It’s been something like six weeks since the final episode of Arrow’s Season 2 aired, and this is no longer remotely timely, but here, finally, is my review thereof. My review of the first half of Season 2 was pretty complimentary, and I stand by my opinion: the show has been doing way way better this season both from a writing and from a feminist perspective. There were definitely some ugly moments toward the end of the season, though. Let’s get right into it.
The second half of Season 2 focused around Oliver dealing, increasingly ineffectively, with the problem of Slade Wilson. Slade blamed Oliver for Shado’s death on the island, and the Mirakuru supplement was exacerbating his anger and causing him to hallucinate a Shado who agreed with and encouraged his vendetta. Through a variety of means, from seizing control of his company through Isabel Rochev (Summer Glau’s character, who turned out to be working for Slade) to threatening and hurting his family, Slade constantly has the upper hand. After killing Oliver’s mother, creating a nigh-unhealable rift between him and Thea, and unleashing a horde of juiced-up super soldiers on Starling City, Oliver and Sara have to call in all the favors they have in order to save the city from destruction.
One thing I will say for Arrow is that it’s not afraid to fuck up Starling City for plot purposes. Last season we had the earthquake machine, and this time around we had dudes in Deathstroke masks blowing shit up, killing people, and being an all-around menace. In an Avengers-esque ending, Amanda Waller pulls some lawful good bullshit and sends drones in to destroy the city so that the Mirakuru soldiers can’t escape to wreak more havoc, but Oliver and the band of misfits he’s managed to scrape together pull through and save the day—before the drones can do their thing, but not before a large part of the city is in ruins.
This whole season was an emotional roller coaster for all the characters, and while I appreciate that they attempted to give everyone a character arc, it meant a lot was happening all the time. The Queens were at the heart of it, of course, with Moira and Thea constantly at loggerheads. Oliver spent the latter half of the season publicly supporting his mother’s mayoral candidacy while privately shunning her after discovering that Thea had been a love child from an affair Moira had with Malcolm Merlyn, and only reconciled with her right before Slade murdered her.
The Lance family was definitely all drama all the time, although I honestly didn’t particularly mind their ups and downs. Laurel alone had her addiction, disbarment, and re-barment plot and her vendetta against the Arrow and eventual discovery of his identity (and Sara’s identity). Then there was Papa Lance’s demotion to beat cop and re-promotion back to detective, Sara’s return and all the reveal drama that came with it, Sara’s evil ex-girlfriend kidnapping her mom, and that doesn’t even get into the stuff that was revealed in flashbacks. The end of their subplot does give me a little hope for the future, though: Papa Lance is back to detective, and since the Arrow just saved the city,
he’s not going to be mistrusted for depending on the Arrow’s help anymore. Laurel is attending support groups, has reconciled with her sister, is in on everyone’s secret identities, and may be stepping into Sara’s shoes as the Black Canary next season.
Sara, in turn, has made peace with her family and her past and broken off her mostly friends-with-benefits relationship with Oliver. She had made a deal with Nyssa that, in exchange for helping her and Oliver save the city from Slade, she would return to the League of Assassins, and at the end of the episode she does leave with Nyssa. Hopefully this means that we will see more of Sara and Nyssa maybe rebuilding their relationship and being cool bi ninjas together and not that our one major queer character will disappear from the course of important plot events.
Roy’s storyline was all over the place this season; he was dosed with the Mirakuru, went on a rage bender, worked with the Arrow, stopped working with the Arrow, discovered the Arrow’s identity, dated Thea, misled and broke up with Thea “to protect her”, was kidnapped so that Slade could dilute the Mirakuru out of his blood to create more super soldiers, and was both the guinea pig for the Mirakuru cure and the final impetus that drove Thea out of Starling City. On the one hand, I understand that Roy Harper is canonically Oliver’s sidekick in the comics, but on the other hand, I really do not care about all this drama. I’m much more interested to see what happens with Thea. Thea definitely had her ups and downs this season; first she was angry with her mother because of her hand in destroying the Glades, then she forgave her, then she essentially disowned both her mother and Oliver after discovering that her true father was Malcolm Merlyn. At the end of this season, it’s revealed that Merlyn is still alive, and he’s very interested in shaping Thea in his image. She leaves Starling City with him at the end of the season having rechristened herself Thea Merlyn, and I want to see how their relationship grows and how Thea develops as a character from here.
I also really appreciated that Diggle and Felicity were given something of their own subplots as well, and that they sometimes acted out of sync with Oliver’s wishes. Out of everyone, these two are possibly my favorite characters, and I’m glad that they haven’t been relegated to sidekicks who just parrot Oliver’s beliefs. Diggle’s storyline with the Suicide Squad gave him whole plotlines and interactions where he was the main player, and he has romantic and platonic relationships outside the Arrowcave.
Felicity continues to be an awesome hacker lady who calls out Oliver for the stupid shit he does. Even though she does clearly have a powerful crush on Oliver, she scolds him for being jealous of her friendship with Barry Allen during the backdoor pilot for The Flash, as he has no say over who she spends time with outside of vigilante HQ. Both of them are excellent at reminding Oliver that they are people with outside lives and that he is not entitled to 100% of their attention all the time, and I am very happy with that.
Like I said, though, there were some rough spots at the end of the season, and of everything that happened, I’m most frustrated with Moira’s death. They gave us the whole season to be invested in her as a character, and I felt like she would have really done some good as the mayor had she lived. Furthermore, after they resurrected Sara, the original fridged lady of Season 1, I thought, “hey, these writers actually know how to subvert a trope in a good way! How exciting!” Aaaand then they went and killed Moira just like they killed Shado: explicitly so a man could cause another man emotional distress.
I also wasn’t pleased (although I was somewhat unsurprised) that Isabel turned out to be working for Slade. The reasons I liked her were that she was a powerful and business-savvy woman who stuck to her own agenda and she was Summer Glau playing a character who wasn’t a waifish ninja. Her working for Slade meant that she was not playing by her own agenda, but rather by his, and her being dosed with the Mirakuru meant that she ended up being a waifish-but-super-strong hand-to-hand fighter at the end of the series.
That said, though, the season as a whole was an enjoyable watch, and it ended with plenty of space to move forward for next year. How will Oliver help the city recover, both as its wealthiest surviving face and as its masked hero? Will Laurel take up her sister’s mantle and is she remotely qualified to do so from a physical training standpoint? What role will Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad play, and exactly how much crossover will this show have with The Flash? Will we ever get more characters of color on the show? (Maybe Sara can meet Cassandra Cain in the League? That’d be awesome and a step toward fixing the shitty Asian representation on the show so far.) Will Thea become a supervillain under the tutelage of dear old dad? Will Oliver and Felicity finally hook up because good God the unresolved sexual tension is killing me (especially after that finale)? I’m eager to see what the future of Starling City holds for us in Season 3.