Season 1 of Arrow was a terrific 23 episode superhero movie. TV's failed the superhero genre for many years. Arrow's core creative team, except for Andrew Kreisburg, failed three years ago with ABC'S No Ordinary Family. If not for the excellence of Marvel Studios, Arrow would be the best superhero adaptation since Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. Sequels are always darker than the original movie. Look at the lighting in Thor's sequel for proof or at the poster for Captain America 2. Season 1 didn't tell the story of Oliver Queen's ascent to superhero-dom, though. It told the story of a guy motivated by revenge, a Hamlet for The CW, except the Prince of Starling City acted way more than the Prince of Denmark. His actions as The Hood gave him reputation as 'killer' and 'murderer.' Tommy, his best friend, died in the cross-fire of the final battle between The Hood and The Dark Arrow.
Oliver was motivated by vengeance for his father, but then he learned the Truth about his father and Malcolm Merlin. Things went very wrong. Oliver retreated to the island he survived on for five years while learning to fight like a video game character and loving a hauntingly beautiful woman. Oliver doubts his usefulness in Starling City. The Glades were destroyed. Tommy's dead. Laurel may blame him for that. Moira's in prison. Oliver can't hurt anyone on the island; however, Starling City's seen a rise in imposter and copy-cats trying to get justice for what happened to The Glades, the lives lost and changed forever by the bombing. Diggle and Felicity find him on the island and bring him back to Starling City. Oliver doesn't wish to be the vigilante anymore and instead takes his combat skills to the board room where he engages in a fight with new character, Isabel (portrayed by the wonderful Summer Glau), for control of Queen Consolidations.
The island scenes are brief and juxtapose past Oliver with present Oliver. The first season showed Oliver's early island experiences. He struggled over killing an enemy solider who meant him harm, which juxtaposed Oliver in Starling City, who is killing the bad men on his father's list. Past Oliver, in the island scenes in the premiere, bashes a man's skull in with a rock for hitting Shado. Killing became a reflex for Oliver. Oliver realizes he needs to control the reflex. Killing's not involuntary. Felicity urges him to find another way to stop bad guys after she's nearly shot to death, along with him and Diggle and Isabel and a number of extras. Oliver doesn't want to be that guy. It's 'kill or be killed' for him--that's how it was on the island.
Family's a major component of the series, and Oliver's investment in his family is a major part of his character. Oliver chose to kill for the sake of his father. Thea's kidnapping by a four copycats puts Oliver in a position to go back on his word and kill again. Thea's completely different from the first episode of season 1. The writers seem to have figured her out. She's not wayward druggie; she's focused club owner at age 19 or 20. She's also the damsel-in-distress for the episode. Thea dislikes Roy's hobby of fighting crime and threatens his paycheck and sex life if he continues. The Hoods kidnap her after Roy fails to stop them by force. The Hoods want to kill Oliver because his family's responsible for the deaths of their families.
The villainous Hoods characters accomplishes three major things for Oliver and Thea. Since Arrow's Oliver's story and Oliver's perspective is always first, The Hoods show what The Hood looked like to the characters last season--scary, vengeful, remorseless. Their motivations aren't different from Oliver's last season. The reason we don't like them is because they threaten the core characters. One points a gun in Laurel's face. Another points a gun in Thea's face. All four open fire on Oliver. Thea learns to forgive her mother for what happened with the Glades while kidnapped. The men blame her and her family for what happened, which then transports Thea to a place of empathy and understanding. Oliver saves his sister through force but not murder. The Hoods were inspired by The Hood, by the killer The Hood was. Oliver wants to honor Tommy's memory and decided to do things differently, which means he's going to be a hero for Starling City.
My favorite part of the premiere is the last scene when Oliver stares at the green arrow point after announcing his intention to work under a new name. The premiere is ordinary. For half a second I thought it'd be awesome for Oliver to reveal his identity to Thea after saving her. Oliver and Laurel are friendly, but both are mourning the loss of Tommy. Former detective Lance got demoted to beat cop. I'm almost certain he'll be back at the top by season's end. Oliver and Lance seem poised to have a Batman/Commish Gordon relationship.
"City of Heroes" is effective and efficient. Oliver's arc has been re-focused. Thea's better so far. Moira's much more sympathetic. Walter's back in the mix. Summer Glau's arrived. Felicity and Diggle are equals. The island story hasn't lost momentum during the hiatus. Arrow's in a great place.
-The beauty of the women of Arrow is unmatched. I'd write sonnets for Celina Jade and Willa Holland, and then take both for frozen yogurt. Katie Cassidy actually glowed in the episode. Oh, and Willa Holland in a dress would make any man digress. Holy moly.
-Manu Bennett and Stephen Amell's little training session was thrilling. I'm stoked for the first big fight of the season. There are new threats on the island, hanging out in a submarine, or some type of vessel.
-Andrew Kreisburg & Marc Guggenheim wrote the telepay. Greg Berlanti wrote the story. John Behring directed the episode.