Minor Spoilers ahead!
I made it! It was dang close, but I actually finished Season 2 before Season 3 started! Yes!
A lot of folks I know love Arrow, and every single one of them said the same thing when I finished watching Season 1: “Just wait. Season 2 is better.” I must have smart friends, because they were absolutely right.
I really enjoyed Season 1 of Arrow, but there were still a few things that bothered me. The casual way the vigilante took lives. The lack of a mask on most of the characters made the show seem afraid of its comic-book roots. The deliberate “Dark Knighting” of most powers to make them fit in to the real world rather than a fantastic one. And a big one: I can’t stand that they call him “the vigilante” or the “the hood.” I can happily tell you that each and every one of these concerns is directly addressed in Season 2.
One absolutely huge factor in my increased enjoyment in S2 is the introduction of (Black) Canary. Katie Cassidy improves a LOT in Season 2, I found myself much more invested in the Laurel Lance’s journey as a character as she dealt with the adversity in her life. But the introduction of Sara Lance, Laurel’s sister, really gives the show some momentum. Caity Lotz is small, but still sells all of her stunts and fighting extremely well. I guess she’s a former stuntwoman, which would explain why they actually show her doing the salmon ladder that so dominates most viewers’ thoughts while they watch this show. Canary’s costume looks almost exactly like the one from the comics, with only the fishnet lacking. My biggest concern for Season 3 is that I get more of Lotz as the Canary; I find her chemistry with most of the other principal characters to be very moving and her action scenes are thrilling.
I can’t overstate how well Stephen Amell has improved between seasons. He is actually acting now, not reciting lines. Amell is so comfortable in the role; he is eminently believable as both Oliver Queen and as a costumed hero. He switches voices constantly, even using one voice while dressed like another. I love that he refers to himself in the third person. Amell doesn’t get most of the funny lines, but his tough guy talk and the physicality he brings to the role is tremendous. He moves his arms when he talks, even! I think Amell’s greatest acting is actually during the flashbacks on the island, where he has to be even more gradual and nuanced as he shows the maturation and toughening up of Ollie Queen into the hard man we met in the pilot.
Team Arrow? What can I say, but I love them. I’ve stated how much I love Canary, and believe it or not, I actually found Roy Harper tolerable by the end of the season. Harper has a bit of a “skill” jump towards the finale, but I’ll just assume he leveled up and put all his points in archery. Emily Bett Rickards’ Felicity is still the nerd boy’s dream, and her awkward attraction to Oliver gets some great development. Her jealously over Canary’s scars is certainly a character trait I didn’t expect. And that scene in the finale? An emotional killer, man. I think I actually voiced an “oh man” as I watched the scene play out! (Although I think it is essential to keep the will they/won’t they alive for as long as possible.)
I’m not going to spoil the fantastic developments with David Ramsey’s Diggle and his ex-wife Lyla (played by one of my favorites from The Unit; Audrey Marie Anderson). I’ll just say that people who enjoy teams with questionable morals and short life expectancies? You might want to check this out. Ramsey continues to share the best lines with Paul Blackthorne’s Officer Lance, and they trade off having the best lines in each episode.
Now for my favorite thing in the season. The villains. Deathstroke the Terminator/Slade Wilson is wonderful when brought to life by a scenery-chewing Manu Bennett. This guy LOVES being a villain, and it shows. He is awful, cruel, and dangerous. His meticulous plan is actually worse than the undertaking in Season 1. I hate to say that the reason for his revenge quest is a bit weak, but Bennett actually makes it not matter; that’s how super-charged his performance is. Bennett actually wears his Deathstroke gear, too!
I’m avoiding some huge spoilers involving other characters, but suffice to say I found myself genuinely moved by some of the plot choices and developments for Ollie Queen. This is a show that is reveling in its comic book roots. The guest-stars are allowed to stretch their wings and swing for the fences as both heroes and villains. The rapidly expanding DCU-TV is a delight for comic fans and I recommend it highly for anyone who likes action, buddy shows, or teen dramas. This GOOD show scratches all three boxes.
SPOILERS for those who still need to be sold on watching:
Some of the DCU developments: The Count, Bronze Tiger, Ra’s Al Ghul, Nissa Al Ghul, ARGUS, Amanda Waller, Shrapnel, Harley Quinn, Professor Ivo, Amazo, KGBeast, Clock King, the Flash, and the hinted-above SUICIDE SQUAD! And more!