Arrow steals a move from Alias‘ playbook and jets off to mother Russia for a daring prison rescue adventure. So why isn’t this more exciting?
Let’s bitch it out…There’s something not quite working for me about season two of Arrow. It’s not that the writing is weaker or the adventures less interesting, and yet each episode leaves me feeling vaguely unsatisfied. Not dissatisfied, per se, but definitely unsatisfied.
‘Keep Your Enemies Closer’ makes clear to me what the show is missing: a goal. Last season Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) had his father’s book of evil doers to keep him task-oriented, and while I didn’t always appreciate the “take down of the week”, I liked the way those villains eventually led to Malcolm Merlyn, which led to the events of the finale when the Glades were leveled. This season there’s seemingly no direction (the Island flashbacks are the most focused of all of the show’s storylines), which makes it possible for Diggle (David Ramsey), Oliver and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) to jet off to Moscow at a moment’s notice primarily because nothing else is happening. The resulting adventure is fine, but it makes it clear how much the Blood storyline in the Glades is stagnating.
So…Moscow! It’s a pretty standard smuggle yourself into prison and get your friends to bail you out plotline – something Mission: Impossible and later Alias made an art of. Traditionally the danger lies in something going wrong with the plan, but even the wrenches thrown at Diggle end up becoming horseshoes. There’s never any real danger that Diggle would spend the rest of his days in Gulag, the notorious Russian prison, so there are only minor surprises left like Deadshot (Michael Rowe) teaming up with Diggle and then being allowed to walk away at the end of the episode. The fact that he comes clean about Diggle’s brother’s death certainly helps.
What ‘Keep Your Enemies Closer’ confirms is the priority that Oliver is giving his partnerships this season. Last season Oliver nearly lost Diggle because he refused to give his friend’s quest for vengeance the same attention he gave his own. Throw in the tentative collaboration with Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) and Oliver is all about other people. It’s very much on point for our burgeoning hero who’s trying to put others first.
- Everyone’s favourite robot CEO Isabel Rochev (Summer Glau) returns, this time with a sob story about growing up with a Russian accent and being lonely. While the background is beyond hokey, Glau is managing to slowly bring out the character behind the robot, and the stilted dialogue has decreased dramatically since the premiere. Plus accompanying our heroes to Moscow lets the show’s costume department break out that stereotypical woolly hat that people always wear when they go to Russia, so there’s that…
- Good on the writers for actually addressing the sexual tension between Oliver and Felicity. Sure it takes a one-night stand between Oliver and Isabel for things to come to the surface between Ollie and his terrible secretary, but at least now it’s officially out in the open. It will be interesting to see how this affects their interactions moving forward
- Can the writers spend a little time working on Moira’s (Susanna Thompson) storyline ASAP? This whole ‘stuck in prison’ bit is beyond old, particularly when we end up with B-stories about Thea (Willa Holland) having to dump Roy for fear of compromising her mother’s defense. Beyond terrible and deadly dull. No bonus points awarded for the tenuous parallel between the Diggle/Lila and Thea/Roy both reuniting in their respective prisons
- I’m surprised at how much prominence the Island flashbacks are getting this season. Sara (Caity Lotz) may have disappeared in the present, but she continues to appear in the flashbacks, predictably betraying Oliver to Dr. Ivo (Dylan Neal) after it becomes clear that Shado (Celina Jade) and Slade (Manu Bennett) are alive. The double-cross is disappointingly obvious, but at least now we know what this is all about: a Japenese super soldier serum lost aboard the sub on the island. Really, though, more super soldier serums? It seems like Marvel should prep their lawyers, no?
- Diggle was (is?) married?! Eh, I still don’t care about him
- Russian prisons are casually racist. Who knew?
- Finally, no Laurel (Katie Cassidy) this week. Did you notice? Did you care? Has she OD’d offscreen somewhere?
- Oliver (justifying Felicity’s skirts to Isabel): “They’re not that short”
- Felicity (when Diggle mentions that Lila is his wife): “Explain that sentence”
- Isabel (to Oliver): “Why do you try so hard to make me think you’re a lazy idiot?”
- Felicity (to Oliver, when she sees Isabel coming out of his room): “What stays in Russia stays in Russia…even when it makes no sense whatsoever”
What are your thoughts on this random detour to Moscow? Are you pleased with the increasingly partner-oriented direction this second season has adopted? Do you agree that Moira’s storyline needs an adrenaline injection? Do you want an Oliver/Felicity romance? Sound off below
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8pm EST on The CW