Thus far, Season 2 of Arrow has taken the strong finish of the first season and amped it up to a new level, cementing itself as a confident and highly fun superhero television drama. What I have appreciated so much about this second season is not only the complex mythology the show is building but also its emphasis on character. Not only has Oliver Queen grown and shifted throughout these first 10 episodes but he has also surrounded himself with a strong, loyal team of terrific individuals. The world of Starling City has evolved to feel legitimate and large, with many moving parts and players, tensions and threats, and emotions. The fallout from the earthquake in the season 1 finale (an ambitious occurrence for a show of this size in its own right) was handled with gravitas and time, and not just thrown under the rug to move on to new stories. Everyone in this show has seen their courage and commitment tested thus far this season, and for my money they have been 10 very good, if not great, episodes.
Season 2 has seen the introduction of Sebastian Blood, the saga of Barry Allen, the fallout from the earthquake, Isabel Rochev, Moira Queen’s murder trial, the story of Black Canary (and the reveal that Sara Lance is still alive), Quentin Lance teaming up with Arrow, a deeper look into the world of The Glades (with Roy Harper and his friends as our eyes and ears), a definitive shift in Arrow’s tactics (no more killing, a result of wanting to honor the death of his friend Tommy Merlyn), an exploration of the League of Assassins, and the Mirakuru serum, a “MacGuffin” with huge potential that has singlehandedly unified the island flashbacks with the present day starling city storytelling. It has been a lot of story for 10 episodes, but it has been breathlessly paced and highly exciting. Finally, over the course of these first 10 episodes of season 2 we have seen the show open up its mind a little bit to the potential of superpowers (with a heavy influence of science, of course) paving the way for the affects of the Mirakuru (Roy has been injected) and the eventual Flash (Barry Allen) spinoff show. We also have two “big bads” working in tandem, with Slade (Deathstroke) still alive and in Starling City working with Sebastian Blood, who is secretly Brother Blood, a classic DC Comics villain. Arrow has embraced the comic book this year and has taken to DC and Green Arrow’s rich catalogue for elements to tell great TV stories. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Last week’s episode, “Blast Radius,” ended with Laurel discovering that Sebastian Blood is not the nice guy he tricks everybody into thinking he is, and he is in fact responsible for the murder of his father and the psychiatric lockup of his mother. We also see the continued affect the Mirakura has on Slade in the island flashbacks, in particular on his demeanor and personality.
We begin our weekly coverage of Arrow at The Young Folks with Episode 2×11, “Blind Spot.”
Blind Spot is an episode about those little pieces of others that we don’t see. Like many superhero stories, it is about lies and masks. We all want the world to see us in one way, often while we hide our real selves underneath. We wear masks, a fact that is never more true than in the literal sense of the superhero and super villain. Arrow, of course, hides under the guise of Oliver Queen and with each passing episode we see Brother Blood more cleverly and successfully hide in plain sight as the sweet, city saving Alderman/mayoral candidate Sebastian Blood. It is not just these two who are hiding in Blind Spot, however. Both Laurel and Roy hide from themselves and from their loved ones, but neither has the luxury of an actual mask.
We begin with a haunting, rain soaked sequence as Sebastian visits his aunt/mother at the psychiatric hospital. Sebastian is furious that she revealed his secrets to Laurel, and he quickly shifts into Brother Blood, killing the poor woman who clearly deserved better than her son’s evil manipulations. If it was not quite clear before now, Sebastian is an absolute monster and must be stopped. This is exactly what Oliver wants to do, although he does not yet know who the “skull mask” guy is. Upon discovering the death of Blood’s mother, Laurel is immediately suspicious of Sebastian. The DA office where she works doesn’t believe her and so she looks to help in the only place she can: Arrow. “Sebastian Blood is dangerous and you are the only person in the city who can stop him,” she says. Arrow remains unconvinced but agrees to investigate. “Not a lot of people show their real face in public.”
One of my biggest complaints about Arrow thus far this season has been the lack of quality material for Laurel. Katie Cassidy is a talented actress, and she was given a lot to do in season 1. With the death of Tommy Merlyn, though, beyond the natural grief and her initial vendetta towards Arrow, Laurel has sat by the wayside as the show’s other characters (including and especially her father and sister) had more interesting things to do. This all comes to a head in Blind Spot, however, as little nuggets that have been dropped all season come to paint a portrait of a broken girl who has turned into an addict. This is easily the most interesting story Laurel has had all season, and it is one that Cassidy is able to portray with conviction. Unfortunately, it is also at the detriment of anyone actually believing her as far as Sebastian’s true face is concerned. In the course of one episode Laurel teams up with Arrow to steal an old file (that turns out to be missing), is arrested for drug possession, is kidnapped by Brother Blood, kills a man in self defense, and loses her job. It is a whirlwind of events and emotions, but one that is emotionally resonant. I worry for Laurel’s future, but it is nice to feel anything towards Laurel at all.
It is always frustrating in drama when we, the audience, knows something that the characters in the piece do not. We have known for some time now that Sebastian Blood is actually Brother Blood, and that makes us side with Laurel’s plight – drug addict or not – and exert anger towards the other characters that do not believe her. In many ways, though, this is to Arrow’s credit and it cleverly becomes part of Sebastian’s plan. Sebastian is nothing if not intelligent, and it is a real coup (and one I did not see coming) to have someone else under the skull mask when Laurel is kidnapped. Poor Officer Daily, Sebastian’s police offer mole/acolyte, takes the fall for Sebastian’s actions. There was truly no better scapegoat. Throughout Blind Spot we see Sebastian weave and bob his way through lie after lie, tricking everyone around him, including his new friend Oliver Queen. Kevin Alejandro continues to be terrific at playing Blood’s multiple faces and masks, and makes not only for a believable nice guy but a horrifying villain.
Roy, having been injected with the Mirakuru a few episodes ago, finds himself at the mercy of this powerful serum. Everyone who is injected reacts differently, and it is a miracle that Roy survived at all. After saving Moira Queen in “Blast Radius,” people begin to question just what is going on with Roy. It is not only his newfound strength and healing ability that is confounding, though, but also the changes to his very personality. Mirakuru affects individuals from the inside out, and Roy is losing control. He reveals his secret to Sin, and despite her initial shock they concoct a plan to trap the Sterling Slasher, a serial killer that targets prostitutes. The sting does not go as planned and Roy ends up nearly killing the slasher. Since his introduction halfway through season 1, we have seen Roy Harper want nothing more than to be a hero and make a difference in the Glades. He looks up to Arrow but was hindered by his own lack of skill and his innate humanity. Roy continues to grow as a fascinating character, and I continue to be glad that Colton Haynes left Teen Wolf for this show. In this case, Roy’s mask is the Mirakuru. It warps his body and his mind. He needs to gain control, and in the episode’s final moments it becomes clear that Arrow can teach him. I want nothing more than to see Arrow and Roy team up (and for Roy to discover that Arrow is Oliver), and for Roy Harper to fulfill his destiny and become “Speedy,” Arrow’s noted comic book sidekick.
Other foulness is afoot as it becomes infinitely clear that Slade, now in full Deathstroke regalia, is the one pulling Sebastian Blood’s strings. The only thing scarier than a horrific villain is said villain’s master, and the dichotomy that is occurring between seeing Slade’s reaction to the Mirakuru on the island and his present day self is fascinating. The island sequences continue to be more immediately relevant than they were in season 1 (although not as enlightening overall), and the drama between Slade, Sara, Oliver, and Dr. Ivo continues to unfold. The fallout of Shado’s death will be long running.
Blind Spot is not a huge episode for Arrow/Oliver, although we do see him tested in terms of how he allows his past relationships to affect his current actions. His love for Laurel clouds his judgment (although it really doesn’t) and his friendship with Blood does not allow him to see past that scary man’s exterior. I am glad that Oliver’s relationship with Felicity is healed, however, as Felicity is the very best. This is another strong episode of Arrow and it continues season 2’s propulsive pace and serialized storytelling. I am constantly impressed by the quality of the fights, chases, and actions scenes on this CW show, and in Blind Spot that remained the case. It outclasses most network shows in that regard.
Although we now know it was Daily, and not Sebastian wearing the mask at the time, Brother Blood talks about how 30,000 years ago masks gave the wearer great authority, like a God. A chilling thought to leave on.