After the season 4 premier episode puts Team Arrow right back where we left them, episode 2 wastes no time in introducing new plot elements. While many appear quite promising for the long haul of season 4, one can’t help but feel some of the extra threads could also become cumbersome quite quickly.
Whereas episode 1 was very much focused on the lack of leadership and the void left by the absence of The Arrow, episode 2 is very much about Leadership. Jessica Danforth decides to run for Mayor, Felicity struggles to convince the Palmer Technologies board of directors (and the shows audience) that she has any business being the CEO of a major corporation, and Team Arrow tries to readjust to Oliver being in charge once again.
In a plot that is so focused on establishing order and building strong leadership, it may be almost poetic that we are introduced to a new villain, Anarky. Although DC comics fans may be disappointed to find that this Anarky appears to be related to the sometimes anti-hero in name only, as this Anarky doesn’t appear to have any socio-political motivation, and is purely interested in sewing chaos, terror, and pain in Star City.
Obviously, the forces of order and disorder collide, showing that maybe Jessica Danforth doesn’t have what it takes to run for mayer, resulting in (finally), Oliver Queen stepping back out of the shadows and announcing his intention to follow in his mothers footsteps to run for the Mayor’s office. After all, he’s a little less difficult to intimidate or kill than some of the past candidates have been.
Meanwhile, Felicity is struggling with the newfound burden of running a multi-million dollar company with a troublesome financial outlook, which only makes sense, considering she was just a help desk technician only a couple of years prior. She needs to cut back the workforce in order to balance the budget, which she finds trouble doing (despite the fact that she flippantly references the shutting own of a paper mill that conveniently produced the cellulose that helped them track down Anarky). In a bold move, she reverses all the firings and lies to the board of directors, telling them that a super secret revolutionary technology is being produced and it will save the company.
Such a strong focus on some of the non-masked vigilante elements of the show definitely shows that they are focusing more on making the show a little lighter, to aid in telling Oliver’s transition away from the darkness, which is contrasted against his time from his return to Lian Yu in the flashbacks, where he has infiltrated what appears to be a poppy farm and has (very quickly) gained the trust of the cartel so he can serve as a guard.
Not that everything is super light. Thea is struggling with violent tendencies, likely a result of her dip in the Lazarus pit, and Laurel offers to take some time off with her only to recoup, only for Laurel to reveal that she has an alternate plan. Now that she’s known that the Lazarus pits exist, she decides to dig up the rotting corpse of her sister Sara and take her on a little trip to Nanda Parbat.
There were a lot of encouraging directions taken for the season as a whole, but unfortunately, Arrow still stumbles under the macro lens. Things like Thea having issues with violence, or Felicity trying to save Palmer Technologies sound good in an episode synopsis, but character motivations and decision making rarely seem to make sense from moment to moment.
Despite the fact that the directions being taken appear to be the right story developments for the show, the execution often comes off as contrived and a little clunky. Laurel is supposed to have developed into a more level headed person as she’s adopted her role as Black Canary, yet she makes one of the most hasty and uninformed decision to dig up Sara’s corpse mere moments after discovering the existence of the Lazarus pit, and Felicity is totally out of her depth as CEO and makes terrible business decisions, yet it’s painted as if she’s a counter intuitive hopeful business leader.
These characters have motivations in the rest of their development that could very logically lead in the exact same direction for the plot. Felicity may not have a strong business background, but she is a technical genius and they could have made her more of a Steve Job sort of savior of Palmer Technologies, but instead she’s a mostly incompetent CEO that is foolishly gambling the fate of her company on currently empty hopes and dreams.
Even if the moment to moment character motivation is inconsistent, though, at least the show is tying to go in fresh directions. Most notably, getting Oliver involved in a public capacity for the first time in a long time. The actual character of Oliver Queen hasn’t had much to do outside of being the Arrow, so it is exciting to see him get some plot devoted to his Mayoral run, which has been a long time coming for fans of the comics.
Some of the choreography in this episode was also better. There always seems to be a shot or two of Black Canary standing still and looking around cluelessly in the middle of a battle, but the action definitely improved over last episode, including a cool looking tag team zip line between Green Arrow and Black Canary.
For a season that definitely didn’t put it’s best foot forward, this episode does give a little more confidence, even if it still suffers from many of the same old character issues. If this is what we can expect from Season 4, then the show is heading in a good direction.