Review: Arrow ‘Unfinished Business’

Season 1, Episode 19 - Drama, tension and bows & arrows

This week on Arrow, our titular hero gets to face off against an old enemy in the form of The Count.  Well, sort of anyways.  Basically, the drug vertigo rears its ugly head once more and ends up causing the death of one of Oliver and Tommy’s club patrons.  Naturally, Arrow heads out to find who could be the one behind the drug’s return.  He pays a visit to The Count, but that guy is so brain-fried that there’s no way he could be in charge of the operation.  So, Arrow heads out to bust up drug deals and deal with people strung out on vertigo in hopes of getting a proper lead.

After a few encounters, he discovers that this is a new incarnation of the drug and that there are certain added ingredients.  He makes the connection between the new version and the psychiatric hospital where The Count is being held and heads back.  The real villain is revealed, Arrow fights some baddies with the help of his trusty pal Diggle and things are put right with the world once more.

In the meanwhile, drama sprouts between Tommy and Oliver, between Tommy and Lance and between Diggle and Oliver.  The first two conflicts are due to some evidence that points a finger at Tommy as the new dealer of vertigo.  The last is because Diggle has taken up a side project of his own - finding and taking down Deadshot, the dude what killed his brother.  The episode ends with Tommy quitting the nightclub and going back to daddy Merlyn for a job and Arrow promising Diggle that Deadshot will be their next target.

Also, in the land of the past, Yao Fei’s daughter teaches Oliver how to beat the crap out of a bowl of water with one hand.  In reality, she’s beginning his training to become a true bad-ass.  She also relates a little bit of back-story about her father.  By show’s end, Oliver has picked up the bow that will become his legacy, ready to learn the finer points of shooting arrows into bad guys.

Though this week’s episode wasn’t incredibly action-packed, I have to say that it was, by far, one of the cleanest and best put-together episodes of the entire season.  There was a good balance of action, drama and character development and not so much miscellaneous stuff going that we lose track of the story being told.  The end result is a much better show and I’m hoping they get some feedback on this and try to improve the writing overall.  I’m also growing quite fond of Yao Fei’s daughter, who is a total and complete butt-kicker.

Next week, Ollie and Diggle go on the warpath against evil-nasty Deadshot, another old favorite bad guy.  As the season finale looms, the episodes seem to be improving in both writing and acting.  Let’s hope it ends well.

Review: Arrow ‘Salvation’

Season 1, Episode 18 - Not big on villain, but keeping character development going.

The first thing I noticed on this week’s Arrow, “Salvation,” was that the writers appear to be reaching out for a more complex storyline.  They’re doing more dodging between the multiple characters and using smaller scenes to tell a bigger story.  They’ve been setting up for it all season now, so I guess it only makes sense that they’d use what they presented.  Still, the villain this week is shallow and boring and so no matter how much effort was put into the overall story arc, the latest 23 minutes had no backbone.

We start off with Arrow overtaxing himself, going against bad-guy after bad-guy.  The first one we see him pursue ends up getting snatched by someone else, and so Oliver must figure this riddle out.  Turns out a guy calling himself The Savior is the villain of the week.  He’s a vigilante sort, just like Arrow, though he doesn’t give warnings.  His technique is to kidnap people and then force them to confess their crimes to the world via livestream.  Then he kills them, whether they’ve confessed or not.  Arrow doesn’t like the more sadistic version of himself so he heads out to catch this guy. 

In the meanwhile, Thea has made a boyfriend of the petty-criminal Roy.  She’s still trying to make him into a nice guy, but he’s ghetto through-and-through.  He ends up in some deep doo-doo and, predictably, the kidnapping Savior nabs him.  It’s then up to Arrow to rescue his sister’s squeeze before he dies.

Also, Moira negotiates the tenuous world of betrayal, trying to help her allies while dodging Malcolm.  The search for the missing Sarah is still happening on that front, though comes to an end for now.  I’m not even sure why this was included, unless they plan on doing something relevant with it soon.  Otherwise, they need to drop it and just wait for next season to continue.  And in the past, Oliver and Slade try to exchange the circuit board for Yao Fei’s freedom and end up with his daughter instead.  Luckily, his daughter kicks just as much ass as he does.

The contrast between Arrow and The Savior is a theme that the writers really like to explore.  Over and over.  We’ve seen it before, there’s no need to continue - we get that Oliver has conflicts about his job.  Please, please, just stop already.  Although this week did have some nice parkour stunts from Oliver.  I’m more and more impressed with the level of training this guy undergoes to avoid using stuntmen.

Hopefully this coming week will prove better than the last.  I really hope they forgo any new introductions until next season.  There are plenty of cast members to work with so far and the less new information we viewers need to process for these last few episodes, the better.  This has the potential to end with a bang or go out with a fizzle.  Let’s hope it’s the former.

Review: Arrow ‘The Huntress Returns’

Season 1, Episode 17 - A nice Arrow vs. bad guy scenario without the dragged-out set-up


Finally, after three weeks of waiting, Arrow has returned from its brief departure - and the return was worth the wait.  This time around, we get the return of one character that is quickly becoming my favorite vigilante villain, The Huntress.  She’s come back to town after discovering that her father has managed to dodge his just punishment by making a deal with the police to roll over on some other criminals.  Obviously, she’s less than pleased with these developments and so decides that she’s going to finish the revenge that she started.

The biggest problem The Huntress has is that she can’t figure out where dear old dad is being hidden.  So she enlists the help of Arrow to both find her father and secure him from the police who are escorting him.  Oliver isn’t cooperative in helping her at first, but she makes her seriousness known by almost breaking Tommy’s arm and threatening the rest of Oliver’s friends and family.  The daddy-snatching caper doesn’t go off as planned, however, and The Huntress gets caught in a trap.  Oliver is forced to rescue her, if only to make sure she doesn’t roll over on his secret identity.

It turns out to be a mistake, naturally, since The Huntress then pays a visit to Felicity and forces her to hack into the FBI computers to find out where daddy really is.  Arrow goes after his rival to prevent her from putting a crossbow bolt into dad’s back, but The Huntress fights back and Oliver’s new girlfriend (who just happens to end up at the scene before anyone else) becomes a casualty.

Meanwhile, Thea continues her weird little quest to give the guy who snatched her purse a job and help him on the long road to rehabilitation.  Laurel and family try to unravel the question of whether Sarah is really alive or not.  And in the past, Oliver and Slade make their move against the missile system that is their target, trying to negotiate for a way off the island.

It was really nice for the show to finally be able to drop in a villain-of-the-week story that didn’t need some brief and artificial introduction.  We already know who The Huntress is and so the writers were able to get right to the chase.  The fight scenes were better than usual, though that could have been due to the fact that they kept both actors’ faces off the camera and were thus able to use their stunt fighters to the best of their ability.  This is really the first time that the show has been able to revisit a villain that has an actual background (China White and Deadshot don’t count).  Hopefully this will become a trend in the way the writers approach the show, particularly the second season.

One thing that was a bit annoying is the addition of Thea’s boy-toy, Roy.  Based on his kung-fu power, it looks like they may be setting him up to be Arrow’s sidekick at some point.  The actor is already annoying me and I honestly hope he finds another job and they’re forced to write him out. 

The other big annoying thing is the mystery of Sarah.  It is supposed to be connected to the Black Canary character in some way, which would be awesome, but there’s already so damn much going on that it’s hard to sort it out.  Adding even more drama is just going to put the show back in the muddled mess state is was in for the first half of the season.  They should run with what they have for a while until viewers are familiar with the characters and the world.  Just because you’ve established the heroes doesn’t mean you need to bring in more heroes.

Six more episodes to the season and plenty to wrap up regarding the whole Malcolm Merlyn, Moira and “The Undertaking” business.  Not to mention a few people to kill off, since they really can’t enter season 2 with so many people knowing Arrow’s identity.  Let’s hope they keep up the skill of the last few episodes.

Review: Arrow ‘Dead to Rights’

Season 1, Episode 16 - Best episode of the season so far.

The end of last week’s episode saw Moira Queen trying to get away from her involvement in the “Undertaking” and turning to China White and the Chinese mafia for some help in the matter.  Her plan - to knock off Malcolm Merlyn and cut the head off the organization.  This week’s episode of Arrow, ‘Dead to Rights’ deals with the consequences of her actions as they unfold.

The first assassin that gets brought in goes down quickly in the opening scene.  Arrow is on top of things and the story picks up with him already knowing about the influx of baddies and the potential for assassination.  Good job here for the writers, because we really didn’t need any more set-up to drag the story’s pacing down. 

So the first guy goes down and Arrow finds a phone, which he naturally takes to Felicity to crack.  In the meanwhile, China White is joined by another familiar face from the season in the form of Deadshot.  He may have lost an eye, but he’s not as dead as Arrow first thought.  China White hooks him up with a nifty technological eye replacement and he’s good to start assassinating again.

Eventually, Felicity tracks the phone’s last call to a restaurant being used as a front by the Chinese mafia.  So Oliver invites Tommy to get something to eat.  Of course, he’s really just there to sneak around and beat some people up and find some information, which he does splendidly.

But the crux of the story takes place at a gala event celebrating the wonderful things that Malcolm Merlyn has done for the city.  He invites Tommy, who attends because of some heart-to-heart from Oliver.  But the assassins are planning on using the event as a staging ground to kill Merlyn.  Oliver finds out just in time and comes to the rescue.

When the heat turns up, we get a nice Arrow versus China White fight (round II!).  We also get to see Malcolm beating the crap out of people and in the process cueing his son in to the fact that he’s a killing machine.  But Deadshot does his job well and Malcolm falls, victim to one of those crazy poison bullets we’ve seen before.  In order to save Malcolm, Oliver has to remove the hood and let Tommy know his real identity.

Meanwhile, in the past, Oliver continues his transformation from spoiled brat to killing machine.  He’s hanging with his buddy Slade and ends up fixing an old radio so they can call for help.  Unfortunately, it can only receive so they’re pretty much screwed in that regard.  It does, however, give them some info on what the bad guys are doing - bringing in some majorly high-powered missile launchers.

And at the very end of the episode… well, I’m not going to reveal it, but it’s kinda lame.  As if there haven’t been enough twists and turns for one season, they decided to add one more.  The only redeeming quality of this is that all the hints point to a coming appearance of a comic book favorite, Black Canary.

This episode really did well in humanizing Malcolm Merlyn and making the audience think of him as something other than a generic boss bad guy for Arrow to fight during the last episode of the season.  The Undertaking is supposedly some sort of altruistic plan gone bad and it acts as an interesting comparison to Oliver’s own plans and the potential that he himself might go down the wrong road.

The other thing I really enjoyed about this week was that they started bringing back recurring bad guys and ditched the format of introducing a new face every week.  Since we don’t have to deal with so much rushed through introduction, we can concentrate on the plot, which is the better part of Arrow.  The writers have finally settled into a proper protracted struggle that will hopefully come to a satisfying end.

Good job Arrow.  You’ve pulled out of your downward spiral well with the last few episodes. Let’s see how you wrap it all up in the next seven episodes! Next week, one of my favorites, The Huntress, makes a return.

Review: Arrow ‘Dodger’

Season 1, Episode 15 - Improved cast power, though too little screen time making villains seem worthless.

Last week on Arrow, we actually got a good look into Oliver’s past on the island and what helped shape him into the person he is today.  We also got a brief look at his self-denial concerning his mother’s involvement in “The Undertaking” and her connection to the list of baddies he’s hunting.  And we got a more permanent (and much needed) addition to Arrow’s team in the form of tech-savvy Felicity.  This week, while the character’s shine the plot is pretty much the same as it is every week - Arrow fights a bad guy and wins.

This week’s bad guy just happens to be BSG alumni, James Callis.  He plays a character by the name of Dodger, so known because he manages to avoid detection when stealing priceless artifacts.  His MO involves putting explosive collars on people and getting them to do most of the dirty work or just using them as hostages against pursuit.  When faced up against Arrow, dodger proves hard to catch at first but eventually Oliver lays a trap, a chase scene ensues and the two have their final showdown.

As for the rest of the characters, Felicity is already getting in Arrow’s face, becoming not only his technology expert but also acting as a voice of sympathy.  She brings an alternative view of how to get things done with regards to the list and uses brains and tech instead of just muscle.

As far as Moira goes, it looks like Oliver’s visit in the hood scared her into wanting to get out from under Malcolm Merlyn’s thumb and escape her involvement in the mysterious Undertaking.  And so she contacts some old friends to help her, including one that Arrow has fought in the past.  There’s also a side-story with Thea and some boy that tried to steal her purse.  It doesn’t look too impressive thus far.

Meanwhile, in the past, Oliver is busying trying to keep Slade alive.  In order to do this, he needs to travel back to Yao Fei’s cave and retrieve the miracle herbs that once saved his life.  Lo and behold, when he arrives in the cave there is a mysterious man tied up and claiming to be a victim of the soldiers on the island.  From the beginning it looks like a trap of some sort, but what is Oliver to do?

Although I liked the way they spent some time on the character this week, I do have a few complaints.  First of all, Oliver seems to get a different romantic interest every other episode.  Old flings and enemies with benefits seem to be everywhere.  The formula is getting rather tired.

My other main complaint is, yet again, the bad-guy-of-the-week format.  At this point, it’s becoming more of the forgettable-character-of-the-week format.  Arrow’s enemies get virtually no screen time and you always know he’s going to come out on top.  Each week presents an almost identical premise of conflict and at this point it’s really dragging the show down.

It looks like China White will be coming back and the season is rolling to a close, so I’m hopeful that they make some changes and trash some of the clichés.  If they can’t pull it together, season 2 won’t be worth watching unless there’s nothing else on TV.

Review: Arrow ‘The Odyssey’

Season 1, Episode 13 - A long look into Oliver’s past…finally!

When we last left off, there was a huge plot twist in the form of Oliver finally putting on the hood and going after his own mother.  Too bad for Oliver, his mom is a scraper and chooses to get into a fire fight with him.  He finds out nothing useful, takes a bullet and then has to flee. 

In order to make it back to his hideout, Oliver enlists the help of Felicity, the cute computer girl that’s been helping him along for most of the show.  The majority of the episode has Oliver laid out and recovering, while the action all takes place in the past, finally giving us a glimpse of what the hell went on for at least some of those five missing years.

Oliver is buddied-up with Yao Fei’s former partner, Slade, learning at least a little bit about how to fight.  Their goal is to take a local airfield and get the heck off the island.  But Slade wants to flee without Yao Fei and then order an air strike of the island to boot.  Oliver’s not so hot with his idea and so sets out to rescue his former buddy on his own.  Of course, he gets captured yet again and Slade has to come to his rescue, going head-to-head with his half-and-half mask buddy and, courtesy of a dagger to the eye, removing him from the future of the series.

This week’s offering was definitely more action-oriented, but in such a way as to break the cliché arrow-shooting bad-guy-of-the-week routine that they’ve been relying on so far.  It was also nice to finally get a decent-sized block of the Oliver’s past storyline so as to renew my interest.  With most episodes presenting less than 2 minutes at a glance, I was beginning to not care at all what happened on that island.

And perhaps my favorite part of this episode, Felicity jumping on board with Oliver and Diggle, if only for a limited time.  She’s too smart of a character and fills the holes that Oliver has in his skill set to let her linger in the background the whole time.  Hopefully the writers decide to keep her around and not head back to the same mediocre two-man dynamic.

A definite improvement in the series, this week’s episode is one of the best so far.  I’m hoping that they can keep up with both the action and the character development so that this first season of Arrow comes to a satisfying climax in the coming weeks.

Review: Arrow ‘Betrayal’

Season 1, Episode 13 - The plot thickens, but the action lags.

This week’s episode of Arrow, ‘Betrayal’ picks up following a revelation that Oliver received concerning the possible connection of his mother to the list of baddies that he’s been hunting down.  Of course, Oliver refuses to admit that his mother might be on the wrong side of his struggle and so nurses his denial.  Luckily for him, he chats with side-kick Diggle about the affair.  Even though Oliver is blinded by the fact that it’s his mother under suspicion, Diggle isn’t falling into that trap so easily.  He sets out on his own investigation, determined to learn the truth.

By acting as driver to Moira, he manages to sneak a listen at one of her meetings with the super-evil bad guy Malcolm Merlyn.  The conversation they have is incriminating enough that he talks to Oliver about it and then the son is forced to make a crucial decision about whether The Hood needs to become involved.

In the meanwhile, the bad guy of the week, in an attempt to make a name for himself and fill the power vacuum that Arrow’s purgings have caused, decides that he needs to take down the archer himself.  In order to do this, he kidnaps Laurel to lure Arrow in.  Laurel’s father, unable to trust his cop buddies due to an obvious spy leaking information to the baddie, turns to Arrow for help.  Together they assault the mansion where the evil-doer is holing up and bring him to justice (after more than a few dead guards, of course).

And in the past, Oliver follows the map given to him by Yao Fei and finds a downed aircraft.  Inside said aircraft happens to be another soldier, supposedly an ally of Yao Fei.  After almost being killed a few times, Oliver convinces the soldier that he can help him steal an airplane and get off the island.  And so Oliver’s training in hand-to-hand combat begins.

There was definitely a marked increase in developing the plot this episode, although the entire confrontation with the bad guy (whose name escapes my mind, he was so forgettable) seems almost pointless.  Other than uniting (temporarily) Arrow and Detective Lance and forcing Arrow to make a decision about his involvement with Laurel for her own safety, the fighting was routine and the conclusion bland.

The biggest problem I’m seeing with the series thus far is that when they excel in one area, they tend to ignore the rest of the story elements.  It moves along smoothly and then begins a clunky progression whenever the writers shift their focus.  This may be a case of them getting into proper rhythm with the first season, however, so hopefully it clears up.  Other than that, the advancement of the storyline is capturing my interest more and I’m still eager to catch each episode every Wednesday night.

Review: Arrow ‘Vertigo’

Season 1, Episode 12 - Less meandering, more Oliver being angry

This week’s episode of Arrow, ‘Vertigo,’ jumps right into the action with our titular hero chasing down a bad guy.  Rather than going for someone on his list this time around, he’s instead chosen to go after the dealer that’s putting the drug Vertigo on the street.  It’s the very same drug that his sister took when she ended up in her car accident last week and Oliver has made his hunt personal.

So Arrow’s first step is to find a name.  That comes pretty easy when the first guy he beats up tells him that the person he’s looking for is known as “The Count”.  So Oliver makes his attack on two fronts.  As Oliver he contacts some old friends and gathers information on The Count and as Arrow he gets ready to do battle with his newfound enemy.  Eventually he finds the bad guy and ends up getting a bad dose of the drug as The Count makes his escape.  But he returns, albeit in somewhat questionable shape, and finally confronts his enemy.

In the meanwhile, Oliver tries to use his influence to fix things for his sister Thea.  Some judge has decided that she’s to be made an example of so Oliver is forced to make some deals and call in some favors.  Eventually this too works out for the better, of course.

But the kicker is a small bit at the end, when Felicity (that’s the seemingly nameless glasses-clad girl that Oliver keeps asking to do favors for him) reveals the list that she acquired from Walter before his mysterious disappearance.  She tells Oliver about its connection to his mother, setting up what will no doubt be a thorough investigation by Oliver in the coming episodes.

And in the never-quite-resolved past of Oliver Queen, he has been captured by the very person he thought to be his ally.  He ends up stuck in a cage and then getting his ass beat by the so-called ally and dumped over a waterfall.  But all is not as it seems and Oliver is intentionally left alive and in possession of a map to a place unknown.

All-in-all, this episode was much better than the last.  The introduction of The Count and his questionable end sets up the potential for Arrow’s first sort-of super-powered recurring nemesis.  No longer will Arrow be butting heads with other martial arts wielding baddies, but he may have to pit himself against one who uses less straightforward tactics.  I’m hoping the writers take full advantage of this one, cause the kicking and punching is getting old within the context of what is supposed to be a comic book setting.

Hoping next week measures up to this one and we get to see something more than what’s already been presented to us.

Review: Arrow ‘Trust But Verify’

Season 1, Episode 11 - Arrow stews up the pot a bit, but does little more than tease


This week’s episode of Arrow, “Trust But Verify” brings us… well, more of what last week brought us, for the most part.  The bad-guy-of-the-week this time around happens to be an old army buddy of Diggle’s, which makes things a little more complicated for the crime-fighting team.  Diggle tries to work things out for himself, investigating instead of just letting Oliver put an arrow in the guy, but in the end it just reverts to the standard way of dealing with the problem and scratch one more name from Arrow’s master list.

As Arrow does his job, the rest of the world moves steadily onward.  Malcolm Merlyn becomes a bit more prominent in the plot once more, making contact with both momma Queen and his own son.  He continues his manipulative efforts to get Moira to do things his way, but through happenstance, little Thea Queen stumbles upon them chatting not once, but twice, leading her to suspect that they’re having an affair.  While it may seem a silly little addition to the plot, it does give reason for Oliver to become suspect and will likely lead to the revelation of Walter’s unfortunate condition and Malcolm’s role in it all.  As far as Malcolm and son Tommy go, a dinner date leads to some revelations about the elder Merlyn and gives us a bit of a look into his origins as the bad-ass archer he is and the connections to his dead wife.

Meanwhile, in the past, Oliver escapes from the bad guys on the island, at least for a time.  He tries to infiltrate them, however, and gets himself caught again.  By the time the minimal two-minutes of back-story is over with, we’re presented with one more mystery, but still little in the way of explanation.

Lots of little subplots are going around now, but to me they feel forced.  I wonder if they’re just shoehorning in a few things to set up a finale this season or whether they’re looking at fleshing out these characters for eventual expansion in hopes of a second season.  If they do wish to continue, expanded side-characters will be a necessity.  Still, I do wish they’d spend more time fleshing out Arrow’s past instead of just feeding us two-minute bites.

Aside from the promise that they’ll be delving into Malcolm Merlyn’s origins, this week had little to offer that was new.  With any luck, they’ll expand beyond the confines of the weekly bad-guy routine and create a more fleshed out story.  Until then, I expect more of the same each week.  Hopefully, they’ll surprise me, because it feels like the story has stalled and is in danger of running in circles.

Review: Arrow ‘Burned’

Season 1, Episode 10 - Arrow returns with a few improvements and a few flaws.

The second half of the first season of Arrow has begun, picking up after a short, month-long hiatus.  It’s always nice when they don’t make you wait too long, otherwise you end up forgetting what the heck was going on.  So far, the series has been fairly decent.  It’s not the best acted or scripted show on television, but it does possess all the elements that make comic books so fun, sticking true to its roots and presenting viewers with a light yet still dark-toned storyline of vengeance and justice.  The newest episode, ‘Burned’, continues in the tradition already set forth.

When last we left off (spoilers!) Walter was kidnapped by the evil Malcolm Merlyn who, as we learned at the end of the mid-season finale, also happens to be a kick-ass archer, better than Arrow, in fact.  Oliver/Arrow was out of action due to some serious wounds at the hands of Merlyn during a fight he didn’t win.  With Oliver’s family in disarray and his confidence shot, the new episode picks up about six weeks after the events of the previous.

The storyline for ‘Burned’ is fairly generic.  It’s an arrow versus bad-guy of the week format of the same kind that the series has been using most of the way.  It jumps back to Oliver’s time on the island every once in a while, detailing not very much, but enough so we don’t get too bored.  Oliver’s lady lawyer friend, Dinah, steals the phone that Arrow gave her father and uses it to get a hold of him regarding a series of mysterious fireman deaths.  At first Oliver is reluctant to help beyond just digging up some information here and there, but eventually decides that only he can do the job right and stop the killings.

So yeah, that’s about it, but it’s the basic storyline for every episode, so what do you expect?  What is nice about the new episode isn’t the originality of the story, however, but the improvement in acting among the cast.  It looks like they’ve finally gotten comfortable with their characters, an important part of any series’ development.

Also, the addition of the phone as a prop was a nice idea.  Now, the writers can bring Arrow along for any problem that happens to hit Dinah in addition to the normal list-hunting activities that drive the character each week.  It’s his bat signal, so to speak, and it should prove helpful in fleshing out the series.

I did have a slight problem with the action scenes.  These have been sort of hit-and-miss throughout the series and in this particular episode they really show no flair whatsoever.  If anything, they’re just plain bad.  Hopefully this won’t remain a trend during upcoming episodes.  I’m also getting a bit fed up with the extra-drawn-out back-story.  So far we’ve learned almost nothing about Oliver’s time on the island and if they don’t speed it along it will become so unimportant to the overall plot that I will not even care anymore.  I’ve heard they’re supposed to wind it up this half-season, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed on that one.

All-in-all, not the best half-season opener, but not entirely awful.  I’m still a fan of the show, at least until something better comes along.  Anyone who loves classic comic book clichés should get a kick out of the series as long as they’re willing spend 40 minutes a week watching it.  Looking forward to see what next week has to offer.