Arrow Review: “Honor Thy Father” (Season 1, Episode 2)

Second episodes are infamous in television for having the unenviable responsibility of transitioning a show from setup to series. Whereas a pilot is a carefully crafted first impression that provides non-stop new information, round two has to cater to viewers now just tuning -without boring those who watched last week with repetition-, while also finding the rhythms and strengths that will make up the show’s formula for the next 20 or so episodes.

Doing so gracefully is tricky, and for some shows, clearing the launchpad without imploding counts as a win. Arrow‘s second episode, “Honor Thy Father”, pretty much sidesteps this challenge by virtue of not being a particularly elegant show to begin with. The pilot was exposition-heavy, emotionally shallow, and cheesy, but also bluntly effective at establishing the characterization of its hero and quickly finding the show’s week to week format.

Episode two of Arrow delivered on all the short term beats promised by the pilot, while also suggesting they’ll become Arrow‘s bread and butter for the rest of the season. Oliver Queen had to balance being the heir to Starling City’s biggest fortune and company, while also moonlighting as a bow-wielding vigilante (who has yet to be referred to as Green Arrow).

He played at being a spoiled playboy while in public, and a tortured avenger with a secret agenda in private. Corporate criminals were dispatched of, larger conspiracies were hinted at, and we got more information about his time spent on the island that was his home for five years, all while Oliver’s friends and family fade in and out of the main story with varying degrees of relevance.

Everything good about the show that was present in the first episode is still here, and everything not so good either didn’t worsen, or did so within expected projections. The action scenes still lack spacial consistency, but they make for cheap, reliable thrills that the writers manage to sandwich in with believable enough frequency.

The passing dialogue (particularly when it comes to anything involving Laurel) is just as alternately glib or self-serious as it was last week, but is rarely boring. And while logical nitpicks pop up en masse, like a crooked CEO publicly claiming extortion was the reason he gave back worker pensions, it’s never toxic enough to prevent the show from making good on the stupid fun it sets out to deliver.

And one large and welcome improvement comes from star Stephen Amell, who gets the chance to flex his acting muscles along with his abdominals this week. While he proved himself perfectly capable as the partying Lothario half of the Oliver Queen persona last week, ploughing through all the backstory didn’t leave much time for the pilot to go into anything meatier than the basics of Oliver’s mission. Amell has much more to work with this time, as the emotional strain of his father’s dying request becomes the weakness all his training couldn’t account for. The CW’s dramatic kiddie pool playbook may have the star pour his heart out to a tombstone, but Amell sells the scene convincingly.

The balance between nighttime heroics and social obligation is an important element of just about any superhero story, and “Honor Thy Father” sets up a conflict for Oliver in both arenas, as future episodes no doubt will. Mr. Somers, the corporate villain de jour (technically second, counting the pre-credit extortion victim), is in the business of running drugs into the city via the Triads. Laurel winds up on Somers’ bad side by representing the daughter of one of the dead port workers, drawing Oliver’s attention to the man, who is also conveniently on the Queen hit list of baddies.

Complicating the usual bullying routine of Somers is Mama Queen asking Oliver to take over as head of the company. His mother’s request is utterly insane mind you, seeing as he’s being asked to take leading role in a corporation two weeks after returning from five years in the wild, with seemingly little business experience, but in typical Arrow fashion, it creates a immediate choice for Oliver to make.