'Arrow' Season Premiere Review: "City of Heroes"

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Arrow’ lets loose the first episode of season 2 with its premiere “City of Heroes,” as Oliver Queen returns 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 discovers yet another masked hero taking up a vigilante crusade, and Thea visits her mother in prison.

Previous ‘Arrow’ finale “Sacrifice” saw Oliver desperately trying to thwart Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman)’s plans to destroy the Glades, while Tommy decided between his friend and his father amid Oliver’s memories of fighting Edward Fyers, so what does the first 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 premiere, “City of Heroes!”

Present-day Oliver spies a plane flying over Lian Yu, as Diggle pulls a nervous Felicity out of the cabin to skydive down. Once the two safely land, passing a downed freighter and the infamous Deathstroke mask, Felicity freezes atop a land mine in the jungle. Oliver swings in from above to pull her off just in time, but warns the two they shouldn’t have come to get him.

Inside Oliver’s hideout, Diggle explains that they came not to seek his return as the vigilante, but rather to protect Queen Consolidated from a hostile takeover by Isabel Rochev (Glau). Meanwhile at that exact spot in the past, Slade continued to train Oliver, before Shado hears a sensor alarm activate, indicating they’re no longer alone on the island.

Back in Oliver’s club, new manager Thea chides Roy for continually fighting criminals as a vigilante, before Oliver returns to greet his sister. Oliver inquires if Thea had visited their mother in prison, though Thea insists that her mother's role in the destruction of the Glades has effectively severed their relationship. Later that night, Laurel schmoozes with her DA boss Adam Donner (‘Orphan Black‘ star Dylan Bruce) and the Starling City mayor, before a number of hooded copycats appear and open fire, killing the mayor for "failing the city."

Quentin Lance arrives in the aftermath, though his captain quickly reminds Lance that he’d been busted down to beat cop for his role in working with the vigilante. Oliver too appears on the scene to greet Laurel, as the pair agree they made a mistake in getting back together previously, especially just before Tommy’s death. Outside, Oliver scolds Diggle for asking him to return as the vigilante, even with the hooded copycats lacking his restraint.

While Roy continually urges Thea to visit her mother, Oliver meets with Isabel at Queen Consolidated, wherein she points out that Oliver lacks the capital to save his company from takeover. Suddenly, the copycat vigilantes appear, targeting Oliver, and the ensuing firefight sends everyone rushing for cover, before Oliver saves Felicity by swinging out an adjacent window to the floor below. In the aftermath, Felicity points out that Oliver could have easily taken them down, but Oliver fires back that he no longer wants to kill, feeling that it would dishonor Tommy’s memory. Meanwhile in the past, Oliver, Shado and Slade search for the island invaders, before Shado finds herself captured.

Oliver visits his mother in prison, to which she points out that Queen Consolidated can still remain a family business, if they know the right angle to play. Meanwhile, the hooded copycats target Oliver’s busy club in search of the playboy, taking Thea hostage when Roy tries to intervene in their efforts, knocking away one of the killers’ artificial hands.

Oliver returns to the club to find Thea kidnapped, reluctantly heading downstairs to see Felicity’s improvements to their lair. The trio manage to track the one-handed killer as a veteran who lost his wife in the earthquake, and likely paired up with fellow survivors from a Glades church support group. Meanwhile back in the past, Oliver and Slade find Shado being held hostage by pirates in a clearing, as the men demand the location of certain graves. Oliver rashly charges into action, and violently murders one of the pirates for threatening Shado.

The four unmasked copycats find a captive Thea complicit in her mother’s crimes, though Thea realizes how scared her mother must have been to follow Malcolm Merlyn’s orders, and that she isn't to blame. Oliver swoops in to non-lethally fight off the attackers, shooting one in the chest with an arrow, but ultimately sparing him from falling to his death. Later, Oliver leaves the four men for Officer Lance to find, explaining that he found a new way to bring criminals to justice.

Visiting Tommy’s grave the next day, Oliver is surprised by the presence of Laurel, though the two decide to put aside their romantic awkwardness to remain in one another’s lives, even as Laurel points out that her office intends to bring the original vigilante to justice. Meanwhile, Thea finally visits her mother in prison, and the pair embrace.

Oliver faces Isabel in the board room one last time, revealing that Walter Steele opted to invest in the remaining shares of the company, keeping it in Oliver’s control with Isabel as a partner. Isabel smirks that Oliver isn’t at all what he appears, as Walter points out that he’d make his father proud. Back in the past, Oliver and Slade find the pirates’ walkie talkies connect back to a freighter waiting just offshore.

On his way to see Thea, Roy spots a young woman being threatened by several gang members, and decides to take them on. When things go south however, a mysterious masked woman with blonde hair swoops in and deftly takes the attackers out, leaving a stunned Roy behind. Meanwhile, down in his lair, Oliver insists on changing his mission from avenging his father to honoring Tommy as a hero for the city, eying a green arrow when Diggle asks what new name he might take.

Whew, season 2! We'd forgotten how much we'd enjoyed the original 'Arrow' pilot, which took a relatively simple (if familiar) approach the the DC character, and effectively built on the premise over the ensuing 20+ episodes. Sure, things might have gone astray every now and again, between cackling DC villain adaptations (looking at you, Vertigo) and some schmaltzy love triangles, but for the most part 'Arrow' remained consistent in its quality over season 1.

So how does "City of Heroes" start things off? Well, we won't bother pondering the logistics of how Oliver, Felicity and Diggle so easily returned from Lian Yu after skydiving in, but tonight's premiere wastes very little time in establishing that the franchise has plenty of story and direction for the second season, inventing new reasons to necessitate both Oliver's return to the city, and an evolution of his vigilante image. We knew from the first season that Oliver's stance on killing would need to be addressed at some point, so we're happy to see Tommy's death last season serve a strong purpose in shaping how Oliver wants to reinvent himself as a hero. Impressive, considering the four hooded copycats tonight weren't actually all that off from Oliver's original mission, but now seem firmly misguided under a new lens.

In addition to the renewed sense of purpose and urgency, "City of Heroes" also gives us plenty to chew on for future episodes, both in the mysterious blonde woman (COUGH, Black Canary), Summer Glau's ongoing role as the devious Isabel Rochev, and the new gang of pirates invading Oliver's island flashbacks. The recent casting announcements have given us some idea what they might be searching for, though we appreciated the more subtle hints dropped over the hour. We can definitely see a bit of jealousy growing between Oliver and Slade, and even caught the background reference to a S.T.A.R Labs particle accelerator that "should be completed by Christmas." Flash-y, no?

In short, "City of Heroes" gave us plenty of strong action sequences with the hood copycats (they're right though, how would the news ignore the mayor's murder?!), and enough tantalizing tidbits of the season to come, moving at a brisk enough pace to avoid overstaying its welcome. The original 'Arrow' pilot had us curious to see what the series could become, but "City of Heroes" gets our full attention invested in season 2.

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

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