Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Arrow "Honor Thy Father" Review

Ken Levine suggested critics, and bloggers, be kind to the second episode of a show. Second episodes have been covered quite a bit in The Foot. The difference between a 'Pilot' and the second episode is vast. There's less time for everything, whereas the 'Pilot' is worked on over a period of several months. Second episodes also risk repeating too much for the sake of new viewers and boring returning viewers with material they've already seen. "Honor Thy Father" is a decent second episode. It expands the mythology, deepens Oliver's complicated duality in Starling City, and clarifies the murkier parts of the narrative more.

The episode opens with a terrific fight that shows Arrow's commitment to The Fight. It was a smart way for the writers to introduce Arrow to anyone curiously tuning in to see what the Arrow hype is about. A sleek montage of episode one precedes the start of #102 to help any new viewer understand the essence of the Arrow narrative. He's a guy who wants to right the wrongs of Starling City; the wrongs which helped his family get their wealth. Arrow's a little bit Batman, with a teeny bit of Revenge sprinkled in. Oliver's kicking the ass of a criminal's gang of criminals to start the episode and ends the fight by warning the head of the gang to do good or else. The villain isn't captivating; he's along the lines of the typical antagonist in a second episode. He's a bit different from last week's criminal, but Laurel's still taking him to court, and he's still a threat to her, which means her father's invested in her safety; somehow, Oliver finds himself in the middle of it.

Every aspect of the show is connected. The chief of police is the father of Laurel the attorney, who shares a romantic past with Oliver, and a relationship with Oliver's best friend Tommy. Each stone thrown into the proverbial pool creates a ripple effect which affects each character in some way. The connected characters help the storytelling feel more urgent and immediate. Characters aren't off in Montevideo doing stuff while other characters are in Starling City doing stuff. Oliver's the best example of the show's storytelling. He is Arrow, the most important character in the show; everyone interacts with him. Oliver can't walk twelve inches without causing someone to worry, or hurting someone's feelings, or hiding in plain view while Dig looks on curiously. The people he loves and cares about want the old Oliver back. Thea, AKA Speedy, doesn't understand why her brother's distant from her when all she wanted and cared about for five years was his return. When he didn't return, she turned to something else to numb her pain.

The duality of Oliver Queen is in the forefront of "Honor Thy Father." Oliver rejects a leadership role in the Queen business because he needs to honor his father by fighting crime and restoring order to Starling City. Oliver's internal struggle over how to divide his two lives in order to successfully live both lives was dealt with in the "Pilot," but his scenes of internal struggle in this episode have more meat and pathos and flashbacks. One can't forget the outrageous party he attended last episode nor his behavior as billionaire playboy. The billionaire playboy's put away in a drawer until the final act of the episode. Oliver seems genuinely amnesiac about his behavior at the party. Dig's role as bodyguard is a problem Oliver needs to deal with. His mother won't allow her son to disappear from Dig's sight, not when he's been kidnapped and a dangerous vigilante's targeting wealthy people. Oli's dilemma is how to be.

Oli explores his dual self by first apologizing to Laurel, who helps to steer him back on course; after all, he's been far off course since the boat capsized, and he learned the truth about the Queen's before his father took his life. Laurel provides practical advice: grow up, don't hide from responsibility. Oliver can't simply tell his mother and step-father "No" about the leadership position. He needs to show them. They can't know he needs to fight crime and restore the honor of the city, which itself was lost in accruing millions and millions of dollars for their own luxurious comfort. He's nearly caught after attacking the criminal who needed to testify in Laurel's case by Laurel's father. Oli needs Arrow and Oli separate, which is why he drunkenly stumbles and slurs his way through the Queen ground-breaking ceremony the next day. No one wants the old Oliver Queen who went to prison and had run-ins with paparazzo in charge of the company's future. Problem solved.

The problem though is in hurting the people he loves the most, like Thea. I may be a bit soft on the Thea character because Willa Holland's a brainlocking beauty and I want to take her on holiday to Prague and go broke wining and dining her; but her scene with Oliver about what she did when he was away and how it made her feel versus having him back and how it makes her feel worse than when she thought he was dead was really well-written and it underlined what the costs saving the city are. Is it worth saving the city if it means Oliver can't save his family, specifically his sister? It's an intriguing question and an aspect of the show Berlanti, Guggenheim and Kreisburg seem intent on exploring, what with Mrs. Queen hanging out in a limo with a mysterious man in possession of a mysterious symbol who wants to be sure Oliver is unaware of why the boat went down.

The case-of-the-week serves its purpose as device to increase tensions between Oliver and Laurel and Laurel's father. Laurel's dad demands Oliver keep his distance from Laurel because danger follows him. Another pressing question of the people is what happened to Oliver during the five years on the island. Oliver tells Thea he can't talk about it yet, while his mom wants to know what happened because of the aforementioned mysterious symbol man in the limo. The mysterious mythology of the island deepens when Oliver's hit by an arrow shot by a man dressed like him.
The best coda of the episode is Oliver's farewell to his father. Oliver struggles to let go of the body on the island, but in Starling City, in front of the erected headstones in the backyard of Queen Manor, Oliver promises his father to do what he asked of him days before death. Oli apologized, too, because his path will require him to dishonor his father's name. He's a renegade, though; a rogue; a Hamlet for CW audiences.

Through two episodes, Arrow is solid, well-written, and well-realized.

Other Thoughts:

-Arrow doesn't need to push the Tommy/Laurel romance secrecy. Oliver's ignorance of the romance might capture the imaginations of teenage girls watching. Arrow doesn't need a love triangle. The CW requires love triangles on all of their shows, though.

-I'm not a comic book guy, so the symbol's significance completely eluded me.

-Kreisburg and Guggenheim wrote the teleplay; Berlanti and Guggenheim got the story credit. David Barrett directed it.


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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.