Episode 201 “City of Heroes”
[photos: Cate Cameron/CW]
Tommy Merlyn is dead. Malcolm Merlyn is dead. The Glades have fallen to a massive earthquake caused by a machine made by Queen Consolidated. Moira Queen has surrendered to authorities.
And now it’s five months later.
The opening scene on the island gives one pause, as it starts to look like a flashback, but wait! It’s actually present day, and it gives our sidekicks, Felicity and Diggle, a chance to play some chemistry before jumping out of the plane that looks like it was lifted from an Indiana Jones movie. The two have tracked Oliver down and are on a mission to bring him back to Starling City, mainly because his mother’s trial is about to begin, but also because Queen Consolidated is about to fall victim to a hostile takeover. And oh, yeah. The city needs a hero.
The title of the episode is a bit misleading, but it does serve to put several characters in play as they become heroes — Oliver, returning to Starling City to start fighting crime with new non-lethal methods, along with Roy, who’s out on patrol every night looking to get himself killed (according to Thea) and trying to pick up the slack when the Hood disappeared; Laurel, taking up a new job with the district attorney’s office (still think the flower shop is in her future); and a new costumed vigilante to be discussed later…
More than anything else, this episode gives us characters having identity crises, guilt complexes, and moments of truth to decide just what the next step will be, and it does a nice job juggling all of those threads without getting too overwrought (although the bit with the window blinds… really stretches the believability by a factor of … plaid).
Laurel is dealing with the fact that Tommy got caught in the crossfire between two archers. Never mind that one of them was Tommy’s father. Since he’s dead, that leaves one more archer to hold accountable. Couple that with guilt over betraying Tommy in matters of the heart, and Laurel has plenty of motivation to do a good job at the district attorney’s office. (This also puts off a pairing between Laurel and Oliver for a while longer, leaving the door open for Olicity to have a chance…)
Thea has taken to running Verdant, and having spats with boyfriend Roy over his vigilante-lite evening escapades. And she’s got a big chip on her shoulder over the fact that her mother helped destroy half the city and kill so many people. It’s actually a good change of pace for Thea, as she’s not just the petulant brat we saw throughout the first season. She’s actually grown up a bit, and that gives the character some much-needed depth.
So when Thea is kidnapped by the Copycat Hoods, it’s easier to care about what happens to her. These guys figure the Queen family needs to pay for their part of the Glades disaster, since it was Queen Consolidated that built the machine.
And Thea makes a pretty good defense for her mother, explaining how Moira was acting to protect her family after Robert Queen was killed because he wanted no part of the Undertaking, how it was Malcolm Merlyn who drove the plot. And in the process, she makes her own case for reconciling with her mother. And it’s done quite neatly, without too much overwrought sentimentality or a Hallmark Moment pastiche.
Thea’s arc counter-balances Oliver’s plot in this hour, because she has to come to terms with forgiving Moira, while Oliver has to come to terms with forgiving himself. Not only that, but like another comic book wealthy playboy millionaire, Oliver Queen has to step up to take the reins of his family’s business before it’s completely overrun by a hostile takeover. Enter Summer Glau’s Isabel Rochev (who, by the way, was on Oliver’s list), and she’s ready to take Queen Consolidated and have her way with it — which usually means a lot of people lose their jobs. And that has a certain particular blonde IT tech worried.
The takeover bid hasn’t dampened Felicity’s enthusiasm for Team Hood, however. She’s upgraded the Arrow Cave to something a little less primitive, and along with Diggle is now encouraging Oliver to step back into his crime-fighting togs and find a new way to wage war against the bad guys — only this time, without the high body count. That plays into Oliver’s guilt over Tommy dying with the belief that Oliver was a murderer.
A.V. Club rightly posits that the new season will redefine Oliver’s mission, moving him from the soldier personality (“kill or be killed” as he learned on the island) to more of a hero persona. Even as we continue with the silly make-up instead of mask, Oliver has a new focus. And with his dedication to preserving Tommy’s belief that Oliver could be a better man, the Hood gets retired.
Admit it: at the end of this episode, when John Diggle asks, “What do you want to be called?” you said it. Didn’t you?