'Arrow' Season 2 Episode 2 Review: Identity
"Identity" is less about one transforming oneself and more about one reconciling the many different aspects of oneself. It's the idea that humans are locked into one absolute identity. Instead, to use a mirror metaphor, humans have many different profiles, but only one may be shown to others at a time. Western culture's adopted the idea of a fixed persona. What one is at a certain age is how one will remain; should change occur, it is considered a 'crisis.' Oliver Queen's saving the city and no one knows it, but Oliver Queen in the eye of Starling City feels nothing for the city he lives in and is cast as a villain. Roy wants to love Thea and save the world, but Thea won't let him. Thea's been through losing men she loves, and she wants to control how she's hurt. In a culture that expects a fixed persona, how does one reconcile the many different things that go into what makes you you?
Arrow doesn't answer the question, nor is "Identity" interested in exploring deep selfhood. On the island, Oliver deals with the brutal way he took a man's life. He sits quietly on a rock. Slade asks Shado to talk to him. Slade doesn't want to lose the kid to darkness. Oliver's in a way better place in present day Starling City. The struggle between his public and private persona is no longer a struggle. Five years ago, Shado explained to him the Oriental idea of yang-yin. Yang is light; yin is dark. The idea isn't inherently moral. There is no right or wrong; rather, yang and yin are equal, balancing, interacting. Oliver's not evil for what he did--he just is. He's in the act of being, existing. Slade, though, later in the episode, reminds Oliver what the island's turned him into already. Already there is a personification of yang and yin on the island. Remember the dark look Slade gives under the cover of trees when he sees Oliver and Shado living together. Slade represents the yin; Shado the yang.
Oliver's no longer like Shakespeare's Hamlet in present day Starling City. Suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune doesn't fill Oliver with existential dread. The slings and arrows are an accepted part of his life. China White is stealing FEMA medication for The Triad. Glades Memorial Hospital can't help patients. The Glades have been badly damaged after Malcolm's bomb went off, which killed 503 people. Oliver's a queen, a public face, and an easy target for the vitriol of those affected. Oliver, the CEO of Queen Consolidated, misses the benefit for The Glades; of course, Oliver's stopping China White and Bronze White as The Hood, the vigilante, the Green Arrow.
China White fails to steal from every shipment of medicine from FEMA trucks, which doesn't surprise her as much as the change she sees in the Green Arrow. She remarks, "I know you changed because you would've killed me already if you haven't." China White continues to tell him her opinions, about how the city won't accept him, how he'll always be perceived as a killer, and that he won't get any rewards for the good he does, who he saves, and so on. Oliver turns around, walks off, and tells her rewards don't matter. All that does is protecting the city. Oliver's amor fati shows his maturity and wisdom. The idea of amor fati is Nietzsche's, adopted by Joseph Campbell, whom extends it to a question about whether or not one is up to one's destiny. Oliver is. Last season's Oliver couldn't save the city, but this season's Oliver can. He's becoming a hero.
The B story involving Roy's good, in which he tries to do what The Hood's not been doing all summer: trying to stop bad guys. There is no try with Oliver. He always does it. Roy's young, brash, and hopeful (to steal a song title from Fairweather). Thea's scared. Roy almost rejects the ultimatum she gives him until Oliver shows up in costume to offer him an entry level position on the team. Roy's not very different from sidekicks in comics. Arrow's consciously writing him with an edge, but the actor's short, and all aspiring heroes in comic stories have a 'gee-willickers!' presence when fighting crime. Roy's role in Oliver fighting China White is an effective use of the character, and way more interested in the long term than Roy getting beat up and Willa Holland crying and yelling. I like that Oliver's motivated to help Roy, not for Roy, but for Thea.
Laurel's continued quest to expose The Hood and lock him up for a long time leads to the cliff-hanger. Oliver hears from her mouth the reasons she's turned on him. She watched The Hood walk away from a dead Tommy. Laurel read that as him being more interested in meaningless duels than in saving lives. Laurel's arc is the least interesting of the season, but the writers need to give her something to do this season other than wear curls in her hair every episode. I'm curious about how Oliver gets out of his situation in the office. He's surrounded by police.
The strongest part of the episode, not involving Slade and Shado (two characters I adore), was the interaction between Oliver, Diggle, and Felicity. Oli's makeshift family is the actual heart of the show. Felicity calls Oli out on his self-involvement. Diggle and Oli kick ass together. Their honest dialogue about Carly, Dig's brother, and Deadshot, suggests Deadshot will be a primary focus for Oliver sooner than later. Last season he didn't care about Deadshot because it didn't concern him, but Felicity's and Diggle's problems are his problems. It's part of his evolution.
I love Joss Whedon along with the entire creative team working for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but Arrow's the best show about superhero(es) since Alphas. And before that, Batman Beyond. Forget it's a CW show and watch. It's great. Stephen Amell's The CW's David Boreanaz.
-Anyone else catch the little piece of wood holding a protest sign that broke Oliver's window? Suspension of disbelief, I guess.
-Felicity's working as Oliver's secretary. Her duties don't include filling cups of coffee.
-I want Celina Jade to never leave the show.
-Ben Sokolowski & Beth Schwartz wrote the episode. Nick Copus directed it.
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