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‘Arrow’ Review: “Identity”

Arrow Season 2 Review Identity
The CW

Arrow’ season 2 lets loose its second episode of the year with “Identity,” as Oliver Queen faces both Bronze Tiger (‘The Dark Knight”s Michael Jai White) and China White (Kelly Hu), while Sebastian Blood (‘True Blood”s Kevin Alejandro) attempts to ruin his family’s reputation, and Roy Harper finally makes contact with the vigilante.

Last week’s ‘Arrow’ premiere “City of Heroes” saw Oliver returning to find Starling City plagued by copycat vigilantes and his company under the threat of hostile takeover from Isabel Rochev (Summer Glau), while Roy Harper discovered yet another masked hero taking up a vigilante crusade, so what does the second episode of ‘Arrow’ season 2 bring?  Will Oliver finally become the hooded hero we know from DC comics?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Arrow’ season 2 episode 2, “Identity!”

Oliver resumes his training, as a FEMA shipment of emergency medicine to the Glades is besieged by two thugs on motorcycles. Hearing the distress over a police scanner, Roy drives to the scene and manages to take out one of the bikers, though the second causes him to crash the car, while China White hijacks the truck. Meanwhile, Oliver wonders to Diggle how best to start the new chapter of his crusade, suggesting he, Diggle and Carly go to dinner together, before Thea gets the call about Roy.

Laurel presses Roy for his connection to the vigilante, finding Roy’s sentimental arrow painted red, though Roy fires back that he isn’t the only one looking to clean up the streets. Oliver and Thea arrive to bail him out, but Oliver warns Roy against letting his anger over the Glades consume him, even with the recent medicine thefts crippling the hospitals. Back in the past, Oliver becomes transfixed by his bloody hands from killing the pirate, as Slade warns Shado to make sure Oliver doesn’t lose himself.

Oliver investigates the overrun Glades hospital, finding himself confronted outside the building by Alderman Sebastian Blood and an angry mob, who insist the Queen family has done enough harm to the city for their hand in Malcolm Merlyn’s earthquake generator. Later back at the office, Felicity protests her new cover job as Oliver’s secretary, as Oliver watches another report saying he hasn’t helped the city, and again asks Diggle about Carly.

Back on the island, Oliver worries that his time there has begun to change him, as Shado washes the blood from his hands and assures him that everyone struggles to reconcile their demonic and heroic sides. Meanwhile in the present, Oliver goes to interrupt the next hijacked shipment, before finding himself confronted by China White’s new partner Bronze Tiger. Laurel and the police quickly interrupt the battle, though not before Oliver sustains a bullet to the leg

Treating his wound in the lair, Oliver laments that he can’t seem to do any good as either the vigilante or his public persona, to which Felicity responds that they’ve all endured losses for the cause, most recently Diggle’s relationship with Carly. Upstairs, Thea offers Roy a severance check and the Buddhist hosen Oliver had given her, telling Roy to choose between his life with her, or his vigilante pursuits.

The next day, Oliver meets with Sebastian Blood to smooth things over, planning a benefit for Oliver’s “elitist friends” to show their public support for fixing the Glades. Meanwhile in the past, Slade uneasily eyes the sight of Oliver and Shado post-coital by the river, before revealing the location of the pirate’s target on the island, and ominously warning Oliver not to lose his focus on survival by falling for Shado.

Oliver confronts Laurel in her office as the vigilante, insisting himself not to be the enemy, while Laurel points out that she saw him leaving Tommy in the CNRI building that night, his war with Malcolm costing the innocent Tommy’s life. Later that night, Laurel arrives to Oliver’s function and meets Alderman Blood, both noticing that Oliver seems mysteriously late for his own event. Meanwhile, Oliver nears the party, but learns at the last moment from Felicity that the hijackers have set up another target, forcing him to miss the event.

While Blood takes over the function to show the guests that Oliver doesn’t care about the city, Oliver races to confront China White and Bronze Tiger at the latest truck. Oliver battles the claw-wielding thug to a standstill, while Diggle takes over the truck from a pursuing China White, before Oliver subdues his opponent with a shock arrow. Oliver also manages to incapacitate China White, though she insists the city will never see him as a hero, even after sparing her life. That night, Diggle and Felicity show their appreciation of Oliver’s sacrifice at the function.

Back in the past, Oliver, Slade and Shado come across the cave the pirates had been searching for, finding inside the skeletons of Japanese Imperial Army officers from World War II, one of which wears the hosen Oliver later gave to Thea. In the present, Oliver confronts Roy Harper as the vigilante and urges him to stop fighting criminals, acquiescing to let Roy be his eyes and ears in the Glades for the moment. Invigorated, Roy returns the hosen to Thea and assures her his days of fighting crime have ended.

Oliver once more attempts to visit Laurel in her office as the Hood, admitting he too lost a friend on the night of the earthquake, but Laurel surprises him by summoning a SWAT team that surrounds Oliver. Cliffhanger!

Well, that was…busy. Don’t get us wrong, we enjoyed “Identity” nearly as much as last week’s premiere, but between Oliver’s issues reconciling the different sides of himself, Roy’s attempts to play hero, and the introduction of separate threats for both Oliver and the vigilante, we couldn’t help feeling as if tonight’s episode might have ended up a bit overstuffed.

Take for instance Kevin Alejandro’s introduction as Sebastian Blood, the ‘Arrow’ incarnation of which doesn’t appear to bear much in common with his comic counterpart for the moment, but offers an interesting counterpoint as a threat for Oliver, much as Summer Glau’s Isabel Rochev provided last week. Blood makes two strongly-developed villains on the public side of Oliver’s world, which has steadily been given more focus this season, after ending up an afterthought of the first. Here we start to see some of the social issues the Green Arrow character has typically been associated with present themselves, which overall goes a long, but unglamorous way toward grounding ‘Arrow’ as an engaging drama.

By contrast, “Identity” devotes precious little time to introducing another threat on the vigilante side of things, leaving the otherwise-menacing Michael Jai White to fall a bit flat as Bronze Tiger. We get that his claws make the character visually distinct, with martial arts prowess to back things up, but there doesn’t seem to be much personality between him and China White. ‘Arrow’ villains have proven hit and miss across the board, but “Identity” might have fared better to balance its villainy, or choose a side altogether.

On the sub-story side of things, Colton Haynes certainly earned his series regular status tonight, his conviction as Roy Harper to throw himself into the fray providing a welcome insight into what we can expect from the character with a bit more sharpening to his future. The same goes for Oliver’s island story of the week, which sows clear seeds of dissension between he and Slade, simultaneously introducing a bit of ‘LOST‘-like mystery in the mysterious island cave full of dead soldiers. No doubt the WW2-era bodies will tie into some of the casting news we’ve covered of late, adding a sci-fi edge we know will pay off later with the emergence of yet another hero clad in red.

All in all, we dug the duality of tonight’s “Identity,” neatly summed up in Diggle’s aside about Oliver referring to himself in the third person, unable to recognize which aspects of himself make up the real man, though the episode itself ironically could have done with a stronger sense of its own identity. Not a bad cliffhanger, though!

Well, what say you?  Did you feel that ‘Arrow’ hit the mark with its second season’s latest offering? What did you think was off-target about “Identity?” Give us your reactions in the comments, and join us next week for another all-new ‘Arrow’ recap of season 2, episode 3, “Broken Dolls” on The CW!

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