Critics’ Roundtable: “Arrow”

Like any new series, the first season is all about finding out what works, what doesn’t and hopefully getting enough of an audience to right those wrongs for season 2. Let’s look at the CW’s Arrow.

The comic book based series, developed by Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg and TheBacklot 40 member Greg Berlantipremiered in the fall of 2012 with much attention predominantly for the ripped physique of star Stephen Amell (as vigilante Oliver Queen). However, as much as we love a show that gives us lots of finely sculpted pecs, bicepts and abs, for a show to truly succeed in the TV biz these days it needs to have some substance beneath the eye candy. Thankfully, Arrow delivered.

Halfway through the first season, the show found its tone and was able to combine humor, sex appeal, and lots of nods to Green Arrow comics lore. Plus, the show has created one of the most solid casts in the genre, with smart use of guest stars (John Barrowman, Seth Gabel) and nicely developed supporting characters like David Ramsey’s Diggle,  Emily Bett Rickards’ Felicity Smoak and Colton Haynes’ Roy Harper

That was Season One. How’s Season Two doing?  To find out if all the pieces are coming together as they should for Arrow’s second season,  we asked a crew of TV Critics – Craig Byrne  (webmaster/editor,, Laura Prudom (TV writer,, Tina Charles (co-founder, and our own Chris O’Guinn, who covers Arrow for TheBacklot – for their thoughts on the show.

Stephen Amell, Emily Bett RickardsStephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards in action on Arrow

Overall, how are you feeling about Season 2 thus far? Off to a good start or in need of some fine-tuning?

Craig Byrne:  I am incredibly impressed with where Arrow has gone with the second season. As a comic book fan, it has become exactly the kind of series that I wanted it to be, and I feel that the show learned from anything that may not have worked in the first half of Season 1 to become something even stronger now. Characters I once might have disliked, are given decent storylines, and all in all, the show has become the kind of mix that any comic book show could ever dream of.

Laura Prudom: Season 2 already seems impressively confident and focused in its execution — it feels like all thriller, no filler, and it’s packing a lot of story into 42 minutes every week. I’m glad to see the show expanding its mythology and embracing its comic book roots even more boldly this year.

Chris O’Guinn: I think season 2 started off great. They recaptured all of the pathos and the energy of the amazing season one finale and then took it to the next level. I am very happy with the new direction of Detective Lance, who was insufferable in the first season. The cop who fights for what is right at the cost of his own career is a compelling story. And Thea has grown up, which is a huge relief. It’s ridiculous that she’s running Verdant, but I can overlook that as long as it means no more “poor little rich girl” tantrums.

Tina Charles: I don’t know if I am surprised by this, but I am loving this season so far. Even more than season one. The Oliver-Felicity-Diggle quality time is satisfying to me. I’m enjoying the island flashbacks more than ever before. Detective (or should I say Officer) Lance is a stronger character now that he has allied himself with Arrow. The only aspect I’m really struggling with is Laurel. But I did last season as well.

The Black Canary being present now — what do you think the character brings to the show? 

Craig Byrne: She kicks ass in a way that I’m not 100% sure we’ll be able to see Katie Cassidy doing. I would have never expected to see the Black Canary so soon, but that mask, that costume, and the clever sonic device… I like her and would like to see more of her.

Laura Prudom: With five years of Oliver’s time away from Starling City to fill in, it makes sense that not every moment of those five years was spent on the island, and tying that period to Sarah’s fate is a fascinating twist that I cant wait to see play out. Caity Lotz and Stephen Amell have great chemistry, and it’s nice to have yet another ass-kicking woman on the show. I think Sarah brings plenty of dramatic story possibilities for Ollie, Laurel and Quentin Lance, as well as the chance for more awesome fight scenes featuring a strong female character — seems like a win/win!

Chris O’Guinn: Well, Black Canary has brought with her Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Assassins. So what she is really bringing is some hardcore comic cred. Arrow worked pretty hard to keep it’s DC roots buried in dark world realness in the first season–with the notable exception of Huntress. Canary I think announces the show’s intentions to become more obviously a comic book show.

Tina Charles:  To me, when it comes to the Green Arrow I’ve always thought the Black Canary should be by his side. So I know I’m very interested in finding out how the powers that be are going to handle this very essential relationship. And it gives Oliver someone he can connect with on a deeper level. Someone who knows what he’s been through. She seems to be as damaged an individual as he is. They can relate to each other. They can kick ass together. Her presence just adds that much more depth to Oliver’s character.

Caity Lotz, Stephen AmellCaity Lotz (here with Amell) is a welcome addition as Black Canary (aka Sara Lance)

Are you for or against the story that Sara is alive and Ollie kept it a secret all this time?

Craig Byrne: Even when I saw the pilot, I wondered if Sara was still alive. So, I’m totally fine with it, and I like what it can do for potential character dynamics. Not just with Oliver, Quentin, and Laurel, but with new characters like Sin, too.

Laura Prudom: It seems like Ollie still believed Sarah died, just a little later than her apparent drowning on the Queen’s Gambit, so I don’t mind him keeping the exact circumstances of her supposed demise a secret, especially since learning that she’d seemingly gone over to the dark side would’ve been impossible for him to explain to Laurel and Quentin, and probably even more painful for them to hear.

Chris O’Guinn: I’m for her being alive. I’m not wild about retconning that Oliver knew she survived the sinking. It’s pretty clear from the writing and the flashbacks that in season one, he was written as believing she died on the boat. I guess they want to add her to the island flashbacks, so that’s why they did it. But I think it would have been better if she came back and Oliver was as shocked as everyone else.

Tina Charles:  Well, I am totally for her being alive. The conflict and the story that results from her mere presence is going to be huge. That Oliver kept the fact she didn’t die when the boat went down is going to be a major bone of contention once the Lances find out. And I loved that scene between Sara and Oliver at the hospital when he urged her to show herself to her family. That he was willing to sacrifice his relationships with Laurel and her dad just so they can be a family again was heartbreaking and it showed how much Oliver has grown.

Ollie and Laurel — though not together, the show seems to want to make you want them together. Do you? Or should he finally be hooking up with Felicity?

Craig Byrne: I still don’t really see spark between those two, even if they’re always trying to tell us it’s there. I know there’s the “Lauriver” contingent and no offense is intended toward them, but I’m not feeling it. In fact, usually their scenes together can slow the episodes down. I did like the brief change to the dynamic when it seemed that Laurel was going after the Arrow, though. I wish they had done more with it, actually.

Laura Prudom: I sadly still don’t buy the chemistry between Ollie and Laurel — he has more of a spark with Sarah, Felicity and even Isabel Rochev (albeit in a more antagonistic way). The comic book fan in me wants the iconic Ollie/Laurel romance I know and love, but the show hasn’t earned it yet.

Chris O’Guinn: They have no chemistry. At first, I thought it was Katie Cassidy’s less than spectacular acting, but then I saw Laurel with Tommy and they had real chemistry. And on her own, Laurel can be a really good, strong character. But around Ollie, she seems to lose everything that makes her interesting and turns into his personality-deprived love interest.

But heavens no, I am 100% opposed to Olicity. Frankly, Felicity is too good for him. I have long wished the show would make her a lesbian just to prevent this pairing. From X-Files to Bones to Warehouse 13, I have hoped to see a show where a man and a woman could work together without romantic complications. And each time I have been disappointed. I mean, seriously, wouldn’t Felicity be awesome as a lesbian?

Tina Charles: I want to be on board with Ollie and Laurel. I’m just not. I would love for him to hook up with Felicity. Just not yet. I see something like that going on down the line, in a couple seasons. Even though Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards share a serious amount of chemistry. They are adorable together. But I would like to see their friendship grow for now.

Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Colton Haynes, Manu BennettThe Men Of Arrow!  (clockwise from upper left) Amell, Haynes, David Ramsey and Manu Bennett

We haven’t seen much of Moira Queen since she’s in jail. Missing her?

Craig Byrne: I think we’ve seen plenty of Moira, and her scenes with Thea in the premiere, particularly, were fantastic.

Laura Prudom: The show is so jam-packed with other characters and twisty plotlines that I’m not really missing her, although I have a feeling she’ll be drawn back into the narrative to a greater degree as the season progresses.

Chris O’Guinn: Definitely. Susanna Thompson is amazing. She’s scary, she’s sympathetic and she’s mysterious. Half the time I feel bad for her, and the other half I am wondering if she has some master plan that no one suspects. I don’t believe for a second she’s going to spend the rest of the show in jail, so I am anxious to find out how she gets her freedom. Malcolm rescuing/kidnapping her would just be fantabulous.

Tina Charles: You know who I would love to see more of? Walter. Seeing Walter visit Moira in jail is on my wish list. The Thea-Moira prison scenes have been some of my favorite scenes of the season. Right now, her story is on a slow burn. But I’m sure it’ll pick up. I have faith.

Is the Ollie/Diggile/Felicity trio working or do we need to see Diggle and Felicity out in the world more? 

Craig Byrne: The trio works, though Felicity was getting a little bit too sassy in episode 2. I would like to see more of their home lives, though. It was fun seeing Diggle’s apartment last year, and I’d really be curious about Felicity’s home life.

Laura Prudom: I adore the dynamic between the three of them, especially the banter we saw in the first two episodes of Season 2, but I do want to see Diggle and Felicity out and about with more storylines independent from Oliver’s crusade. Hopefully the introduction of Barry Allen and Diggle’s impending showdown with Deadshot will give them both more to do soon.

Chris O’Guinn: They need their own sitcom. The chemistry between them is fantastic. The actors play so well off each other. Felicity has all this bubbly, awkward energy while Digg makes dry commentary and Oliver just looks put-upon.

If Felicity must be straight, then I hope she goes for Diggle. She’s too smart to go for cray-cray, broken, still-stuck-on-Laurel Oliver.

Tina Charles: The Ollie/Diggle/Felicity trio definitely works for me. I can’t get enough of their scenes together. But I also enjoy when it’s just two of them talking about a case or talking about what’s going on with them and their lives. Any combination of these three and it all works for me. But if there’s an option to see Diggle and Felicity out in the world more that’s cool too.

Colton HaynesTime to lose the hoodie, Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) and get into some tank tops!

Thea and Roy – their story seems to be spinning its wheels a bit. Agree or disagree?

Craig Byrne: Disagree. I like it, especially with Sin now being part of the mix. He looked so awkward when Sin saw them at the gun-buying rally.

Laura Prudom: I’m okay with their story taking a backseat while other story engines are kicked into high gear, although their relationship is one of the least compelling aspects of the show for me this season. Willa Holland and Colton Haynes have great chemistry, but I’m not really watching Arrow for the romantic subplots, so I’m mostly looking forward to seeing Roy being drawn further into Oliver’s secret world and taking steps towards becoming the partner in crime-fighting that us comic book geeks know and love.

Chris O’Guinn: Roy needs to come out of the closet…. Okay, I know it’s just my Slash Goggles, but Roy has shown much greater interest in and excitement about the Hood/the Arrow than he ever has for Thea. It would be a hugely daring move for the show to make Roy gay (or bi, I’d love him to be bi) and it would be a great message that GLBT folk can be heroes too. So, naturally, it will never happen.

The Thea/Roy romance is the tired old cliché of the spoiled rich girl and the poor bad boy. It’s as familiar as the Star-Crossed lover trope, and about as popular. Unfortunately, neither of the actors seem invested in the plot so it does seem to be a tad boring.

Tina Charles: Agree. Right now it’s not interesting me as much. Although Thea’s maturing and I like it. Roy’s trying to be a good boyfriend and I like that, too. Hopefully, the show will start to give these two more of a purpose or move Roy’s story along in a speedier fashion. Pun intended.

Lots of guest stars this season — Summer Glau, Kevin Alejandro, Michael Jai White to name only a few — is the show getting too buried in all of them? 

Craig Byrne: The alternative could be Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., who barely give us any genre favorites. With Arrow, I actually think it’s a lot of fun, and a homage in a way to when Batman would do that in the 60’s. Besides, big guests like this means that we’re ever so much closer to Andrew Kreisberg getting a Doctor onto the show to go with Captain Jack and River Song. And eventually, I hope we’ll get a Justin Hartley cameo. Maybe he can start kissing people like he does on Revenge.

Laura Prudom: I’m loving all of them, and not just because they’re predominantly genre stars who should be on our screens as much as possible. The show will always need short-term “villains of the week” for Ollie earlier in the season, as well as long-term threats as we get deeper into the year’s arc, so I have no problem with the show casting recognizable guest stars as one-shots or recurring members of the DC Universe — I see them as bonus easter eggs for genre fans.

Chris O’Guinn: No, this is Arrow’s thing. Season 1 was chock full of guest stars. And of course, Walter, Malcolm and Tommy have all vacated the show, so it seems there are openings. Arrow thus far has been successful at juggling its cast.

What would help would be if they would wrap up the island plot line. They seem to really want to make those five years their own show and it’s just not working with it being doled out, basically, like commercial breaks in the show we’re trying to watch.

Tina Charles: The cavalcade of guest stars does get a little bit exhausting. I find myself wanting the show to utilize them better and in a more organic way. I really wish we had learned more about Michael Jai White’s character in his appearance. Kevin Alejandro’s just got more interesting at the end of “Crucible.” The jury’s still out on Summer Glau’s character, however. I just haven’t seen enough. So far she’s not registering for me. But I’ll give the show time to establish Isabel Rochev.

Kevin AlejandroSebastian Blood (Kevin Alejandro) is not the upstanding citizen we thought he was.

Stephen Amell proved he could carry the series in Season 1. How’s he doing as Ollie in Season 2.

Craig Byrne: Stephen has always been giving the role 110%, and I think it’s obvious that he takes great pride in what he’s doing here. With that said, he seems a bit freer as Oliver, as he should be, since he didn’t just get off an island for so long. He looks like he’s having more fun now, too, now that Oliver can actually smile from time to time. I’d give him an A grade, for sure.

Laura Prudom: Amell carries himself with the confidence and poise of a hero even more believably this year, and I’m liking the growing flashes of humor we’re seeing from him this season — the comics version of Ollie is one of the more playful, sardonic members of the DCU, so anything the show does to usher him in that direction is a positive step, as far as I’m concerned.

Chris O’Guinn: So far, so good, but I am not really loving the kinder, gentler vigilante. I know it bothered some people, but I liked the edginess of a hero who wasn’t shy about killing people. It was the first thing that got my attention with this show. That said, if we get more bits like we did in the Doll Maker episode where Oliver showed that putting the hurt on people was still part of his M.O., then that might make a decent middle ground. It’s just too much fun to watch the sane characters in the show go, “Holy crap! I can’t believe you just did that!”

Tina Charles: You’re not going to get any complaints from me. I think Amell continues to improve with every episode and he has definitely developed into a solid leader for this show — both on and off camera.

Toughest question – the show has some of the best looking men on TV – Amell, Colton Haynes, David Ramsey, Manu Bennett…even Paul Blackthorne if that’s your thing.  Whose shirtless poster do you make your computer screensaver? (You can only pick one)

Craig Byrne: Why isn’t John Barrowman on this list?

Laura Prudom: The men of Arrow are all distractingly attractive in different ways, but Amell is the one on the billboards for a reason — you can’t beat that salmon ladder.

Chris O’Guinn: That is a tough choice. But I’ll go with Colton. That face of his is just mesmerizing. I loved him on Teen Wolf, and I’m delighted he has such a good role on Arrow.

Tina Charles:  If I can only pick one, it’s Stephen Amell hands down. He’s responsible for so many shallow TV alerts. The guy is shirtless in every episode. And I love the show for making it so. He’s eye candy to the nth degree.  But if I get to pick two, then I’m going for David Ramsey as well. Just had to slip that in there.

Stephen AmellStephen Amell sure knows how to strike a pose, doesn’t he?

TBL: Is Arrow showing signs of getting tired in Season 2 or should we expect a long run for the series?

Craig Byrne: If the show keeps up the quality of the first five episodes of Arrow Season 2, it’s getting anything BUT tired! I like that the show plays its cards as quickly as possible, rather than wasting time to stretch stories out. I am very pleased. One of my criticisms of Arrow this time last year is that it felt like something we’d seen before — now, a year later, we see that it is certainly not something we’d seen before. I’m really liking it.

Laura Prudom: It’s both impressive and a little mind-boggling that the show moves at such a fast pace, making it seem like it could burn through story pretty quickly, but I trust the executive producers and writers, who haven’t steered us wrong thus far — if they can keep up this breakneck pace and still maintain the kind of quality we’ve been seeing this season, I believe they can go the distance.

Chris O’Guinn: It was my biggest fear going into season 2 that, like so many shows before it, it would demonstrate it only had one season of story. But episode one of season two showed us that these writers are just getting started. This can be seen in how he has gone from “the vigilante” to “the Hood” to, now, “the Arrow.” This show is about his hero’s journey and that can go on forever.

The only worrying part is the retconning with Sara. For the most part, Arrow has been consistent and that has led to a general feeling that the writers knew what they were doing from the beginning. If they keep going back and changing things because they suddenly have a new idea, well, it won’t be as much fun to sit around and theorize what the writers are up to because it will be clear they have no idea.

Tina Charles: I’m not feeling like the action or the character-driven storylines are tired yet. Maybe a character or two here or there but the entire series — not so much. The ratings are decent. There’s no reason to think that this show wouldn’t be on for at least five seasons. Longer than that? I’m not sure. But I would hope so.

Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8pm on the CW Network.