The opening episode of the CW’s Arrow hit the target in many respects, introducing the world, characters and setting up plenty of ongoing story potential. The often difficult second episode would provide a better idea of how the series will navigate the standalone and ongoing elements week-to-week. So, how did it do?
“Honor Thy Father” initially had me a bit worried with the level of pointedness in reminding the audience us about Oliver’s mission as “Arrow”, but that’s almost par for the course at this stage and I can understand the show wanting to get viewers up to speed.
Ollie’s list of names serves as a device for both standalone and overarching purposes, the episode abides by the former with a random case that probably wont matter in and of itself outside of this episode. Thankfully, the character interactions overshadow the self-contained elements, while the potential of the list as a backstory magnifier also became apparent.
Overall, the episode left me feeling good about the show’s prospects. While I’m not connecting with all of the characters just yet and expected more from a rather lackluster China White, importantly, Ollie’s story continues to impact me and I felt this episode was important in conveying his ongoing sense of damage and conviction, and the pain endured by his loved ones.
Beginning the episode with a quick glimpse of Arrow becoming the hero of pensioners was an effective way to illustrate that he’s been busy since we were last in Starling city. More important were the flashbacks tracing Ollie’s arrival on the island and his struggle to honor his father with a burial, establishing the theme for the episode.
The Island flashbacks, though short, continued to serve as the onion — peeling back layers of mythology while supplementing Ollie’s present day storyline. I’m pleased that the show is adding complexity to Ollie’s return to civilization. He’s not just putting on the hood and wiping the floor with random bad guys that have no impact on him or the story. While there is a bit of that in this episode, he finds that returning home requires a transformation not too dissimilar, perhaps, from the one that forged him into the Arrow in the first place.
His struggle to live up to the expectancy of his mother and to open up to his sister, whom he sees so much of himself in, is well managed. As we begin to discover, Ollie’s damage goes much deeper than the scars on his body — and it’s interesting that Thea should catch a glimpse of the wounds while trying to get him to bare his soul. For Ollie to honor his father, he believes that he needs to create another identity, one that requires him to sacrifice his own true image and dishonor his father’s memory. A painful choice but through it we also get a sense of his conviction.
My only slight quibble with the flashbacks is that I found them a touch jarring to watch at times due to the visual style, but I support the need to contrast the two narratives while creating a sense of ‘harshness’ and ‘otherworldliness’ about Ollie’s island trials. I also thought the episode could have cast better bird actors, but I guess they’re not what they used to be. That and all jokes aside, I’m pleased that each episode will dip back into the Island story. I enjoyed the way the past was woven into the emotion of Ollie’s current situation, underscored with the burial/unearthing of his father’s memory.
One person who seems to share a certain understanding with Ollie is his bodyguard John Diggle, who came to the fore in this episode. It’s not clear whether he knows that Ollie is the hooded vigilante, but after putting the clues together, he senses that there’s more to the apparent playboy than meets the eye. Diggle’s own story has yet to be fleshed out but we got enough in this episode to make him feel like a character who can become an important asset going forward.
As for Laurel, I’m not convinced on her character yet and find her acceptance of Ollie a bit swift, all things considered. Perhaps it’s a contrivance that will bear fruit later on or maybe I’ll come to understand her better as the series progresses. That’s not to say she’s terrible, she’s actually a more useful character than I expected her to be at this stage, but one or two of her actions seem a bit flaky.
As the episode winds down, things wind up: the island bound Ollie gets shot through the chest by an unknown assailant. This seemingly takes us into the process of how he became Arrow and perhaps who taught him the ropes. The shooter looked like ‘our’ Arrow which makes me think that perhaps Ollie wasn’t the first green hooded hero, an interesting concept. The notion of others being molded on the island further opens the potential of the story, and adds further context to the claim that many of the villains Ollie faces are manifestations of himself.
Playing into this is the reveal that the fateful yacht accident at the heart of the story wasn’t an accident — Mama Queen and her mysterious business partner (who bears the same symbol as the one in Papa Queen’s notebook) were apparently involved in sabotaging the boat. This is a swift reveal and adds flavor to Mama Queen’s Ollie abduction. I don’t doubt that she’s up to her neck in conspiracy, but perhaps she’s also trying to protect Ollie as well?
8/10 Seriable Stars