them to bring the plane. Edward tells them that won’t be necessary, as they should be arriving any minute. “Do you not think it convenient to capture me so easily”? As Yao and Oliver realize they’ve been lured into a trap, Wintergreen emerges from the jungle, flanked by two mercenaries armed with AK-74 assault rifles. As Wintergreen draws his ninjato, Yao engages him in melee combat while Oliver draws the gunmen away. Oliver manages to lose the gunmen, but Wintergreen overpowers Yao, who is forced to surrender as more troops arrive. The police gather outside the warehouse but quickly discover that The Dark Archer has booby-trapped all of the doors. As Quentin arrives, the police see The Hood slide into the warehouse through a window. He quickly frees the hostages and gets them to the roof, and then goes down to find the archer. The Dark Archer, wearing a mask which disguises his voice, tells The Hood that he’s eager to see which one of them is the better archer, and took hostages because he knew it would take something dramatic to lure him out. The two archers duel throughout the bowels of the warehouse, they seem to be evenly matched, but The Dark Archer Catches him by surprise. The Hood is brought down by two arrows to the back. As he mercilessly kicks the vigilante in the ribs, The Dark Archer reveals that he knows about the list, and the man who wrote it wants “the Hood” dead. As The Dark Archer moves in to unmask his prey, the Hood stabs him in the leg with one of his arrowheads. and knocking him out cold with a single punch as The Dark Archer flees shortly after that, Oliver radios John for help, and then passes out.
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When Oliver wakes up, he’s in the hospital with John at his side. John explains that he cleaned up the evidence and carried Oliver away. Oliver’s injuries include a collapsed lung, a few cracked ribs, and a concussion. Walter, Thea, and Moira, arrive and John tells them that Oliver was in a motorcycle accident. They’re all relieved to see that he’s okay and they admit that they weren’t at their best during the party. However, they’re all there now for Oliver and that’s what matters. Thea stays behind to apologize to Oliver, she realizes he is not the same person that he was 5 years ago, but neither is she. They agree to accept each other as they are now and share a hug. The Dark Archer returns to his hideout and removes his mask, revealing his identity as Malcolm Merlyn. Walter checks in at his office. After taking a call from Felicity, he gets into the elevator and the other passenger injects him with a sedative. Moira demands a meeting with Malcolm, well aware that he’s had Walter abducted. Malcolm promises that Walter won’t be harmed and that he will never know that Moira is involved. When she complains, Malcolm reminds her that the Tempest Organization is only six months away from rebuilding the city to their dreams. Moira realizes that Malcolm feels nothing despite the fact that their plans will cost thousands of people their lives, but Malcolm tells her that he’ll feel a sense of accomplishment, and Walter will be returned to her when it’s over.
In the hospital room, Oliver admits to John that he failed the city, because he almost didn’t win the fight, and he let The Dark Archer live, but John reminds him that he saved five lives. He figures that Oliver will capture The Dark Archer, but Oliver believes that the author of the list is the true threat, and resolves to find him.
The first Arrow Christmas set the trend for the last few years, making sure the Christmas episode is a good hour of television and making sure it leaves fans on a mid-season cliff-hanger to bring you back into the new year. The big reveal of the season 1 big bad was brilliant and set the tone for the last part of the season, Arrow season 1 got better and better with each episode during its opening year and by the time Christmas came along it showed just how far the show came along. Year’s end is an outstanding bit of television

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.